I’ve talked in a previous episode about how important categories are for your blog. So now that you have the categories decided on and set up, what happens once your visitor lands on one of those category pages? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today: using your category pages to connect with your reader, lower your bounce rate, and improve your SEO.
The point of a category page is so that your visitor can learn more about a certain topic, right? She’s already on your blog, she likes what she’s seen so far and she wants to hear more from you about something. So she clicks on your link to view all of your posts in that category.
What does she see? Is it just a list of blog posts with no guidance?
You always want to make sure that your visitor knows that she’s in the right place. You want her to get to know you and trust you every chance you can.
To bring this to life, imagine this: you just bought a new house and you’re excited to show your friends, and they’re excited to see it! But when they come over for a tour, you just walk them into each room without saying a word.
You just stand there while they try to figure out what the room is, to guess how you’re going to use it, and they have no idea why any of it is special.
Without your guidance and vision, your friends have lost interest–it’s just another kitchen, just another living room, just another house.
In the same way, you don’t just want to drop your reader on to your category page and leave them alone to try to figure out what it’s all about. Use that chance to talk to them! Tell them what great things they will find on the page, tell them why the posts are going to be helpful for them. Guide them to the best ones, tell them where to start.
Make a connection with them and get them as excited about your content as you are.
So now on to some technical details…
What does Google think of category pages?
In the past, many recommended that you set your category pages to no-index (meaning telling Google not to look at them) because Google might think you’re trying to cheat the system by showing it your content multiple times (aka “duplicate content”).
Thankfully, that’s not an issue anymore and Google is much smarter than that. They know that category pages are some of the most helpful pages on a blog to a user. Because of that, they actually love when you have category pages.
So as bloggers, we want to make the most of our category pages, so that our visitors know what to expect, they’re excited about what you’re going to share with them, and they want to connect with you more. They’ll start to see you as a trustworthy resource when it comes to our key blog topics…and so will search engines.
So how do you write a category description?
The same way you would write an introduction to a blog post. Tell them what they’re going to find, why it’s special, how it’s going to help them. And don’t forget to share your excitement and make a connection with them.
Yoast recommends that it’s at least 150 words long, average recommendations are between 150 and 300 words.
It’s also very helpful to link to a few of your most helpful posts on the subject too at the end of your description. If you have a post with foundational information on the general topic, link to it. Also link to a few of your most popular posts (and tell them that they’re the most popular–people always want to see what other people like).
And don’t forget how much it will help with SEO too, so use your keywords for the category and utilize the Yoast tools on the page as well–just like you would for a blog post.
How to add a description to your category page:
- In your dashboard under the “Posts,” click on “Categories.”
- Hover over the category you want to add a description to and click “Edit.”
- In the “Description” box, type a user-friendly and SEO-friendly description of what they will find in that category. This should be from 150 to 300 words. If you have a Genesis theme, you’ll want to put this under the “Category Archive Settings” instead of the “Description” box.
- If you’re using the Yoast plugin (which is a good idea!), scroll to the bottom and fill out the Yoast SEO options as well for extra help.
Note that in some rare cases, your description and/or archive intro text won’t show in your theme. In that case, you’ll either need to reach out to the developer of your theme, or hire a developer to add the code to make it visible.
This week’s action item: add descriptions to your categories.
- Tell them what kind of posts they’ll find.
- Tell them why these posts are going to be helpful for them.
- Highlight what makes your posts on the subject unique.
- Get them as excited about your content as you are–but remember, it’s about them, not you. Think about her happy ending after consuming your content in that category and mention it. Maybe she’ll be able to pack lunches in less than 10 minutes. Or she’ll never run out of ideas for ground beef, or projects for her toddler that don’t take all day to clean up after.
(If you’re struggling with this one, go back to episode 5 and make sure that your categories are designed to help your readers.)
- Link to a few foundational, helpful, and popular posts in the category.
Pin this post so you don’t lose the instructions!
(And to help your blogging friends out too.)