In my post on how search filter pages should work, I talked about not linking through to query parameter URLs.
The bulk of these pages would not have value, particularly when you have millions upon millions of combinations.
So how do you optimise for the combinations that do in fact have value?
The filters you should be creating pages for
Chances are, you already have a rough idea of some of the keywords you want to target.
If you don’t, then look through your keyword data.
What filters are mentioned in the keywords, that don’t currently have pretty URLs for them?
I’ll go into a bit more detail and provide a template for this a little later, for now though, have a good look through your keyword data.
Do people search for bedrooms? bathrooms? prices? features?
Come up with a list of the filters used, along with some sample keywords.
Why you should be creating these pages
To target the longtail.
These are the keywords you’ve determined don’t deserve a pretty URL, and don’t deserve to be actively linked to, in bulk.
You don’t want thousands of these pages receiving SEO value and clogging up your crawl rates, as only a handful of them will have targetable volume.
The bulk won’t have volume, however, a small portion of them will.
You want to be able to still target that small percent of the pages that ha the value.
How do you create pages for these filters?
Unfortunately, it’s not just as simple as politely asking “create these pages” to your dev.
Even cake won’t solve this one without some forethought!
What categories/subcategories are used?
What filters get applied?
Where are these pages linked from?
This is something I have put some thought into over the years, and have come up with a basic strategy that can be applied, and expanded upon, depending on the build.
You want to create “Custom Filter” pages.
Creating custom filter pages
To create these custom pages, you need to be as specific as possible about what you’re trying to do, as the developers will have the challenge to solve.
The devs will need to add a layer to an already complex setup, that enables these pages to seamlessly fit into the existing structure.
You want to let them know things from the page name to the filters being used.
I’d recommend flagging a set of top locations, that become the only locations these are used for. Yeah, there are probably more, and yeah you might create too many pages for some of the keywords, but a list of ~100 locations is still better than a page for all 5,000 locations.
There are two ways I see you can request these pages, and it really comes down to what would be easier for your tech teams, and provide the most value in return for you.
Creating pages for each variable value
The simplest way to request pages. You essentially just request a page for each value of a variable, and this gets combined with a top locations list.
These pages act exactly like a normal ‘pretty URL’ filter, except they have the top locations filter applied.
ie you could say you want a “<bedrooms> bedroom properties in <location>” page.
This would then replace <bedrooms> with every variation in your data, and <location> with a top set of defined locations that you want the page for.
Creating pages for specific variable values
The other method here of creating pages is to specify the actual pages you’d like to create along with the inclusion of <location>, which will be the only dynamic variable here.
ie you’d request “1 bedroom properties in <location>” and “2 bedroom properties in <location”.
This gives you more control, as you could just use the selected values from certain variables. Great when you have many values for a variable, but only want pages for some.
You will, however, need to create hundreds of these rows for each specific rule you want, so it’s not quite as neat to manage it all, but you get more control.
Structuring your custom pages
Ideally, but not 100% required if completely unavoidable, these pages should sit within the existing site structure, and not within a separate site section (like /custom/ or something more appropriate).
You should be trying to fit them in neatly.
So something like;
You might even be asked to pick one structure, and stick with it, in which case try and pick the one that would make the absolute most sense.
Sometimes that means just nestling it within the channel structure, but ideally for this, sometimes it would be within the location structure.
Get the URL in as deep as makes sense, whilst still keeping it clean.
Custom filter pages fill the gap
These custom filter pages you can create will help fill the gaps between programmatic SEO & content creation.
You get more control with less chance of over-indexation, creating the perfect system in between.