Custom WordPress Category Pages Plugin

Back in 2013, I worked with a Andy Adams – a top of the line WordPress developer – to create WP Custom Category Pages as a free plugin. The goal was to create useful and SEO friendly WordPress category pages. Historically I recommended using the meta robots noindex tag (though a plugin like yoast) to prevent the indexation of category pages.

The reason for noindexing category pages is that category pages are typically almost entirely duplicate content. If you only have a few WordPress category pages, this probably isn’t a big deal. The pages are probably semi useful for users but don’t help you or hurt you in Google. If you have a large number of category pages (or tag pages), this could be really problematic for you with Google. Google sees this as thin / duplicate pages which can be problematic for Google’s algorithms like Panda and Phantom.

To avoid these pitfalls and to actually turn these pages into pages Google loves and sends traffic to, you really need to create valuable unique content and add it to the page. This is what WordPress Custom Category Pages plugin was created to do. The plugin is pretty basic but it works. Sometimes.

The problem with the plugin is that developers code themes pretty differently. While there are standards for development, there is some flexibility and many developers choose not to follow all standards for things like category pages. This means that while WordPress Custom Category Pages was a great solution to add unique content to category pages on some themes, a lot of themes had compatibility issues.

(aff link)

A Better Solution for Custom WordPress Category Pages

*Note: This section contains affiliate links to Elegant Themes which means I get a small fee if you end up purchasing a product from Elegant Themes. I’m not trying to make a quick buck, but wholeheartedly believe in (and love) Elegant Themes and have personally been a paying customer since 2013. I have used Divi specifically to build out about a dozen sites.

Quite frankly, the plugin isn’t a great solution for two reasons:

  • Compatibility issues beyond our control for a free plugin
  • The plugin is pretty basic – You can add text to the page but it’s a simple solution.

After having created the plugin I came across the Divi theme from Elegant Themes (aff link). It is a paid theme ($89/yr or $249/life) but it allows you to completely customize and build a site exactly as you want it. Divi uses a dead simple drag and drop builder which features more advanced features for experienced users and developers.

Divi let’s you use a drag and drop editor to create just about any page layout and then provides modules which you can use to add functionality to your site. This drag and drop editor can be used to easily create custom category pages for WordPress. I’m going to run through how to easily create a completely customized category page for WordPress with Divi.

How to Make a Custom WordPress Category Page with Divi

To do this, you would already need to have Divi installed. Start by creating a new page in WordPress, and then clicking the big “Use the Divi Builder” button.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

The page will refresh and the Divi Builder will appear, as shown below.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

You can start off by clicking the “Insert Columns” button. Since I want a full width header image, we’re going to click the “Fullwidth Section” link right below the first section.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

Then we’ll click the “Insert Modules” button and select “Fullwidth Header”.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

On the Fullwidth header screen, you can completely customize your header. Let’s start by adding a title and subhead for the page, and centering our text in the middle of the page.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

If we scroll down a little more, we’ll turn on both “make fullscreen” and “show scroll down button”. This will make the header take the entire width of the page and will add an icon to indicate to users that they should scroll down.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

To further customize this category page, I’m going to add a custom header background image and turn on parallax scrolling effect to make the page a little more interesting. To get to these options, just keep scrolling down in the fullwidth header settings.

Use the divi builder to create your wordpress category pages

Ok, now that we have all of our elements in, we’ll click save and exit in the fullwidth header settings box and check out our progress.

Preview the category page

It’s cool that we’ve added these elements, but the text is dark on a dark background, and it’s a little small. Similarly, the scroll down icon is lost in the code. The good news is that we can easily change these without any coding. To do this, we’ll go back to the fullwidth header settings module, and then click on the “Advanced Design Settings” tab. This will allow us to modify the appearance of our elements to create a header for our WordPress Category page that is not only unique but also looks a lot better.

Divi Module Settings
Divi Advanced Design Settings

We’ll start by customizing the color of the title and subhead. Then let’s bold the title and use the slider to make both the title and subhead much larger so that they stand out. We’ll also scroll down a little further and update the color of the scroll down icon to make it stand out more as well.

Divi customize the appearance of text

If we click save and exit, and then hit preview, we can see that our headline and subhead on our WordPress category page stand out a lot more.

Preview Custom WordPress Category Pages

Just by changing the color and size of the text, we made a huge improvement over the previous iteration. The next step in creating a custom category page for WordPress is to add a unique description. We can do this easily by adding a standard text module to the page. Instead of using a single column for this, I’m going to use two columns, one at 1/4 and one at 3/4. I am going to use the first 1/4 to link to my social media accounts and use the other 3/4 for the custom description going on this category page.

2 columns

We can use the Social Media Follow Module to display links to different social media networks in the left 1/4 width column.

Create custom description for wordpress category page in divi
Social Media Module Settings

Now we will be able to use the standard WordPress editor to create a unique description for our WordPress category pages. Typically I recommend adding at least 100 words of non-duplicate, keyword focused text. This is a good starting point for helping search engines understand what your category pages are about.

The next step in creating our WordPress category page is to add in the blog posts. The good news is that this is super easy with a premade Divi module. Simply create a new single column row and select the blog module.

Divi Blog Category Module

Next we’re going to customize the appearance of this module a little bit by changing from the default category list mode to a grid / tiled view. Then we’re going to increase the number of posts shown on a page to 15 and then select the category that we want to be shown on the category page.

Set Divi Blog Module Settings
Set Divi Blog Module Settings

Ok, with these steps complete, we should be ready to hit publish on our completely custom WP category page that is SEO friendly. We only have one step left now – that is to deal with the duplicate content stemming from creating a duplicate of our category page. There are a couple ways we can deal with this. The first is to simply noindex the original category page. The second is to use the canonical tag to point the original category page to the custom category page. I prefer the canonical tag solution as it allows us to funnel the link equity generated from the automatic internal linking structures pointing to category pages back the the custom category page we created. If we use the noindex command, this equity serves no value and doesn’t help us drive SEO traffic. Either solution can be implemented via the Yoast SEO Plugin. To add the canonical tag, you will need to go to posts in your wordpress admin menu and select categories. From your list of categories select the specific category to edit. Then simply scroll down, click the gear icon, and set the canonical to URL of the custom category page you just created and then hit update.

Set Canonical Tag on WordPress Category Pages

Now you should be good to go with a completely customized WordPress category page. While this is more involved than the plugins I created, it is a much better solution that gives you a lot more control over the page. You can check out the live version of the custom category page we just created and the default one here. Good luck!

geoff kenyon

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