SEO for Product Variations
One of the unique challenges to ecommerce is managing the huge variety of products and variations of those products offered online. How does an ecommerce professional present the various colors, sizes, brands, etc. to their users, in an SEO friendly way while maintaining a good user experience?
Adam Audette: I'm Adam Audette, President of RKG. Today we're going to be talking to you about SEO for product variations. Different product types, sizes, colors, that sort of thing, how do you handle those? What's the best way to handle those for SEO?
There are a few different ways that you can go about this. We're going to run through three of them, our primary three recommendations.
First of all, before we get into that, always look at your own business first. Look at what your business goals are, look at your analytics, and then make a decision for how to handle that based on that. That said; let's get to it.
That has a lot of advantages. For one, you've got an inherent canonical URL. The URL doesn't change, so you don't have a situation where you have duplication across different product variations. So that's pretty nice. You only need one rel=canonical tag, just self-referencing on that, rather than having a bunch of different variations that need rel=canonical tags because people are linking to those and splitting that link equity. That's not going to be a concern here.
A site that does this really well is REI. Check out how they do it. I think it's a really elegant solution. It's not always right for every business. So what's another way to handle it?
Number two, and this was actually pointed out to me in the blog comments of our article on this, is to have different unique URLs for each product variation, and then use rel=canonical tags to point those back to a primary ranking URL, or a sort of an agnostic version or maybe one that's most popular for that product set that becomes the ranking candidate. All the different variations exist. They have nice URLs that can be shared. People can copy that, send it to Mom, share it on social and say, "Hey, I really like this size extra, extra, extra large green hoodie," or whatever. That's a nice user experience, and using rel=canonical on all those then allows all that equity to get sorted and consolidated down to one primary candidate.
The problem there, some of the challenges can be in finding out which one becomes the ranking candidate. How do you choose that one? But that can be sorted out.
The third option is much like the second. You've got a lot of URLs for variations that are all dedicated, unique URLs, but instead of using rel=canonical on those to shoot back to a primary agnostic or ranking candidate, instead you just use self-referencing rel=canonical tags on those, and you let those rank themselves too. That's a situation where you may have a lot of search volume and your data may show that people are coming in looking for specific colors, model numbers, sizes, or whatever it is. In those cases, you want those in search results, and you want to rank for those. That has a lot of viability too.
Those are the three primary strategies. Put it in the interface is probably our favorite recommendation and one primary URL. Second is to have specific URLs for each variation, but then rel=canonical back to a ranking candidate version. The third is to have specific URLs for all the variations and just to keep those as self-referencing canonicals so that they don't reference back one primary candidate that they can also rank in search results.
Those are the three recommendations. Please check out the blog post that I did about this. It goes into a lot of detail, a lot of depth. I'm sure you'll have questions, comments, and I would love your insight and feedback into how you're handling it. So hit me here, and I'll be watching that. In the meantime, SEO safe.