Faceted Search: All You Need to Know


Introduction

One of the most significant search breakthroughs of our time is faceted search. While it is already a typical component of most eCommerce search solutions, the majority of merchants’ apps have failed to keep up with shoppers’ needs.

If you want a non-stop sales boom while giving your customers a better experience, read this guide to 

  • Find out what is faceted search and why you need it
  • Learn about faceted search best practices and examples
  • Understand common problems and how to solve them

What is Faceted Search? 

Unfortunately, shoppers will never perform ideal searches. In fact, their inquiries will be more like guesses because they are not always clear on what they are looking for. Often, they will simply know a few parameters and will run a query to obtain a list of products to look at. Hence, the use of faceted navigation is an effective solution to assist them.

So what is faceted search in eCommerce? 

Faceted search, is a search approach using the metadata related to a product in a store to allow customers to filter and refine their search queries while seeking specific products. ​​Making search easier and faster, it also aids in the enforcement of purchase decisions and lowers abandonment rates, contributing to increased conversion rates and revenue.

How Does Faceted Search Work? 

Faceted search software allows you to use filters intelligently to narrow down results to a specific category, brand, and so on. Therefore, you can recommend even more appropriate filters to consumers using faceted search even if you are selling thousands of products. 

If a shopper conducts a search request and 7 of the top 10 most relevant results are in the same category, they may add additional filters for the most prevalent features (serving as product-specific filters) in that category. Therefore, it gives the consumers control without making the shopping experience too complex. They can narrow down search results depending on their needs while not being overwhelmed by an endless list of choices. 

Are Filters and Facets The Same? 

Of course not!

Filters enable customers to filter search results and look at products in specific categories. However, only one generic filter can be used at any given moment.

Faceted navigation employs multiple filters that can be applied to specific product attributes simultaneously. Thus, this makes it easier for shoppers to find the specific thing they are looking for.

Faceted search lets you develop keyword-based filters. You can offer shoppers several filters like in faceted navigation, but faceted search yields more accurate results. Also, this is a more intelligent approach to searching. This is because the search engine refines filters based on query results that are most likely to meet user intent.

How to Use Faceted Search to Meet Shoppers’ Demands? 

It is undeniable that faceted search plays an important role in product discovery which prevents consumers from getting lost in your catalogs. In this section, we will walk you through practical tricks to make the most of it. 

Make Sure You Offer Relevant Filter Options

The facets related to each search (and the options inside each facet) should be relevant to the product type. For instance, in the electric guitar category, facet options include species, width, length, and price as we can see in the Cook Woods store. 

Source: Cook Woods

To know which facet and filter options are appropriate for your store, why not take a look at competitors’ stores, customers’ reviews, and the top search terms? Another suggestion for you, according to Baymard Institute, there are 5 essential filter types that online customers need:

  • Price
  • User rating 
  • Color
  • Size
  • Brand

Use Expandable or Collapsible Menus

Consumers should be able to collapse or extend the option values in a smart faceted search. Why? This helps them skim through many filtering choices and select the filters they wish to use without being distracted by others.

Source: GUESS

One crucial decision is whether the options should be displayed or hidden by default. Hiding the filters by default could reduce use. However, showing too many aspects may require users to scroll down to view all of the filtering choices. One approach is to expand some while collapsing others.

Display Values That Shoppers Have Selected 

To maximize the benefits of faceted navigation, the values that users have chosen should stand out from the crowd. The idea is to allow them to see the filters they are using and to simply adjust settings with ease. You may accomplish this in 3 ways. 

Source: Miss Amara

Inline and breadbox are the most popular tactics used by online merchants. With the inline method, the selected value is presented within the facet, while the breadbox allows you to display selected features in a separate location. For instance, Miss Amara is combining both ways so that shoppers can easily adjust their choices. 

(Source: Walmart)

Another option is to use an integrated faceted breadcrumb. This list displays the selected values as a term trail. As the user continues to pick, each new option is added to the trail. This solution, however, allows users to amend their options within the breadcrumb rather than simply removing them. As you can see, Walmart is employing this strategy. 

Avoid Zero Results Found 

It would be frustrating for a consumer to choose an option only to receive no results. Present them with an ‘Oops! Sorry. Our store does not have what you need,’ and shoppers will say goodbye to you without hesitation. 

To prevent this, one tip for you is to hide out-of-stock products in a way that allows customers to understand that your store has that option but it is not available at this time. There are 2 ways for you to implement this tactic.

The first choice is to showcase available items in black while the others are grayed out like the following example.   

The second approach is to create a filter option based on the stock status as Protein Package has been doing. Aside from the option to list in-stock whey protein products only, the brand allows shoppers to see which ones are currently sold out. Thanks to this, they can showcase their broad variety even when their products are out-of-stock without upsetting their consumers. 

(Source: Protein Package)

Faceted Search and SEO

Faceted search is important to user experience, but SEO plays a key role in attracting and driving visitors to your store. When it comes to applying faceted search, do not forget to mark all internal facet links as nofollow. Otherwise, Google will crawl all of the sites created by the different search parameters and cause thousands of duplicate pages. 

Don’t let this discourage you from implementing faceted search on your site. There are several methods to do it without jeopardizing your site’s SEO rankings.

Disallow in Robots.txt

You can specify which URL subsets you do not want Google to index in the Robots.txt file. Make sure to include all pages that are generated automatically by your site’s search here.

However, technically, the pages that are forbidden in Robotos.txt can still be indexed. Therefore, this alone is insufficient. That’s why store owners need to take one of the following as the next step. 

Javascript

You can prevent these problems by using JavaScript. With it you may design your faceted search engine such that URL changes are minimal, making navigating easier and displaying fewer automatically created pages to Google.

Check that all category, sub-category, and product pages are still indexed, and have unique and clearly accessible URLs. Make sure you omit the faceted search result pages.

Canonicalization 

Canonical tags are a typical approach to keep Google from penalizing your site for duplicating content. When 2 or 3 pages are identical or similar, the one with the canonical tag is regarded as the preferable and/or original version. This informs Google that you are not attempting to cheat the algorithm.

This does not address the crawl budget issue, but it does assure that link equity gets to your desired page, which is a big benefit.

Nofollow Internal Links

Make sure that any internal links that may lead to a search result page have the nofollow tag. This prevents Google’s crawlers from scanning and adding them to your internal link profile.

This addresses both the link equity and crawl budget issues.

Keep Optimizing 

Remember that a good faceted search helps you enhance the shopping experience, and drive more sales. To achieve that, you need to analyze the data and fine-tune your strategy frequently. Consider the facets to employ for various sorts of products. Customers will be unable to locate what they are seeking if there are too few facets, while too many will confuse them.

CiCi Nguyen

Content Specialist @Boost Commerce