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Simple products vs Configurable products in Magento 2 – what’s the best option for SEO?

Sam Hurley from NovosSam Hurley in Magento, SEO

22nd October, 2020

Simple products vs Configurable products - what's the best option for seo?

Two of the most common questions we get from Magento 2 clients are:

  1. Should I implement simple products or configurable products?
  2. We’re thinking of changing our simple products into configurable products, what’s the impact on SEO?

Therefore, in this post, we’re going to answer these questions, and as always with SEO the answer is…

…“it depends”…

What’s the difference between a simple product vs Configurable products in Magento 2?

Simple products are products that do not require the user to choose any additional attributes to buy the product – they just add to cart. Configurable products require users to select multiple options before adding to cart.

For SEO the biggest differentiating factor is:

  • Simple products each live on their unique URLs differentiated by their unique product attributes
  • Configurable products live on a single URL, with the options for the product attributes living on that same URL.

In the backend of Magento, configurable products are just the ‘parent version’ of the simple products.

Examples of simple products vs configurable products

Here is an example of a configurable product in use with Savile Row Company:

Notice how I can not add the product to my basket until I select one of the product attribute options of Chest size and Jacket length

Another option for Savile Row would have been to make simple products and have all of these Chest Size options on unique URLs which would have looked something like:

In contrast here is a simple product URL that can be added directly to the cart”

Finally, this is an example of a grouped product where 2 SKUs live on a single url

https://savilerowco.com/navy-wool-blend-textured-suit-msuit342nav

How to approach configurable products vs simple products for SEO?

In short, the answer is “it depends” and is often a case by case basis. That said, a very broad general rule of thumb could be taken as:

  • Size – Configurable Product
  • Shape – Configurable Product
  • Length – Configurable Product
  • Colour – Simple Product
  • Material – Simple Product

This should by no means be the answer to your eCommerce store but it’s a top-level view of how we see other eCommerce sites managing simple vs configurable products.

From a pure SEO perspective, we usually decide on simple products for terms people search for during the research stage e.g. many people search by colour and material to influence a decision across a range of different products.

This research stage will usually always happen in Google and therefore you’d want a detailed granular page to capture which option they eventually go for.

In contrast, attributes like Size, Shape and Length do not dictate if a customer buys or does not (when in the research stage) e.g. if you do not have a product in their size a customer simply can not buy the product. Whereas a green vs red product comes down to the customer’s perception and desire.

It can also get particularly messy and hard to manage if you chose to have simple products for all different sizes. In addition, it can be particularly difficult to differentiate the content on the unique URLs which can then confuse Google and cause duplicate content issues. E.g. a customer may search for ‘Taupe Checked Tweed Jacket’ but end up landing on your ‘size 48’ URL which will likely result in a bounce back to the Google results.

Advantages and disadvantages of simple products for your SEO

Pros of simple products for SEO:

  • Granular URLs to rank for longer tail keywords
  • No potential missed opportunity as the URL is available and can rank if linked to on the site

Cons of simple products for SEO:

  • Additional content resource needed to differentiate multiple URLs that are very similar
  • Potential confusion for Google if there is not enough differentiation between the different URLs
  • More resource to manage and update product copy & information
  • Can waste crawl budget and dilute SEO value if you have many many different variations of your PDPs – especially for a very large inventory website

Advantages and disadvantages of configurable products for your SEO

Pros of configurable products for SEO:

  • Single URL that builds all of the authority for a product on your site
  • Quicker for users as new pages don’t need to be loaded just before they buy (which may impact conversion rate)
  • Easier to manage and less content resource needed for multiple PDPs

Cons of configurable products for SEO:

  • Don’t have a detailed URL that can rank for longer tail keyword variations of your products
  • Limited opportunity to express the difference between different product attributes

Should you migrate from simple products to configurable products?

This is where you’d really need to dig into the data to understand whether this is a good decision or not. If you’ve had simple products on your store long enough to build up SEO authority and value to those URLs, removing them can have a significant impact on SEO performance.

To achieve this analysis we’d recommend checking your Google Search Console account and GA account at page level to ensure there is no impact on your traffic. Always ask for SEO consultancy when moving from configurable to simple products.

When we ran this analysis for MADE.com, removing simple products and moving to configurable would have impacted around 15-25% of their SEO non-brand traffic.

Also, don’t forget to check other channels e.g. Google Shopping doesn’t allow you to send traffic directly to group product URLs, configurable alone is extremely limiting so you’d need to take additional steps with your product feed to ensure you still send traffic to simple URLs.

If you do finally decide to move to configurable products and away from simple products – please remember to implement 301 redirects to the new parent configurable product URL.

Should you migrate from configurable products to simple products?

In general, we’ve not really seen any significant issues when moving away from configurable products to simple products as it’s just a case of additional URLs to rank for related terms. Just monitor traffic from old configurable to the new simple products to ensure the traffic is picked up again across the multiple URLs. Remember to redirect the parent URL to a simple version if that is closing down.

Simple products vs Configurable products, what’s the best option for SEO?

To conclude there is no right or wrong answer to implementing configurable products or simple products for your SEO.

Typically we would recommend simple products for colour and material products as this directly matches how people search for products. That said there is no catch-all answer for all products.

We do also believe that as a startup eCommerce brand, simple products can be a powerful acquisition strategy as they can help you to rank for the long tail, less competitive terms.

In contrast, for larger more established brands we have recommended moving away from simple products only because they have the authority to rank for larger head terms. Therefore our strategy is to cut down the size of the website to make it as lean as possible and then look to build out more granular categories or filter indexing to rank for higher volume, more competitive search terms.

If you allow other marketplaces or resellers to sell your products we’d also likely recommend simple products as these can capture longer tail brand-related terms which you can attempt to rank number 1 for as opposed to the reseller or marketplace that stocks your product.

If you are undecided about which option to choose, please reach out to us and we’re happy to help. If in doubt opt for simple products, especially if you are just starting.

If you are deciding to migrate away from one product option to another please do not do this without any SEO support as it can have a significant impact on your SEO traffic and revenue.

For more Magento tips please see our ultimate guide to magento 2. Alternatively, reach out to us below and let’s work together to grow your Magento store!

Sam Hurley from Novos
Article by Sam Hurley
Sam is the co-founder of NOVOS. With nearly a decade-long experience in organic search, Sam has helped many eCom brands grow. His area of expertise includes SEO strategy, Magento, international SEO, and headless CMS with Javascript.

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