A properly optimized category page and structure can make a big difference not only for your users, but for the search engines! SEO category pages take some time – but the efforts will be greatly rewarded!
Creating a website structure that is not only user friendly – and search engine friendly is step one to your success. WordPress categories require a strategy to make them work in your favor and setting your categories up is only step one.
Once they are created – then it is time to apply proper SEO techniques to help them rank well – which I will cover today!
Why SEO Category Pages Matter
It is all about the numbers and as you can see in the analytics screenshot below – category pages can have a great impact on your website traffic.
You can see the amount of traffic that the category pages receives is pretty significant for this website and below are some notable metrics to look at.
- The average time on page is 1:45 seconds which is pretty good – with the categories with more posts in them having even longer times. This means visitors are looking at the content on the category page
- Bounce rate is low — which means they are click on posts and reading the articles from the category.
If you look at your metrics for your category pages and you are seeing high bounce rates and low time on page this could signal issues with your categories.
Remember – a category page is like a landing page and is a great opportunity for you to get Google to understand what the topic is about.
The Balance Between SEO & Usability
In our opinion – if we have to choose between a good SEO term or a good term for users to better understand what the category is about, we will go for the latter every time!
Ultimately your website is meant to convert and engage your readers – so that takes top priority over SEO. Often your best named categories may be in a very competitive niche so that may limit your ability rank – so just make sure you focus on names that BENEFIT YOUR READERS!
My Own Internal Category Review
I figured I would use this post as a time to assess my own categories – and they were bad. Like really bad.
Maybe if you are “in the web industry” you may have a clue what they are which is why I used them – but Google would not understand them and if you are a non-techie person they may not be clear enough either.
So – that means I am failing Google and failing my readers – a negative double whammy.
When someone reads a category name – they should know EXACTLY what they will read about – not have to guess.
Below is my old category structure which resulted in high bounce rates and low time on page. The names and slugs were not optimal and they categories were not well optimized
Below I will talk about one specific category and why it does not make sense.
Analytics – this is clearly WAY too broad and can mean so many different things. Since we are focused on tips and tricks about how to read and decipher website analytical data it may make more sense to change this to something like “website analytics” or “website analytics tips”.
You can see below – when I searched for analytics I got a wide variety of results from Google analytics certification to an AR-VR analytics platform. Clearly labeling my category analytics is a total fail from an SEO perspective.
So before you decide on a name – do a search and see what comes up!
How To Change Category Names Properly
So now that you have your list of categories – if you are looking to modify existing category names you need to do it carefully to ensure you do not ruin your current rank or reflect a 404 error to your users!
Changing the Name
This part is easy – simple edit the name field to use the new name you would like. So in the example below we will change Search Engines to SEO Tips & Tricks.
Changing the Slug
We do recommend changing the slug as well to reap the full SEO benefit if your slug is not keyword rich. Having keywords in your URL still potentially has some benefit so we still encourage it – although some are not convinced it makes a difference.
For our example it says search-engines in the slug field but we will replace that with seo-tips-tricks.
Importance Slug note!
If this category already ranks or has backlinks, then visitors will get a page not found (404) error – and clearly you DO NOT want that! You can either add a 301 redirect to your .htaccess file or download a plugin like Redirection to help you redirect the old slug URL to your new one.
Or – if you feel safer you can leave the slug as it is!
Optimizing SEO Category Pages
On to the fun stuff! Optimizing!
Spending some time optimizing categories for SEO is a small time investment that can reap big rewards. It is easy to do and since most are not using this tactic – it will help you get a step ahead from the competition.
In many WordPress themes you can enter a category description and it will show at the top of the page.
Just adding 2 or 3 sentences with keyword rich text explaining what visitors can expect to find in the category is a great way to let the search engines and your users understand the category better.
TIP: Consider adding a link or 2 as well to other posts are pages that are RELATED to the category and can help your user find related content that will benefit them.
Description Not Showing On Your Website?
Wait – I added a description but it does not show on my category page!
Well, sadly then you may have to customize the code to have the description show.
You can also try using the Archive Intro Text block first as some themes we have seen do use that instead of the description block – but if it is still not showing you will have to customize your category page template to have it appear.
Optimizing Category Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
If you are using Yoast, RankMath or some other SEO plugin then you will see the ability to change your Title Tag and Meta Description for every category and you should 100% do this!
By default your title tag will show in the browser tab and search results as:
Category: Your Category Name
Not exactly well optimized and definitely will not encourage users to click if they see you in the search results.
Make sure you change your category title tag to reflect the category – for example:
SEO Tips & Tricks For Businesses & Bloggers might be ours for our SEO category.
You will also want to write a great meta description for your category as well — just like any other page or post!
Creating More Dynamic Category Pages
By default – WordPress will list your posts in a category. While that is great – there are so many other ways you can really maximize categories to really make them rank and be a useful resource.
Turn those boring lists of posts into something exciting!
Use some of these ideas to build custom category SILO or HUB pages that users will love.
- Create links to useful resources you have on your website
- Add a frequently asked questions area to address related questions on your category topic
- Add a call to action area to sign up for the newsletter or follow you on social
- Have posts in different formats – a few featured posts on top in columns and below that have the remaining posts in lists as an example
- If you are using tags for your category use those in creative ways to help your visitor navigate further into your content
What About Tags?
We do not use or recommend tags – unless you are a large content site that has a CLEAR tagging strategy.
If you do use tags they should make sense and be limited and no-indexed! So basically no SEO is really needed for tags!