You Are Using Blog Categories Wrong

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How To Turn Them Into Content Marketing Power Tools

The lowly blog category. Do you only see it as an afterthought when you write a post? Do you have too many or do you assign too many to each article? Do you consider categories as a subject matter index? Or even a microsite navigation for buyers? If you don’t, you are short changing your marketing, sales, and customer success teams.

Categories offer instant access to very specific content subject matter

Think about the nature of a category. When you assign a category to an article, you make that article far more accessible to a visitor seeking specific information about a product or service. But there is more to their utility than that. When a reader selects a category, the content management system behind your website and blog serves up all the articles on that subject, in one place.

If properly configured, each article will display as a title followed by a snippet of text from the beginning of the article. This is why the first paragraph of any blog post should briefly describe what the post is about. It is written to display as a snippet on the category page and within search results.

The category page gives your visitor, with specific information requirements, at that point in time, easy scannable access to all related content. Within WordPress you can assign categories to more than blog posts. Pages can have categories and with a little anchor link magic you can categorize information within a page, useful for single page site designs.

The power of this is magnified when you create category navigation that is clear and well-organized on your blog home page. Don’t clutter it up with other sidebar items and limit the number of categories. I’m not fond of sub-categories because they clutter up the navigation.

Remember: when a visitor returns to your site after they first find you, they are very likely to be seeking the answer to a specific question, not a general overview of everything. Categories can point them to the answers they need.

Use keyphrases to determine categories

All too often categories are created after content is created, typically by a blogger who may or may not be a content marketing expert. This is, frankly, ass-backwards but fortunately there are powerful keyphrase discovery tools to help you determine the correct category names.

Your keyphrase collection tells you what people are looking for. It is literally what people type into search engines. The common tools not only provide the most popular phrases, they give you counts for how often that phrase is searched. Build your categories around your most popular phrases and then build your content library around those categories.

Category links make it super simple to share targeted content

The most obvious and possibly least understood benefit of categories is that they are links. And links are super easy to share in emails, on Slack, via text, etc. If a buyer is highlighting a feature for family members, buying teams, or co-workers, encourage them to share a link to all of your related content.

Are you putting articles in your CRM for salespeople to share? Use categories

Building on the previous point, use categories to organize the content you put in your salespeople’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Instead of flooding the CRM with individual content items for sales to use for information requests, give them links to categories dedicated to content aimed at buyer research. You can create a content set that covers all the FAQ customers ask. Real information is more valuable than canned sales pitches or PDF brochures and sell sheets.

Use categories to build knowledge bases and helpdesk content

Technical and customer support content is more credible as marketing materials than much of the lightweight content out there. Common topics should be repurposed as blog content and then organized with categories and used to create ad hoc knowledge bases.

Ten sales and marketing uses for categories

  1. Instant subject matter brochure. Each category page can serve as a product feature page.
  2. Notes file with category links for all salespeople. Share a file with links to all the categories for quick reference by sales and customer success teams.
  3. Create hidden subject matter micro sites within your main site. Pick a custom parent category (not publicly visible), assign relevant categories to it, and you’ve created a microsite you can point people to. It might be a product page that features only content about that product, its reviews, features, benefits, etc.
  4. Reconfigurable landing pages for search ads targeting keyphrases. A category page can serve as a landing page for searchers seeking specific information from search results. Use the category link in your search ads.
  5. Add a link to the category page at the end of each article in a category or after website copy addressing a feature or benefit . A call to action sentence that reads ‘For all our content related to this subject Click Here’.
  6. Create a reputation microsite featuring articles, case studies, testimonials, and social proof organized with a category. Reputation is a very strong marketing tool. Use a category page to aggregate all of your social proof in one place. Keep it updated!
  7. Create newsletters specific to category content. Use marketing automation software like Hubspot to create a weekly or monthly subject matter newsletter with automated sending.
  8. Set up signup forms for ‘More Content Like This In Your Inbox’
  9. Track category page traffic to determine trends or interests you can expand on
  10. Use categories to onboard new hires on subject matter areas.

Start by editing and reassigning all your categories across all your content

There’s work to be done. You need to do keyphrase research to determine categories, set up the new ones and delete the old, and assign the new categories to all your existing content. Keep the categories simple and top level- do not use categories for granular content. That is what tags are for.

Redesign your category pages to clearly display titles and snippets. If featured images are important, include them but only if the content is more technical- do not show images unless they reinforce the content. Too many blog ‘featured images’ are purely design elements. This is fine on their individual post pages but not on the category page, because you want this page to be easily scanned.

Rewrite all opening paragraphs as snippets that sum up the content in the piece. This is a content best practice because of search results. People skim online, they seldom read. Keep them brief and understand how many characters your category page (and Google) display, then make sure the most important information fits within that character count.

Creating content without context, searchability, and organization is costing you money

When you are under pressure to create a steady flow of content, it is easy for that content to get off topic, be too lightweight, and get disorganized. The temptation to add many categories and subcategories not only dilutes the value of your content, it confuses visitors who are seeking specific answers to specific questions. Make it easy and group together related content with categories.

Like any content tools, category usage should be designed to optimize their usefulness and there should be hard and fast guidelines for their usage. Properly utilized, they can be powerful tools to add to your content marketing arsenal.

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