WordPress Category Pages

I’m not a huge fan of most WordPress category pages. They tend to be duplicate content or thin/template content. On top of that, a lot of people use them really badly (such as bloggers who make up new categories every time they write a post). The result of this is typically a lot of really thin pages on your site. If it gets too out of hand, you can end up playing with this guy:

WordPress Category Pages & Panda

Typically, my suggestion is to noindex these pages so you don’t have low quality pages creating problems for you.

This can be a wasted opportunity though. Category pages could be great landing pages if:

  • You use consistent categorization for your posts
  • You add unique content to your pages
  • Don’t display snippets from posts
  • Make it easier for users to find posts
Some themes such as Thesis support this, but the majority do not. I wanted to make it easy for everyone to add content to their category pages and have created a plugin to do so: WP Custom Category Pages Plugin.

This plugin will help you by:

  • Making it super easy to add unique content
  • Enabling you to give each category a custom headline/H1 tag
  • Allowing you to optimize your page title
  • Removing duplicate content from your category pages
  • Reducing the amount of pagination, and increasing the amount of link equity passed to pages
Below is a screenshot of the category page editor:

WP Custom Category Pages - Screen Shot

A few things to note:

The plugin is a work in progress–think of it like a minimum viable product. It’s not perfect, but at this point, I think the benefits are significant enough to release it.

Note: The title tag doesn’t work with themes that aren’t properly coded. Further, sidebars aren’t currently shown as they tended to display poorly with many themes. If the community likes the plugin and wants to get behind it, I’ll work on adding these elements into the plugin.

I’d love it if you could give it a spin, let me know what you think.

Official Plugin Page | WP Download Page

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon is a senior consultant at Distilled where he leads the strategy and execution of online marketing strategies to drive traffic and revenue for his clients.  Geoffh264 // Geoff joined Distilled in 2010 after working in-house and...   read more

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25 Comments

  1. HI Geoff,

    Thanks for taking time to create this great looking plugin it always amazes me how many people in the WordPress community create free plugins.

    Who says the world is a bad place?

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  2. Davor Bomestar

    This is really an awesome idea. When I find some free time I will definitely test it. I always wanted to find someone to code me such plugin but I guess I never got to it.

    Category pages on WP were always a bit problematic so this can make huge difference.

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  3. Sounds good. Will it play nicely with Yoast's Wordpress SEO Plugin?

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  4. I can't stand it when WP categories are abused! I don't think the majority of people realise that categories are there to organise your content and not much more.

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  5. I like the potential of this plugin and I agree that category pages are often wasted opportunities. However, from what you've described it seems you can accomplish the same things with the WordPress SEO plugin and Allow HTML in Category Descriptions plugin (admittedly your WYSIWYG editor is perhaps better for some folks).

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    • I think it depends on the theme though - some themes won't display the category descriptions. I tried this originally to put content on a couple of my sites and it didn't work.

  6. So I wonder what it is you are suggesting here as best practice. My theme has snippets on the home page, a page for each post, and category pages which list all related posts sequentially. This creates a duplicate content nightmare. What is your thought on a 'best practice' for using noindex. In other words, which page do you want to be indexed? The home page is obviously diluted heavily, making that hard to rank for a given KW. The post page is generally pretty thin, but KW rich. The category page is again diluted.

    Would love to know your thoughts on that.

    Jared

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  7. Hi Geoff,

    Great post and very relevant to the inherent issues with content within a CMS. I love this idea and it appears that from your description, it will tackle some of the issues overall. We'll give the plugin a go over here and give you any feedback we can.

    In regards to category descriptions, I believe you're correct in the theme restrictions. That said, often times those restrictions can be overcome via custom functions, template overrides, etc. But, for those who'd rather not deal with that, this seems like it would be a great solutions.

    Cheers,

    Kyle

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  8. Geoff, this is awesome!
    I do this manually with my category pages right now but on my next fresh WP install I'm definitely going to try this. I think it's a good idea and could be expanded upon further with more options, maybe a video for the bottom of the page or something. RSS feeds per category, links to subcategories etc.

    Category pages are such a wasted opportunity for most. Lots of ways to make them truly helpful as opposed to "a list of recent posts about X".

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  9. Ouch. I just spent an hour filling the "Archive Intro Text" for my categories and despite showing up just fine at first, I just rechecked to copy-paste everything to an Evernote archive and had the unpleasant surprise to find nothing but blank text boxes. Damn!

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  10. This is exactly what I needed for one of my blog. The theme I use do not display the category description and it is quite a problem when wanting to display unique content. Thanks for creating this very useful plugin Geoff, I'm gonna go and use it right this moment.

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  11. Cool, thanks Geoff! Can't wait to try this out.

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  12. Geoff, what an awesome plugin! This is a great opportunity to turn a thin, boring category page into a true landing page. The possibilities are endless!

    Thanks for taking the time to create the plugin.

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  13. Great post, and great plugin/contribution as well! Would you agree that a lot of this information is also true for tag pages? I know for me I am pretty consistent with categorizing my pages but with tags I am pretty reckless!

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    • Hi Patrick - I believe this information and way of thinking does indeed apply to tags as well. In WP, "tag" archive pages and "category" archive pages use the same structure. The only difference is the term "tag" or "category" in the URL. And the pages are created the same way so I believe Google treats them similarly.

  14. Now I have to make sure I'm not creating too many categories. I sure don't want to mess with the panda. I've had the tendency to create too many categories and not give any thought to it. I'll probably start scaling back.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Never thought it could get me penalized.

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  15. Great work Geoff, I do a lot of SEO on Wordpress so this is extremely helpful. The category pages have always been a bit of a mystery if they help or not, and I'm glad this plugin provides clarity.

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  16. Fernando

    Good plugin, but it does not keep the style of the theme...

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  17. It is possible to use the category pages in an optimum way to attract traffic. The plugin is a nice handy tool, however the option for creating unique content in cetagory pages is already available in Thesis Word Press Theme

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  18. This is e good idea, the WP plugin family now is plus big.

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  19. I agree that category pages (and tag pages) might be considered duplicate or thin content if all they do is list posts and snippets. But I wonder if anyone has tested this? And I wonder how much unique content the category page would need to avoid the duplicate/thin content issue? Is a simple descriptive paragraph enough?

    A final question, how much does the page type mix affect it? (Meaning the ratio of category/tag pages to the total number of pages.)

    Would love to hear people's thoughts? Thanks!

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  20. Hi!
    I really like the sound of this plug-in but I don't get it to work :(

    I'm using the standard theme for WP (2012). I assume it is properly coded, or?
    I installed and activated the plug-in. I say Yes, I want to use the Custom Category Page. And nothing shows up when I select the category on a post that is connected to it.
    Any ideas of what I'm missing here?

    /Cecilia

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