To Index or Not to Index Category and Tag Pages

2 min read

There needs to beisn’t a definitive standard for structuring content on your website, whether it includes product listings, detailed product pages, blog entries, or images. Nonetheless, one common feature most content management systems (CMS) provide is the inclusion of SEO category pages and tags.

Broad category pages (such as men’s shirts and women’s shoes) and more specific tag pages (like white shirts, black jeans, etc.) can assist in establishing a coherent organizational structure. However, despite their utility, an excessive number of category and tag pages could potentially pose challenges.

Specifically, they can impact the performance of search engine optimization (SEO).


The Pitfalls of Unnecessary Category and Tag Pages in SEO


Many issues surrounding category and tag-style pages and their effect on SEO performance primarily revolve around two key problems:

  1. Ranking conflicts
  2. Crawl depth/index bloat issues


Concerning the first issue of ranking conflicts, unnecessary category and tag pages may inadvertently cannibalize relevant content on your website. This results in internal pages competing for the same traffic. In the case of the second issue, crawl/index bloat problems, it’s essential to comprehend the nature of a search engine crawl bot and its functionality.

A search engine crawl bot, also known as a crawler or web spider, is a software program designed to traverse the World Wide Web, compiling a list of active URLs. These crawled pages are subsequently indexed by search engines, making them potentially visible in search results.

Given the dynamic nature of the internet, the number of active pages continually fluctuates. But how does a crawl bot determine which pages to traverse? Initially, it begins crawling and may discover additional URLs through internal links embedded within the crawled pages, subsequently traversing those pages as well.

However, due to the vastness of the web, crawl bots cannot feasibly explore every single page on a website. Consequently, they prioritize crawling pages deemed most significant.

This prioritization poses a problem for websites with many irrelevant pages, including category and tag pages. Such pages contribute to “crawl bloat,” where the crawl bot expends resources exploring unnecessary pages. Consequently, this adversely affects the website’s crawl budget, overlooking genuinely relevant pages.


Navigating the Decision to Index or Noindex Pages


Determining whether to index or noindex pages on your website is a nuanced SEO strategy, contingent on various factors.

So, how do you discern when to index or noindex pages?

Indexed pages should offer substantial value to users, serving as content you want search engines to include in their listings for user discovery.

The primary rationale for noindexing a page arises when there’s a risk of content cannibalization. This occurs when the page’s content or URL closely mirrors that of a priority page on your site, diverting traffic from the priority page.

Another scenario warranting noindexing is for pages not intended for public promotion. Examples include targeted landing pages linked to email newsletters, login portals for customers with active accounts, staging environments, and password-protected pages.


Concluding Thoughts: Optimizing Content Organization


Websites, categories, and tags serve as valuable tools in content organization. However, caution is warranted against excessive indexing of category and tag pages.

This is where the noindex tag emerges as a crucial tool.

By applying the noindex tag to unnecessary category and tag pages, you mitigate the risks associated with content cannibalization and curb crawl bloat issues. This optimization enhances your website’s performance and fosters a more user-friendly experience by eliminating redundant content.

If navigating these complexities proves daunting, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages, where our experts can provide invaluable assistance in optimizing your website’s performance.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]