Evaluating Category Pages

If the website has more than 150 pages, it should divide its content into categories and link to those from the homepage. This is exactly what my former colleagues at SEOmoz look for on medium-sized websites. Ideally, these pages should serve both as a landing page for a searcher and a link juice router for search engines. Many webmasters mistakenly focus on one of these aspects while ignoring the other. As an SEO, part of your job will be making sure that both of these kinds of visitors are taken care of.

A website with more than 150 pages should divide its content into categories that are useful to both humans and search engines alike.

Figure 2-8 shows a Netflix category page, a good example of a category page. This page links to subcategory pages that are both logical for humans to understand (genres) and helpful to search engines (fewer than 150 links).

Figure 2-8: Netflix category page

Notice that the page has enticing images to click on and is very intuitive for first-time visitors. In this way, it is ideal for getting users to click through to a lower level page.

At the same time it is optimized for search engines by limiting the total amount of links on the page while linking to all applicable subcategories.

Figure 2-9 shows another example of a category page, this time from the Rotten Tomatoes website, and this one is less effective than the Netflix page.

Multiple Pathways to Content
Well-architected sites can get you to specific pages through multiple pathways. For example, sites like Netflix or IMDb.com are models of cross-linking efficiency. Searching vertically through “Actors,” you’ll find the page of Zooey Deschanel, which will link to pages for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and (500) Days of Summer. Similarly, searching through romantic comedies will get you to (500)
Days of Summer, which are only a click away from the two actors’ pages. And so on.

A good site gets you to deep URLs through a logical path with minimal clicks. A great site gets you to deep URLs through any one of several logical paths, and the paths frequently cross throughout the journey. The difference between good and great means more rapid, more thorough indexing; a more appropriate distribution of page authority and authority; and more qualified traffic.

Figure 2-9: Rotten Tomatoes category page

Here is an example where the website is optimized for engines but not human visitors. This is a problem for two reasons:

First, if a user encounters this page, it will be difficult for them to navigate, and they will likely return to the previous page. This is counterproductive for a navigation system.

Second, search engine engineers preach building websites for humans not search engines. This is a clue to the long-term strategies of the search engines. This example does not appear to be built for
humans and, thus, isn’t a good long-term strategy for SEO.

It should be noted that this is not the main movies category page on Rotten Tomatoes, but it still serves a great example of what to avoid when recommending long-term SEO strategies. This page was built as a bandaid to make up for poor site architecture. It is far from optimal.

A good category page should do all of the following:

Be useful for the user
Direct link juice to all applicable subcategories
Have enough unique content to be indexed by the search engines

– coming up next : “Evaluating Subcategory Pages”