Tips on Optimizing Category Pages for Conversions
Would you like the category pages on your website to convert better?
It sounds like a silly question, I know. A well-planned category page informs the user and moves them closer to checkout. A poorly planned category page will often send users back to Google to look for another site that carries products like yours. You don’t have to spend much time online to see that some brands don’t know the difference between the two. The reality is, though, that category pages that lead to conversions (i.e., orders) have some commonalities missing from those that don’t.
In this post, I'm going to take a closer look at the elements of higher-converting category pages.
Customers love seeing how your products work in a real-world environment. Whether it’s a garden gnome or an office chair, having your products featured at the top of the page takes a standalone object and places it in a natural setting. Consider using a good hero shot or even a slider that features several products.
Image quality is important, but so is speed. Very high-def images can take a considerably long time to load in internet time. You want to find the balance between definition and image size (in MB). Too often, brands that have done photo shoots for print work will try to use the same image files for their website. Instead, have your designer or art director compress the files to make them smaller. A tremendous amount of compression can happen before it creates any discernable difference in quality when viewed on a device screen.
To make those images even more search engine friendly, don’t forget to fill out those alt text tags.
This is one area that's nearly always a tug of war. On one hand, designers (and often clients) want a very clean interface. On the other hand, clients also want to be found on Google, and on-page copy is essential for that.
Balance is key.
You don’t need a tremendous amount of copy for your category pages. In most cases, 80 to 100 words will suffice. Sometimes even 50 words is enough. Start with keyword research. Check in with your keyword research tools and — this is an oft-overlooked step — check with your customer service team to see what questions they're fielding on a regular basis. Then craft your content to include relevant keyword phrases and address common questions coming to your customer service team. This works to help your brand be found in search engines and removes some hurdles that may keep users from purchasing.
The goal of your navigation should be to get people where they want to go in the fewest number of clicks.
The faster your users can find what they need and get to the checkout page, the higher your conversion rate will be. This can be accomplished in a few different ways. The first starts with your main navigation, which is most often a top navigation — i.e., it's structured in a bar that runs across the top of the page.
In some cases, once a user gets to a category page, there's also a side navigation that takes them to more subcategory pages. Ideally, you would want those subcategories to still exist in the top navigation as dropdowns and, if needed, flyouts. Remember, fewer clicks is the goal.
In some cases, category pages will have filters on the left side. This is a better option for categories that host many products. Nobody wants to scroll through 250 products to find the one they want. If checking a few boxes in the filters shows them the products they want right away, that’s preferable.
Search engine optimization is a fluid practice that changes with advances in technologies and algorithm updates. That said, some optimization practices are evergreen. With regards to category pages, those evergreen practices include quick-loading and optimized images, relevant copy, and an intuitive navigation that may also include filters.
If you're lagging in any of these respects, you should consider updating your site accordingly to help bolster conversions.
Geoffrey Hineman is SEO manager at Lett Direct, a catalog consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, forecasting, digital marketing and analysis since 1995.
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Geoffrey Hineman graduated Northern Michigan University in 2001 with a Master’s Degree in Writing. Upon graduation, he began his marketing career working on the world’s largest single account at the time: Daimler-Chrysler. In that capacity he wrote many pieces for print, live event, and print consumption, as well as writing for partnerships, including the NHL, PRCA, and more.
He then became the Senior Writer at Kelly Services HQ, writing materials for 60+ service lines and overseeing collaborative communications with Nike, among others. It was at this time (2005), that he dove headfirst into the world of SEO.
Geoffrey joined the Lett Direct team in 2012 and has been helping clients navigate onsite, offsite, and technical SEO challenges, as well as working to coordinate SEO endeavors to be in line with Paid Search and Direct Marketing initiatives. When he’s not in front of a computer, you can usually find him running, writing/producing music, or feeding wood chips into the smoker.