WordPress Categories are generally considered of minor use in organising content but not valued at all in terms of SEO. I’m not sure that has to be the case and would value any feedback on the following hypothesis.
A WordPress Category is an archive of existing posts but organised by topic rather than date. It is a regurgitation of old content and so most sources recommend it should be marked as “noindex” in order to avoid duplicate content issues.
I use the Yoast SEO plugin on all my WP sites and find it indispensable. So when I was getting to really know it I noticed it provides some of its page tweaking tools for Categories and Tags although it looks like it’s stuck in an old version because it lacks some of the refinements you get for pages and posts in more recent versions.
Anyway it set my mind to wondering if anything could be done to wring a bit of SEO value from Categories. So take a look at the following screen – click on it for full size.
The Yoast settings are what you’d expect and no more; a title and a description and the option to nofollow the page. But what I stumbled upon that I found interesting was the description field in the standard WP settings. What I learned was:
- It doesn’t show up in most themes.
- In a theme that uses it, it appears at the top of the category page.
- There doesn’t seem to be any restriction (that matters) in the length of this description.
So this gave me an idea of how to make WordPress Categories more useful by removing the duplicate content issue.
By writing a reasonably lengthy description containing unique content and showing only post summaries in the body of the page I reckoned I could dilute the old content enough to avoid duplication. I also reasoned that by replacing an old post with a new on a regular basis my category page would also display freshness.
Here’s an example from a Community Arts website I look after in the town where I live. Notice the text below the category title, followed by summaries of the posts in this category. I think that represents unique content and the page is getting rankings and traffic.
So give it a try. It also works for tags I think, there’s no real difference except I tend to have many fewer categories than tags and less posts per tag. If you learn anything please share via a comment. Equally if you think it’s a daft idea please say so.