At Work

Categories vs. Tags: How Do I Use Them On My Blog?

If handled properly, WordPress can help you boost your online presence and/or promote your e-business through a simple-to-navigate blog that communicates your corporate philosophy and presents your offerings in optimal SEO light. By using categories and tags, you can group posted content into a logically organized database – but be careful! Categories and tags are both used to classify and label content, but they are not synonymous. Here are some concise guidelines as to how you can use tags and categories when organizing your posts to ensure optimal reader experience, higher on-site time and conversion, as well as improved search engine rankings.

1. Categories: The basics

WordPress categories are used to classify posts into thematic units (i.e. filtered archives), and they should focus on the main topics discussed on the blog. There are no clear rules as to how many categories you should have on your WP blog (this will depend on the range of your post thematic), but you should strive to keep the number minimal to avoid scattered post placement.

For instance, if you are blogging about food, you can create categories such as breakfast, lunch and dinner, but you can also classify the recipes into vegetarian, vegan, Paleo etc. Or, if you are posting about sports, your WordPress can have categories such as football, baseball, basketball, golf etc.

Categories and SEO

Your choice of categories will affect search engine ranking, so make sure the topic selection fits your overall SEO strategy. For best results, use category names of 6-10 words in length that are centered on the target keyword. This will help you get better search engine rankings and help your reader easily understand and navigate the blog.


2. Tags: The why and wherefore

Tags offer another way to label your posts and make the content specific and easily searchable. Unlike categories, however, tags are used to describe content rather than organize it into a thematic whole, so a single post can contain a dozen tags while belonging to one category.

For instance, a food blogger whose WordPress has the category breakfast can add different tags for each of the posts in the category, such as coffee images, croissants, bacon, eggs, vegan etc.

This way, readers can click on the tag they are interested in (e.g. bacon) and access all the meals featured on your blog that contain the listed ingredient without spending extra time reviewing each category and post.

Or, if you are blogging about sports, a post in Basketball category can contain tags such as LA Lakers, Michael Jordan, NBA playoff etc.

Tags and SEO

Another difference between categories and tags is that categories are mandatory while tags are optional. This means that one post can belong to one or two categories, but it may have no tags at all – or have 15 of them.

In addition to that, categories are hierarchical and can contain keyword-relevant sub-categories (e.g. Lunch category can branch into sub-categories such as Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Main course, Desserts), while tags are flat, purely descriptive and not necessarily keyword-centered, so having them in your blog can dilute keyword density.

One more difference lies in that category names appear in the blog URL, while tags do not.

3. How to organize posts using categories and tags

In order to classify your content into easily searchable categories, review the posts stored in the default category archive (Uncategorized template) and allocate them to different categories using category and tag management options featured on the WordPress dashboard (you can find them under the Posts menu on the administrator sidebar).

When creating categories, you can also include a short description (ranging in length from one sentence to a few paragraphs) under the category name to provide context for search engines and your followers.

When writing a new post, you can immediately assign it to an existing category or create a new one (the option is found to the right, next to the post body section), and add specific tags to further boost context comprehension and increase visitors’ interest in your content.

Both categories and tags are used to label and classify content, but categories are mandatory whereas tags are optional. In addition to that, categories should be clearly related to your niche and contain keywords to facilitate navigation and boost SEO results, while tags are used to further contextualize each post and their titles can have marginal relevance to the keyword.

All set? Ready, steady, blog! Good luck posting!