By default, most WordPress themes come out of the gate with really boring Category and Tag pages. Most of the time they are just bland lists of posts in temporal order.
Over at PopCrunch, thanks to the prodding of my good friend Ahmed Bilal, I’ve decided to spice up the category pages a bit to make them look more professional and presentable (yes, Ahmed, the new site design is coming soon;-)
So some of my friends noticed that the category pages over at PopCrunch were ranking for very popular search terms like “Britney Spears” but that the page that visitors were presented with was butt ugly and completely non-sticky. In other words, people might find the page, but there was nothing captivating about it at all to make people stay.
So the first step in my adventure was to prettify the page a bit. To do this, I downloaded the Category Icons plugin for WordPress. Category Icons allows you to associate a unique image with each of your WordPress categories. By placing a little snippet of code on your category.php theme file, you can then have a big, bold image come up that will make your category pages look better than 90% of the category pages out there.
But I wanted to do more than add a simple image. While an image ads visual impact, my vision for each major category was to create something like an “expert hub” – to give visitors something more than a list of articles.
So the next thing I did was use the category description field for some of my major categories to write up a few descriptive (and hopefully witty) paragraphs about the category topic. I then displayed this descriptive paragraph at the top of my category pages. In addition to create unique editorial content, this step also introduces permanent, static content which helps stabilize the indexing of the category page in the search index. Dual benefit. Two birds with one stone.
But I didn’t want to stop with just a picture and a short editorial bit. The next step I took was to link to the three best articles on PopCrunch about the category topic. By doing this I help the reader find the most interesting content first. There are several options here. I personally chose to go the manual edit route. However, you could easily use the Popularity Contest plugin and have an algorithm decide your best content.
So far, that’s all I’ve done to improve my category pages. And so far, I’m very happy with the results. You can see an example of how things are going at the Britney Spears Category page.