When you’re posting an article on your WordPress site, you might want to use categories and tags. But how should you use them, and what’s the difference between the two?
Although categories and tags may seem like they are one and the same, they are both different ways of organizing your site and helping readers find content. Here, we’ll walk you through what blog tags and categories are, how to use WordPress tags and categories, and how they can help you build a better site.
How Do Tags and Categories Work in WordPress?
Tags and categories can overlap, and there is no hard and fast rule that says they must be entirely different. You could, if you want, have a tag that is the same as one of your categories (although you’ll want to avoid this).
However, tags tend to be used to make your post more specific and key in on finer grain details in your writing. Categories are meant to be more all-encompassing, offering a broader grouping for your posts. Used together, they effectively sort your site thematically and give readers a way of finding related content.
I’ll give an example. Say you write a post about Ethiopian food in Los Angeles. The categories might be “Los Angeles,” and “Restaurants”. As a tag, you might consider “Ethiopian,” or maybe even the specific name of a food you ate.
By doing this, you’ve allowed a reader to see the general category the article falls into and look for more specific content with your tags. If they want to keep reading more of your writing, they know where to go and can get there easily.
Using WordPress Categories and Tags Together
Tags and categories are meant to get your post shown in the right places on WordPress. Effectively using both will make sure that you find the readers you want and that your article doesn’t get buried where it can’t be read.
Your pages will show up on the Topics listings based on how you categorize and tag them.
That means you should always categorize and tag your posts to maximize the chances that they get read. However, don’t be sloppy with how you use them. Inappropriately tagging and categorizing can annoy readers and make your site hard to navigate.
Sort Your Site and Keep Your Readers Happy
You don’t want people to come to your WordPress site and not be able to effectively navigate it. It’s up to you to help readers around and keep them interested. Remember, attention spans can be short, and you want to do everything you can to make it easy for them to find content they’ll enjoy.
Effectively using tags and categories is key to this. Categories should sort your posts into groups and Tags should be a way of adding more detail to this.
If you effectively use both, it will help readers by always giving them something more to read, and they won’t feel frustrated trying to find something on your site. Annoying readers isn’t the best way of gaining a following. Make it easy for them.
Say they really liked your post on Ethiopian food in Los Angeles. With a good category system, they can find more of your writing relating to the city. But if they want more detail, they can follow your tags to see what else you’ve written on.
Tags and categories allow your readers to follow your writing in two different ways: by getting more general and by getting more specific. They guide your reader, wherever they want to go, and keep them interested in your site.
How To Effectively Use Categories in WordPress
Categories add structure to your website and help readers find more content quickly and without frustration. But what’s the best way of creating categories to most effectively draw in and keep readers?
Try to make your categories broad enough that they include a variety of content, without making them so broad that they lose all focus.
If you write about different countries, you could use each country’s name as a category. This helps users follow your posts, breaking them down into sensible and well-defined groups.
Lumping all of this writing into the category “World,” however, would probably not be useful, and it wouldn’t give your readers any useful guidance on how to navigate your site.
Also consider using sub-categories to give your site more structure. Taking the example above, you may have a category of “France” that collects your posts on the country. But say you’ve also written a lot of posts on French wine and had been tagging each as such.
You might consider converting those tags to a sub-category for “Wine.” Readers of your articles on the country will be able to hone in on your writing on wine. And readers who like your writing on French wine can trace it back to the broader category of France.
How Many Categories Should I Have?
You should feel free to take advantage of the ability to use multiple categories. It won’t hurt your SEO (although it won’t help it either) and could help your readers. But don’t add categories just for the sake of adding categories.
Every category on your site should have a clear, distinct group of articles that belong in it. If you find that two categories are almost always overlapping, you might consider merging them into one.
There’s no set rule for how many categories a post should be filed under. Maybe the post was wide-ranging and really does fit into 10 separate categories. If that’s the case, then tag it as such.
How Do Tags Work in WordPress?
Where categories end is where tags can begin. Learning what belongs as a category and what should be a WordPress blog tag will take experience and will vary by person. But you’ll generally want tags to be specific details mentioned in the post.
If you write about food in Los Angeles, you might tag the name of the restaurant in a post, and add it to a category called “Restaurants.” The tag is a nice way of providing supplementary information and indexing it.
You Don’t Have to Use Tags
In any WordPress post, tags are completely optional. They’re a great way of getting extra clicks by connecting your post to a wide range of topics. But how many you use and what they are are entirely up to you.
By contrast, every post must have at least one category that it is filed under. If you don’t do this, it gets lumped in an “Uncategorized” folder. This will make your site a bit cluttered, and could confuse readers who are looking to follow a trail of similar topics on your site.
Changing the URL
Whether you use a tag or category will have an impact on how the post is published. If you choose to tag it, the word “tag” will appear in the URL. If you use a category, then you will see the word “category” in the URL.
Since you can use multiple of each for each post, this isn’t much of an issue. But if you are looking for a site and entering the URL, keep this in mind.
How WordPress Counts Tags and Categories Together
Although tags and categories are different, the WordPress Reader counts them both as the same when displaying your post, showing only 15 tags and categories. Your WordPress categories and tags, therefore, are pooled together so that you cannot spam.
WordPress Categories vs Tags: Which Should I Use?
Remember, categories and tags are meant to complement one another on any WordPress site. When used right, they make your website easy to navigate and follow and keep your readers engaged with your site by giving them related content to read.
Be careful, however, about not using a tag where a category would serve, and vice versa. Your tags should not be more general (in most cases) than your categories. Try to keep this fairly consistent, so readers don’t get confused by how you organize your site.
And if you are using a tag a lot, consider making it a category, or a sub-category.
I gave the example of Ethiopian food in Los Angeles. If you write a lot of posts about Ethiopian food in Los Angeles, consider making this a sub-category. It gives your site a better structure, and helps readers follow your posts.
Effectively Using Tags and Categories in WordPress
Designing a WordPress site can be hard work. Categories and tags are a great way to keep your articles organized and build a coherent, easy to read website that will grab readers’ attention. When used together, they can make your site stand out and help you build a following.
Will it hurt my SEO if I go back and recategorize/tag older posts in WordPress?
Good stuff! Thank you!
Great post outlining how to use tags and categories. Will definitely send this to my clients who have 30 categories and 200 different tags! LOL
From an SEO perspective, always add the noindex, follow tag to your categories, tags, author, and archive pages. Because all of these pages are just aggregated snippets of content from other pages. Duplicate content. They carry absolutely no unique content on them. They are considered “thin” pages by Google and will weigh down your overall domain’s authority.