SEO category pages play an important role in growing your results – especially for ecommerce. Sadly, these pages are often treated as an afterthought and left unoptimised. This can, over time, end up having an adverse reaction to your overall SEO rankings.
If you have basic category pages in place and you’re wondering why they are not getting anywhere, it could be for any number of reasons. In this guide, we take a look at some of the factors that can have the biggest impact on your SEO category pages to help you get more from these pages.
How to Improve Your Ecommerce SEO Category Pages
There are a number of ways that SEO category pages help your website grow. For ecommerce websites, in particular, category pages serve an important purpose not just in ecommerce SEO but also in usability. Very often, visitors will land on these pages when searching for items. This is because many people will begin their searches by casting a wider net, so to speak. For example, if a new mom is searching for products for her baby, she may begin her search by using phrases such as ‘baby products’. Although there is no doubt that longtail keywords are also highly important and that many people also use more specific phrases if they know what they are looking for (‘baby products for girls’ vs ‘baby products’ or even ‘baby products for newborns’, for instance), broader terms are also used to find a wider range of products.
In an online store, SEO category pages are used to link to individual product pages. When these pages are not optimised in any way and left to act as a place simply to display product pages, you end up missing out on a chance to bring in traffic to your key categories. To get more from your category pages, here are some things that you could consider doing.
Check your keyword strategy
First things first, make sure that you have a proper keyword strategy in place, specifically for your category pages. This may sound obvious, however, many etailers assume that they can use their product page keywords or have a strategy that lumps everything together. Keywords for category pages need to be focused very carefully on the overall category rather than any products within the category.
Using our baby product example, you could have a few different categories in your store ranging from products for boys, products for girls, products for certain age groups from newborn to toddler, clothing products, bath products, shoe products, products for parents, and many other products relating to babies. Keywords for each of those categories would need to be relevant and contextual so that search engines can easily see exactly what is found in any given category. A keyword strategy that is too broad or too focused on products within the category will end up having the opposite effect. Worse, you could find that your category pages end up competing with product pages, which is never good for ranking.
Align your site structure and navigation
Your site structure and navigation also need to be carefully aligned so that search engines can easily find your SEO category pages. The structure of your site determines every aspect of the site and also affects the way that search engines and shoppers find your website. Every single page needs to have a logical place within your website structure. Using our baby product example again, think about how a category link might look. A properly structured category link would be something like this:
This type of link structure shows a clear flow from the domain to the category. If you also include a sitemap that clearly outlines all of your category and product pages, you will have even more success in having category and products rank.
Avoid duplicate and incorrect category pages
You will also need to make sure that your category pages are unique and carefully checked. Duplicate category pages can do plenty of harm to your rankings. Incorrect category pages can do just as much damage. Both end up stealing rankings from your relevant categories. Many searchers will end up quickly closing your site and going back to their search, which will lead to a downgrade in your SEO results.
Irrelevant, duplicate, and otherwise broken category pages can also cause a negative experience for customers, causing frustration and increasing the risk of bad reviews or at the very least unhappy customers who are not finding what they are seeking. Always make sure that each and every category is relevant to the products listed within the category and that there are no duplicates, mistakes or issues to be found in any category.
Keep your content and titles relevant
It is essential that the content and the titles are relevant, too. Having no content on your category pages can make an impact on your rankings. Having content that is not unique or relevant to the category can have an even worse impact. Even short descriptions that briefly summarise what the category is about will help search engines crawl your website more easily. It will also make for a better user experience, too.
Your keywords will need to be included in the content as well as the page titles. A good way to include keyword-rich content without taking up too much space with text is to either place some part of the content below the fold or use a ‘read more’ function. Placing a few lines above the fold that introduce the category and give a brief description of what the page is about and then placing a larger section at the bottom of the page will help you bring in your keyword-rich content without losing the user-friendly nature of the page by flooding it with content.
Don’t let product and category pages compete
Another thing to remember is that product and category pages should never have to compete. If you are trying to use the same or similar keywords, you will end up with this issue. As we mentioned earlier, these keywords and this content should always be unique. You should not be getting too specific by mentioning specific baby product brands or products in your category pages, to use our example. Instead, you should be focusing your content, navigation, structure, and overall page on the broader category.
To avoid competition, optimise for specific brand names and product details – ‘baby shoes for girls’ or ‘brand name girls baby footwear’ for example. Always make sure that you have unique keywords for your products and that these are kept separate to your category keywords.
Use cross-selling and similar strategies
Another way that you can get your category pages ranking better is to make use of cross-selling and similar strategies. On your baby shoe category page, you could feature sub-categories such as baby shoes for boys and for girls. You could feature baby products for various age groups, too. You could highlight best-selling shoes and any other related items that help to strengthen the category’s relevancy.
Other strategies that you could consider include displaying selected blog posts on baby shoes – how to choose shoes for infants, popular styles of shoes for babies, fitting baby shoes at various ages, or anything else that further helps to create a stronger page. All of these strategies will help to show search engines what the page is about, which, in turn, helps the page rank better.
We hope that these tips help you get your categories ranking better in the SERPs. Remember, rather than treating these pages as a place to dump sub-categories or products, it helps to see SEO category pages as landing pages that can add great value to your online growth.