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You’ve read the statistics: 79 percent of U.S. consumers shopped online in 2016. The market is booming, so why isn’t your shop getting a share of all that traffic? If you want to be visible and relevant in a highly competitive market, you need to employ some good SEO techniques — and optimizing your SEO ecommerce category pages is a good place to start.

Understanding SEO Ecommerce Category Pages

Category pages are an integral part of your site’s navigation. They make it possible for visitors to browse your catalog, and make it easier to transition from your home page to specific product pages. They’re also particularly useful for SEO, as it’s possible to optimize them to rank in search results for queries relating to any of the associated products, which is often easier than trying to get specific products to rank well. For example, if you run a clothing store, customers are unlikely to search for a specific brand or design of T-shirt — but they may search for T-shirts in general, or even a much wider category, such as men’s clothing.

5 Tips for Optimizing SEO Ecommerce Category Pages

Ecommerce category pages do two things: They make it easier for visitors to find products, and they help to position your site in search rankings. Optimize your category pages effectively in the following five ways, and you have the potential to increase traffic to your site while also making the site more usable.

1. SEO Basics

When you’re optimizing pages, start with the basics. Including all of the fundamental SEO techniques puts your site on a strong footing, providing the foundation to develop a good user experience. Always use the following techniques to enhance your site:

  • Optimize your URLs so they include keywords and say exactly what’s on the page.
  • Include keywords in your category titles.
  • Write a detailed meta description to show in search results for improved click-through.
  • Include an H1 header that incorporates your keywords.

2. Navigation

A clean, easily navigable site is essential. Consumers have so many options for shopping online, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find your site, and then to find what they need.

  • Use meaningful category names that make it clear what items are on each page.
  • Include sub-categories in multiple categories if it makes sense to do so. For example, you might want to include garden chairs in the category of seating, outdoor furniture, and outdoor entertaining.
  • Feature a “recently added” category so returning customers have a way of checking out the newest products.

3. Content

You’ve probably heard the saying “content is king.” It’s a phrase used so often it’s become a cliché. But the simple fact is that the content on your page is one of the three most important ranking factors on Google. Get your content right, and you’re already dramatically improving your visibility in searches.

Use unique text on every category page.

Being accurate and specific ensures your content appears more relevant to search queries.

Use long-form content.

In this fast-moving age, it may seem unusual to focus on writing longer pieces of content — but when it comes to SEO, longer pieces rank better, according to a study from 2012. The important thing is to include accurate, relevant information. Bulking out your text with irrelevant content is likely to do more harm than good.

Including long-form content comes with the risk of ruining the sleek, clean layout of your category page. Consider including the text at the very bottom of the page, where it remains visible to search engines without imposing on the page format. It’s also a good idea to include an introductory piece at the top of the page, immediately after the header.

Include internal links in your text.

Search engines crawl sites by following the internal links. The links guide the search engines where you want them to go, and increase the likelihood of a good search ranking. Of course, when users visit your site, the internal links work in exactly the same way, enhancing the user experience.

Remember to be engaging.

Hook your audience by using a voice that connects with them. For example, dry, professional copy isn’t going to encourage young users to check out your selection of trendy apparel. Always put the customer experience first, and be as helpful as possible by including any information a visitor is likely to need while on your site.

4. Images

Images improve the user experience, especially on ecommerce sites where the images help to sell the products. Furthermore, relevant images help pages to rank in searches. There are several important considerations for using images on your SEO ecommerce category pages:

  • Only use original images, as stock assets aren’t going to make your page stand out.
  • Include ALT text to help search engines understand what your images are.
  • Use high-quality images to help customers see exactly what they’re buying.
  • Optimize loading speeds to reduce the risk of visitors leaving the site in frustration.
  • Be consistent, using the same size images with the same background.
  • Only include images if they’re relevant to the page.

5. Device Compatibility

Remember when almost everybody was surfing the internet on their desktop computers using Internet Explorer? Well, that was back in 2003, and things are very different now. The popularity of laptops, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones means it’s essential to make sure you optimize your ecommerce site for a wide range of browsers, devices, and screen sizes. In fact, mobile overtook desktop as the primary means for accessing the internet in 2014, and 53 percent of online retail sessions happened on mobile devices in 2017. So if you get it wrong, you’re at risk of losing the lion’s share of your customers. Rather than creating a separate mobile site, consider these design principles:

  • Use flexible layouts that change based on screen type.
  • Use a large, clear font and large buttons.
  • Include a link to open your app, if you have one.
  • Include a link to a standard desktop mode, so visitors can customize their experiences.

Takeaway: Better SEO Means Better Conversion Rates

If you have good SEO ecommerce category pages, then your site visitors are likely to have good user experiences. The techniques that push your site up the search rankings are the same ones that help to ensure visitors stay on your site and find what they need. If you improve navigation, provide engaging copy, use good images, and make sure the site works on any device, you’re increasing the number of people who come to your site, and improving your conversion rate.