Mention search engine optimisation (SEO) to most bloggers and their eyes just glaze over. It’s either too complicated or too much like digital voodoo to worry about. Best to just write fantastic content and people will find you, right? The heavy SEO stuff might best be left to the experts but as James Richardson points out below, there are some simple tips and techniques you can employ to make your blog that little more search engine-friendly.
GUEST POST: James Richardson is director of Optimising, an SEO, PPC, web development agency based in Melbourne. He has worked in the online marketing industry over 7 years, and has helped over 500 businesses achieve more success with Google.
Today I am going to give you a quick 101 on the best SEO practices for your WordPress categories.
Category pages are often one of the most neglected areas on a WordPress blog, but if used correctly, they can be a powerful source of additional website traffic.
The three main elements we’ll go through today are:
- Category Structure
- Category Page Optimisation
- Category Visibility
When you create a post on WordPress, it is automatically assigned a default category which is usually “uncategorised”, and if you haven’t addressed this already, this is the first place to start.
First you need to decide on a logical structure. It’s important that all of your posts will fit under at least one of your categories, but it is also important not to have too many categories, as this creates a lot of additional pages, which is not always a good thing.
Say for example you run a cooking blog which posts one new recipe on the site every day, you may setup your WordPress categories as below:
Remember in the back of your mind that each of these categories will have its own ‘category/meat/chicken’ category page, so we need to think whether you will have sufficient content on the site to necessitate this.
The most important thing about setting up your categories is to plan them. It’s best to decide on this structure when you are first developing the site, otherwise, down the track you will be creating a lot of manual work for yourself setting up redirects.
By default, the WordPress category pages are set up very simply. Usually just a straight listing of the posts contained within that category. This is less than ideal.
We should think of the category pages as landing pages.
The first reason we need to think of them like landing pages is because Google will be crawling these pages to index, and we want to make sure they are as appealing as possible to Google, so we get as much traffic to them as possible.
The second reason is because the user has found you using one of the category terms, and the category page as the first interaction they have with your website, so we need to treat them well to ensure they stick around.
So how do we do this? We need to add unique content to category pages.
This can be done in a variety of ways:
- Directly editing the category template files
- Using a plugin such as ‘All Category SEO Updater‘
- Using a theme framework such as Thesis which has these functions built in
The content you need to add will be based around the information from the relevant posts, and follow the standard SEO best practices:
- Title Tag
Title/Topic of the page which appears in the search results as below, as well as appearing for users in the title bar of their browser.
- Meta Description
Meta description is a summary of the page content. It appears only in the search results of Google and acts as a ‘call to action’ for the user, so make it punchy.
- Header Tag (H1)
The <h1> tag tells Google the topic of the page and is considered to be one of the most important aspects of a page when determining page relevance.
Make sure the category header title is highly relevant to the content on the page. This can be matching, or close to the Title tag.
- Body Copy
An often overlooked aspect of category pages is putting some static copy on these pages. If Google and customers are going to be landing on these pages, lets make them nice and juicy content-wise. Write a brief explanation on the type of content users will find in the posts below. About 150-200 words should be fine in this case.
So, now we have done all this working making our category pages nice and friendly for both users and Google. Let’s not hide them away in the corner, we need to make them both visible and accessible.
You have a few options here:
- Category sidebar widget
A standard offering in WordPress, just drag and drop the Category widget in the sidebar.
- Fancy Sidebar category and post widget
Something dynamic like can be found on Tim Ferriss’s Blog
- Footer Links
You can list your categories in the footer like Darren Rowse at Problogger does (below).
If you are serious about blogging, and want more people to read your content, spending some time on your categories pages is time well spent. A little effort will go a long way!
James Richardson is director of Optimising, an SEO, PPC, web development agency based in Melbourne. He has worked in the online marketing industry over 7 years, and has helped over 500 businesses achieve more success with Google. Follow James on Twitter @jamesis.