SEO Considerations: Category vs. Filter for Your Ecommerce Website

Setting up any sort of Ecommerce store isn’t easy because there are so many things to consider. Filters versus categories isn’t usually the first thing on a company or Webmasters mind, but eventually this dilemma is going to hit him/her in the face and leave a lot of questions. Although many don’t realize it, it’s incredibly important to understand the difference between the two for SEO reasons. If you’re starting an ecommerce store, you have to ask yourself: Would this page be better filed as a category or in a filter if I want the best SEO results?

The Difference Between a Category and a Filter

The URL of a page is where you can actually see the differences between a category and a filter. Below explains the difference between the two terms and the two ways of setting up pages for an Ecommerce website:

  • Category. A category is how you break up what you are selling into smaller parts (and therefore different webpages). Think of this like sections on your website. For example, if you were selling SEO services, you might want to break up the topic into categories that you offer including franchise SEO services, local SEO services, content services, etc. Below is an example of a category page URL:

  • Filter. You can think of a filter as a filter within a category. Filters contain what is called a query string and generally have “?” in the URL, which you can see in the example below:

As you can see above, the URL for a filter isn’t quite as nice looking as a URL for a category page (it’s probably the first thing you noticed). Believe it or not, this is one of the first things the Google bots notice as well, meaning that this actually is an indicator of how the SEO will work for each of the pages. For more information about definitions and how each work, visit this article.

When to Use a Category and When to Use a Filter for Optimal SEO

Bottom line: Search engines are more likely to index category pages as opposed to filter pages. Category pages are easier to optimize and Google is more likely to send customers to a category page as opposed to a filter page.

However, this does not mean that you should have only category pages and no filter pages. Filters do serve a purpose, and too many category pages can get confusing for readers as well as the bots (more on that point later). Below explains when to use which type:

When to Use Category Pages

Whatever has the most search volume should be a category on your website. Try typing in the subject of your product on Google’s Keyword Tool and seeing what people are searching for on the web to help you determine how people naturally break things up. Take the following example of someone who might be creating a website for a flower shop:


In this example, you can see that a lot of people are interested in delivering flowers. Therefore, it might make sense to have a “order online” category. You can then go even deeper and create category of flowers that you can order online (which if you were to scroll down, also have a high search volume). You might split it up into types flowers such as wedding, funeral, and birthday.

When to Use Filter Pages

First, there are a few things that should almost always be a filter and they are price, size, color, and sometimes brand (although of course this isn’t applicable for every type of business). Using the same logic as above, these are things that don’t get as much search volume. People are going to type in “flower delivery” not “white flowers” when searching on Google. Of course, if your company only sells one type of flower just in different colors, it might make sense to go ahead and make your color pages category pages.

Why You Shouldn’t Have Too Many Category Pages

You have to consider how deep you want your category pages and subcategory pages to go so that you don’t confuse your readers or the search engine bots. How deep your pages go means how many clicks it takes to get to one page from the homepage. The general rule of thumb is do not exceed four pages deep. Below is an example of a four page deep site:

Home Page —Flowers —Wedding Flowers— Roses —Product Page

In the end, it really is up to you. There is nobody saying that you have to make the color of your product a filter and not a category or you have to follow the search trends. These are just suggestions. Ultimately use your own judgment; just be sure you’re keeping SEO in mind.

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