Blog SEO: add and maintain categories on your blog!

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

For usability

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.

For SEO

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!

Read more: Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post »

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10 Responses to Blog SEO: add and maintain categories on your blog!

  1. Bill Bennett
    Bill Bennett  • 8 months ago

    One thing I struggle with is how granular to make this.

    How many categories would be appropriate for, say, a blog with 1000 posts… does it change if you have 2000 or 5000?

  2. Alfred Noble
    Alfred Noble  • 9 months ago

    Hi Marieke

    Mind blowing write-up! Every point listed on the site about a successful blog SEO is correct. The structure of a blog explained in a simple way and easily understandable by a common man. Your content is simply superb and easy to follow. Thanks for this fruitful effort.

    Thanks and Regards

    Noble

  3. Andy Marsh
    Andy Marsh  • 9 months ago

    I always find the content in the Yoast blog really useful. The plugin has helped me lots to up the rankings of pages on my site.

  4. Dominik
    Dominik  • 9 months ago

    Awesome blog post! Totally agree with the things you stated. Useful categories can support the overall quality of a website a lot. Every time I work on a new site for a client, I usually see that people tend to use too many categories and don’t have a structure at all. It really depends if a website owner wants to include a broad variety of topics in one category or just a small niche. If you plan to use categories u should be clear about what you want to write about in the future.

  5. Jen McNeil
    Jen McNeil  • 9 months ago

    OK, I continually read ALL your material, even though much of it is over my ‘greenhorn’ head. To my credit though, I am learning much as I go. However, what I do not get is the part about ‘backlinks’. I have no clue how to, nor can I seem to find any place that describes, step-by-step instruction, how to make these things. Yet, every place I read, it emphasizes the importance of ‘building’ them. We have both Yoast Pro and Local, on our website, but it does not seem to help with my problem. If, I understand correctly, ‘building’ a backlink, would entail accessing somebody else’s website, and putting our link on their website and keeping it there. Correct, or no? Perhaps, I do not properly understand the term ‘linking’ in the first place, but if I do, it means putting a ‘live’ hyper-link into a piece of prose on a page or post, on the internet, no? Any enlightenment you could give me on this topic would be absolutely awesome. Thank you in advance.

  6. Alex Pandora
    Alex Pandora  • 9 months ago

    Marieke van de Rakt, thanks for this wonderful article. I always loved your content. And talking about content, like you suggested the content must last long. It’s always the audience and what they want, matters. I will surely look on to it.

  7. swastik angar
    swastik angar  • 9 months ago

    I must say that your post has introduced some new ways to earn online, i’m blogging since one year, but I never earned even a daler from my blog, sometimes I feel that may be my blog design is worst that leads my blog towards failior. being a blind/visually impaired it’s impossible for me to make any idea about the visual aspects of my blog but I still believe I would earn a good amount in future, i’m really impressed by your blog. thanks.

  8. Karen
    Karen  • 9 months ago

    Will consolidating categories (with posts in them), be bad for SEO? In other words, if I combine two categories into one and will those posts throw 404 error and be bad for the blog’s SEO?

  9. Kane Martin
    Kane Martin  • 9 months ago

    I was struggling with duplicate content for a long time. This will really help me a lot. Some times small ignorance can make you content invisible for search engines. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Andreas Diehl
    Andreas Diehl  • 9 months ago

    Hi, thanks for thepost. While I understand the importance of categories, I found it extremely hard to name / cluster the right ones. Any tips on that? Also, do you agree that each article should only be placed in one category?