4 reasons you’re not paying attention to my categories

by Carl Natale on November 8, 2010

I was raised by a middle school librarian. Along with a love of books, she passed along a love for categorization. It seems almost obvious. You put books about the same subjects together.

So when I started blogging, it seemed natural to put posts about the same subjects together. The blog as a library seemed like a very apt metaphor. Surely the blogging gods agreed because they allowed me to put posts on books shelves called categories. Combine categories with tags and I could create mini-guides for just about anything quickly.

But just how useful are categories? I’m going to pull out something that Rich Brooks wrote last year because it mirrors other things I hear:

The importance of categories. I’m not claiming that categories are not important, but as I look at my stats, the most popular category page for the last month was the Entrepreneur and Small Business category, which placed a less-than-stellar 52nd most popular page. It accounted for 38 page views out of 9,640 page views for the month. And although math makes my head hurt, that’s like just shy of .4%, right?

And, of that small sliver, some percentage of those page views are coming from the category tags below each post, not the category navigation. So, it’s an even smaller percentage of visitors who are clicking on those links. Also, all those links are reducing the value of other, more important links on my blog.

Maybe a better approach would be to de-emphasize or even completely remove categories and replace them with a search (which has a smaller footprint anyway.) I could use that space to link to “top” posts, whether by views or blogger decree. Alternatively, put a better call-to-action there, generating more email newsletter signups or traffic to our Web site for conversion.

via Questioning 6 Blogging “Truths” | web marketing for small business: flyte blog.

I’m not interested in ripping them out my blog because that librarian lineage does have some heavy-duty influence. Plus they have some SEO value. But in general, I think we’re approaching the issue from the wrong point of view. So here’s what’s wrong:

Readers don’t look for them

Think about your traffic and bounce rate. Most of your readers are using RSS, social media or newsletters to read a specific blog entry. If you’re good at incorporating calls to action, they will click on something else. As much as I would love for you to read what else I have to say about blogging, I doubt you’re going to click on the link to other blogging posts. You’re here for just this post. You want to move on to that link that your friends sent to you about that other thing.

I don’t make it very accessible

I haven’t made the blogging category – or any other one – very easy to find. There’s a pull down menu on the left under the heading “Learn More About:” I used a pull-down menu because I wanted to make it very economical on the page since you probably won’t click on the link anyway.

Yes, it’s a chicken-or-egg type of problem. How easy is it to find and access your categories.

“Categories” just doesn’t speak to readers

It’s jargon that really doesn’t mean anything to them, and it doesn’t speak to what they’re seeking. So I’m calling the list of categories “Learn More About:” This is a call to action that appeals to people who want to be smarter. And it fits within my theme that you can learn something from my posts.

Maybe you can try something different such as “Table of Contents” or “What I Love.” Do some thinking about why your readers are there and use language that means something to them.

We don’t do enough to promote them

Scroll back to what I wrote about accessibility. I kind of have them hidden. But what if I work on that page that lists all my blogging posts? Add some content that explains what I’m trying to do to help bloggers. Add a compelling photo. Wham. I have a landing page about blogging. Then I can promote that page in e-mails and social media. Put a link in the top navigation to give it importance.

What’s next

  1. I’m going to bring the category listing higher up the page. Maybe make it a list of links not hide them.
  2. Look for the blogging category page to become a landing page and guide for bloggers.
  3. I’m going to create a social media campaign to promote the category.

I will let you know how it’s working as I put it all together. What else do you think I should do?

If you’re going to categorize…

Here are a couple resources to help you create some compelling categories:

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