At last weeks A4uExpo, I gave a presentation on successful site architecture. There was so much to cover in 45 minutes, with topics ranging from site architecture design and mapping keyword strategy, to the more technical aspects of site construction, internal link strategy and on page factors. One area that I got a lot of feedback on was the topic of category page optimisation.
What’s the problem with category pages?
Take a long hard look at most mid-tier category pages on your site. It doesn’t matter if you’re a retailer, affiliate, travel site or a blog. We all have them, they’re important, though they frequently get overlooked. Let’s take a product listing page as an example. Most listings pages display between 5 – 40 products, with descriptions syndicated from another page. There’s a H1 page title, maybe a boilerplate H2 strapline and if we’re all super lucky, a boilerplate paragraph of text. That’s more or less it.
In my opinion, there are some critical factors you should consider if you’re planning on making a good category listing page. In SEO, especially since the first half of 2010, the more unique you can make a page, the better chance it will have in the rankings.
5 Things you can do to improve your category pages
Our new friends at Snugg Nightwear have kindly allowed me to use some of the visuals from their category pages as a basis for this post. You can view the full screenshot here and compare that to a real category page like this one.
Use unique introductory text, not boilerplates
It’s reasonably valid to assume a search engine’s ability to spot duplication extends to a capability to spot clusters of duplicated text inside a “unique” block of text. With this in mind, we’ve found it beneficial to rewrite the text on the most important category pages. Yes, it’s a bit of work but it does have an impressive impact.
Take your top 100 category pages (if you have that many) and try writing between 100 to 150 words of uniqueness for each. As an ongoing, page by page process it’s really not that big a deal. If you haven’t got the resource, there are numerous solutions beyond commiting to re-writing in-house. For example, you might wish to hire the services of a freelancer on Elance or get to grips with the Textbroker API.
Display review data on each product
What did your customers say about the products listed on your category page? Who knows! It’s not normally until a visitor arrives at the product page level that they get a chance to read what previous purchasers thought of that particular product. While using hReview on a page in the correct way can improve your CTR, it can also influence conversion.
On Expedia.com, good reviews of 4.0 or 5.0 generate more
than double the conversion of a review of 1.0 – 2.9 – Jennifer Davies – Expedia.com
I’m going to mention aggregating recent reviews on a category listing page in a moment, suffice it to say there is so much more we can do with review data, and I really, really like that thought.
Generate appropriate cross links
Cross linking appropriately is good for SEO, namely indexation and overall search engine visibility. We all know this, and most of us work to a rough principle that we should include 100 to 120 internal links per page. But, there’s so much more to this than simple site wide navigational elements. “Top categories” and “Popular products” require so little thought to implement and implementation tends to yield only minor changes in pages wiith internal links.
Why wouldn’t your internal link structure refect the needs and desires of your users? Instead of running a popularity contest, suggest areas of your site that are related to the products on display. Evolve the principle of popularity by allowing the user’s location to influence the most popular items on display. If you keep thinking like that, you’ll improve your site’s overall structure, internal anchor text distribution and linked-to internal page counts tremendously.
Use internal site search data wisely
What internal search terms resulted in the best sales? Why not play that data back to users in a related area of the site? Internal site search can improve cross linking, add a little uniqueness and inspire.
Aggregate recent reviews up to the category level
We know that it’s worth testing to see how UGC can influence conversion on your site, but UGC also adds important SEO benefit to your pages. Why not consider syndicating recent reviews for products belonging to a category up a level, to the category page itself? Rules to prevent duplication, for example, only display 5 reviews on a product page, using any other review content for the category page could yield additional SEO benefit to your category page.
Now, think about your product pages
Next, time to start thinking about how to improve your product pages. I really liked Rand’s WhiteBoard Friday – “Making Product Pages into Great Content“. Enjoy!