4 Easy Steps to SEO-Friendlier Blog Categories (WordPress)

SMS Text

We all know which issues blog templates usually have with SEO – and one of the most wide-spread problems is a duplicate content one: blog home page, categories, tags and archives basically have same content.

This post looks at easy ways to eliminate the problem at blog category pages to make them SEO-friendlier.

Disable Indexing of Your Categories

(Warning: if you use this step, you don’t need the rest of the post)

If you are sure that your category pages are not going to generate any search traffic for you, you may just exclude them from Google’s index. One option is to use All-in-One SEO Pack for that.

However a much smarter plugin for that is Meta Robots WP plugin that allows to use noindex,follow robots meta tags for category pages to forbid indexing while allowing to follow the links to individual posts:

SEO categories

If you still want your category pages to be able to appear in search engine result pages, skip this one and proceed to the following steps:

1. Eliminate Duplicate Content

The hugest issue with your categories is that they don’t have unique content. We’ll change that though:

1. Display category descriptions:

Most people are aware of the fact that there’s a handy extra field at your category editor page called “Description“. Few people use it to the full potential though.

By default, the category description is shown when you hover over the category link in the sidebar widget. To display it on your individual category page you will need to use the following code:

<div><?php echo category_description(3); ?></div>

Category description

Now, if you need any HTML in there, take advantage of this plugin: it doesn’t have a visual editor but it lets you insert any HTML in your category description.

2. Work on the list of posts

You want to make the category pages lightweight and as unique as possible. For that you need to either:

  • Strip the post extract and only display the list of post headings; OR
  • Display excerpts of the page (to strip images, formatting, links, etc).

For the first option you will just need to go to the theme editor and remove

<?php the_content(‘Read more…’); ?>

part that follows each page title.

And for the second option you will need to change that for:

<?php the_excerpt(); ?>

Now, if you need to modify which type of HTML tags you want to strip in your excerpts, use this plugin that:

  • Keeps HTML markup in the excerpt (and you get to choose which tags are included)
  • Trims the excerpt to a given length using either character count or word count

SEO categories

3. Optimize Paging Structure

WordPress SEO Pager plugin implements a multi-page customizable pager to replace the standard, boring WordPress “Earlier Posts” and “Newer Posts” links. This improves SEO as well as usability.

  • Add page numbers to category and archive listing page titles.
  • Optionally excerpt posts on page numbers greater than 1.
  • Let the search bot easier access deeper pages:

category paging

4. Interlink your categories

Yes, your categories are already linked to sitewide from your blog sidebar. However you should also link to them organically from the post content as well as vary the internal anchor text:

SEO interlinking options

Any other tips to optimize your blog categories? Let me know in the comments!

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • Kristof

    Hi Ann – Thanks for the heads-up on the plugin to allow HTML in category descriptions. The only drawback is that descriptions are displayed when hovering category names in sidebar, etc. I've tried multiple option to disable the hover text (specially important when descriptions are long) but nothing worked. If you have a code snippet or plugin reco for this, please let me know.

    For #2 – post lists – I think most users would prefer to see some sort of excerpt/description to give them a better indication if they want to read the post so I personally prefer to display them. But instead od adding another plugin to strip the HTML etc, I find it easier to simply write a custom except. That way the categoy pages are both more unique and lessens any duplicate content issues.

    For #3 – what are your thoughts on other plugins such as WP Page Numbers?

    • annsmarty

      Hey there, thanks for stopping by!

      For #1: really an issue. I'll search for the plugin for that and let you know if I find anything.

      For #2. Very true. I was speaking about optimizing the exiting content and going back to edit each post to include a custom description would be too difficult. However manual work is always better than automation – that's for sure 🙂

      For #3. WP Page Numbers plugin looks really nice. I wasn't aware of that one and need to try it out. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dave Jackson

    Hi Ann,

    I just moved a large blog from Blogger to WordPress and am looking at the best ways to tweak it. I was under the impression Google already addressed the duplicate content with blogs, namely with using canonical links – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm9onOGTgeM so doesn’t this debunk the duplicate content thinking with allowing categories to be indexed?

    I “did” have them blocked but read elsewhere that it didn’t make any difference so I allowed them to be indexed again (categories.)

    There’s a lot of chatter both ways and not sure why.

    Thanks for the post!

    • annsmarty

      There is a lot of chatter on everything SEO-related. My rule of thumb is never to rely on Google to figure things out and take care of them myself. In other words, those steps were not actually for Google They were an attempt to make the category pages more unique and useful and THUS SEO friendly…

  • Michael Martinez

    Ann, your research into WordPress options and plug-ins is good and obviously you're just trying to help people who want to do these things, but the SEO community has really gone off the deep end with myths about all these SEO plug-ins, the badness of categories, etc.

    People don't need to go through all these nonsense hoops. It's really not going to enhance their optimization and more often than not hurts a site's optimization.

    For example, on many sites that place their blog in the root URL the categories are usually the pool from which sitelinks are drawn. Users often browse category pages to see how much activity a blog has in a certain theme, and by optimizing your category content you can target different query spaces with each category.

    Any plug-in that lets you create a unique meta description for category pages may be marginally useful but in general people are just spinning their wheels in the mud with all the hype and hysteria over categories.

    SEOs who think the solution to optimizing duplicate content is to hide as much content as possible have A LOT to learn about SEO.

  • leendon023

    I am here looking for experience when use wordpress as site script.

  • pixelcrayons

    Hi Thanks for sharing such a useful information. You know we unintentionally and usually skip the description o the category. But after reading your blog I think I am gonna remember it always. The next point I liked is Interlinking of the categories. You know it is highly important to interlink your posts but on the same time we should ensure that it should seem to be relevant also. Irrelevant linking can earn bad reputation for the blog. Well all good points. Have bookmarked it.

  • Abhishek SEO

    Hi Ann,
    Thanks for sharing great post.

  • Abhishek SEO

    Hi Ann,
    Thanks for sharing great Informative post.

  • Diwakar

    Hi, Ann

    I liked this post very much; I will definitely keep in mind all the above mentioned point.

  • Calgary Movers

    I agree with Michael – how does it help SEO if your category pages are not indexed? When I look in the Analytics of my blog I see that a lot of my visitors came through my category pages, which means what my category pages are showing in search results and bringing people into my site. That's a good thing of course, so why would I want to turn that off?

    • Steve Masters

      I agree with you. I think categories are an important part of the navigable hierarchy of the site, so why no-index them? I know the argument about duplicate content but actually you can no-index archives (and remove them completely) and no-index tags, but categories are parent pages for lots of related content, so IMO they should be seen in the index.

  • executive training

    This is a great post! Thanks for sharing, I will sure use these tips in my blog.

  • SEOP.com

    Great tips. This can certainly help me improve my blog structure. Thanks for sharing.

  • SEOP.com

    Great tips. This can certainly help me improve my blog structure. Thanks for sharing.