So you’ve got a new website and it’s built on WordPress – it’s time to start blogging!
Many sites have multiple authors writing about a variety of different subjects. How on earth are you supposed to keep all of these posts organized?
Are people supposed to scroll continuously down the never-ending blog page to hopefully find what they’re looking for?
No way. That would be time consuming…. and totally exhausting.
That’s where categories and tags come in.
They help you sort your content & give your readers an idea of what you blog about.
If they’re both for sorting…..what’s the difference?
Categories vs. Tags
Categories are a broad way to organize your content. It’s a general way for you to find something. You can also use sub-categories which help to sort your content with more specificity.
Tags on the other hand, are mostly used for describing a post.
Let’s say I’m a food blogger. I post a new recipe for awesome chocolate brownies that I made.
I would put my brownie recipe under the “Dessert” category. If I wanted to be more specific I would use the subcategory “Chocolate”. Now my brownie recipe is easy to find under: “Desserts >> Chocolate.”
This makes it much easier for my readers (and search engines) to find dessert recipes that are made with chocolate.
So What about Tags?
Tags are more specific and descriptive than categories/sub categories, they’re kind of like keywords for your post.
In my brownie recipe, I could add these tags : “Brownies” & “Baked Goods”
Now visitors can find my fantastic brownie recipe 3 different ways:
- By going to “Desserts” and searching through those recipes.
- Going to “Desserts >> Chocolate” and search through those.
- If they’re already looking at a different brownie recipe…..they can click on the “Brownies” tag…..and this will take them to a list of every single post that I tagged with “Brownies”.
What Are the Major Differences?
Every post NEEDS to be in a category but not every post needs a tag; categories are mandatory, tags are optional.
Categories are hierarchical. Which means a category & a subcategory are related.
Like a parent & child situation.
So you wouldn’t have the Brownies under “Chocolate” without also placing it in the “Desserts” category. If it’s under “Chocolate” the hierarchy becomes “Desserts >> Chocolate”
Tags are not hierarchical. There is no relationship between them. You can tag a Corn Bread recipe with “Baked Goods” and it doesn’t have to be in the “Desserts” category at all.
How Many Categories & Tags Should I Use?
WordPress experts usually suggest that parent categories are used as for top-level, general sorting so (between 5-10).
Tags are where most people tend to go a little overboard because they remember that tags can be used to “describe” the post. Some recipes can be described with a TON of things.
Technically, I can tag my brownie recipe with “baking soda”, “eggs”, “walnuts”, “chocolate chips”, “flour”, and “sugar”. It is important to use tags that provide navigational or informational queues to your readers. Ask yourself:
- Are people going to find those helpful when looking for recipes?
- Are people going to want to sort through my recipes by which ones have baking soda, flour or eggs?
Probably not. Tags should never be used as a method of keyword stuffing in attempt to gain an SEO benefit. Excessive use of tags can actual cause duplicate content issues which often become an SEO nightmare.
The purpose of tags is to relate your posts together. Think of them like keywords for the post. What keywords would people use to find this post? People suggest using no more than 10 tags for each post. But remember: The whole purpose of categories and tags are to make it easy for visitors and search engines to find content your site.
Remember, all aspects of your site should improve the experience for your users. Chances are if you add a feature that helps a visitor complete a desired task you’ve made the right decision.