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eCommerce Category Page SEO – Best Practices

eCommerce Category Page SEO – Best Practices

Let’s talk about category page SEO.

The truth is that the world of search engine optimization – broadly speaking – doesn’t require hugely different strategies for different types of pages. But at the same time using an inflexible, boiler-plate approach to every part of your site is a good way to waste time. It’s best to tailor your approach for maximum results.

That’s why SEO for category pages, or even SEO for eCommerce product category pages is worth doing right! Understanding the needs of searchers, and customizing your site’s content and meta data to match with your target keywords is still going to be your default approach.

So why is category page SEO is so important. Afterall, why bother with middle-of-the-funnel pages where users might only spend a little time? Why worry about category pages if they’re just an intermediate step between your customers and the purchase?

What category page SEO means for your business!

SEO as a strategy is one of the top ROI digital marketing strategies there is. Research from BrightEdge suggests that 53% of all internet traffic comes through search engines, and that it now generates more than 40% of all online revenue.

Many business marketers claim – out of every strategy – that SEO is the type of marketing with the single best ROI!

eCommerce category pages alone represent a much larger opportunity for ranking and shopping traffic. Data from research firms like JumpFly and seoClarity find that category landing pages outperform product detail pages for keyword rankings and driving website traffic.

And, with more than 4X the amount of traffic, it makes sense that SEO for product category pages is a worthwhile focus for businesses. Category pages that are SEO optimized can even drive an extra 32% more traffic. That’s why discovering new strategies, or hiring a marketing service is the next step for online growth!

The SEO shopping funnel

SEO for eCommerce category pages is also important for another reason – these pages represent an important stage in the SEO funnel.

With a good search-focused digital marketing strategy, businesses will increase the flow of visitors from the “curious shopper” stage, to the “click on buy” stage. Optimizing for high-quality, informative, and user friendly category pages is the best way of not only easing people along their path as part of ToFu MoFU BoFu marketing, it’s also a great way of increasing the ability of your category pages to drive traffic on their own with search keywords. That means everything from better brand recognition to more direct sales revenue.

Good category page SEO means targeting both head keywords and medium-length keywords that put your brand in front of shoppers who are still researching options. That means options like strategic SEO services meant for fully-managed SEO, technical site optimization, performance monitoring, algorithm monitoring, and more. Going with an agency for this means they can work with your brand to determine custom key performance indicators (KPIs) and can build an SEO category page campaign that targets your ICP for the whole shopping funnel.

Taxonomy and site structure

Site structure and taxonomy both play roles in modern search optimization. For websites that want to optimize SEO for eCommerce category pages – setting up intuitive UI means better SEO results.

One key SEO tip for eCommerce sites is to focus on creating intuitive categories and product taxonomy.

If you are in the early stages of setting up your eCommerce business, then improve search engine optimization by designing your site’s structure to be intuitive and user friendly.

Think broadly about what types of products you will offer and drill down from there. It’s also a best practice to canonicalize product and product variants. Businesses can use URL parameters for user selected product variants such as colorways, sizes, materials etc. For eCommerce category page SEO, canonicalizing these URLs to the main product page can help prevent search engines from being confused.

For category page SEO, there is not necessarily a particular right or wrong style of site or nav-bar design. Often a “flat” site structure means most pages can be accessed from the homepage or within the nav-bar, whereas a deeper site structure means that users would have to navigate through several navigation/category pages before reaching the most deeply hidden pages.

A flat site structure – with a mega menu nav bar might mean search algorithms cant understand what pages/content are priority. A deeper site structure means that they might have trouble finding/indexing every valuable page.

For this reason it’s good to be thoughtful about what works best for your shopper UX.

Design elements for taxonomy, structure or nav-bar often include:

  • Flat horizontal menus
  • Large mega menus with lots of category pages
  • Drop down menus with flyouts
  • Footer links/site pages
  • HTML sitemaps
  • XML sitemaps and index sitemaps
  • Bread crumb links on individual pages
  • And more

There’s no specific right or wrong option for eCommerce sites or for category page SEO. But generally speaking it’s best for eCommerce sites to strike a balance between “too flat” and “too deep” of a structure by organizing their nav-bar to feature category pages based on product taxonomy.

Google suggests that pyramid navigation structure is a good way to go for larger sites. Meaning that starting with important top-level content on the homepage or nav-bar and then expanding to category pages, and then products – might be the best option.

An example of this is the nav-bar style for Asos, which sorts first, broadly by women’s and men’s clothing, then clothing type, and then finally by specific style.

Searcher intent and needs met

Concepts like “needs met” and Google search intent are increasingly important in the world of search marketing.

It’s no longer enough to just target some keywords and do a little keyword content density in order to get good category page SEO performance. This concept focuses on marketing to individuals and shoppers based on behavior and disposition that signals their intent to buy – and in category page SEO it means targeting keywords where, as a business, your products can actually meet the intent behind their search.

Search intent – sometimes referred to as keyword intent – represents the primary goals of internet users when they enter a query into search engines like Google or Bing. It boils down to what their ultimate goal is – and for eCommerce businesses that’s usually to make a purchase.

This is where keywords that broadcast what the searcher want are a much higher value to eCommerce businesses, and for SEO on eCommerce category pages.

Queries with short keywords are often vague, and they represent shoppers at the top of the shopping funnel, but “long tail” keywords might represent someone in the middle of product research, who have a better idea of what they’re looking for.

That’s why category page SEO can focus on detailed, intent-signaling keywords like “men’s knitted sweaters” instead of just “men’s tops.”

Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines provide a little insight on how to approach search intent – and it’s where they introduce the idea of “needs met.” Target keywords where you feel your products – and category page content – actually help shoppers meet their needs.

Optimized title-tags and meta data

For businesses that want better eCommerce growth and greater organic traffic – then understanding how meta-data optimization works is crucial. And getting professional level meta data optimization is a big part of finding the best in SEO services.

Search engines use meta page titles as ranking factors; and meta descriptions (though not a ranking factor) are hugely important for boosting clicks based on presence in the search results.

Optimizing title-tags is one of the single best ways for improving your site’s organic traffic, meaning that having a team that can manage your meta-data writing is critical to better SEO for eCommerce category pages!

If you manage your businesses meta-data in house, or choose to get a professional service, then you want to make sure you’re keeping up with best practices across search engines like Google and Bing.

  • Think about who your meta-data audience is, create your metas for your shoppers not just algorithms.
  • Optimize formatting.
  • Keep your title tags within pixel-length limits (approximately 60 characters).
  • Give each category pages a unique and accurate title.
  • Put your most relevant keywords first.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Think about how resources like schema-markup could change your CTR.
  • Understand shopper/searcher psychology without dishonesty or manipulation.

These are just a few of the most important things to know – which is why working with a professional SEO team is often the way to go.

Content best practices

Everyone knows content is king. And for better category SEO rankings, content is not only the pathway toward greater traffic, but – when done right – is the pathway to more sales and happy shoppers.

Content is at the core of what web marketing is all about, and it’s also the way that crawlers from search engines understand what your site is about. Focus on meaningful content that’s about your products or subject matter. The best practices here come from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which should be your brand’s first resource for category page SEO content:

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write category pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words users would type to find your category pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
  • To help Google fully understand your site’s contents, allow all site assets that would significantly affect page rendering to be crawled – CSS, JavaScript, etc.
  • Make your site’s important content visible by default. Google is able to crawl HTML content hidden inside navigational elements such as tabs or expanding sections, however we consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view.
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, category page content, or links. If you must use images for textual content, use the alt attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.

Content that’s also EAT

The notion of “EAT” is becoming increasingly important in the world of search engine focused content marketing and is more important than ever for improved category page SEO.

So what is EAT exactly?

EAT stands for “expertise, authority, and trustworthiness” and is basically the critical trinity for what marketers and businesses should want their content to convey to their site visitors.

A few years ago, a core algorithm change shook up rankings for a lot of websites with greater focus on content and honesty. Around that same time Google introduced the concept of EAT in their search quality rater guidelines – along with idea of needs met. Being able to convey to your target shoppers expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in your respective industry or niche is huge to not only winning over customer confidence but for also improving SEO on eCommerce category pages.

This sort of quality puts people at ease with choosing your brand, and it makes it easier to move them along the conversion funnel.

Here are some rules for what makes EAT content actually good:

  • Provide a satisfying amount of high-quality main content, including a descriptive or helpful title. Don’t inflate, mislead, or click-bait.
  • Satisfy visitors with category page information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information like Contact Us pages, FAQ pages, Warranty and Return info, etc.
  • Build category pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Avoid tricks intended to just improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

A few of these guidelines come straight from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines about how businesses should create and curate content to balance between SEO and customer experience. For better eCommerce SEO success, your main goal should always be to make sure shoppers have the best and easiest shopping experience.

Schema markup

Schema markup is a great on-page SEO best practice that can help business get just that much more of an edge in CTR and traffic from search engine results pages (or “SERPs”).

An element of on-page search marketing is the practice of incorporating structured data or schema markup code to a category/product page. To be clear though, schema (also called structured data) is not a ranking factor for search engines.

So what does it mean for SEO on category pages?

Schema markup adds additional bits of info to the search results page – beyond just the standard title and description. This includes elements like product price, user ratings, availability, publication date, and more. It gives search engine algorithms a better understanding of your site’s content – which can be used to create rich snippets and infograph-like results on Google and Bing, making your eCommerce categories & products more prominent.

Search engines can include schema markup in search results so that eCommerce marketers can offer info like:

  • Product details and eCommerce information
  • Bread-crumb information or category pages information for easier navigation
  • Item lists/product listing pages
  • Product pricing
  • Inventory status
  • Product description
  • Manufacturer
  • User review information/ratings
  • And more

Google uses this HTML based info to better understand your site and even to change the way your products and brand is displayed in search results.

UX and technical SEO for category pages

Being able to approach and understand the role that user-experience plays in category page SEO is now more important than ever.

This means a lot of things – including mobile-friendliness, navigation, and site-speed metrics like the metrics designed for user-experience SEO covered by Google’s “core web vitals.” The core web vitals consist of three metrics that were announced by Google’s Chrome team in 2020. These metrics consist of: LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), FID (First Input Delay) and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift).

These reflect that Google’s algorithm will rank sites with better page load metrics higher – meaning that businesses will want to find SEO services or professionals that can help them track and improve page-load across both desktop and mobile.

Why should this matter to businesses? Google’s own data suggests that longer page load times have negative effects on bounce-rate and visitor retention. For example:

  • As page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rate increases 32%.
  • If page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%.

Likewise  mobile-friendlinesssafer web-browsingHTTPS-security, and intrusive ad interstitial guidelines, are all part of Google’s push towards better websites that are designed with the end user in mind. Improving these parts of your site is not just beneficial to UX, but also is key to improving SEO for product category pages.

Should you hire an agency?

Many businesses find that they can manage their search engine optimization in house. But for many online brands – outsourcing efforts to a professional team means they can get better results, faster revenue growth, and more efficient time management.

So why hire a strategic SEO service agency?

With so many other budgeting concerns for online businesses to think about, something like search optimization may get pushed to the back burner. But the benefits of good SEO are far too important to ignore, and the ROI it offers means that getting the absolute best SEO is crucial to long-term success.

So here are just a few of the main reasons why to hire an SEO agency:

  • The numbers speak for themselves, with search engines being the single biggest source of commerce on the internet.
  • Agencies bring professional strategies, proven results, and years of experience with a wide range of industries.
  • Agencies can get more than just traffic, they can grow sales.
  • Proprietary technology for site analysis.
  • They can supply high-quality data that you can feed back into your business for even better growth.
  • Experts know how to use analytics data to improve and edit your digital marketing campaign.
  • Monitoring for technical SEO problems, penalties, algorithmic changes, and more.
  • Expert account management, monthly reporting, and direct communication.
  • Website auditing.
  • Site migration consulting.
  • Custom KPI tracking.
  • And more!

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