Noindex category/archive pages?

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Does anyone have a firm view on this?

I just did it on my site because I figure that as my category/archive pages were never driving any traffic anyway (Google had indexed them, but was showing actual posts in the results for my search terms), I am better off noindexing them. Google will still follow all the links and pass juice.

It also seems that my archive pages would require a ton of additional text if I did want to even try and rank them - and that text would likely just be duplicate (or close enough) to the actual posts themselves, so what's the point?

Thoughts?
 

Ryuzaki

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My view is to leave the first page of any archive indexable. I add quality content to each unique archive's page 1 and then show a lot more posts than I normally would. Instead of 10 or 15, I'll go up to 25-50, depending on the site.

Then I noindex the subsequent "paged" pages while leaving all the links dofollow.

Google understands 99.99% of the time these pages will be duplicate content (images, H1's, and excerpts from the posts) and don't hold it against us (so they say). I play it safe and keep my indexation non-bloated. I don't trust their word to be in exact alignment with what Panda does, not that they're intentionally being misleading.

But yeah, if you think about these archives, they tend to gather the most page rank, being in navigation and being all over the posts if you show categories, authors, and tags. They can rank for some big head terms if you want to massage and coax them into it. I don't bother, but I do spruce them up a bit and let them rank for anything they happen to rank for.
 
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Then I noindex the subsequent "paged" pages while leaving all the links dofollow.
I'd actually forgotten I was previously doing this...

That, combined with your comments and the fact I haven't seen any noticable improvements, plus my higher ranking competitors NOT noindexing has led me to switch indexing back on, but with the noindex of pages 2+...

Code:
<?php if ( is_paged() ) { echo '<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow" />'; } ?>
Edit: I forgot I turned on infinite scroll recently too, the paged code above is redundant :smile:
 
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sorry for hi-jacking this thread, had a relevant question.

my client is in a niche where a lot of the top rankings are category or tag pages. (Stylistically, you can think of this as some of those Pinterest category roundups that you'll see floating all over Google).

They don't have anything particularly special. Just a title/h1 tag with the tag (which is usually an exact match for the keyword) + related tags + 20 results. The pages have no links but rank well because of high DR/DA.

I had them doing something similar to what @Ryuzaki mentioned above already. Added 30-100 words of custom explanatory text about the niche/category/tag at the top of some of the target page. Loading slightly more results than the competitors (not too much more because it slow down load times).

Was wondering if any of you had other ideas on how to make the on-page structure of these pages stronger and more competitive vs. the others. Or things I can study. These types of pages are definitely my focal point for their site.

As of now here's how everything compares to the others
  • They have more text by 10-200 words + more unique text as there is custom written text
  • 0.25s slower load-times --> working on improving this
  • a similar number of "similar links" (~10)
  • less content is shown above the fold because of the custom-written content above the fold. they also made the page structured a bit more like a landing page with a CTA button to signup right below the custom written text (which is right below the title h1)
  • keyword density is fairly similar to others -- but varies a lot as it is a tags/category page

oh and I should note, everything is custom built and they have pretty good programmers, so not confined to modifying wordpress templates, completely custom ideas would be fine
 
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Ryuzaki

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@pluto, your load times can be lowered drastically by caching if you aren't already, and by lazy loading the images. You're not really going for full load time, just rendering something on the page first. You'll want to reduce the time it takes to load any render-blocking files (JS and CSS in the header), by making them smaller (minification) and pre-loading them if you're on HTTPS and have HTTP/2 set up.

Sounds like they're using Wordpress so their theme's CSS, jQuery, and jQuery migrate are all in there. Then there's probably several plugin CSS and JS files too. Anyways, I don't want to get into a speed optimization discussion here.

You can do things like sneak in another header if you can work it out, like:
  • H1 Title
  • Category Description (can include a small image with the right alt text)
  • H2 Header
  • List of Posts
So your H1 might be "Dodge Caravan Category" and you could make the H2 be "47 Dodge Caravan Posts," and drop the titles of the list of posts to H3's if they're headers, or make them not be headers but mimic the H3 CSS.

I think you'll find the main issue is just sitewide link power, like you mentioned. These categories get juice from the header navigation on every page, and he who haseth the most juiceth wins.

You can sneak in more content at the bottom below the pagination if needed but if you do, I'd test that first on just a handful of them. It could get you into a different "intent" category. But if you do it, you'll want to use keywords in the content that illustrate depth.

That's pretty much all I have. Some direct links might help too, of course.