If you write an amazing blog post, you’d like it to help in the ranking of your site, right? If you create awesome content, you’d like people to read it now, but also to be able to find it and read it later. What’s more, you want new visitors on your site to read your older blog posts, right? You want to convert them to loyal readers of your blog. Then, why are older posts on blogs almost always hidden away in some kind of archive?
You create your content with much effort and care. It’s a shame to let it disappear when your audience has had just one chance to read it. In this post, I’ll tell you about the importance of categories on your blog for both usability reasons and SEO. I’ll also give you some practical steps to keep working on your blog’s category structure, as your website grows.
The downsides of no categories
Many blogging sites seem to be creating content and then letting it disappear from view, making it hard for new visitors to find this content. There are no categories, no tags, no links from one post to the other. A new visitor on such a site, who just wants to browse a bit, can only find other posts by scrolling through the archives.
At Yoast, we see a lot of blogs. Mom blogs, food blogs, blogs about blogging, you name it. And they all seem to make the same mistake. Lots of blogs don’t have any categories of the topics they blog about.
Of course, every blog should create new content on a very regular basis. That’s a given. But your older content still has value! Your current audience will read your new post now, but it’ll be just as useful for new audiences in the future. Also, people might remember this post and talk about it with their friends. So, people should be able to find older posts on your blog rather quickly.
The importance of blog categories
Make sure people can easily navigate through your blog. You need clear, easy-to-find category pages of the topics you blog about most. New audiences can instantly see what your blog is about, and will be able to find your posts on a specific topic easily. It’s always a good thing if your audience can easily re-read older content if they want to.
Adding categories and structure to your blog definitely benefits SEO. If you add hierarchy and categorize your pages, it helps both your users and Google make sense of every single page you write. Adding a good category structure to your blog also has these two SEO advantages:
Avoid competing with your own content
If you blog in a certain niche, you probably discuss similar topics in different posts. Odds are, you (unknowingly) optimize more than one post for the same keyphrase. This means you’re actually competing with your own content for the ranking in Google. That’s not good! A good category structure will help make it easier to keep an eye on this.
Rank with your category pages
If you create category pages, optimize them well, and link your posts on similar topics to that category, it will allow that category page to rank higher in Google. In fact, a well-optimized category page often has a good chance of ranking for more ‘head’ keyphrases. This also helps with the problem we mentioned earlier, of competing with your own content. Read about it in our post about the importance of category pages for SEO.
Managing the structure of a growing blog
As we’ve seen, it’s important to structure your blog using categories, so your posts stay findable. We’ve established the why, so let’s move on to the how. Maintaining this structure will be easier as long as your blog is small. When your blog gets bigger, you’ll need to do more to keep its structure in optimum shape. The same goes if you started your blog without giving any thought to how you structure your posts. What can you do to build and keep a good blog structure, so your old posts remain findable?
1. Evaluate your categories
As your blog is growing, it could well be that you’re mainly blogging about one particular topic. That’s just the way blogging goes. So, you should critically evaluate your categories every few months, asking yourself whether or not one category is growing much faster than another category. If some parts of your blog are growing much faster than other parts, you could divide such a category into two separate categories. A good rule of thumb: make sure that no category is more than twice the size of any other category.
2. Add subcategories and tags
If you have lots and lots of posts, it becomes harder to make sure you link to (all) your similar content. There will be too many posts to choose from. As a result of that, a lot of blog posts will ‘get lost’ in a structure that is too flat. There will be few links to these posts, making it hard to be found by both your audience and Google!
By making subcategories, you create an extra layer and a more hierarchical structure. This will make your site easier to be understood by Google. Moreover, there will be fewer posts within each group. In a relatively small group of posts, it will be more likely that every post will receive a link from a new blog post once in a while, making sure that posts won’t get lost.
Tags could also make sure a post gets enough links. Don’t create too many tags, though. Each tag group should have at least three posts. Evaluate your tag structure on a regular basis and make sure you add new tags if you’re blogging about new topics.
3. Add pagination
Whether it’s a blog page or a category page: people don’t want to click through an endless collection of posts. Suppose your blog has 1,000 articles and you’re listing 10 articles per archive page: that would give you a hundred archive pages. If you would link these pages just by adding an Older (Previous) posts link and a Newer (Next) posts link, that would mean you’d have to click 99 times to get to the last page. There is no need to make it that hard.
By adding a numbered pagination, linking, for instance, the first, second, third, tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, up to the ninetieth and last page, you reduce the number of clicks. Jumping every 20 pages will already lower that number to 10, of course. Pagination will allow your users to click through your archive in a rather simple way.
4. Get rid of outdated content
If a post isn’t up to date anymore and hardly anyone reads it, you could decide to delete it altogether. This may sound strange after we kept stressing the value of old content, but it’s important to make sure all your old content still has value. Getting rid of outdated content will clean up your site nicely!
Be careful though, because deleting pages could lead to a lot of 404’s. Read Joost’s post about properly deleting a post, before you clean up your old content!
Stay on top and make your content last!
If you write amazing content, make sure it lasts. This means that you need to stay on top! Add categories to your blog posts. And, make sure these blog categories are easy to find on your site. Add tags for smaller topics. Link to related posts and give your audience suggestions about where on your blog they can read more about a specific topic. To keep that great blog structure, analyze the structure of your blog on a very regular basis. Make sure your categories, subcategories, and tags are well organized. All these things make your blog much more usable for your audience. And, on top of that, all these things make your blog rank higher in search engines. And that’s what we all want!