Technical

5 Category Page Tips
To Improve Your SEO

by on 20th October 2010

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.

boilerplate-text

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.

unique-text

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

products-with-review

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.

cross-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

popular-internal-searches

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

aggregate-hreview

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!

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Responses

  1. Hi Richard,

    This was really useful as I’m starting to work on an online jewellery store (kirstenhendrich.com). Product reviews are certainly something I want to make more use of and implement throughout the site.

    What we’ve done so far is to use short product descriptions on the catagory pages, and optimised the accordingly. Not sure what you think of that idea? Her ‘handmade chains’ catagory page is currently sitting at no:7 for ‘handmade silver chains’…so appears to be working OK…

    See you in London next week,

    Jon

  2. Hi Jon – I like what you’re doing. The ever-so-slightly rewritten snippets work well. It’s a good idea IMO. See you next week! Do introduce yourself (I’m not sure if we’ve ever met!).

  3. Hi Richard,

    Another great post and will certainly help me when thinking about the site structure of my own site as well as when working on others.

  4. Thank you! Really appreciate the feedback – speak soon!

  5. Hi Richard,

    I totally agree with what you have written. Working in the recruitment sector I often look for opportunities to optimise job sector landing pages and have seen improvements in rankings accordingly especially if the content has been uniquely written for each sector. I have also used it to highlight other relevant content and link to lower pages within sites which have been less likely to be found otherwise.

    i am also trying to think of creative ways to incorporate more geo data into these pages for local search improvements.

  6. Thanks for the post. It’s a subject that hasn’t received much attention but is still important nonetheless. I’m glad you gave it your thought. I often think how the categories on my websites affect the overall SEO and thought it’s overall effect on link-juice would be minimal.

  7. Richard,

    Have you done any studies on the ideal number of products to display on category pages? From a SEO standpoint, the more products the better, but from a user perspective, is there an ideal number?

  8. Hi Sarah,

    i haven’t done any real research and Richard might have some good stats. So take what i say with a pinch of salt but in the recruit industry which is my background i am a big fan of 10 results per page with filtering options and a very responsive change of page.

    However I think you would be able to get away with more in products results if you use imagery as the visual nature of the results will encourage people to scroll. Even so i would not push things much further than 20 or 30 results per page.

    If you already have a site with products on and the option to change the filter for the number of results displayed you could try some basic A / B testing with different numbers of results and work out an optimum from there.

  9. Nice post, have taken some top tips, thank you. I’ve recently been adding hReview data to my posts, is this something you’d recommend for Cat pages?

  10. Hi Mark

    I think there’s a huge opportunity to aggregate all reviews for products in a category on a category page. Not only do you have a reasonable excuse for teh hReview, you can also syndicate some of your customer feedback “up” the architecture, adding more uniqueness to the page.

    All the best, Richard

  11. Hi really thanks for this good information on Blogs.I agree with you.I always follow your blog site

  12. Hi Mark – Great post thanks so much. I am wondering if there is a limit to the length of category page text beyond which it is no longer useful. If you have a moment check out one of our pages here and you’ll see all the text at the bottom. I would prefer to shorten this becuase I don’t think it looks particularly good, but if it’s beneficial to SEO I will leave it as is. thanks! Rich
    http://www.petfooddirect.com/landing/Cat-Litter-Center.aspx

  13. This really is cracking stuff. I am going to ask my SEO to create a review function for our services!!1

  14. The thing I’m always worried about (and slightly confused), is that the category pages will be classed as duplicate if you write a few posts in a row from the same category.

    Example, if you write 3 blog posts in a row about cars, the car category and the home page will be identical.

    How do you avoid this issue?

  15. I would love to see an update to this article. Category pages are still something that can be improved many places and SEO one these type of pages has not become easier. Personally I am struggling with weather or not to put a lot of text in the bottom of the page or not. I see my competitors in Germany write a lot of text in the bottom, however my UK competitors are deleting their bottom category texts. The strange thing is that it seems to work great for all of them. So it is not easy by just looking at the competition to see which way things are headed.

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