Optimizing eCommerce Category Pages – Best Practices
The eCommerce market is vying for the top positions on Google and rightly so because a position up or down could mean a win or loss. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, there are many concerns that online retail website owners are still figuring out.
One of the biggest worries of online stores is the inability of some of the category pages to rank higher on Google. Lately, there has been a lot of effort from SEOs to rank the eCommerce category pages high on Google. The reason for this is that a category page has multiple products and securing the top position also means more sales and eCommerce growth.
But unfortunately, SEOs go overboard and try to over-optimize these category pages, providing a bad user experience to online shoppers. They finally end up in the bad books of Google for a high bounce rate. It’s important to know the genuine ways to optimize a category page, and this article will give you a sneak peek into ranking a category page to boost eCommerce sales.
Don’t over-optimize a Category Page with Content.
One of the common trends seen among webmasters is to add bulk content to the footer of the category page. The intention here is to use the keywords multiple times within the page to dupe Google. Even though this practice worked till 2018, Google, like always, found the loop and fixed it.
Google’s John Muller was the one who confirmed this in one of the webmaster’s hangout sessions. He said that adding a chunk of contextually irrelevant text to the footer of the category page, it will be considered as keyword stuffing. He said that the content in the footer does not add any value to the users. This part of the page is usually overlooked, and hence, the sole purpose of adding it is considered as a way to manipulate the rankings.
He also added that any content chunk added below the fold would be dealt with less importance as it doesn’t add any detail about the products online.
What the webmasters can do to rank category pages:
- Add a short description of the products listed along with information that can add more value to users that visit the page.
- Add proper Alt Text for each image so that each product stands out.
- Use proper heading tags to establish a clear context of the page and the products listed.
- Add content above the fold, giving a little context about the products listed.
These practices can help in ranking the category page and improve the conversion rate. The content can be utilized better for blog sections where it genuinely adds value to the users.
Keyword Stuffing Is a Bad Idea to Rank Category Pages
It’s often seen that webmasters try to use too many keywords within the category page. Google adds another level of caution while ranking such category pages, says John Muller.
Muller says: “Another thing that I sometimes see, especially with e-commerce sites that kind of struggle with this kind of a problem is that they go to an extreme on the category page in that they include those keywords over and over and over again.
“And what happens in our systems then is we look at this page and we see these keywords repeated so often on that page that we think well, something is kind of fishy with this page, with regards to these keywords, well maybe we should be more careful when we show it.”
What Mueller wants webmasters to focus on is a few selected keywords based on the context of the products listed on the category page and then optimize it without going overboard.
It’s highly unlikely that people search for the specific name of a product on Google search. A prospective buyer may use a generic keyword to search for a product and usually lands on a category page that offers similar products. This makes it imperative to rank a category page for generic keywords that the target audience may search online.
One of the things that webmasters have to focus on is ensuring that the keywords used to rank a product page don’t cannibalize with the one used to rank a category page. Usually, a category page ranks for keywords that are generic and long-tailed. The webmasters should keep this in mind while optimizing the category page for better online sales.
Importance of Internal Links and Navigation Structure
Mueller also added that internal links play a vital role in ranking the category pages. According to him, one of the reasons for Google not being able to rank category pages is because of the complex navigational structure.
When coming to the navigation part, webmasters have to consider adding a category and sub-category page for each product as it helps the search engine to define hierarchy. A well-defined hierarchy for category pages also means a better appearance on Google search and more eCommerce sales.
Internal links within a category page give a lot of signals to Google regarding the type of product listed. Proper internal linking is vital as the user who lands directly on a product page may want to go back and look for other options in the category page. Any website that fails to provide the liberty to navigate to the category page may be hampering the eCommerce growth.
Building Links to Category Page Can Backfire
Google has been sceptical when it comes to backlinks pointing to Category pages. Since these are pages with monetary benefit, it’s hard to get natural backlinks. Building unnatural backlinks to category pages may incite Google’s fury.
Google confirms that getting genuine links is something that webmasters must consider to get the category pages ranked. But doing it unnaturally can pose a threat of getting blacklisted.
A more natural way to get backlinks to the category pages will be through genuine reviews from customers or by getting in touch with micro-influencers who may be interested in writing about the products listed. These links add value not only in terms of link juice but also by bringing referral traffic.
Ranking a Category Page is a Long-term Goal
Unlike ranking a product page or a blog post, ranking a category page is hard, and it may take a little more time to see the results. This has also been confirmed by John Mueller, who said recently that Google’s algorithm takes a little bit of time to adjust to the changes in the category page.
One thing the webmasters have to focus on is to add category that best defines the products listed. Adding the same products in multiple categories is not an ideal SEO practice as it may confuse Google and the users.
Another factor that determines the ranking of an e-commerce category page is the speed. Google has been pushing mobile-first indexing, which means it’s giving more importance to the user experience. One of the most significant issues faced by ecommerce websites is that the category pages are too slow to load due to the image-heaviness.
There are e-commerce sites that have 100s of products listed under the same category. Whatever the CMS used, it takes time to render all the 100 products along with the images. The best way to showcase such a category is by enabling lazy load for both products and images.
Enabling lazing load will reduce the server load, and the products get listed as and when the users reach the viewport set for the site.