Optimize category pages for SEO

An online presence that is attractive not only to visitors but also to search engines is essential these days. This is especially true for category pages. These are often the first touch between a potential customer and products or services. Knowing which elements contribute to an effective SEO strategy for category pages is important.

What is a category page?

A category page groups related items or content. These pages are frequently found in e-commerce websites. These pages help guide visitors and provide an overview of what is available on a Web site. Properly used category pages are valuable SEO tools(1).

People often find a category page on short tail search terms found in Google. Consider search values such as black shoes, buy a sink and shower doors. One then finds the product pages by the product names below them.

Don’t just optimize the category page. Google looks at the entirety of both the category and product page. Both pages should be qualitative. This is not only good for conversion, but also for SEO optimization.

Read more about how I use specific pages for SEO

Each page has its own purpose within SEO. Through the links below, read more about how I deploy specific pages within an SEO journey.

SEO-optimized category page

A category page that is perfectly optimized for SEO contains more than just products or articles. It features specific elements. When applied correctly, these have a positive effect on a page in the eyes of search engines. My checklist for this will help in creating a category page.

Good page title and meta description

An important part of the SEO roadmap is ensuring a good first impression. Write a clear page title and a good meta description. Not only do these give search engines a clear picture of a page’s content, visitors are also more likely to click on them. This is an essential part of a category page.

Internal link structure and user experience

Internal links greatly change the way visitors and search engines navigate and understand a Web site. A good link structure can also increase user experience and improve SEO.

The logical product pages should be linked to the category page. Also, make sure the text includes quality internal links to other relevant pages.

The checklist below shows step by step how category pages are optimal for SEO.

RequiredPriority
Clear page titleHigh
Meta description summarizing the content(2)High
Optimized URL structureHigh
Internal link structure to relevant subcategoriesHigh
Unique, qualitative descriptionHigh
Integration of relevant keywordsHigh
Images with alt texts(3)Middle
Lazyload for imagesMiddle
Correct use of H1, H2, H3 tagsHigh
Faceted navigation optimizationMiddle
Responsive design for mobile devices(4)High
Fast loading timeHigh
Minimizing duplicate contentHigh
Integration of social share buttonsLow
Clear call-to-action buttonsMiddle
Updated and regular content refreshMiddle
Schema marking for structured data(5)Middle
Create SEO checklist for a category page.

Content on category pages

Category pages are more than a collection of products or items. Good content is also essential. It is important not only what is shown, but also how it was performed.

The importance of qualitative descriptions

A quality, thoughtful and valuable description is indispensable. It not only gives context to visitors, but also to search engines.

All descriptions must be unique. This is especially true for the most important pages. Nor should they exactly match the product pages. Product page descriptions are often used for categories to save time. However, this is duplicate content. On top of that, visitors on category pages are at a different stage than those on PLPs. Keep this in mind when writing content.

Relevant keywords without over-optimization

Keywords are of great importance in SEO. But instead of adding these overconfidently, it is better to use them smartly. Relevant keywords are an essential component for an optimal category page, don’t use them in abundance.

20%/80% rule

The location of content on the category page can also affect both user experience and SEO. Place 20% of the content above the articles and the remaining 80% below them. This creates a balanced structure, which is positive for both visitors and search engines.

Visual optimization

Don’t underestimate the effect of visual optimization on category pages. Images and multimedia have a major impact on how visitors interact with a page.

Images and multimedia on category pages

A picture says more than a thousand words. Images and multimedia on category pages not only increase visitor engagement and understanding, but also have a positive impact on SEO.

Use unique images

Use unique images for your category pages and not those of product pages. This makes pages easier to distinguish, but can also increase the value of each page for search engines.

Lightweight images that lazyload

The loading speed of your page is essential for SEO and therefore for ranking higher in Google. Use lightweight images and implement lazy loading. As a result, pages load quickly and do not compromise on quality or user experience.

A category page may contain as many as 50 images. It is not a best practice to load them all at once while loading a page, even if the images are very light. Lazy loading of content ensures that the perceived pagespeed of the category page remains high.

However, this can only be done with the images below the fold. Images still cannot be left heavy. These still need to be loaded. However, this does happen a little later now.

Optimizing faceted navigation

Faceted navigation is a powerful tool, especially for e-commerce Web sites. It allows users to filter and sort through lists of products or content quickly and efficiently. If implemented properly, it greatly improves the user experience. If this is not done properly, it can cause problems, think duplicate content issues.

The value of faceted navigation to the user

Faceted navigation just seems like a convenient tool for the visitor. But it is much more. The tools allow visitors to dive deeper into a Web site, find what they are looking for faster, and therefore spend more time on a Web site.

Preventing duplicate content

One of the risks of faceted navigation is that it can lead to duplicate content. Each combination of filters can generate a unique URL. Using the wrong settings, this can be seen by search engines as separate pages’ that have the same content.

Using canonical tags and noindex

Technical SEO is important to avoid duplicate content. Use canonical tags and noindex instructions correctly to give search engines clear instructions about which versions of pages to index and which to ignore.

Keeping site architecture uncluttered

Faceted navigation can improve the user experience, but the site architecture is not supposed to make the website cluttered. Main categories and pages should remain clear and accessible. Here it does not matter how many facets or filters are offered.

Keep testing and adapting

SEO and user experience go hand in hand. This is especially true when it comes to something as complex as faceted navigation. Test regularly and gather feedback from users. Make adjustments as needed. This improves both user experience and SEO.

Summary

Optimizing a category page for search engines is not just about integrating keywords. A holistic approach is also needed, with key factors including load time, mobile optimization and content quality. An SEO specialist must pay attention to each of these elements. This not only improves search engine rankings, but also provides a better user experience for your visitors. This also increases the likelihood that visitors will return to a Web site later.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 25 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 25 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.