Maybe it’s because so many SEOs spent their formative years being picked on and shoved into walls, I’m not sure, but we seem to have a penchant for killing things. Or at least calling them dead.
We killed guest blogging
We killed links
We killed link building
We killed keywords
And, of course, SEO itself has been killed numerous times, leaving poor Danny Sullivan to bring it back to life in one of his many blog outlets.
The latest victim of SEO killing? The harmless blog category.
In an article for MarketingLand, Ric Dragon advises, “Content Marketers, Kill the Blog Category.” The argument for committing such an atrocity is said to be due to a shift in how people consume content. The increased focus on content marketing has fundamentally changed the type of content publishers (and we are all publishers) are creating. We’re not building strictly resource-based sites with quick content articles anymore. We’re developing substantial, deeper, investment content. We’re spending weeks, if not months, creating content that informs and moves and entertains.
With that shift, is it time to forego traditional blog categories?
I can appreciate where Ric is coming from. In his post, he mentions Distilled (and quotes Will Critchlow) as an example of a brand that is at least reevaluating whether or not blog categories make sense for their end goal. Will’s team found that visitors weren’t using category pages as entry points into the Distilled site. His team is also investing in bigger content pieces (see: Brandopolis) which exist outside of the traditional blog category structure.
Well, I have a couple. I’d appreciate it if you looked surprised.
Blog categories make great landing pages
I know it’s cool to pronounce things dead but I think blog categories still serve a great purpose for sites that choose to utilize them.
In Ric’s post, Will is quoted as saying they are reevaluating blog categories pages after finding they weren’t serving as entry points for their users [emphasis mine]. And that’s a really fair assessment. If they’re not working for you, don’t use them. If you don’t want them to work for you, don’t use them. It’s that easy. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready to declare them dead.
Also, before you run to check your analytics to see if your blog category pages are (or aren’t) working – consider whether or not you’ve tried to make them work or do they just exist on your site? If it’s the latter, then it’s probably not surprising no one is landing them. It’s the same as any piece of content you hide on your site and don’t promote. You don’t need Google Analytics to show you the tumbleweeds.
I have personally experienced great success using blog category pages as topic-level landing pages. We’re able to turn a simple category page into a subject hub that informs the user, builds links, has constantly updated content and can be used as a resource for someone else. We’ve achieved rankings this way, we’ve created unconventional resources this way and we’ve earned visibility for things our clients may not have had otherwise. Frankly, many of the brands we work with are TRYING to build easy resources on their site and blog category pages work just dandy for that.
A properly optimized category page can answer common questions, link people to resources, introduce your brand and your voice, and even push people further into your conversion funnel. It’s a tool. Just like every other page on your website.
But if you haven’t tried to category pages, they’re likely not performing for you. And that’s okay. But it’s not the page. It’s the lack of marketing of the page.
Blog categories are dying of semantics.
You know what’s as dead as blog categories are supposedly are? Keywords. We killed keywords. Now we have topics and content theming.
So don’t call them categories. Call them topics. And treat them like topics.
If you’re a blog or a website covering a range of different subjects, it makes sense to have that content broken out this way. It makes sense for your own architecture, it makes sense for users and it helps to make sense of things for Google.
For example, at Overit we cover a range of topics because we offer a range of services and our audience is as interested in SEO/PPC as they are in motion graphics as they are in content marketing. If we only wrote about SEO would we still need to associate different topics? Maybe, maybe not. But let your audience and your site needs dictate that.
But consider it – if you looked at blog categories as subject matter topics, do they still seem so irrelevant?
Blog categories make great breadcrumb sitelinks.
Blog category pages can also make for great breadcrumb sitelinks, again increasing your visibility for key search terms and dropping a user on a page that is written to educate and bring them into your conversion funnel. This is one reason why we take such great care in deciding upon blog categories in the first place. It is always something discussed between our content, SEO and development teams, whether we’re working on a blog audit or we’re building a blog into a new website.
Speaking of building blogs – if you do want your category pages to stand on their own, make sure you haven’t accidentally noindex/nofollow’d your blog category pages either via plugin or another means. If you’re not getting any traffic from them, uh, that may be the culprit.
They’re still good for organization.
Maybe I’ve been hanging out with our development team for too long, but even if you forego blog categories as a navigational tool, they’re still a really great way to organize content in a way that makes sense for readers and helps them to find what they want. Because, you know, what? Sometimes I do want to sit and snack on your latest ten posts on content strategy before reading everything you’ve ever written on conversion optimization. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the truth.
Or, even if I don’t want to consume an entire silo of content, I still want to know where I am on your site. Categories, or topics, help to tell me that.
We should stop killing things.
Here’s the best thing of all – you can have both. You can produce big, heavy, deep content and still use categories as a way to organize that content. You can invest in content that moves people, and still give it a traditional, category-based home.
Nothing has to die. So why kill it?
I’ll end this with a disclaimer – Don’t listen to me, don’t listen to Ric and don’t listen to anyone else. As always, you should look at your own data and make decisions based on how your own site (or your own client sites) are performing. Dig into Google Webmaster Tools for yourself and see what’s going on. And if you haven’t tried to leverage blog category pages as well, maybe now is the time to give it a try since everyone else is calling them dead.