What Are SEO Best Practices for Color Variations?
Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today, we’ve got a question from Jessica in California. She asks:
For an ecommerce site, what is the best method for color variations of the same product? Should you use the same URL or different? How do you rank for multiple colors of that product if you use the same URL? How do you differentiate the content enough if you use a different URL?
This is one of those questions where if you ask three different SEO professionals, you’ll get at least three different answers.
There isn’t an easy answer for this, but there are some things you should keep in mind when determining what strategy works for you.
SEO Best Practices – Usability
If you’re selling something like T-shirts, for example, people probably want to know what colors that particular style is available in and are less likely to search for [purple scoop neck tee].
However, there are situations where users are color-centric.
For example, if I’m searching for a pair of shoes to match a dress I’m wearing to an awards banquet, I’m likely to search something like [emerald green heels].
In that case, it’s important to come up in search results for your emerald green heels.
So the first step is to consider if your product is one where specific colors are important to user happiness.
SEO Best Practices – Duplication of Effort
The second concern you should consider is duplication of effort.
Consider how much effort it would take to write custom copy for each color of each product and consider the possible return on that investment of time and resources.
Do you have unlimited resources and you just want to do everything you can to rank well? Maybe it’s worth it to you to write custom copy for each color.
But also consider that for each individual page you create, you must maintain that page. It adds server load, maintenance needs, and extra pages you have to update or redirect if you redesign or discontinue that product.
Consider how it impacts your shipping operation. Does each color already have its own SKU?
Ultimately it may be a business decision as to whether each color should have its own page.
The third concern you have to take into consideration is duplication in search engines.
If you have three different colors of an item, it’s probably feasible to write specific content for each one so that search engines aren’t seeing duplicated content.
However, if you sell something like candy melts, where there can be over 300 different colors, it’s much less feasible (and useful) to write that much specific content even though it’s an item where people probably want specific colors.
If you do a search for something like “blue candy melts” you can see that merchants do this in different ways:
Amazon, for example: https://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Blue-Candy-Melts-oz/dp/B006ZZQTHC?th=1 has a blue candy melt page where you can switch to another color without leaving the page. The URL doesn’t change, and you never even encounter a specific page for the other color, although it exists.
Party City does it differently: https://www.partycity.com/r/wilton-blue-candy-melts-267195.html. They have a color selector on the page, but when you select another color, the whole page reloads to the other color page, like this: https://www.partycity.com/r/wilton-royal-blue-candy-melts-595444.html#swatch.
The content on both sites is almost identical except for switching out the color name in the content:
Make your own colorful, delectable treats with Wilton Blue Candy Melts! Easily melted in the microwave or fondue pot, Candy Melts have a succulent vanilla flavor…
Make your own colorful, delectable treats with Wilton Royal Blue Candy Melts! Easily melted in the microwave or fondue pot, Candy Melts have a succulent vanilla flavor…
It’s pretty obvious to me that Google probably doesn’t care about this duplication.
Remember, Google dislikes duplication when it’s used to artificially inflate the value of multiple pages. When it’s honest duplication that is just part of doing business, they don’t seem to care that much.
However, it’s possible that writing color specific content would help you rank better, so it’s something you may want to try, either on all the colors of one or two products or on a handful of popular colors for one product.
SEO Best Practices – Consider What Google Can Really Crawl
The final challenge is that the goal posts on this issue are always moving.
Google finds new and better ways to identify individual products, and web technology continues to advance in terms of how much you can show on a single page.
Remember, even five years ago, this wouldn’t even be a question, because an in-page color picker didn’t exist.
As schema markup advances and search engines are more able to crawl AJAX content, I wouldn’t be surprised if they become able to parse individualized content for each product within a single page.
To be clear on this though, Google claims to be able to do this already, but I’ve tested it and have not seen it work. Several of my colleagues have tested this too and say it’s like parallax scrolling – a nice idea for usability, but really hard to get Google to fully crawl. So my recommendation is to stay away from any highly complex coding like that for now.
Ultimately until the technology improves, whether to have separate pages or separate content for individual colors of products remains primarily a business decision.
Think about all the elements discussed in this post, and make the decision that works best for you and your business.
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Featured Image: Image by Paulo Bobita