rank category pages

If you have a blog or magazine style website built on WordPress, you probably have a bunch of different categories to organize your posts. It’s a fantastic feature of WordPress that helps in organizing your content, but it raises the question:

Can a category page rank well on Google?

The answer is no, and it can become an issue when a certain category of your site targets a big keyword that you can potentially be ranking for.

That may sound confusing so I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you have a blog about sea animals. You have a couple hundred articles about anything related to different kinds of sea animals. Your site even ranks for the term ‘sea animals’ and it’s doing well on Google.

Let’s say that because you have a lot of posts about cute looking animals, you decide to create a category called ‘cute sea animals’ and you put your relevant articles that fit into the topic. Now, when you visit that category page on your site, you can see all the different posts related to ‘cute sea animals’.

The problem is: you may think that this page is a great resource and deserves to be brought up when someone searches for, ‘cute sea animals’ but it’s not the case.

Here’s why.

Why WordPress category pages have such difficulty ranking

The answer is simple: Google doesn’t like showing category pages in its results.

When a user makes a search, Google prefers to bring back results of ‘pages’ that are full of information and packed with useful resources rather than make the user have to sift through pages of various different articles. It’s not a good user experience, which Google is all about.

That makes sense, right?

It makes perfect sense, but it also sucks for us. In our eyes, we know we have the perfect page for anyone looking for ‘cute sea animals.’ I mean, there’s a hundred pages here of awesome content all about the subject!

But Google knows how to differentiate between a category page, and a regular information page. Believe me, I’ve even tried going into my WordPress php files and adding ~500 words of content in each of my category pages to see if that would help. That helps a bit, but it’s nowhere near as effective as optimizing a separate page around it. You’re playing a losing game.

If you have ever tried to rank for category pages in the past, you might know what I’m talking about. If you’re trying now to rank a category page, stop.

Here’s what you should do instead.

Create a giant post and manually put in the links to the posts

Continuing on with the example, we’re going to take the keyword ‘cute sea animals’ and create our own mega post around it.

We’ll call it: “Top 50 Articles Showcasing the Cutest Sea Animals in the World.”

We’ll take the best 50 posts from the category and just link to them. To bulk up the article with more content, we’ll add a short description under each link.

At the top, we’ll write a few hundred words in an introduction to help build context around the links, and then maybe a small conclusion at the bottom of the post.

You’re free to do whatever you want to beef up the article (ie Categorize them even further into sub-categories, add images, etc.).

Category pages are difficult to rank, but these mega resource style pages are extremely easy to rank even though they are essentially the same thing. Google loves this kind of content.

On top of that, it’s barely any work at all. The bulk of your content is in your links, and those are all posts that you’ve made in the past. With just a little organization into this new post, we now have a giant resource page we can start ranking in Google for this meaty keyword and boost our traffic.

Taking advantage of resource pages

This doesn’t just work with categories on your site. The idea of resource pages opens up a lot of ideas to new content with posts that you already have.

If you have a lot of posts about a certain topic or sub-topic on your site, try and see if it makes sense to group them together and create a resource style post on your site. You might be surprised how well it can do in the search engines.

12 Comments

  • Reply
    Nick
    February 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    The answer is simple: Google doesn’t like showing category pages in its results. — proof?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 8, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Hey Nick,

      While it is certainly possible to rank a category page, it’s just not the best option. It’s a pretty wide known fact that category pages are pretty low quality in terms of being returned as a search result. It’s essentially an archive page – a list of random posts with no unique content whatsoever. I’m speaking from my own experience, and from research I’ve done after seeing how poorly they rank even with a lot of on-site and off-site work.

      A lot of SEO’s recommend no-following them or building upon them. Because they’re a pain to re-format through the php files, it’s a better idea to just create your own resource style page as mentioned above.

      You can do a search on what it takes to rank a category page, and you’ll have a clearer sense of what I mean.

  • Reply
    samad
    February 9, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    The reason most of them suggest to nofollow the category pages as they will remain as duplicate content and sometimes, it will be a better option to dofollow and index your category pages. It purely depends on the category or goal of your site

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 12, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Excellent points, Samad. It also depends on your site structuring too if you’re going to even want to rank for a category keyword.

  • Reply
    Thomas Paylor
    February 12, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I wouldn’t totally agree with this article but i understand the reasons behind your thinking for a more generic website . I have ranked wordpress category pages in the past in very high competition niches, especially directory sites. These were highly targeted though. For example. If i had a website about “Restaurants in a certain location” and the categories were “type of restaurant in location, ie Indian for example” then the category pages are easier to rank, as each post excerpt in the category has targeted content to the category title, i then add specific content below the archive results for that category, mostly a 500-1000 word article. This has worked well for me in the past in low competition local directory style WordPress websites.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 12, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Hey Thomas,

      Thanks for your input. Good points. Category pages aren’t impossible to rank for. They are just more difficult because most people’s category pages have no unique content and just contain the same excerpts as the home page blog roll. In such a case, it can be near impossible compared to creating your own page around it.

      That’s great that you have been able to add some unique content at the bottom of the page rank it in a tight niche.

  • Reply
    Boris McLaughlin
    March 7, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Hi Chris,

    Just got turned on to your blog today after searching for how to increase traffic to my site. Dude you have a lot of strategies that I’m going to try out because my numbers are TRAGIC! The very first one I will work Jon this weekend is building megapost linking back to a site that I contributed 20 posts to.

    Thanks for not charging for this advice.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 7, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Boris. Awesome!

  • Reply
    Dekv
    August 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Hey Chris, can you show how to set this in wordpress?
    I’ve seen one website doing this mega post as a category.
    Like this:
    http://www.abc.com/abc/ —-> their mega post
    http://www.abc.com/abc/abc1 —> their inner post 1
    http://www.abc.com/abc/abc2 —> their inner post 2

    I think this is exactly the same thing about this post of yours.
    But I don’t know how to setup this in wordpress. Can you help?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      August 26, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      They’re using parent pages. You can set that up in the right hand column of your page editor dashboard.

      • Reply
        Dekv
        August 26, 2015 at 9:16 pm

        But if we do like that it wouldn’t be a “post” anymore and we have to do all the content with “page” am I correct?
        (So the related post plugin can not be used to spread the link juice in this case?)

        • Reply
          Chris Lee
          August 27, 2015 at 8:27 pm

          It could be a post or page, but I prefer page for something like this. Related post plugin isn’t necessary for a page like this since you’re already linking out to the required pages within the content itself.

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