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In our previous post we discussed how you should approach the designing of your marketplace product category structure. Once you have gone through the discovery and validation stages and established a workable category structure, it’s time to take it to the next level.

We’ve analysed a number of successful marketplaces and came up with the following SEO, UX, and Marketing strategies to boost your marketplace category performance.

Make your marketplace product categories more discoverable

Search-optimised category pages can be a major source of traffic for your marketplace platform. You should use them as dedicated landing pages that capture searcher intent for each category. 

Events marketplace Fanpass is a good example of driving lots of traffic with optimised category pages. Their platform has a WordPress CMS integrated with its back-end framework, so that whenever vendors add a new event listing, its details (title, date, image) are immediately added to a content-rich category page created by the site owner. After their implementation, these dynamically updated category pages powered an increase of tens of thousands of new visitors each month.

Tips for search optimising your marketplace category pages

There are some standard aspects of your category pages that can be optimised to drive greater numbers of qualified traffic towards them and your sellers.

Category page titles should be optimised with relevant keywords. This is a major SEO signal, so make sure your keyword research is done properly. That means finding keywords that people are using to search for particular categories.

Use relevant and related keywords in your landing page copy. The more your content correlates with the main topic (i.e. the category) the better search engines will index your page. LSIGraph is a neat tool for this purpose.

Category titles and descriptions should also be accurate, informative and compelling enough that buyers will want to interact with your category pages. Vague descriptions and exotic neologisms will have the opposite effect. Test a category’s click rate with different titles and descriptions to make sure they carry a strong information scent

Category keywords should also be used in H1 heading tags and image ALT tags. If possible, add a field in the seller dashboard so that sellers can add ALT tags to the images they upload themselves.

Your category page URLs should be machine and human readable, with a clear link structure that reflects your parent and child categories. Semantically accurate URLs with relevant category keywords have better click-through rates.

Keep URLs as short as possible for readability by sticking to a maximum of three categories in your link structure. Which URL would you rather click on?

example.com/weddings/catering/vegetarian

or

example.com/products?category=12&pid=25

Make sure that SEO juice flows to your main category pages by appending modifiers (colour, size etc) – created when buyers use attribute filters – as strings, instead of including them in the URL.

By using

example.com//fashion/footwear/sneakers?material=canvas&color=beige

instead of

example.com//fashion/footwear/sneakers/canvas/beige

you can avoid duplicate content and increase the visibility of your sneaker category in search engines.

Well-written blog posts that link to category pages can boost traffic further. Make sure the content is relevant, useful and compelling for best results. Marketplace startups with budget constraints should consider user generated content. Entice some of your top sellers to write blog posts on appropriate categories by dangling the carrot of extra exposure in front of them.

It’s important to avoid vague categories such as ‘other’ or ‘miscellaneous’. That’s right, you guessed it, nobody is searching the interwebs for those keywords. Unfortunately, too many e-commerce websites, including some marketplace platforms, step into this pitfall. Rather create a dedicated subcategory or add to an existing one.

Learn more about technical SEO as a major traffic driver for your online marketplace.

Use marketplace categories to provide a superlative user experience

It’s one thing to attract potential buyers to your marketplace platform, but another thing to help them enjoy the experience so much that they purchase loads of products and services. Paying attention to the user experience design of your marketplace product categories can pay off handsomely in the shape of higher conversion rates. 

Make your marketplace categories more user friendly with these UX design tips

Parent categories should be clickable (and not just text labels) for a better product browsing experience. By linking them to an SEO-optimised landing page you not only promote a better user experience, but also drive traffic to your platform.

Add sections such as ‘recently viewed’, ‘best seller’, ‘on promotion’, ‘recommended for you’ or ‘customers also viewed’ to your category pages. Personalising the shopping experience can be an effective way to increase repeat sales, while highlighting similar and complementary products promotes cross-sales. Amazon is the grand master of this art.

Users get frustrated when they’re not able to find a specific subcategory. Avoid sabotaging usability and conversions by allowing them to search the parent category that best fits their needs. You can achieve this by putting some subcategories in multiple parent categories. There’s no need to create duplicate landing pages; simply link to the same subcategory page from both parent categories. Thus breadcrumb paths would be example.com > office > printer and example.com > electronics > printer.

Create a new or seasonal arrivals category so that return customers don’t have to browse through all of your existing inventory again. It may be worthwhile to add this category to filters instead of the dropdown menu. That way buyers can filter to see the latest arrivals in each subcategory.

Present your category taxonomy in an accessible way so that buyers can easily find parent categories and related products. They should be able to comprehend and negotiate all the products or services on offer no matter where they find themselves in the site hierarchy. 

Category accessibility is very important since a visitor’s first introduction to your site is often after they clicked a link on social media or a search engine and landed deep inside your site. Therefore make sure that your dropdown menus and filters are intuitive and easy to find. Breadcrumbs are another great way to improve navigation and reduce bounce rates.

Remember that customers search for products and services in different ways. Some will browse through category menus till they find the right one to search in. Others know exactly what they want and want to get to the right item pronto. These guys usually have a high buy intent, so keeping them happy with an accurate search feature is paramount.

Optimising your on-site search functionality can be done with customisable search tools like Algolia and Elasticsearch. Custom on-site search engines may cost a bit more, but they will help you avoid blank results by offering related or alternative products in the same category. They also offer autocomplete features that highlight relevant categories and keywords. Don’t forget to make the search box easy to find with a clear call to action in the placeholder text.

Educational marketplace, Udemy, offers users different ways to negotiate the platform’s product categories.

Filters for attributes should be subject to continuous testing to optimise their effectiveness. Use A/B testing to find out how adding new filters or tweaking existing ones affect conversion rates. If you have a lot of values for each attribute it would make sense to use dropdown filters.

Image quality is key to marketplace conversion as the guys at Airbnb discovered. Use high-quality thumbnails for product summaries on category landing pages, but make sure they don’t slow down the page too much. That can be achieved by using image optimisation techniques like resizing for different screen sizes and lazy loading of images. Some large marketplaces invest in dedicated image servers.

Category page product images should fit well into the visual hierarchy, elucidating text elements without being overpowering. Features like quick zoom can add extra value to the buyer’s browsing experience by making it quicker to inspect items.

92% of online consumers will think twice before buying from a site with no reviews and 97% concede that reviews (including the number of reviews) influence their buying decisions. To that end, it makes sense to add the number of reviews and average rating to the product listings on your category pages. It’s good for SEO too!

Airbnb’s category landing pages make it easy to compare the number of reviews and average rating for each listing.

Don’t confuse users with too much clutter on category pages; some features do not add value. Rather kick of with the bare necessities and implement additional features incrementally to make sure they have the desired impact.

Ensure high-quality sellers for popular product categories

Good category management can play a big role in the virtuous cycle of network effects. That’s the positive feedback loop in which high quality sellers attract more customers; which entices more sellers and so on until critical mass is reached.

To do this you need to identify and support the categories that drive the most traffic and/or transactions. That includes making sure your most popular categories have enough high-quality sellers. Without them you will not be able to scale properly. 

Strategies for getting category appropriate sellers include affiliate marketing on niche websites and reaching out to sellers who are selling those category products on their own websites, online business directories, social media or other marketplaces. Targeting sellers who are not online yet can be low hanging fruit, but you will have to hunt them down at trade fairs, physical markets and brick and mortar stores.

Make sure your marketing channels and product categories are synchronised. Your sock sellers are not going to be happy if the platform is flooded with people only looking for shoes.

You can keep both sock and shoe sellers happy by leveraging cross-selling. Achieve that by using transactional data such as repeat purchases, types of products purchased, and purchase intervals to customise promotions. Those promotions can take the form of related products in the same category or complementary products in another category.

Conclusion

The importance of good category management for your marketplace can not be over-emphasised. Your category landing pages are not only traffic drivers, they are the most important advertisement for your marketplace products or services. If they fail to entice buyers to browse or search further you will not be able to deliver the right number of sales to your sellers.

Need help with the design or optimisation of your marketplace categories? You’ve come to the right place. CobbleWeb has helped many markeplace entrepreneurs supercharge their category structure. Get in touch for a free consultation.

Originally published May 20, 2020, updated July 15, 2020