Google's official line on best practice faceting

By Greenlight | 08 Feb 2014


  Welcome to Greenlight's weekly dose of Blog Watch! It's that time when we share the latest news and insights that have caught our eye. Enjoy!




For ecommerce sites, a good faceted menu can make all the difference to organic performance. Facet level tends to be where the bulk of a site's longtail keywords sit and it is these that correlate most with a strong purchasing intent. While it can be easy to overlook keywords at this end of the tail because of their small search volume, the myriad of options within a faceted menu can often add up to a very big opportunity overall. However, whether a site can capitalise on this opportunity is entirely contingent on the quality of its facet functionality, and in the SEO team we tend to see more bad than good. It's extremely helpful, therefore, that Google has now come out with its official line on best and worse practice for faceted navigation. Perhaps the most interesting take-away for us is the heavy resistance within the article to the use of directories or file paths in a faceted navigation. SEOs tend to gravitate towards nice, clean, static URLs that provide a clear picture of the file structure that sits behind them, and we'll often recommend that things like brand facets, for example, are given their own directory level. Google would much rather see neat, logical URL parameters used in this instance. This comprehensive blog post features worst, good and best practice examples for each point, so is highly recommended reading for anyone currently doing battle with an unwieldy ecommerce navigation.



At a conference a few years ago, I heard an excellent - if slightly fatalistic - talk about the 'echo chamber effect' that search personalisation was threatening to create. Since we tend to socialise with like-minded people, the premise was that we might find ourselves only being exposed to news and information that validated our own opinions as the use of things like social readers grew. Each of us would experience our own version of the web and we'd lose what's arguably the greatest feature of the internet, which is the power it has to expose us to new ideas. Some of the more serious online news outlets took this risk to heart and, fearing "the BuzzFeed-ification of news", have tended to turn a blind eye to what people are reading on their sites in order to ensure that content is produced according to quality rather than mass appeal. Honourable though this intention might be, it does nothing to help people like Chris Moran, whose KPIs include optimising the 400 pieces of content that the Guardian can churn out in a day. The Guardian's old analytics software was highly limited and featured a four hour time-lag, so Chris never knew with any accuracy whether or not the tweaks he made to copy were having an impact. This all changed with the creation of Ophan during an internal hack day. With just a five second delay on data and a streamlined reporting interface, it's revolutionised the way in which the Guardian promotes, shares and optimises content.



It's always nice when the real world starts paying attention to your niche area of interest, so a BBC story about an EU court ruling on linking content seems worthy of inclusion here. The story relates to a showdown in Sweden between a group of journalists and a company called Retriever Sverige, which runs a website providing links to articles published on other websites. The journalists argued that end users wouldn't know that they were being sent to another site when clicking on the links and would therefore attribute the content to Retriever Sverige, meaning that the site was flouting copyright laws on making content available without authorisation. The case hinged on whether the site had made a "communication to the public" of the articles, which is the key to a copyright infringement. Since the articles in question were already freely available on the original news site, the court ruled that they had already been communicated to the public and, consequently, no law had been broken by the subsequent backlinking. The case raises interesting questions about the as yet undefined linking code of ethics, and may result in more news organisations paywalling their content in future. The full article, owned by the BBC and not me, is here:


Yahoo has identified contextual search as the key to challenging Google:

Matt Cutts on life as a webspam fighter and Google's search algorithm:

Flappy Bird demonstrates how dark patterns can manipulate Apple's app store algorithm:

Taking lessons on strategy optimisation from Google's own evolution:

Music Magpie, Protect Your Bubble and others hit by penalties?:





I've been living a small lie for some time now, but I am finally ready to admit that I'm a doodler. You might have noticed the signs: the incessant doodling, the… well, yeah, just that. I resisted for so long, but amazingly, since I've acquiesced to my doodling urges, I can feel that my mental capacity has grown. Notes make more sense, my memory of meetings extends further, and most importantly, my actual contributions are just that little bit more outside the box. Of course, it comes with drawbacks too: getting through pens at a prodigious rate; constantly having to think of new ways to interlock circles, but the biggest problem is that of others' perceptions. I'm sure that many saw me scribbling away in meetings and thought I wasn't listening. Understandable, but they needn't have worried. It was helping me concentrate my energy and creativity on the problems at hand.

The unfair miscasting of doodling is far from a small problem, and a strange one considering millions of people marvel at one particular company's doodles every week. As Sunni Brown points out in her rapid-fire TED talk, doodling has always been looked down upon in a culture so intensely focused on exchanging information verbally. But with American presidents amongst doodlers' ranks and some seriously impressive doodle displays of unconstrained human creativity, even the stats support the idea of doodling as a powerful thinking tool. When exposed to verbal information, doodlers experience a 29% higher rate of retention than their non-doodling pals. Doodling also activates the mind to offer a profound effect on creative problem solving and deeper thinking.

I didn't just bring this up because I wanted to show off #megadoodle (ps. Can you find Wally in there?). In fact, I thought the topic timely. I'm not just trying to extol the virtues of doodling per se, but also any method that aims to encourage individual or collaborative creativity. As we currently find ourselves in a new environment with a new opportunity for shaping how we think, we should do our very best to ensure we are not limiting creativity by adhering to practices of idea-generation inherited from previous regimes here or elsewhere in business.


Doodling for Dollars, Wall Street Journal:
The Creative Spark, TED:





A new way to search information? Google's very own smart glasses. At first, it's about those that are already buying the glasses, known as "explorers", may recommend three friends who were also allowed to do so. With Google Glasses that will soon be available in every market you can film, take pictures, get information and be able to ask the glasses how to say "thank you" in the language you want.

Technology changes all the time, and we all know that we are sceptical as soon as it comes a new product that we do not know. But how will this affect the search and how it will change your marketing?

Peoples tweets about Google Glasses: "Tried the Google Glasses yesterday at the range. Pretty cool gadget!", "Peering through Google Glasses: The Future of Aviation Sector", "No. I just saw a guy wearing google glasses riding a Segway. No. NO. NOOOO."



Ever since Google came, millions of people have used the search engine to search information about the weather worldwide. It all started as a Google engineer's "20% project" - something Google employees are free to pursue as part of their regular work routine. In September 2009, Google's weather "OneBox" looked almost the same as it did at launch more than four years earlier. And then a couple months after that, Google started showing weather in Google Suggest. (A feature that doesn't exist today.)

Google has gone from focusing on the keywords we use to figuring out the meaning of our search queries. 2014: Google's Expanding Query Analysis for Weather Searches.



In most official forms to fill out, you must select whether you are either male or female. However, not all feels any of these categorize them correctly, Facebook are doing something about that. On their website they now say that they will significantly increase the choice of sexual orientation you have, so that everyone can have something to tick off. The total should now be over 56 different choices, reports the website. For English users choices will be either "he / his", "she / her" or the neutral variant "they / their". Users can also choose to hide sex selection from various contacts such as colleagues, friends or family members.

This will most likely affect the result of Facebook advertising in a positive trend. It makes it easier to capture the various target groups which will lead to an improved CTR% and cheaper CPC.