Welcome to our 2nd to last installment of 30 Minute SEO!
We’re getting close to wrapping up this series, and here’s what we’ve talked about so far:
We’ve covered a lot of core SEO basics, and if you’ve done all, or even just a few of these, then you’re well on your way to getting some killer SEO.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about one more thing:
How your site is organized.
In the SEO world this is also known as site structure, site mapping, and taxonomies. It’s all means the same thing: how the pages and posts are organized.
Think about site structure like this:
Google only has a short amount of time to look over your site. There are a lot of websites in the world, and limited resources, so Google has to go fast, and needs things organized.
It’s a little like your closet.
Yep, your closet–stay with me.
So you’re trying to get dressed in the morning, and like always, you’re in a hurry.
You decide to wear pants, so you go into your closet, find your pants drawer then select the pair you want.
There are 3 levels of organization in this:
- The closet, the highest level
- The pants drawer, the sub category
- The individual pair of pants, the end result
You keep your closet organized because that makes it easy to get dressed and find what you need, right?
Now imagine that you have all of your clothes laid out on the floor or hangers one by one, not in any order. When it’s time to find that one pair of pants, you have to look at every individual piece of clothing until you find what you need. Frustrating, right?
Websites are the same way.
When Google comes to your site and doesn’t see categories, it can’t figure out what’s going on in your site, or where anything is. And because that little robot only has limited time, he just peeks his head in, looks around, and then leave. He doesn’t get very far in looking for what he needs, and moves on.
Your site needs categories for the main pages of your site, and especially for the blog posts on your site.
You need parent categories (aka, pants), and child categories (aka, individual pairs, or small groupings, like yoga pants, work pants, or jeans).
Categories vs Tags:
If you’re on wordpress you’re probably wondering what the difference is between categories and tags.
Think of tags like hashtags. Going with our closet example, you might have a category of pants in your closet, but maybe you want to find all your denim items at once (because of course, you want your Halloween costume to be Justin and Britney, circa 2001).
If you could tag your closet with #denim, then you’d pull up jeans, jean jackets, overalls, and denim skirts (wouldn’t it be awesome to hashtag your closet??). You’d have your JT&Britney costume ready in seconds.
Back to websites…
Feel free to tag your posts as many tags as you wish, but they do not replace categories. You still need to organize things in logical hierarchy so that Google and your users can find it.
Let’s say Google comes to your food blog, but you don’t have any categories.
Google bot looks around and is trying to decide what your site is all about, so that he can rank you in the search engine.
Here’s what’s happening in his little head:
“Hmmm, is this site about pasta? No, maybe it’s about hamburgers! Wait…is it about DIY snickers bars? Or…a trip to Italy? That seems odd. Moving on”
However, let’s say you have well defined categories for your food blog. Google would then look at your site and think:
“Oh, this site has a huge category for paleo food. It must be about that. But there’s also a little bit here on travel, and food while traveling. Great! Got it.”
With categories, little Google bot is going to quickly identify what your site is about, especially what it’s most about, and then will rank you accordingly.
This works the same for humans too.
Searching for the perfect granola
For example, last night I was looking up a recipe for granola. I went to my favorite, tried and true food blog for granola, and searched, you guessed it, “granola”.
Seven pages of results came up. Heavens!
I wasn’t going to sort through all of that!
I would have LOVED it if there had been a category for “granola” and then sub categories for “seasonal granola”, “chocolate granola”, and “paleo granola”.
That would have helped me so much in searching through those hundreds of awesome recipes this food blogger has. And it would have helped her rank, kept people on her site longer, which increases rankings….and on up the SEO spiral it goes.
So, categories matter, big time, and we’re showing you how to use set them up so you can get some of this SEO success on your site too.
This post on WPBeginner does an excellent job of walking you through how to set up parent and child categories (with lots of photos!), so we won’t repeat it all here.
However, here’s what you need to know about setting up categories:
- Make them match your targeted keywords
- If you’ve done an SEO report with us, we give you a curated list of keywords
- Make sure that your categories are in line with these keywords (because that’s what you’re writing about, right?).
- You can do it retroactively
- But if you’re changing categories, then keep in mind that you’re changing the URL of your site also (since the category affects the URL)
- You need to set up 301 redirects, and you can do this automatically with Yoast Premium, or manually yourself. You can do this with a plug-in, but we highly recommend the automatic version so you don’t have to remember it all yourself.
- You can use them to plan your future editorial calendar
Again, Squarespace has an awesome tutorial on how to set up categories, and because it may vary by theme, we won’t repeat it all here. Read that article for the details, but read below for what else you need to know.
With Squarespace you can’t to child categories, so it’s essential that you find the sweet spot between broad and specific with your categories. This will vary by your industry, but we can also talk you through category options if you need more support.
How we do it:
For our clients, we use a tool we LOVE called Dynomapper. This handy tool inventories your site, then creates a beautiful infographic-style site map that shows the entire site map layout, making it easy to understand what’s going on at a glance.
Remember, the goal here is to optimize the category page over specific posts, so that Google finds that page first.
You can do it, we’re cheering you on!
Give it a go, and let us know how it went!
That’s it for today, friends! We’re excited to hear how this goes for you, and if you have questions, send us a note!
Clapping Dog Media Team