Category pages traditionally aren’t the most exciting of places on a website.
Usually consisting of a list of sub-categories with a few product images here and there, they can often act as nothing but a stepping stone – an extra click in the customer’s journey. Despite this, they can rank well in SERPs, providing that they offer value, have unique content and satisfy the user intent.
Standard category pages might have performed well in the past. But, with Google’s regular algorithm updates, it’s now more important than ever to stand out from the crowd and deliver the goods to get onto page one.
‘Google’s ranking systems sort through hundreds of billions of web pages in the Search index to give useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.’
The algorithm goes through continual iterations and changes several times a year.
Since August 2018 there have been some major Google algorithm updates that have massively impacted many sites’ visibility and performance.
Following these latest changes, the key takeaways we need to focus on for category pages are:
So, how do we turn a traditional category page into a place that fulfils all of Google’s wishes while keeping our customers on site and giving them what they want? Cue the Hub page.
We’ve already established that you, like the cliché of all clichés, want to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and ‘cut through the noise’ with your category page. The only way to achieve this is by offering unique content and doing things that other people aren’t doing yet – or by doing those things better.
This is where hub pages come in. Hub pages offer a wider insight into a category or sector, providing much more than links to sub-categories. They keep customers on site longer because there’s more to explore.
You’re probably thinking ‘all that sounds great, but how am I meant to do it?’. The good news is you can easily transform your current category page into a hub page just by adding some different types of content and switching up the layout.
Your hub page will still exist on the same URL as your category page, but it will give so much more value to your customers including:
Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have enough content or feel like you can’t achieve any of the above recommendations – you don’t need to include them all. The top four are essential to ensuring your hub page performs well, the rest are bonuses.
Let’s go through these in more detail.
To make this easier, we’ll use our fictional dog apparel brand, Dapper Dogs.
Titles and title tags will usually reflect the name of the category, for example, ‘Dog Clothing’.
We want people to click on OUR result, so we need to grab their attention.
Instead of just having:
Dog Clothing | Dapper Dogs
We can increase our click-through rate by using:
Dog Clothing | Stylish Dog Clothes & Outfits – Free Delivery | Dapper Dogs
Some rules to stick to when crafting your title tags are:
Your page title (or H1) shouldn’t be the same as your title tag. Ensure it has the focus keyword and is relevant to the page content.
Your category page still has to serve its intended purpose – to point people in the right direction of their desired sub-category.
Unless your category only has a small number of products across all sections, it’s unlikely that you’ll list your products here. Instead, you’ll want to link to more targeted sub-category pages.
The category page is often considered a doorway page to funnel users to more targeted areas of your website. The category page should, therefore, have a clean design which offers an unobtrusive path for users and search engines alike.
The days of using keyword stuffed SEO copy are long gone. Thank God. Jesus. Jesus Christ. Christ. Lord Almighty.
Over the years, traditional SEO copy has been accepted and helped sites to rank, providing it’s around 300 words long, includes relevant keywords and has a salesy tone. Let’s face it; nobody ever reads SEO copy, it’s there purely for Google’s crawlers.
More recently, however, enhanced copy appears to be the way forward for E-commerce sites, with one of our own clients seeing a 284% increase in visibility within a month of updating their ‘single beds’ page with enhanced content.
The most important difference between standard SEO copy and enhanced copy is that it is user-centric. This means the focus shifts from acting as a functional piece of text on the page to an insightful article for users to read. Remember when Google said write for the users? Apparently, that works.
Your enhanced category page copy should:
Your blog content has never been more welcome than on a hub page.
For customers in the ‘awareness’ stage of their buying journey (i.e. just browsing), blog posts and related assets are vital for providing inspiration and informing users in a way that doesn’t push sales.
It’s also a way of promoting your products subtly. For example, a post entitled ‘5 Best Dog Coats for Autumn’ can include five of your products without looking like an advertisement. By reading this article, your users have stayed on the site longer, gained some insight and will hopefully become a customer. This is the aim of the game when it comes to content marketing – gain people’s trust, get them on side, turn them into customers.
An asset usually comes in the form of an infographic or interactive piece. Here, we could produce a quiz called ‘What’s the Best Coat for Your Dog?’ in which users answer a series of questions and are presented with relevant products at the end. This is an example of shoppable content that would fit perfectly within a hub category page and enhance the user experience.
Like blog posts, guides offer selfless support. The difference here is they are designed to answer specific questions in detail. Remember when we spoke about enhanced copy providing answers? Guides are like that x 100.
Guides often gain a lot of links, so having one in your category subfolder can only help when it comes to increasing your category page’s authority which is essential following the Google YMYL/EAT update in August.
This is also your chance to show your expertise in your area. Google now wants to see authoritative content written by people who actually know what they’re talking about, not just random content marketers (yep, I felt the burn, too). Rally the troops, write what you know and give your wisdom to the world.
How many times have you searched ‘best [insert item]’ when looking to buy a new product?
We all want the best, which is why best-selling categories are so popular.
As well as serving your customer intent (yes, we’re still going on about that), product pages with a link from a top-level category also have more chance of ranking highly on their own, especially when it comes to longtail keywords like ‘small tartan dog coat’ rather than just ‘dog coat’.
In certain markets like electronics and fashion, many people already have an idea of which brands they like. Having a carousel or slider with featured brands allows them to reach their desired product more quickly without the faff of filtering all the products.
It also makes your category page look more trustworthy and increases your chance of ranking for brand specific keywords like ‘Thundershirt dog coat’.
In this instance, your brand slider would be a type of filter control. The great thing about this is it takes your usual tick boxes and turns them into something more engaging.
Using your keyword research and market knowledge, you can figure out which filters will be most appropriate for your filter page and get creative with the design.
For Dapper Dogs, we could have a section where users could ‘Shop by dog size’. This could be visualised using illustrations of different dog breeds from extra-small right up to extra-large. Not only does it look more appealing, but it also gives the customer a better idea of which sort of size their dog might be, allowing them to choose the right category straight away.
Again, this will also help with ranking for terms like ‘coats for small dogs’.
Another way of proving your authority to Google is by showcasing your fantastic reviews and testimonials. Has your site been rated on Trustpilot? Do you have a Which review? Shout about it on your category pages for all to see and hear.
Additionally, you can mark these pages up with review schema for an additional visual boost in the search results. Structured data also helps Google understand your page much easier, too. Win-win.
63% of people are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews and 94% of consumers would use a business with a four-star rating, so it’s worth shouting about if this is the case.
Sale season? Black Friday? New range in stock? Banners help to break up the copy, products and sub-category links but can also promote your big events.
Plus, linking to a specific range or promotional page from your category page can (you guessed it) help with rankings.
Download our Dapper Dogs examples featuring everything you need to create the ultimate Ecommerce category and sub-category pages.