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I have a shopping site with two kinds of pages: individual product pages and category pages. The category pages contain links to products that fall into a certain category.

The problem is that when searching for a specific product, the category containing a product almost always ranks higher than the product itself:

screenshot

Google seems to take my <meta> descriptions and append onto them the product names, which boosts the position of the category pages far above the actual product page.

Worse yet, Google sometimes hides the individual product page as a duplicate of the category page:

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 182 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.

Is there any way to demote my categories in search rankings? I could just prevent Googlebot from indexing them, but this seems like it would do more harm than good.

  • There's a possibility each item page is crafted with the exact same HTML code with maybe a couple of buttons and an image changed. Google evaluates sites based on text. – Mike May 7 '15 at 19:59
  • I have seen this before where item pages are not tuned as well as they could be and category pages are tuned rather well. This is possibly a left over of the days where landing pages were considered important. I advise better tuning the item pages, see what you get, then de-tune the category pages to get what you expect. – closetnoc May 7 '15 at 20:36
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Us too, Google has pretty much given up on our product pages in lieu of categories instead. Here are a few thoughts on how/why this could happen:

  • Your category descriptions are too good - it's too good of a lander. Most people pimp out the categories and put lesser effort into the product descriptions. Or perhaps the product descriptions are too similar to each other. This is natural considering we are lazy animals and there may be hundreds of products to write desc for. Even if your product descriptions are perfect, they can't "compete" with what I describe below, simply due to the "numbers available compounding effect".

  • Your image alt tags are too good. Many ecom platforms fill in all the alt tags for every product in the list, the subcategories, and any widgets like "popular", "related", or "best-sellers". Since we know Google indexes alt tags, it means there are a TON of keywords stacking up. The 2-5 images on your product page are nothing when compared to the many more found in categories.

  • Google is seeing your list of product titles, noting the well crafted keyword strings, and applying a preference to these lists. Essentially it's a high powered group of SEO optimized strings, right? Combined with the alt tags, that is even more keyword pull. If they are in an <h> tag, it's even more pull. Your single product page title is nothing when compared to the many found in categories.

  • You have product description snippets available in categories page. Do you have a "list or grid view" button on your categories? Does your "list" mode provide snippets of the descriptions for each product? That is even more gold keyword strings in the categories.

  • You used Schema.org markup on the products in the list. Oh man, doubling up on the product titles, descriptions, etc in the category list is only gonna make them more powerhouse. Google used to not accept the Schema list, but times are a-changin.

  • Google understands that there may be pagination, therefore MUCH more content than found on a product page. Its able to traverse the pages and combine them all into a single entity. It may decide that page 3 has the best content one day, and page 1 is better another.

  • Google understands that it can sort, limit, or filter the categories, so like a small child it has to press all the buttons to see what happens. Perhaps there is even a way to "view all". Combined with the rest, this gives Google the ability to find theee most relevant variation of the category. With all the other hard hitting keywords, and this flexibility to "create" a great result, the nail is in the coffin of your product pages :)

So, after all that, the way to make your categories less powerful is to make all the good keyword strings from the products not available in category view. Doing this may decrease your traffic significantly though. Wrong landers are better than no landers. Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to ranking in Google.
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You can add nofollow, noindex and noarchive option to the category pages. For example,

  • Add <meta name="robots" content="nofollow" /> to the meta tag of each of the category pages
  • Add nofollow to category links <a href="category/things" rel="nofollow">Things</a>

This will reduce the page rank of those pages. Read more about nofollow here.

  • It's not a good idea to nofollow your categories. They are too dis-similar to product pages in 99% of situations, and because of it, there is a very high chance that this won't change the rank of a product. Doing this could be compared to "shooting yourself in the foot" and trying to kick a product back into rank with that wounded foot. – dhaupin Jun 8 '15 at 15:15
  • I agree with you. Perhaps this can come handy for such site which has too much category pages ranked over the content of the site. For example, I had a Wordpress blog. Google search revealed the categories in the first several pages and then the articles. – Md. Minhazul Haque Jun 8 '15 at 17:58
  • Agree with you man in certain fringe circumstances. Maybe even then we could "301 mask" it yet category still exists via noindex util cat_id route for shares, serializations, and other widget type things. For the rest there is the canonical pagination rels, and teaching google search console (formally GWT) how to use the parameters. Its better to not go against the grain on this one, if Google is starting to prefer cats/landers, and people are making more, might as well capitalize. – dhaupin Jun 9 '15 at 23:20

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