Improve Discoverability & SEO Through the Right Faceted Taxonomy

Tips from Chantal Schweizer, Earley Information Science

Face it, the greatest products are still not going to sell if people can’t easily find them, which is why faceted search, or guided navigation, has become the de facto standard not only for eCommerce and product-related websites, but also for many other content heavy sites, like media sites.

Faceted taxonomies integrate better with search, drive filters and sorting and allow customers who know what they want to narrow by what’s important, based on the search terms they use, and without limiting their choice to exactly one item. It also helps those who aren’t sure what they want by allowing them to outline some of the attributes they might want to consider.

More specifically, faceted search lets users refine or navigate to a collection of information by using a number of discrete attributes—the facets. Ecommerce experts today are opting to design faceted taxonomies rather than purely hierarchical taxonomies, and, just like the latter, faceted taxonomies really need to be carefully planned and iterated to ensure that customers have a positive search and navigation experience.

Chantal Schweizer, from Earley Information Science loves to share best practices around taxonomy, which is why, as part of our ongoing “Ask the Experts Series”, we’ve asked Chantal to share some advice on how to improve findability & SEO through the right faceted taxonomy.

Chantal:

Let me dive right in.

Facets are a key part of product navigation, and the success or failure of these facets will make or break the customer experience when on your site. If customers can’t find the product that they are looking for, they can’t buy it. If you have strong faceted search, this will increase UX and revenue because it helps findability and it helps build customer trust that you are indeed an expert in the products they are seeking. Below are some best practices I have seen and implemented with some of our clients at Earley.

Step One: Facet Selection

Careful selection of the facets to be used on the site is the first step.  At the topmost levels of the taxonomy, there should be global facets that go across all products, such as price range and brand. As a customer goes down the hierarchy to more specific product sets, the facets should be category specific. Each terminal category should have a set of attributes assigned to them that best describe the products classified within and a subset of those attributes should be raised to the facet level.

If you use all attributes as a filter, your customer can be overwhelmed with choices and may have to scroll to see all the available facets, which can be frustrating. Frustration leads to site abandonment, as we can see in the image below. To avoid this, for each terminal category, the attributes need to be evaluated for priority by talking with your product managers and your customers who shop for these products. What are the key factors in their buying decision? If the facet only has one value, then it ought to be avoided. In general, it is key to aim for three to five category specific attributes to be used as facets at the category landing page.

Step-one-Facet Selection

Step Two:  Ensure Clean Data

After the selection of the facets, the data needs to be clean. Duplicate values, spelling errors, and formatting issues can create a bad facet. To provide a strong user experience we want to make sure these facets are squeaky clean and make the scan of values efficient.  The image below illustrates what can happen when the data isn’t properly governed. It’s easy to see why this would cause a customer to become frustrated, especially if the facet only allows for a single selection.

To ensure that the data is clean, a list of values or choice list should be created for all faceted attributes. This will ensure that there are no mistaken duplicates. The values should be governed by a style guide. A style guide will provide formatting rules including the preferred use of capitalization, spacing, special characters and terms. This can be used independently or Agility can even recognize and flag when some of these rules are in violation and ought to be fixed.Step Two:  Ensure Clean Data

To ensure that the data is clean, a list of values or choice list should be created for all faceted attributes. This will ensure that there are no mistaken duplicates. The values should be governed by a style guide. A style guide will provide formatting rules including the preferred use of capitalization, spacing, special characters and terms. This can be used independently or Agility can even recognize and flag when some of these rules are in violation and ought to be fixed.

If product data follows the 4 “C’s” – clean, concise, complete and correct – it will pave the way to strong customer experience, product findability and increased revenue for
your eCommerce site.

When the customer gets to the Product Detail Page (PDP), attribution format continues to be important. The attributes may not be used as a facet at this point, but they still provide the customer the data they need to find a solution. The attributes should be consistent across a category to ensure the ability to compare products efficiently. If the customer must look at a different location on the page as they try to compare products, it’s going to cause annoyance. We can see an example of this in the image below.

Improve Discoverability & SEO Through the Right Faceted Taxonomy

This can be avoided by managing the attributes at the category level and having those attributes inherit to all products classified to that category. A style guideline should be used for both attribute names and attribute values to ensure consistency. The management of category-specific attributes and a style guideline are key to governance initiatives in ensuring the product data is:

  1. Clean
  2. Concise
  3. Complete, and
  4. Correct

To sum it up, if the data follow’s these 4 “C’s” it will pave the way to strong customer experience, product findability and increased revenue for your eCommerce site.

If you would like to discuss how Chantal can help optimize your data for success, please contact her at earley.com.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series: Enhancing eCommerce Faceted Search with PIM.

Wondering how exactly PIM tackles faceted search? While a product information management (PIM) system isn’t directly involved in the set-up of faceted navigation for an online site, it certainly affects how it appears.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series where Magnitude’s Dawn Zassick will go into detail about how a product information management (PIM) solution can help you optimize your ecommerce faceted search to improve your shoppers’ browsing experience.