Some really good questions regarding category SEO, unfortunately there’s no simple no more than X categories answer, depends on the site and how much effort you are willing to put it.
Since we had our earlier discussions regarding tags and categories Stallion Responsive has improved regarding Category SEO. Go to “Posts” >> “Edit Categories” and edit one of your current categories and you’ll find the “Google Panda Buster Settings”.
SEO Category/Tag Description : Adds some content at the top of the category.
Google Panda Buster Keyphrase 1
Google Panda Buster Keyphrase 2
Google Panda Buster Keyphrase 3
Google Panda Buster Keyphrase 4
The 4 keyphrases and the Category Name is used when a category has enough posts to be paginated. My Responsive tutorial series is the best example on this site because it includes 38 posts. Most of my categories have under 20 posts each.
Currently doing some category SEO testing and have decreased the number of articles on a category page from the default 10 to 5 “Settings” >> “Reading” : “Blog pages show at most” = “5” (not suggesting others try this). Made this change so more categories break into multiple paginated pages, a category with 20 posts will paginate over 4 pages with the “Blog pages show at most” set to 5. So made this change so I can SEO test the feature better.
If you go to the Responsive Tutorial category and browse through the paginated archives you’ll find the title tags change, they use the Google Panda Buster Keyphrases.
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/ = Stallion Responsive Tutorials (Category Name)
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/page/2/ = WordPress SEO Package Tutorials (Keyphrase 1)
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/page/3/ = SEO Package Tutorials (Keyphrase 2)
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/page/4/ = WordPress SEO Package Guides (Keyphrase 3)
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/page/5/ = WordPress SEO Package Tutorial (Keyphrase 4)
After page 5 it repeats
https://stallion-theme.co.uk/responsive/stallion-responsive-tutorials/page/6/ = Stallion Responsive Tutorials (Category Name)
What this means is if your categories paginate over 5 pages as long as you’ve set the Google Panda Buster Keyphrases you have 5 webpages with unique enough content targeting 5 different phrases. After page 5 it repeats so no benefit to having page 6, 7, 8…
This is the same SEO feature you see with WordPress posts that have enough comments to paginate, Stallion uses the keyphrases from the posts for the title tags. With paginated posts (posts with lots of comments) I’m seeing SERPs from the paginated comment pages, they aren’t as easy to rank as the main post (page 2 won’t have many internal links), but they do rank. I expect the same results with paginated categories where the keyphrases are set.
The question is how to use this effectively if you use it at all. Depends on the site :-)
If we average 25 posts per category and use the settings above we can maximise potential SERPs from category archives.
If we average 50 posts per category and set “Blog pages show at most” to “10” again we can maximise potential SERPs.
I’ve always advised to try to minimize how deep a category paginates because the posts on page 2+ of a category aren’t going to get a great deal of link benefit from the category archive links.
So we have two competing SEO concepts. Keep the category pagination to as few pages as possible to maximise link benefit flowing to posts and paginate up to page 5 of a category to maximise potential category SERPs. One of the reasons I’m doing an SEO category test, to see what happens.
I’m still tending towards keeping paginated categories to a minimum (link benefit flow is very important), but if you can’t create enough categories to mimimize pagination at least the first 5 paginated categories can gain SERPs in their own right.
With a small site where there tends to be no or few paginated category pages you can see the above SEO category feature doesn’t add much to a site. For a large site where you have no choice but to add dozens of posts in a category, could add new traffic.
I would try to avoid categories with 50+ posts, based on this with 1,400 posts you’d be looking at around 30 categories.
How to silo the categories links depends a lot on what they are called. Your current 14 categories are tightly niches around the keyword Amish, only two lack the word Amish.
If the entire site are pretty much targeting Amish SERPs there is the argument the category links help the vast majority of your 1,400 posts. Read what I wrote about why I don’t have a sitewide categories widget on this site on the SEO silo article. The anchor text of the categories link cause SEO damage to each distinct set of niches targeted under this domain. I don’t want a link to a category with anchor text “Product Reviews” on posts about “WordPress SEO Themes”, different niches.
If all your niches are related to Amish, you can see a category link with anchor text “Amish Food” helps your posts about “Amish Furniture”. So for you there is the argument for a sitewide category widget, but if you follow my advice about adding more categories you’ll have them all sitewide.
On this site because the category widget does have a variety of anchor text (different niches) I’ve used the display widget options to not load it on posts, this means for this site the anchor text on individual posts tend to be better targets to that page.
You should look at some of your posts and see what the anchor text (all of it) says about each webpage, does it generally support your posts? Will posts be better/worse optimized if you remove the category links anchor text?
If you find you would have better optimized anchor text for each post if the category widget wasn’t loaded on posts, do what I’ve done and load the category widget on archives, home page and whatever pages makes sense. When I’ve looked at posts at amishamerica.com some aren’t optimized very well when I look at the title tags.
Look at the current posts at amishamerica.com/category/pennsylvania-dutch/
These aren’t good title tags:
The (Mostly) Finished School
Building a New School (9 Photos)
Bench Wagon Graffiti
Putting Days Gone By to Good Use
They aren’t targeting Amish SERPs, in isolation you wouldn’t know “Building a New School (9 Photos)” is really about “Building a New Amish School Photos”.
You might find because of posts like these the category links which do include the Amish keywords helps these poorly SEO’d posts, adds relevance.
I would keep the category link in the meta date area, it should be relevant to the post and adds a link to the category.
On tags I’d convert the ones with traffic to categories and delete any with no traffic, but manually 301 redirect them to the most relevant webpage on the site.
If this was my site I’d probably work on breaking the content over around 50 categories (about 30 posts a category: I’d aim for between 20 and 50 posts per category).
With 50 categories I wouldn’t want a sitewide category widget. I’d do what I’ve done on this site, load the category widget (I’d use the tagcloud widget) on the home page, all archives and some static Pages. I’d very slowly work through the site improving title tags etc…
if you don’t mind extra work you could drop the categories widget and manually build multiple custom Text widgets with links to sets of categories. Let’s say you have 50 categories and you could break the 50 roughly into a few niches: (making these up) Amish geographical locations, Amish jobs/work sort of stuff, Amish products, Amish beliefs… I’m sure you get the idea. You could build manual links (in a text widget) that only links to a particular set of categories, you might have 15 categories for the location set, so you would have a text widget with only those 15 category links. You could then use the widget display feature to load the text widget only on the 15 location categories.
This would better silo SEO your category links, it would be up to you if you also loaded the location categories text widget on the individual posts within those categories.
It’s more work, but would mean you could add 100 categories and not have 100 category links one every page of the site.
Would make for a nice silo SEO feature to have a category widget which you can select which categories to load via tick boxes rather than making manual text widgets.
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