For eCommerce sites, category and subcategory pages typically account for the largest chunk of organic traffic, only lagging behind the homepage in terms of volume. That’s because the typical consumer is more apt to use search phrases that are better matched to category pages than product pages.
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If you’re looking to purchase a new shirt, you’re much more likely to plug “men’s shirts” into Google than “Ralph Lauren collared cotton button-down shirt in brown and blue.” The category phrases still have strong intent, though they’re a bit higher up in the funnel, and those long-tail searches are where your product pages come into play.
There are plenty of other reasons to create and optimize SEO eCommerce category pages:
- There’s lots of competition for those long-tail, bottom-of-the-funnel product keywords, which makes them difficult to rank highly in the search results
- Category pages with robust content help the search engines understand the site structure a bit better
- Even though category-type search phrases don’t convert as well as product-related keywords, you can use them to drive substantial traffic to product pages
- Traffic that hits your category pages is highly qualified and likely to convert if you run retargeting campaigns
- Category pages are higher up in the hierarchy of the site than product pages, so they get better internal link equity
What should I include in my category page content?
Google is all about quality content instead of those keyword-stuffed gibberish pages of the past, and that includes eCommerce category pages. Many eCommerce companies, though, still create short paragraphs that are filled with keywords and shoved down at the bottom of the page below the products. These SEO footers aren’t usually meant to be read, so quality is often pretty poor.
If you want your category pages to do their job, they must:
- Meet the searcher’s intent
- Add value to the reader
- Educate, inform and engage
Let’s say someone searches for “kitchen blenders” and they land on your category page. The text should tell the reader about the different types of blenders, what features are available, what they can use the product for and, typically, what the most well-known brands are.
The category page for blenders on the Williams Sonoma site does a terrific job:
The content on your category pages should be useful to those in the early stages of the buying process, and it should also include a clear call to action. Mention leading or well-known brands, provide useful information about the products and for new or obscure products, don’t forget to mention usage occasions. Also, sprinkle lots of action verbs in your content, and stay in active voice whenever possible.
Even if you’re not an eCommerce operation, your pages may benefit from category pages that are beneficial to the reader. Here’s a page from Zillow about homes for sale in a specific city:
What should the content cover?
Part of satisfying search intent in today’s SEO landscape is ensuring that you cover the semantically related topics to your target keyword well.
Remember that Google is ranking semantically complete content highly these days, which means you should be crafting content that covers all the semantically related keywords and topics.
For example, when searching Google for “LED televisions,” pages that cover some of the following keywords/topics as identified by SEMrush’s Content Template are more likely to rank highly:
These keywords can help you design sections and subheadings your description should cover. This is especially valuable when you need to create longer content. For reference, SEMrush recommends that a category page aimed at the keyword “LED televisions” would need to be longer than 1600 words to outperform Google’s current top 10 ranked pages.
Should I include internal links in my category page?
Yes, yes and yes. Ecommerce category pages are a perfect spot to include links to internal pages. Bloomingdale’s does a great job at internal linking, though you could argue that they could include even more:
Always link to subcategory or brand pages from your category pages and avoid links to product pages. Since products tend to come and go and newer, better models replace old ones over time, you could find yourself spending oodles of time fixing broken links and updating copy.
Need help writing product descriptions? Hire professional product description writers.
If you’re creating content for subcategory or brand pages (and you should be), be sure that these pages do link off to specific products. Visitors that have made it to these pages are further along their buying journey and more likely be evaluating products.
While pushing visitors closer to your product pages is an important use of hyperlinks, remember that you’re ultimately helping visitors learn more about their options at this stage of their journey. You should also consider linking off to more educational resources such as buying guides to educate consumers.
Here’s how Best Buy helps visitors to their TV category page to learn more about their options:
How long should my SEO eCommerce category pages be?
The experts are all over the map when it comes to the proper length for SEO eCommerce category pages. Ahrefs says they should be “short and sweet, but Backlinko insists that category pages should be at least 1,000 words long and contain your primary keyword three to five times. The truth is that there’s no one answer. Your category pages should be as long as needed to get the job done.
A good rule of thumb – take a look at what competitive eCommerce websites have on their category pages, and then do more – or do it better. This is true for the length of content and for the number of products that you display on the page. Don’t forget – if retail giants like Amazon and Walmart have category pages for women’s shirts that display a lot of products (50 or more) per page and your women’s shirt category only displays 10 products, your rankings (and traffic) may be impacted.
I mentioned the need for creating semantically complete content earlier in this post. Using tools like SEMrush to audit your top competitors helps you identify the topics that are being covered in Google’s top-ranked content so you can craft content that covers all the topics they do – and more.
In the example of the search for “LED televisions,” you can quickly build out a category page with multiple subheadings about screen quality, gaming and power use. That’s incredibly helpful when you’re trying to write a piece that’s at least 1,600 words long.
Where should I place the content on the page?
At the top of the page or at the bottom – it’s a question that’s up for a lot of debate. Most designers want category content to show below the product listings so as not to mess with design or user experience, but copy that’s shoved to the bottom of the page may or may not ever be read.
How to handle this dilemma? Consider putting your content at the top of the page with a Read More button or put a short sentence or two at the top – just enough for the search engine bots and readers – and then include the remainder of the content at the bottom.
You’ll need to assess what’s right for your site’s design as well as the consumer experience.
The best piece of advice we can offer is to make sure that your content is displayed in an appealing way. Great content hooks readers and boosts search rankings, but how both interact with that content makes a difference between a page that looks appealing and one that’s bound to drive consumers away.
Try to break up your longer content into multiple sections, add imagery and leverage expandable fields to give your content the best chance of being read.
What about on-page SEO?
As discussed, there are two primary reasons for crafting high-quality category pages:
1. Providing useful information to the consumer
2. Giving the search engines something to grab onto to help rankings
SEO is extremely important for brand and category pages – in fact, it’s the first thing you should think about. That means really putting thought into the length you’ll need and the keywords you’ll use. There are lots of other things to think about as well, but digital marketing experts like Search Engine Journal and Credo have done a great job of covering everything you need to know to optimize your category pages properly.
To sum it up:
- Assess your competitors (which keywords, how much text, how many products, etc.)
- Determine which categories you should optimize
- Research how many products you should display per category
- Do thorough keyword research
- Organize your keywords according to search intent, mapping each intent to a stage of the buyer’s journey
- Write semantically complete content
- Craft your metadata properly
- Include internal links and make the link text relevant
- Keep an eye on page load speed
- Ensure you have a simple navigation hierarchy – no more than three tiers
Category pages are some of the most important pages for any eCommerce site. Whether they’re landing pages for traffic from Google search or pages your visitors navigate to in order to move along their buying journey, make sure they’re adding value to your visitor and you’ll go a long way towards higher page rankings and increased sales.