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Online retailers have to create websites that are easy and enjoyable to browse, including improving category pages that list various products. Draw and convert more shoppers on your website by optimizing your ecommerce product category pages.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the big difference between showing up at the top of Google search results as one of the implicit (and therefore 'best') recommended options or showing up at the bottom of another page, which is ignored and missed by most searchers.
For any website, this is a huge deal. But the importance increases much more once you get into the eCommerce world. No matter how well-made your business's products are, if consumers can't find them, you won't sell anything — as simple as that.
One important factor but often neglected for SEO is the category page. Properly optimized category pages can get you higher rankings for keywords that potentially generate revenue and sales.
In fact, having great category pages can also differentiate your website from those of your competitors. Unfortunately, developers often pay them little attention.
Luckily, this article can help. In this article, you will learn how to optimize the category pages for your online store and increase the chances of getting organic traffic, which will lead to more successful sales.
What are eCommerce category pages?
Category pages are, as the name suggests, landing pages for specific categories, which hold items of the particular group and can direct people to other categories or items. You can see the image above for an example.
Because they are between the homepage (important for making the first impression) and the product pages (important for converting sales), category pages are extremely important for a good site's SEO structure.
Why are they important?
Firstly, category pages have the potential to become high authority pages:
Best practices for eCommerce websites suggest that your website should have a hierarchical structure of no more than three levels. This means that apart from the home page, the site's second most important pages are the category pages.
However, if you want to take advantage of this and have some real benefits in terms of rankings and traffic, you need to do some on-page SEO work to optimize the category pages.
Failure to do so could have a negative effect as Google will not consider them as important, and your overall domain authority can be badly affected.
Secondly, category pages are important for higher rankings:
Many eCommerce sites cannot rank for individual product pages because similar products are already available on larger websites, and big sites often tend to win the first position in the search results. Or because people don't use individual product names for searches, they use more general terms.
For example, let's say you are selling men's hiking shoes.
Buyers are more likely to search for "men's hiking shoes" and other related terms, not individual product's name like 'Ultra 3' or 'Trail low'.
With optimized category pages for general terms, you have a better chance of appearing higher on the search result page, and then your individual product pages can help strengthen the position.
What is the right way to categorize your products?
If you want to create effective product category pages, you must start by making sure you've created the best categorization structure for all products. This means building categories and sub-categories that help visitors visually narrow down their choices to find the product(s) that best suits their interests and needs.
Start with keyword research and you will learn a lot about how people search and what types of things they are looking for. With the information, you can create product categories and sub-categories suitable to create optimized landing pages that will cover 90% of what searchers are looking for.
The main categories will cover just about all the most general searches. Then, the sub-categories capture searchers who have a better idea of what they are looking for in the product. Each of the categories is an option to create a landing page that can drive to the option that most closely matches their search intent.
The point is, by having optimized category pages, consumers can land on the page that meets their most important needs. Every search is different, but you can create enough categories with solutions for almost all searchers.
Quick quiz: Which is the better option for product classifications?
- Main categories are 'Mens Gear', 'Women Gear', and 'Children Gear'.
- Main categories are 'Motorcycle gloves' and 'Motorcycle helmets'.
Can you guess it? The answer is the second option as it can tell what specific gear you offer.
When building your online store's category pages, you can try writing your products on a white board. Create as many options as you want, based on the keyword research, and organize them into categories and sub-categories.
10 tips to optimize your online store’s category pages
1. Have specific URLs
Start by optimizing your URLs. As explained above about site structure, your category URL should accurately describe the content of the page with no additional characters or unnecessary information.
For example, if your business has a category for women's shoes your URL should be: https://example.com/womens-shoes
Keep your URLs short, clean, and to the point and so users know what the category is about from just the URL.
2. Check your category metadata
The meta description of a category page has an important role in getting a higher click-through rate, once you achieve first page ranking for the page. If you don't have a unique quality description for category pages, your snippet may not make sense in the search results.
This is not good for your company and won't encourage people to click. Try to summarize your products and offerings in the category metadata. If you offer free returns, free shipping, or more, say so in the description to make users click on the entry.
You can see how Asos write their metadata for men shoes in the example above and apply for your own store.
3. Craft your titles
The category title is a good opportunity to give Google a strong signal about your website pages and its content.
When crafting your category page title, consider the following:
- Results from your keyword research. Knowing what people use in their search queries will help you create highly optimized titles.
- Start your title with found keywords and then add your brand name.
- Use specific characteristics of the category in the title. If you discount for bulk purchases or have special colors, reflect them in the title.
Men's Shoes: Combat boots, Athletic sneakers & More | mybrand.com
Mybrand.com | Men's Shoes: Boots, Sneakers & More
4. Make headings relevant
Next, let's start at the top and optimize the title tags - H1, H2, etc. - to help search engines understand the context of content. The main header at the top (usually H1) reinforces the topic of the title tag for the entire page. Subheadings such as the H2 and H3 emphasize supporting topics.
A category page should have only one H1 heading and contain your target keywords. Below the H1, you can add a few lines of text to give search engines and users a good clue of what the page is about.
5. Include text content
When it comes to content, many web designers find it difficult to add textual content to an ecommerce directory page as it can disrupt the design of the page and draw attention away from the products
But it's crucial to organic search performance. Text doesn't need to appear all over the page or even appear in the top view. Even a short phrase is better than nothing.
A good way to fix this problem is to have a few lines of content below the H1 and then add some related text content at the bottom of the page.
Remember that body content doesn't have to contain multiple paragraphs. Focus on naturally relevant descriptive keywords without artificially repeating them.
6. Show featured content
Category pages can show related products, advertise sales items, loyalty programs, and more. So use the features to gain organic search as well.
Make sure that the featured content is encoded as text, not as an embedded image. Visual search has come a long way, but it is not used in search ranking algorithms yet. And make sure the text of the content is optimized with descriptive language and keywords.
For example: Tiffany & Co. Engagement Rings category page has a featured content for "The Guide to Diamonds". Note that the text has a keyword of a famous branded term of "Tiffany diamonds".
7. Optimize conversion elements
A category page is also a landing page and the first page a user can see when visiting from search engines, Facebook or AdWords. So why not include all the elements you need to convince, motivate, and keep users in your store so that they can eventually convert?
- Your logo and contact information
- Your service or promotion
- Call to Action buttons
- Newsletter signups
- Link to Shopping Cart and login account
- Menu options
Besides, highlight the attention to your most essential products. Make it easy for users to find the most popular or best-selling categories and products.
8. Use header and footer links
Similar opportunities in category navigation are available in the header and footer of the website. Use header and footer links to guide to your most valuable category and sub-category pages. Include pages based on keyword mapping and keyword research and those with high business value.
9. Set the canonical URL correctly
If your product category pages span multiple pages or use filters on a category page, you need to set correct canonical URLs.
By setting a canonical URL, backlinks are attributed to the main category page (making your site stronger), and you can avoid duplicate content issues.
For example, if your product category page has an URL of https://www.mystore.com/my-product-category and you have paging enabled, when the user clicks to go to page 2, the URL should be something like https://www.mystore.com/my-product-category/2/.
10. Have relevant link text
Using ambiguous language as your link text makes you miss out on a strong opportunity to boost your linking page and landing page's relevance. "Learn more" or "Click here" are meaningless to search engines, as well as linked images with no text at all.
How to make your category pages rank higher on Google?
A poor navigation structure can prevent users and search engines from reaching the pages you want them to find. This could add an unnecessary click or two to reach the category page. If the category pages are useful for users, they will naturally have higher ranking.
Here are the key points to make your category pages rank higher on Google:
- Optimize internal linking: You should make sure your category pages are well linked to within the site.
- Make it easy for visitors to find the category page: You want the category page to rank before the product page, but this can depend on your strategy
- Don't keyword spam: This can cause Google to regard your page with caution.
At the end of the day, it is still about the visitor. Category pages are the first line of conversion for a consumer's shopping experience, so optimizing your category page will not only bring more buyers to the site but also provide a valuable on-site buying process.
In summary, the key takeaways for optimized category pages are:
- Have specific URLs
- Check your category metadata
- Craft your titles
- Make headings relevant
- Include text content
- Show featured content
- Optimize conversion elements
- Use header and footer links
- Set the canonical URLqq correctly
- Have relevant link text
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