I came across an interesting post recently by David Risley, of Blog Marketing Academy. It was about blog categories.
Hear me out here. I realise the subject of blog categories is not one that many people get excited about. After all, blog categories are just a kind of filing system right? A way of putting your blog posts into a virtual filing cabinet so that there is some semblance of order about the place.
Trouble is, that’s exactly why no-one gets too excited about them.
The problem(s) with blog categories
Blog categories have traditionally been a way for you to organise your blog. Even if you do the right thing and consider your target audience when creating your blog categories, generally you still end up with a list of nouns that struggle to get any traction.
Often the category list sprawls over time and gets a bit unwieldy.
And perhaps most importantly – because you have this nagging feeling that your list of categories doesn’t quite cut it, they get relegated to a blog sidebar. And given that blog sidebars are becoming less of a thing nowadays…
In other words, they’re not particularly useful.
Optimising blog categories for conversion
Take the following list of blog categories:
- Website Planning
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Traffic Conversion
- Speed Optimisation
- Measurement & Analytics
- Website Quick Wins
It’s a list of nouns.
Some of them a pretty vague.
When I write a new post, generally speaking I have to work out which category it will fit in. Often, nothing seems to quite match. So I create a new category – or add the post to multiple categories.
None of this is particularly helpful to the user (or you & me as blog authors for that matter).
Instead, let’s imagine we’re in the user’s shoes. What are they trying to accomplish?
Let’s base our new category list around that:
- Make my next website project a success
- Increase my search rankings
- Convert more traffic into business
- Boost my website’s speed
- Measure website success
- Save time through automation
- Implement website quick wins
Notice the difference?
It’s a lot more meaningful than the first list – it immediately answers the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question that users will inevitably subconsciously be asking when they visit your blog.
Each category is focused around something the user is trying to achieve – an outcome that they’re aiming for. There’s action involved – a verb and a noun, rather than just a noun.
Using your new categories as a marketing tool
One could argue that this is simply an exercise in naming conventions. But as David goes on to point out in his post, suddenly when people scan over your list of blog categories, they now see a list of benefits.
And so we can take this one step further. By creating blog categories that really resonate with our users, it suddenly makes a lot of sense to make them more prominent within our website navigation.
Rather than simply presenting a list of date-ordered posts on your blog page, try including a question such as ‘How can we help?’ or ‘What interests you the most right now?’ – followed by buttons for all – or some – of your optimised blog categories.
Using blog categories to boost conversions
It also suddenly becomes a lot easier to produce targeted resources and lead magnets (i.e. to build an email list).
If someone clicks on the ‘Make my next website project a success’ category, there’s a reasonable chance that they’re looking at building a new website sometime soon.
And that lets you steer that specific user towards content that they will find useful – in their current situation. Lead magnets are the classic example here. Rather than having a generic, site-wide lead magnet for people to sign up to, it now becomes pretty straightforward to create a lead magnet for each blog category. And because they’re targeted at what the user is trying to accomplish, they’ll be a) more useful to the user and therefore b) more effective for building an email list.
No strategy works in every context
This is obviously a sales/marketing-orientated approach – and along with other similar tactics, there are some environments where it won’t sit well.
Take an academic research website for example, where the primary users are scientists who are very familiar with their field. They will likely know what they’re looking for and the terms used to describe that content.
My hunch is that a more traditional blog category list would probably go down better with the users. There is a fine line between being helpful and ‘dumbing down’.
One would also have to bear in mind any SEO implications – ensuring you’re not losing important keywords from your blog category titles.
Of course, it also depends on the feeling and ethos you want to convey – formal vs informal for example.