Google Analyst, John Mueller’s Thoughts on How to Rank Category Pages

Do you want to rank your category page instead of the product page for a keyword? Do you feel that Google is not picking up the right page of your website? If yes, then dig out what John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, thinks why Google prefers your specific product page rather than the category page, what makes a negative impact on its ranking and what you can do so that it gets preference over specific product pages.Let’s explore what you should actually know about how to rank a category page.

Preference of Product Page and Category Page 

There are a couple of factors that play a big role in deciding which page should rank.

  • User Intent
  • Keyword Stuffing

User Intent has the power to affect your page ranking

We know that ranking is affected by the way Google’s Algorithm works. It is getting smarter with time and more intuitive in understanding what users want rather than focusing on what publishers and businesses want. So, when a user enters a general keyword phrase in the Google search query box, it may understand that a certain percentage of users are interested in a specific product. So, in this case, your product page might be the right thing to show the users.

Though the best outcome would be to display both pages, the product page and the category page, the reason a specific page is ranked might be the reflection of what users want.

Keyword Stuffing (a.k.a. Term Spamming) Makes Your Page Untrustworthy

Another reason that John Mueller suggests is “keyword stuffing” on the category page. Using too many keywords on a page can make a negative impact. Excessive keyword usage reduces the trustworthiness of a page and therefore, affects its ability to rank on Google search engine.

E-commerce sites often struggle with this kind of problem because they go overboard when it comes to using keywords. They use desirable keywords over and over again on the category page. When Google notices such overuse of keywords on a particular page, it thinks that something fishy is going on and therefore, it should be cautious in displaying it.

It prefers to show pages that have good content and in which publishers don’t go too far to stuff keywords unnecessarily. So, he recommends using keywords in moderation and delivering good, informational, and useful content.

Top Two Ways to Rank Your Category Page

  • Ensure Your Category Page is Well-linked Internally 

Undoubtedly, category pages are useful for online users and for ranking, especially for general two-word keyword phrases. According to John Mueller, you should ensure that the internal linking of your category page within the website is correctly done. If there are several products of the same or related category on your website, then those product pages should be linked to that category page. This will help Google understand that this category page is actually important for users.

Avoid poor navigational structure as it keeps users and bots from reaching the pages you want them to find for a general keyword phrase. Less than optimal site architecture most often leads to the addition of unnecessary one or two clicks for reaching a category page. So, you should work on optimizing the navigation of your website.

  • Build Links (Not Artificially) to Rank a Category Page

When it comes to building links for category as well as home page, John Mueller is somewhat reserved. Although he agrees that links can help a category page rank in Google, he does not support building artificial links.

According to Google’s point of view, “backlinks from other websites are something that would evolve naturally over time”. So, you can infer what Google is trying to convey about speed and pace of link building. Creating backlinks to a page artificially without appropriate purpose is what you need to avoid.

What SEO Teams and Businesses Need to Understand

“Fixing the rank of a category page is a long-term project.”

John Mueller advises that fixing the ranking issue of a category page should be viewed as a long-term project. It is not a quick-fix. No doubt that some changes to a page can change the ranking within a few days but it is best to consider this issue as a long-term project because Google’s algorithms take some time in adjustments.

Find a way so that when users land on a product page, they realize that there’s actually a category page that would be more useful to them. For that, you can add a small banner or some visual element. This way they can easily find their way to a category page. In the meantime, you can develop a solution and improve your navigational structure or category page itself.

Key Takeaway Points for Ranking Category Pages

Here are key takeaway points for you:

  • Optimize your website’s navigation structure to ensure that your category page is well-linked within your website.
  • No keyword spamming! Using too many keywords in a category page may cause Google to take your page with caution.
  • Building links is a good approach but should not be practiced for creating inbound links artificially.
  • Adjust your product page in a way that users can easily find the category page.

This is what John Mueller thinks and advises when people question why their category pages don’t rank and product pages do. If you are one of them, apply the aforementioned approaches and see what impact they create on your category page’s ranking.

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Dhirendra Kumar

Dhirendra Pandey is the Co-Founder & CEO of Media Search Group. He has been working in the Digital Marketing industry more than 10+years.