Categories group individual Web pages together based on a similar subject or theme. Widely used in blogging platforms like WordPress, categories give order and structure to a website's content, or its taxonomy. Categories organize your content in a way that should make it easy for the user to find what he or she is looking for, and category pages serve as an index of all the pages and posts that belong to that particular subject.

Adding a post or page to a website should always include assigning it to a category, and you don't have to limit it to just one. Posts can be added to as many categories as you wish, but it's a good idea to keep user intent in mind when organizing your content. If the target customer struggles to find what he or she is looking for, then you should rethink your strategy.

How categories work

Categories are often hierarchical, where the subject serves as a parent to a child page, several children pages or even grandchildren pages. This gives the website a top-down, general-to-specific taxonomy that helps users drill down to find what they are looking for. For instance, an online apparel store might have a parent category like "Men's Shirts" with "Men's Denim Shirts" as a subcategory page, and under that page you might have several more children pages featuring shirts of different sizes, colors and styles. As the user moves from the homepage to a category page, the URL structure will display the hierarchical structure in descending order from left to right, from "www.bigecommerce.com" to "www.bigecommerce.com/categorypage" towww.bigecommerce.com/categorypage/productpage."

Hierarchical organization is not the only method to set up the taxonomy for your ecommerce platform, but it is the most common, mainly because visitors understand and are comfortable with the structure.

Common mistakes with category pages

Although category pages are widely used, they tend to get overlooked as a crucial piece of an online marketing strategy. Category pages are a crucial part of the overall user experience and can have a big impact on search engine optimization (SEO).

Using boilerplate text - category pages often serve as an index page where the user passes through on his way to one of the children pages, so webmasters often overlook the language and presentation of the page itself. Many categories feed into one another through parent child relationships, and because of this, on-page text often gets copied and pasted from one to the next. Taking this chunk of duplicate content and nesting it on the category page can hurt your on-page SEO. When Google bot scans a page, it looks for unique content, and if the text is copied from another page on the site, it doesn't know which page is better to rank. Writing unique introductory text for each category page is a time consuming task, but in the end it may help your page to rank higher in search engine results. If you have hundreds of category pages that need rewriting, you might consider hiring a freelancer to make the process less daunting.

Forgetting to include reviews - companies often cram their websites with volumes of promotional text, touting the benefits of their products and services, but more often than not, people are influenced by consumers like themselves who have written about their own experiences with the product. Consumers rely on ratings so they can better understand whether the product fits their unique needs and get a sense of the performance, reliability and customer service the company offers. Having several legitimate 4-5 star views displayed on your category page can increase user conversions drastically.

Omitting internal links that can increase sales - most webmasters recognize the value of including anchor text and other links that take the user deeper into the website. However, many businesses do not offer links to categories and products that are related to the page the user is on. If you present accessories or items that "customers also bought," you may convince them to checkout with more items in their shopping cart. Another way to offer popular items is by displaying "most searched products" beside the internal search bar. This will tell users what other people are seeking and give you insights into the popularity of your product mix at the same time.

Category pages are extremely useful for keeping a website coherent and helping customers get to what they are looking for quickly, but they can also be used as a business development tool. You can take category pages to a whole new level by using them to increase conversions and enhance your overall SEO.


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