Optimising category pages for SEO
- Improving your customers’ experience shopping online on your website (increasing the conversion rate).
- Increasing your website’s search engine ranking (increasing targeted website traffic).
What is a category page?
Doing so simply ensures that your customers can find the products they’re looking for. It can also help them to find related products that they may also be looking for, or perhaps weren’t aware of.
Behind the scenes, category pages are an invaluable tool to help improve your search engine ranking. That is, if the category page is properly optimised.
Here’s a comprehensive breakdown for how to optimise your categories and subcategories by using informational copy.
Let’s start with the website layout
From a user or shopper’s point of view, your category pages should function to make their experience better and smoother. Instead of sending them from landing page to landing page, you want the user experience to be fluid and intuitive, otherwise the customer is likely to head straight for the exit (known as a “bounce”).
To achieve the right outcome, the design and structure of your website should focus on having a simple layout and navigation which represents your offering and the structure of your category pages in a way that makes sense to the majority of visitors. It’s easier said than done for many, but some practical tips for achieving this include:
- Emulate the layout of retail stores by categorising products according to type.
- Use images in a simple, clear grid or list format, which link to the relevant category page.
- Limit text on the page to a brief description of the product and/or category.
- Include names and prices of specific products to make it clear and concise.
The aim of this method is to not overwhelm the customer but rather present everything clearly and enticingly, so that they can easily locate what they are looking for and navigate to the right category page. Keeping your categories tight and related means that it will be easier for the customer to find what they want and won’t get bogged down by unnecessary clutter.
Of course, this is a method for funnelling your potential customers to the right product and eventually the checkout page. If your aim is to entice search engine browsers directly to a specific category page, your approach is going to be more SEO best practice focused.
An SEO keyword is a word or phrase that users type into a search engine (like Google or Bing). Search engines use complex algorithms to crawl through pages on all websites on the internet and store that information, which is used to display the most relevant results to the user.
The best way to improve your category page’s ranking for a particular keyword is to integrate that keyword into the category’s content and metadata (the page title and description visible in search results). Of course, you need to be wary of ‘keyword stuffing’ which is the unnatural overuse of a specific keyword. Google’s algorithms are advanced enough to pick this sort of thing up and will penalise a website for it.
For many webpages this doesn’t pose a problem. However when you have a product or category page, where too much content clutters the page and impedes the user’s experience, you have a dilemma.
To make matters worse, there is precious little Google-sanctioned information regarding how to improve the ranking of category pages. Even the standard optimisation of internal links and the building of external links to the category pages doesn’t help us when it comes to striking the all important balance of on-page copy.
Simply not optimising a category page may devalue the entire site and negatively impact your overall ranking. Some SEO agents try to ‘noindex’ their category pages (asking search engines to ignore the pages entirely) but the expert SEO professionals prefer to be resourceful, creative and inventive. So where does that leave us?
SEO best practices for category pages
Normally the top keywords for a specific page will be identified by looking into the volume of searches on a specific term and juxtaposed against the difficulty of achieving a high ranking for that term. Category page keyword research should be no different.
Yet there is a slight twist on the regular formula. Remember that category pages should function to filter customers to a specific product, so any search engine user would likely know what product they are searching for if they’d be willing to click on your category page link. That’s why you should consider slightly different keywords that focus on the motivation behind the searcher’s enquiry.
To understand this, we need to break down the different types of keywords.
Keyword type 1 – Information
An informational keyword refers to a search term when someone is trying to find something out. Where is the closest dry cleaner? What time does the cinema open? How far is Timbuktu?
Keyword type 2 – Navigation
A navigational keyword is the simplest to understand. It’s when someone types a specific company name, brand, organisation or website into the browser. For example, if you search “GO Creative” in Google.
Keyword type 3 – Commercial
A commercial or transactional keyword refers to a consumer searching for a product or service they want to buy. More often than not, these consumers are willing, ready and looking to purchase something. In other words, they’re your target audience.
The more specific, considered, and directed your commercial keyword optimisation, the greater the chance your category page will show up for a customer searching for the products you offer on that page. Your SEO optimisation work should be focused on keywords which are the most likely to convert visitors into customers.
How to approach category page copy
The content — or copy — of your category page should be written and informed based on the keyword you’ve identified. Remember that you both don’t want to unnaturally stuff too many keywords into your web copy, and you also don’t want to ruin the visual and practical design of the page.
Due to the fact that you’re working with less words than you otherwise may have, the copy on category page should be as high impact as possible. So how do you make the most with the least amount of copy?
Tactic 1 – Category descriptions
By using category descriptions you can add related content that includes your identified keyword to outline your product offering within this category. Focus on the benefits your products offer and include relevant information.
Tactic 2 – Headings
Each heading of your products contained within the category offers a subtle opportunity to optimise the content without ruining the visual design or layout.
Tactic 3 – Subheadings
Unlike tactic 2, subheadings aren’t as widely used but it can be invaluable for adding copy to your page and positively enhancing your SEO.
Tactic 4 – Product descriptions
Even if your product doesn’t necessarily need its own description, adding them in can actually enhance the user experience whilst providing opportunity for optimisation.
Tactic 5 – Internal links
Adding in helpful links to other pages on your website, which do contain more information and content, gives you an opportunity to include a description of the linked page and optimise the anchor text at the same time.
Transactional vs informational content
When you’re looking for opportunities to add content to your category page be wary of the tendency to add too much copy. Doing so, even if it’s done along with added graphics and images, can cause Google’s algorithms to misidentify your page as one of an informational nature and not a transactional one.
That’s going to mean that it’ll rank higher for informational keywords and not transactional keywords. In other words, you’re going to miss your target audience.
Do the research
What now? The fine balance between including enough keyword optimised content but not too much can feel like walking a tightrope.
The most dogged SEO experts spend time to check the performance and content structure of other high ranking category pages to see how they balance informational content on their pages. When you’re analysing other category pages, make sure you only take into consideration the copy that doesn’t refer to a specific product as that would be classified as transactional copy.
Spoiler alert: Most category pages that rank highly fall along a wide spectrum of informational copy volume. Fortunately, as far as category pages goes this indicates that you don’t necessarily have to build out your website with tons of informational content.
The next step in your research is to analyse your competition’s category pages for the transactional search term you’re optimising for. You can then skew the amount of informational content accordingly in line with the trend of your competition.
Of course, this is all quantity-focused but it’s important not to forget quality. Well written, concise and impactful copy will perform better than lower quality content.
Structuring your informational content
While there’s no real consensus on the amount of informational copy that is ideal for high SEO ranking, there are certainly trends in the structure and layout of such content on category pages.
Trend 1 – Keep long content at the bottom
By strategically placing your longer content below your products you won’t mess with the user’s experience or ability to navigate your website. Also importantly, your product images won’t be obstructed either.
Trend 2 – Include helpful information
Keeping your content relevant to the category page is a must and one way to do this is by including guides that help your customers with their online shopping experience. You can note what considerations they should bear in mind while browsing, warranty information or even maintenance tips. Value statements, like how a product is made or where it is sourced from, is also a good example of helpful information you can use that provides an opportunity for optimisation.
Trend 3 – Make the content collapsible
Including little arrows or options for a website browser to collapse and hide the content is a fantastic way to have your optimisation cake and eat it too. You can include the copy you need and allow the customer to collapse it when they need.
Trend 4 – Use frequently asked questions
FAQs are a fantastic way to include a lot of content without jeopardising your category page. You can slip them in at the bottom, break them up according to question and answer, and keep the content high quality, helpful and relevant.
A final word
As part of our final note on optimising category pages for SEO, it’s important to realise that there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach. Improving your ecommerce’s ranking on Google and other search engines is a multi-faceted, continuous, and ever-changing challenge which is unique to each website and business.
This is exactly why our team at GO Creative love it! We take great satisfaction in working diligently at improving our clients’ online traffic, and conversion goals through comprehensive SEO strategies, multi-pronged optimisation tactics, and staying on top with the latest digital marketing developments.
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and start seeing just how much more business you could achieve with a properly optimised category page, make sure to get in touch with our team today.