Search engines are powerful tools, yet it is surprisingly simple to provide direction to search engines and ensure that content is shown (and hidden) appropriately in search results. Likewise, it is surprisingly easy to make mistakes and instruct a search engine to show (or hide) content unintentionally. Understanding the basic tools that search engines provide content authors to guide search robots enables you to have important content appear in search results, and prevents you from making costly mistakes.
Canonical links are frequently misunderstood by developers, marketers, content authors and SEOs. When used correctly, rel=canonical is a powerful tool that can improve search results for visitors. However, when used incorrectly, canonical links can be detrimental to search results, and may in some cases be ignored by search engines entirely.
Faceted navigation is the collection of UI elements and functionality which provide the ability to filter and refine category views. There is some debate in the SEO, UX and general web development communities about the best way to present faceted navigation in the URL.
Faceted navigation, such as filtering by color or price range, can be helpful for your visitors, but it’s often not search-friendly since it creates many combinations of URLs with duplicative content.
The correct way to denote facets in a URL is through the use of query parameters. However, some believe that virtual subdirectories present a better alternative for SEO and UX. We’ll compare the different options for including facets in a URL, starting with simplistic examples of each method.
Some SEO consultants recommend “flat” URL structures. However, there is no evidence that a flat URL structure is better than a clearly hierarchical URL structure. While there is some debate in the SEO community, most reputable sources agree that there is no SEO/SERP benefit to flattening URL structure, and that hierarchical URLs are better for UX, crawling, and data analysis.
When launching a website on a new platform or when changing the information architecture of a website, it is usually necessary to configure redirects to ensure users can locate the content they expect even when accessing the website via legacy URLs. These redirects also instruct search engines to reindex content at a new location and transfer page ranking.