At Yoast, we often see that a site’s category / tag structure is completely unmanaged. Even large news sites suffer from over-usage of tags and categories. Tags and categories are both examples of a taxonomy system. By default a WordPress site has these two, but you can add more. When used correctly, a good taxonomy system can boost your site’s SEO. The opposite is also true: when used wrong, it’ll break things. This article dives into why those pages are so important and how to use them. We will use category archives as our prime example.
Category archives are landing pages
Your category archives are more important than individual pages and posts. This is true regardless of whether your site is a blog, an e-commerce site or something else. Those archives should be the first result in the search engines. That means those archives are your most important landing pages. They should thus also provide the best user experience.
The more likely your individual pages are to expire, the more this is true. If your site is a shop and your products change, your categories are more important. If your site is a job listing site where jobs expire, your categories are more important. Otherwise you’d be optimizing pages that are going to be gone a few weeks / months later.
Categories prevent individual pages from competing
If you sell bathing suits and you optimize every product page, all those pages will compete for the term “bathing suit”. You should optimize them for their specific brand, make & model and link them all to the “bathing suit” category page. That way the category page can rank for “bathing suit”, while the product page can rank for the more specific terms. This way, the category page prevents the individual pages from competing.
This is also true regardless of your type of site. If your site is a blog and you write several articles about a topic, your category for that topic should be #1 in the search results.
Breadcrumbs and category archives
Breadcrumbs play an important role in this type of setup. Each individual item should link back to the nearest category. This shows Google the structure of your site but it also enforces the authority of the category page for the topic.
Google recently announced some mobile URL changes. Because of these changes, it’s also useful if your site’s URL structure contains the category. But beware: don’t change your URL structure if you have an existing site. The “cost” of redirecting all those URLs outweighs the benefits of changing the structure. It’s far wiser to just use the breadcrumbs functionality that our WordPress SEO plugin offers.