How to Optimize Category Pages for Ecommerce with Informational Copy


Learn how to optimize category pages to make the online shopping experience easier for shoppers and improve your ecommerce site’s presence in search.

Category pages primarily serve a practical purpose, dividing an ecommerce store’s inventory into manageable subsections so online shoppers can quickly navigate to specific products.

However, like most website pages, category pages also serve a higher function; they can attract users from search engine results pages to the website.

Accomplishing this with a category page is easier said than done.

The process might involve creating unique layouts and hybrid copy that marry the functions of commercial and informational pages.

In this post, you’ll learn how you can optimize your category pages with informational copy.
Ecommerce Category Pages Can Have Competing Objectives

Ecommerce retailers use category pages to organize products into logical groupings that make the online shopping experience easier.

Just as many brick-and-mortar stores physically separate merchandise into departments and aisles, ecommerce sites separate products into categories with their own landing pages and sub-filters.

Category pages enable users to explore a virtual store in an intuitive way, and home in on the types of products they want to browse.

In terms of visual design, category pages tend to have simple, highly-structured layouts.

More often than not, category pages feature images of individual products that link to their corresponding product pages organized in grids.

Take, for example, H&M’s category page for women’s tops:

H&M Category Page for women’s tops

Excluding the markdown promotion, navigational links, and search filters, the only text on the page is a brief description of the product category and individual product names with prices.

The product images speak for themselves, and the simplistic page design allows users to shop relevant products without distraction.

Once a shopper navigates to this category page, they can simply scroll through the product options until they find exactly what they’re looking for.

However, ecommerce marketers may be looking to increase sales for a specific product category, not just promote the brand at large.

How can you attract potential customers directly to category pages from search?

Adding keyword-optimized text is the go-to strategy for improving on-page SEO and page rank.

However, SEO pros have to tread carefully when adding text to category pages. Too much text can distract users from rich product images and take away from the functional simplicity of the page layout.

When it comes to category pages, SEO pros have to adhere to two seemingly oppositional SEO and UX strategies:

Including enough text to effectively target keywords.
Maintaining a simple, image-focused design.

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Striking a balance between these two objectives has proven challenging for many.
To Optimize Category Pages or Not

Category page optimization requires a creative, informed strategy.

Ask yourself this essential question: What factors help category pages rank for specific keywords?

Google offers little insight into the matter.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines resource does not include information specific to category page ranking, leaving SEO pros in the dark.

This lack of direction may lead optimization efforts for category pages astray, devaluing these important pages.

To avoid penalization for thin pages or ranking conflict between pages, some opt to noindex category pages rather than building them out for optimization.

But isn’t there something that can be done?

In September 2019, John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, pulled back the curtain ever so slightly when answering a question about category page ranking during a Webmaster Hangout.

According to Search Engine Journal staff writer Roger Montti, Mueller offered the following advice on how to rank category pages:

Optimize internal linking to category pages.
Avoid keyword stuffing within category pages.
Build external links to category pages.
As a short-term solution, make it easier for users to navigate to category pages from product pages.

Aside from the standardized warning against keyword stuffing, Mueller’s answers didn’t address category page content itself.

While internal linking, link building, and simplifying page navigation is good advice, these tactics aren’t specific to category pages.

Even with Mueller’s remarks, SEO pros were left none the wiser on how to craft high-ranking, functional category pages that simultaneously support both their UX and SEO objectives.

Keyword Selection for Ecommerce Category Pages

As with all other pages, category page optimization begins with identifying which keyword or keywords to target.

SEO pros should work through the standard keyword research process, evaluating search volume and ranking difficulty, considering the stops along the customer journey, and analyzing search intent.

Understanding keyword search intent is a top priority for optimizing ecommerce category pages.

If you want to improve a category page’s ranking, you need to target search engine users who already know what product type they want and are ready to buy.

To identify the “right” keyword target for a category page, SEO pros may benefit from differentiating keyword types based on search intent.

You’ll find a useful classification of keywords on the SEMrush blog, which breaks keywords down into the following categories:

Commercial/Transactional Keywords: Commercial keywords direct consumers to sites that sell the products they’re looking to buy. Transactional keywords specifically target consumers who are eager to buy immediately and can be easily converted by adding terms like “buy,” “purchase,” and “for sale.”

Informational Keywords: Users looking for educational information on a certain topic or product often search keyword terms with question words such as “how,” “what,” “where,” and “why.”

Navigational Keywords: Search engine users who want to find the webpage for a specific company often search the brand by name.

Select keywords with strong purchasing intent, not broad terms a user would search to find informational resources.

Remember, category pages best serve consumers who already know what type of product they’re looking for and have serious or immediate intention to make a purchase.

Transactional keywords target consumers at this point in their customer journey, making them ideal for product pages.

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