One powerful resource of any blog that is often ignored is category and tag archive pages. These are great pages to push to search engines. They are also great pages for promoting your blog or web site. I often use a link to a category or tag archive page in display advertising. But to get the best prices in Adwords you need to optimise. And optimisation also helps with search engine rankings. So how do you do it?
Category and tag page optimisation is easy in WordPress with a plugin. The plugin is Category Tinymce and what’s great about it is there is a free version over at WordPress for you to download and try out. Getting your WordPress category page ranked in search should be part of any long-term SEO strategy.
Great content gets listed
Search engines love content. Google really loves unique high-quality content. You should always choose a WordPress theme that displays the category description area. That goes for tag description area too. Not all themes will display it. If you choose a theme that doesn’t then you are missing out on an opportunity to say hello to those search engine spiders.
The term (category, tag or other custom taxonomy) area by default has limited opportunities to format and style your category introduction. This is where the free plugin Category Tinymce comes into it’s own. It gives your term description area an editor for your to style up your introduction area however you want. The plugin also makes the category and tag description area shortcode enabled.
One of the nice things about the plugin is that it is set to only display on the first page of archives. This means your web visitors does not see it as they scroll through descending pages of archive. Seeing the same content on each archive page is bad user experience and also risks duplicate content issues with search engines.
Don’t overwhelm visitors with visible wordy category descriptions.
You have the plugin installed and you start writing some great content with long-tail keywords. Pretty soon though your blog listings in your category or tag pages start to disappear down the page. Your visitors have to start to scroll down quite a way to get to your listings. This is not great customer experience even if it is good for search engines and will help your rankings.
If you have the pro version of Category Tinymce then you could add the bulk of the content below the listings. One of the benefits of the pro version is you get a second description area below the listings. That way you can dedicate the top description area to be quite punchy and sharp, targeting just 2 or 3 main key words. Your long-tail optimisation can be done at the bottom area.
But if you have the free version that is not an option. Don’t worry there is nice trick or hack you can do to overcome this. Because Category Tinymce shortcode enables the archive description area you can use a concertina or accordion plugin. These are those plugins which display a heading and then you click on a + or arrow sign to reveal the content.
Concertina areas are perfect for adding lots of information but also reduce the amount of web page space needed.
Use images to grab attention
A nice header image can make a great impact on an archive page. It can also encourage people to share your category pages and tag pages. So make sure you have those social sharing buttons displayed on arch pages too.
When you add those images also ensure that your give them alt tags. This gives your blog category the chance of appearing in Google image search. It’s not a major source of traffic but it’s still a useful one. Search engine bots will also use your image alt tags as a factor in classifying and ranking your page. You don’t want to miss any opportunity to give your page a boost.
Bring your archives into the main site
Don’t have your WordPress category page – tag pages – sat in the sidebar as nothing more than navigation. Get linking to your categories within posts. The new feature of Category Tinymce makes this a doddle. The new menu shortcode means you can highlight certain categories ( and tags for the pro version) with image based links.
Assign an image for each category and tag. Then use a shortcode to make custom menus using category ids. You can use these at the bottom of a post in much the same way as related posts. But just use related categories and tags instead. It really helps to widen the reach of your blogs as people can click through on a category or tag.
As an example, if you have a cooking site you could tag each recipe with ingredients. Then at the bottom of a recipe post you could have a tag menu of key ingredients for that recipe.
Include your meta title and description tags
If you already use a SEO plugin then you probably have the option to add the meta tags. The important ones are title and description. These are what shows on the search engine results. They play an important part in getting people to click through on the results. If people like the title and the snippet underneath in the search results they are going to click through. That click through plays a part in the rankings. The more people who click through the higher your page goes.
If your current SEO plugin does offer the title and description meta tags on WordPress category or tag pages then don’t worry. Category Tinymce offers that facility. Just go to the settings page and tick the box. The boxes can then be filled in on each category page admin screen.
It’s important to recognise that the title meta tag is not the same as your archive title. The archive title is the name of your category and is what people will see. The title meta tag is a field in the header of your page. This is what most search engines will see and use as the link title in the results.
Archive pages can stand the test of time
There are instances when your category, tag or custom archive pages really need to be optimised as a landing page. They are the page you want to get into the search engine rankings. This is when your posts may have a limited life span. so for example, listings of holiday bargains, jobs boards or classifieds. Each individual post is going to have a limited life before dropping out of your site. Having a jobs web site that only returns 2 year old jobs in the search engines is not going to get you very far.
When you run a blog like a racing tips blog or something similar it’s your tag and category pages that you need to work on. If you can get these set up and search engine friendly then people will always see your latest blog posts. Treat your category or tag page as an evergreen page, one that needs to be worked on and tested to get the best search optimization.
Think of WordPress categories and tags as a hub
When you start to think about your category and tag organisation, think hub. You want to optimise your archive page into a hub of information. So optimise each archive page for 2 or 3 main keywords. Then use the individual posts as building out to long-tail keywords. Each of those posts should be linking back to the archive page in the post with those big, broad keywords.
So an example would be if you are running a gardening sites you may have a category called Wildlife Gardens. You would write an introduction about Wildlife Gardens in your category description and optimise it. Then each post would target long-tail subjects egs: Planting a butterfly garden or Making ponds friendly for frogs. Each of those posts would link back into the category somewhere in the post with your main keywords.
Each of those posts could also be tagged on a subject for example butterflies, frogs, ponds. And you would optimise each tag page as you would category page.
Silos and webs, the secrets of WordPress categories and tags
WordPress categories and tags are 2 entirely different things. They each have their own functions in developing a well structured and interlinked website. If they are used correctly they will keep people on your site and virtually eliminate bounce rate. And that’s good for search engines.
Note that categories allow for child categories and tags do not. At least not by default. There are plugins that allow you to have child tags but that defeats the purpose of what a tag is.
To try and get the most from each type of taxonomy in WordPress I like to think of categories being silo builders and tags being web builders. So categories are organised to take people down on a well organised journey. Tags tend to build a web that spreads – or detours from a journey. As a guide I would say you should have more tags than categories. Try not to go overboard on highly specific categories. WordPress should be fairly broad collections of posts based on a similar topic.
When you recognise how each works it becomes so much easier to organise your site.
Make your WordPress categories a friendly search optimised page easily
It takes a little bit of work and a bit of time and effort but the results will be worth it. By developing your archive pages into landing pages you will be able to boost visitor numbers. The biggest benefit with using categories as land pages for search traffic is that you can really reduce the bounce rate.
When someone comes to an individual blog post they will read it, or glance through it, and then click away if it is not what they want. That can have a role in high bounce rates which are looked on negatively by search engines. If some one lands on your category or tag page then they could have dozens of posts to click through. That’s helps reduce those bounce rates and that helps move your site up in search engine rankings.
Don’t treat category or tag pages as nothing more than a list or a menu in your sidebar. They can really add zest to your site.