Category pages aren't just helpful to your customers. They're also great opportunities to improve and build up your online store's SEO. Check out this guest post to see the whys and the hows of getting category pages to work for you.
Ecommerce sites can easily turn their category pages into high-traffic landing pages by adding unique, useful content. This used to involve custom-coding a content field into your category page templates, which was often not even possible when using a software-as-a-service (SAAS) vendor. Luckily, most major eCommerce platforms are starting to offer easier ways of adding content to category pages.
Putting too much content above the product listings can push the products down below the fold, distract shoppers and lower conversion rates. Putting all of the content below the product listings may not be as helpful for SEO purposes, or for your visitors, as having some of it at the top of the page. Volusion is one of the best platforms in this regard, as they offer two different content blocks for each category page, one above and one below the product listings.
Why add content to category pages
Without unique, useful content a category page is really just a list of products, each with a small amount of content that is duplicated on the actual product page itself. All other things being equal, a category page with unique, useful content is going to out-rank one without it. Furthermore, the content at the top of the page can help usher visitors through the conversion funnel, help answer common questions, and offer an opportunity to introduce your branding and voice. Never make the mistake of writing this copy just for search engines...
What type of content to put on category pages
One word: Useful. What you want to do here is answer common questions and instruct the visitor on what to do next. Explain the difference between major brands, or call out the most popular models. Do not simply write filler copy for search engines. And, above all, do not just write a generic description that goes on all category pages, even if you dynamically change the category name. Here are a few examples of the difference between useful content and "SEO copy" on category pages:
Bad - Generic copy with dynamic insertion of the category name.
This is our [CATEGORYNAME] category, where you can find [CATEGORYTAGS] and other great [CATEGORY_NAME] products.
Which would look something like this:
This is our Car Stereo category, where you can find car Pioneer, JVC, Sony, Alpine and other great Car Stereo brands.
Better - Custom-written SEO copy for each category.
At Acme Electronics you'll find great deals on car stereos from the best brands, including Pioneer, JVC, Sony and Alpine.
Best - Custom-written copy that helps the visitor make a purchase.
Acme Electronics carries an enormous variety of car stereos, ranging from entry-level options under $100 (e.g. Axxera, Clarion, Lightening Audio) to top-of-the-line models from JVC, Kenwood and Pioneer featuring GPS navigation, touch screens, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Pandora and more. With so many options choosing a car stereo can be a daunting task. That's why we've put together the car stereo buying guide below to help you choose the right price, features and installation kit for your needs.
How to add content to category pages in Volusion
Navigate to the category page you wish to edit from within your Volusion admin and select "Advanced Settings" to see available options. Click on "Category Descriptions," and begin editing the appropriate fields. There will be an HTML Editor button for each field that launches a WYSIWYG editor, or you can write or paste in HTML directly in the field. Learn more about the HTML editor here.
The three fields are:
Category Description: Content will show above the products.
Category Description Short: Content shows on condensed category views (not important for this post).
Secondary Description: Content will show below the products.
Useful, unique introductory content (see examples above) should go in the "Category Description" field. The "Secondary Description" field is where you should put extended copy, such as resources, articles, videos and guides. Below are a few examples of how various Volusion customers are using these fields to turn their category pages into high-traffic landing pages for search engine visitors.
The Crazy Dazy - Example Category
This store makes good use of the Category Description and Secondary Description fields. The copy is optimized for primary keywords and it informs users. Overall a very good implementation of the concept, and the copy reads well:
Pet Health Market - Example Category
This store uses both the Category Description and Secondary Description fields as well. The pet health market is extremely competitive and this site makes good use of informative content. Determining how much copy should go on category pages is subjective and some may advise not putting so much copy at the top as it tends to push the products below the fold (i.e. you have to scroll down to see them) on some browsers. But due to the competitve nature of this business, the extra copy is helping Pet Health Market rank well. The copy is optimized for primary keywords and it informs users:
Baby Be Mine - Example Category
This store uses the Category Description area to show compelling images for each category, making them look like more traditional big-brand catalog stores. CSS could be used to put real, spiderable text over the image, which is what Eastern Leaf does on their sub-category pages. Baby Be Mine also makes use of the Secondary Description area to show textual content below the products on category pages. Overall the copy is well-written:
Eastern Leaf - Example Category
This store makes great use of the Category Description field on their category and sub-category pages. I've already linked to one of their sub-categories above to illustrate the use of text within a catalog-style top image. This example is of a top level category page, which currently ranks #7 on Google for the extremely competitive phrase "Bonsai Trees".
A few more tips...
- Don't hard-code links to products. Use categories instead.
- Products tend to come and go, while categories stay. Hard-coded links risk needing to be updated by hand, which can add up to a lot of maintenance years down the road. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Use your own discretion here.
- Use named-anchor links to jump up and down between content areas.
- When referencing something like "the buying guide below" from the top section of the page put a named anchor link in the copy that allows the user to jump down to the main article, or back up to the products easily.
- Consider where the user is in their buying cycle.
- Searchers who land on category pages tend to be at an earlier stage in the buying cycle, perhaps still trying to make the decision about "which" product to buy from that category. The content should help them make this decision.
- Use category-level videos in the Secondary Description area.
- A product-specific demo video is great for a product page, but on a category page you'll want a video that highlights several different products, or a certain "type" of product (i.e. Men's Shoes, DVD players) so a features comparison sort of video would be perfect here. Put this in the bottom area (Secondary Description in Volusion) to avoid pushing product listings too far down on the page.