wordpress archive SEO

Giving An SEO Boost To My WordPress Category And Tag Pages

My websites have seen excellent growth since lockdown. In particular, Wildlife News has been growing at a substantial rate. Part of the reason is, no doubt, kids being at home and researching school work on wildlife and nature. but there has also been significant growth in sales.

To try and keep this momentum going, or at least maintained, as we come out of lockdown I thought it was time to do a bit of SEO and visitor optimisation on the site. I always tend to optimise the Woo-commerce product and archive pages regularly. These are the money pages after all. The pages that produce the income. It pays to optimise these pages. But it can also pay to optimise the non-money pages. It is the WordPress posts and articles are what drives authority and trust on a web site. A Woo-commerce product page that features an item that is also featured on hundreds of other sites is not going to make a difference to a small time operation for Google rankings.

Get motivated to SEO WordPress archive pages

It’s time to sort out my WordPress category and tag archive pages on Wildlife News. I’ve done nothing to them and they are pretty much as they come – just a title and listings. I need to style them up the same way as the product category pages on the site. This gives a nice clean and consistent experience for visitors. It will also allow me to develop the SEO value of these pages. WordPress archive pages really are undervalued when it comes to search optimisation.

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Wildlife News is built on a free WordPress theme called Vantage. I really like this theme. It has a lot of options, even in the free version. It integrates WordPress and Woo-commerce really well to give a seamless transition between the two and is easy to adapt. It’s also fast to load which is important in today’s mobile first environment. It may not be the quickest but for the options, it is not too bad at all.

The bulk of the posts on Wildlife News is automated, taking content from press release rss feeds. It is on the archive pages that I can do most of the search optimisation. It can also be used to enhance and improve the user experience. Each archive page can be developed into mini landing pages in their own rights.

Category Editor Pro is ideal for styling WordPress archive pages

With Category Editor Pro it is easy to create great looking and informative archive pages for WordPress. These can help both visitors and search engines discover what the topic is for the category or tag. This all helps to get placement in the rankings.

I’m going to start with my tag page for Commentary. I always think that a nice picture can set off the tone of an archive page and good, strong, solid titles can make an impact on visitors.

With Vantage, the description area is styled through .taxonomy-description and the bottom description area inserted by Category Editor Pro is called .term-description. To keep styling identical for top and bottom descriptions you need to double up using both higher level CSS. So for example to have h1 header styling the same you would use something like:

.taxonomy-description h1, term-description h1 {font-weight:600;}

Some CSS needed to get archive pages to style right

There was not really any issue with styling up the WordPress tag in Vantage theme. There was 2 small issues which were both dealt with using CSS. The first was inserting the main image. I used size 1200px v 630px, this is the size for Facebook sharing. So I also use the same image for the IG category image field. At 1200px the image overlaid the sidebar widget because it broke out of the .taxonomy-description container. This can happen with a lot of themes. But it’s a simple CSS solution;

.taxonomy-description img {max-width:100%; height:auto;}

This CSS keeps all images to a maximum width of the container in which it is being held. When you set max-width you also need to set height:auto to prevent the image from being distorted.

The second issue was with the bottom description area. The bottom description started to appear next to the listing in the tag archive rather than below it. Again this is something that can regularly happen depending on theme. Once more it is a simple CSS solution. CSS divs by default just follow each other like words in a sentence. Unless you tell the div to be separate from the previous and be on a different ‘line’ then the div will have a relationship with the previous one.

To add a ‘line break’ and set the div on its own line you just use the clear. So in this case I used;

.term-description {clear:both;}

The bottom description now gets displayed as a separate area.

Those were the only two issues currently. There will be another issue as I add more content with the commentary tag but this is discussed shortly in the WordPress category styling section.

Styling and customising WordPress Tag Pages

As said previously, a nice image starts off the archive page and immediately below I use a good strong title in h1, a horizontal rule line and then some supporting keywords as a sub title in h3. The horizontal line is set to a width of 50% using CSS

.taxonomy-description hr {width:50%;}

The content in the top description area I try and limit to between 6 and 10 lines. People want to get to the main blog post listings not read through a lot of text. So just a few lies containing my main keywords I want to target.

The simple way to design your WordPress and Woocommerce category and tag pages.

It’s in the bottom description area that I can really start to aim for those long-tail keywords. I can also  add the rich media that Google loves on a page. So depending on circumstance I use things like bullet points, images, outbound linking, video and schema mark-ups like FAQs. These all help people and search engines to find your story, news and blog listings without adding bulky and wordy content before the actual listings.

Fortunately when you use Content Editor Pro both the top and bottom description areas are shortcode enabled so you can use your favourite shortcodes here.

Customised WordPress archives can help with search appearance

Generally, I’ll make very few ongoing changes to the top description area. There may be times when I want to look at changing the main keywords I’m targeting or changing images etc. Most of the changes there are fairly subtle and infrequent. It’s in the bottom description area that I will run a/b testing on content, images etc. I’ll often expand and extend the bottom description area over time.

The aim is to get Google to recognise the archive page as a hub leading out to related content. This maximises your chance of getting site links and dominating ‘above the fold’ organic search results. Depending on search query Wildlife News has returned a top result with 10 site links below. People respond better to websites in search results where they have site-links below the main link.

This is why optimising your WordPress pages are so important. And if you can get some way of including schema mark-up in the content you increase your chances of getting a rich snippet appear at the top of the search results.

Customised WordPress category archive pages

Finally, it’s getting the WordPress category archive page styled. It’s pretty much just following the styling of the tag pages. This will then bring a consistent design of archive page across all of the Wildlife News web site. It’s a boost to help your branding and site identity. This is something that most web visitors expect. They want a seamless and consistent approach as they browse around your web site.

As previously mention there is an issue with the WordPress archives and the Vantage theme. Ideally the top description will only appear on the first page of listings. In Vantage it appears on every page of listings. The bottom description provided by the Category Editor Pro plugin is not an issue. This has coding to only display on the first page.

In my particular case I’m not going to worry too much about the top description. Because I am only adding a few lines of description it is not going to make too much difference. Had I a big block of text that would be a different issue. People don’t want to scroll through a lot of text every time they click through to the next page of listings. There’s also the issue with search engines seeing a lot of duplicate content on archive pages. But just a few lines will not cause major issues.

When I’ve got time I’ll put together a child archive page and add a conditional call to the top description action so it only appears on the first page.

WordPress archive pages are so undervalued

Overall getting my normal WordPress archive pages such as category and tag, does not really come high on my list as I prefer to optimise Woo-commerce archives. But it something I really should set aside some time for. Blog posts and normal posts all help to boost authority and trust in your web site. And that carries across to the shop section which makes the money.

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