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I'm creating a "directory" website that has many pages, each belongs to a category and a sub-category.

I have category pages that will list all the pages that belong to the categories.

Example:

example.com/categories/blue-widgets/

Will show user all blue widgets (100 items - each links to specific page)

example.com/categories/blue-widgets/blue-mixed-with-red/

Will show user all blue mixed with red widgets (similarly, 20 items).

This is supposed to be good also for SEO, to make the first level accessible to the crawler too.

But under this logic, I also have to make example.com/categories/ accessible, and I don't want to show all 1000+ items in this page, because it's too much, and not useful for users.

So I thought maybe displaying in this page only the categories and sub categories, but this is exactly what I plan to do on the homepage, so I think it might be silly and wrong-SEO wise to have this kind of duplicate.

If I make a 302 redirect from categories to the homepage, that also doesn't feel right.

So, what is your suggestion, SEO/Content/UX wise? It's important to note my main concern about this page is more in the SEO perespective.

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I have a few questions:
How are users to discover the various categories of your product? What do I do as a user if I want to just explore the different categories apart from blue-widgets? How do I even know what categories you have? Is that a valid use case?

If it isn't and having example.com/categories/ as a separate page doesn't make sense to you, you should probably just remove it. Sticking to a design to the dot won't make sense if there is no purpose to the design. However, I, as a novice user of your product would expect something on the categories page. So maybe, instead of redirecting, you could provide the user with some message as to why the page isn't available or what the next steps are that the user could take to get to the right page, etc.

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