Facet-Based Navigation (or How We Accidentally Built a Racist Website)

Though we’re primarily an ad network and direct marketer, we occasionally are challenged with building more traditional web sales tools — like a home-grown shopping cart.

In our quest to do something different with the front-end navigation of the cart, I came across a fancy-worded type of navigation called Facet-Based Navigation.

With facet-based navigation, unlike a simple traditional hierachical category scheme, shoppers have the ability to drill down to products based on mutiple dimensions (or facets).

For example, a potential web customer shopping for jewelry may be interested in browsing by particular Type of jewelry (Earrings, Necklaces, Bracelets, etc…), while others are more interested in browsing by a particular Material (Gold, Silver, Platinum, etc…). ”Type” and ”Material“ would be examples of facets, while earrings, necklaces, gold, silver and the like would be facet values. What’s more, if products are assigned multiple facets, shoppers can refine selections using these facets to help us locate just “Silver Necklaces” or “Platinum Earrings“.

How Does this Help SEO?

Well… good question! For our implementation, our client wanted us to build an online furniture store.

Since we’re lazy ;) , and didn’t want to do all the keyword research to try and figure out which keywords were most important. We thought, “Why not build a navigation system that does all of the keyword stuff for us?”

So here we go… since most furnishings and furniture items have the following “facets:”

  • Item (Beds, Dressers, Chests, Armoires, etc…)
  • Room (Bedroom, Living Room, etc…)
  • Type (Sleigh, Platform, Teen, etc…)
  • Material (Iron, Wood, Leather, etc…)
  • Manufacturer (Bassett, La-Z-Boy, etc…)
  • Color (Cherry, Mahogany, etc…)
  • Size (Twin, Full, Queen, King, etc…)
  • Style (Tradition, Shabby Chic, etc…)

We set up a facet-based data navigation model accordingly.

Now, check out the long-tail search terms we get! For instance, looking for a wood sleigh bed? How about a contemporary chest? Or, maybe a contemporary black wood twin sleigh daybed? Each browsed page constructs itself off of the previous traits’ selection, allowing us to create optimized pages for keywords on the fly. Make sense?

What’s more the search engines should not consider this spam. On the contrary, we’re classifying products for them, which should only help in their relevancy for searches. We’re also able to build title tags and meta tags pertinent to each of selected facet values. For example, the contemporary black wood twin sleigh daybed page we talked about earlier has the following HTML:

<title>Contemporary Black Wood Twin Sleigh Daybeds : Decor South</title>

<meta name=”description” content=”Find, shop and buy Contemporary Black Wood Twin Sleigh Daybeds.”>

<meta name=”keywords” content=”contemporary black wood twin sleigh daybeds daybed”>

Now we’d just need to write some great content for the page, right?

So, What’s the Problem?

Well, there’s really no problem, until I started playing the the navigation. As it turns out, we’ve accidently built a very racist website. For example, check out:

It appears putting a few of the facets values together in the wrong order can result in some polarizing language.

In Conclusion

Regardless, I hope this helps some of you when brainstorming for ideas to help with SEO of your shopping cart (constructing keywords, long tail searches and the like).

I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Rev. Al Sharpton soon.

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