Explaining Categories and Tags in WordPress

11
Apr

WordPress LogoA little light-hearted but important post today focused on WordPress users. Particularly people and organizations just getting started with WordPress, but would also apply for those that have been on WordPress for awhile now but haven’t really been doing much.

I believe a quick explanation is in order to help some people understand the differences between categories and tags in the WordPress structure. Hopefully this will help clarify some usage for people and encourage some additional helpfulness to your readers.

Organizing Categories in WordPress

Think of categories as the major buckets for the different types of content you’ll be sharing on your site. Depending on your site, these might be a wide range of topics, or if your site is much more focused around a single theme, then these may be unique delineations of a certain topic.

If you were to have an automobile blog, your categories might be something like:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • SUV’s
  • Vans
  • Motorcycles

Or, you might go with categories more related to specific brands of cars:

  • Ford
  • Chevy
  • Toyota
  • Honda
  • Volvo
  • Audi

Using Tags in WordPress

Tags can sometimes be confusing for people. Is it a category? Is it just a keyword? Yes and not and not really.

The most logical way for me to help explain how tags work and how I recommend using them in WordPress is to think about your reader reading your blog post. What particular concepts, ideas or things would your reader possibly be interested in reading more of related to the post they just read.

Using the examples above, you might be writing a post about Fords or Cars and talk about the Edsel model, named after Henry Ford’s only son, Edsel Ford. Edsel seemed to have much more of an afinity for design and was responsible for numerous design changes for Ford cars. He’s responsibile for the Lincoln Continental, founding the Mercury division of Ford and even introduced hydraulic braking to Ford vehicles. He loved art and was a philanthropist. With that example, I would recommend the following tags:

  • Henry Ford
  • Edsel Ford
  • Edsel
  • Lincoln Continental
  • Mercury

As someone just finished this post perhaps they would be interested in learning more about Edsel Ford or some of the cars he influenced. By effective use of tags, they could then click on one of these tagged items after the post and read other posts you may have written about these same topics across a collection of categories and not just within one group. Anytime I mention a particular individual in a post, I will almost always use their name as a tag.

Suggestions for Category and Tag Use

Screaming Llama

This is me when I see content left as “Uncategorized” in WordPress

The categories of content you choose to use on your site should be done so very intentionally. They should more than likely match and compliment efforts for keyword usage and targeting.

And one of the first things you can do with your categories is rename the default category of “Uncategorized”. If you have posts that are uncategorized you’re not writing with intent and purpose for the site. You may have some posts that don’t really fit in other categories closely, if that’s the case, then you can rename the post to just “News” or “General”.

Review your categories on a semi-regular basis. Are there certain categories that have significantly more posts in them than others? Are the other categories still valid? If not, remove them and adjust. If they are still important, then consciously make the effort to write more content to fit within those categories.

I don’t recommend using too many tags on a post either. Be judicious and helpful with your tags. Remember, the key is to identify thoughts that a reader may be interested in reading more about on your site. The tags should relate to that content. Generally I don’t suggest having more than 10 tags ever on a post. Oh, and don’t let me get started on a #hashtag abuse rant.

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