Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Cassidy in San Diego, who asks:
“Is it better or worse for SEO to have one product page to support multiple products within the same family (products which have different features and each model has color variations)? You could call it a size difference, but these are electronics rather than clothes, so the ‘size’ comes with additional feature benefits.”
Great question, Cassidy! And this is more common than you may think.
There are two issues here, having to do with single products versus categories of products.
Let’s take a look at the SEO impact using t-shirts as our example product.
Use a single product page and canonical links when:
- Shoppers do not need individual variant pages such as size, material, and color;
- And there is no actual benefit to the end-user for the specific variant because they still have to take an action (for example, the customer would have to select size or color anyway).
If your store carries one t-shirt and will never carry any others, you will want to have one product page and set canonical links to point back to it.
The canonical links will be applied to all variants and parameters.
Sizes, in almost all cases, do not have enough uniqueness to justify individual product pages.
Colors, on the other hand, can. Maybe someone only wants to see red baseball t-shirts or black crew-neck t-shirts.
You only carry one product, but having a dedicated page for the specific color has benefits to the end-user and you can describe printing options, styling options, and contrast/blending options based on the color.
Then, all size variants would have a canonical back to the original color option.
There are exceptions to the rule, particularly when you have a signature product that gets tons of press coverage about specific color options.
Consider a brand like Tesla, with a new door design option but on the same vehicle.
You could do a canonical link from the variant, and both vehicles could be on the same page. But because it is iconic and will gain press coverage naturally, it may be worth having its own page.
The McRib from McDonald’s, Apple’s iPhone, and other signature products can get away with this.
The last thing to consider is whether this is the final version of the product.
If you are never going to carry, manufacture, upgrade and release new versions, then and only then would you want to try to optimize unique pages for variants.
If you decide to go that route, you’re going to need to build a solid site structure and fine-tune your copy so it is 100% unique for each version.
Use a unique category page for each of the variants when:
- The product is part of a category – like a V-neck t-shirt, where you also carry crew neck and sleeveless – and you plan on expanding the product line so you have ten or twenty color options of each;
- And each of the variants has at least 1,000 searches per month (if it is a big-ticket item with only 200 searches each month, this could justify it, too).
If you begin building individual color pages for on each product in the category, you now have to do the same for each similar product as you add them.
This creates a large volume of similar content and a potential cannibalization problem.
By doing a category page instead, you can continue expanding your product lines and feed similar product pages into it rather than using unique product pages for every version of every product in the collection.
There are always going to be exceptions, so use your best judgment when going with unique product pages or setting canonicals on all variants.
The rule of thumb for me is this: If there is no consumer need for individual variant pages and no actual benefit to the end-user, use a single page and apply canonical links to the variants.
Great question, and I hope my answer helps!
- Ecommerce Product Page SEO: 20 Dos & Don’ts
- What Are SEO Best Practices for Color Variations?
- Ecommerce Marketing: The Definitive Guide
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!