Wtf do I do with WordPress Categories and Tags?

Website Planning, Working with WordPress

If you have a blog then you’ve probably come across WordPress Categories and Tags and wondered wtf am I meant to do here?

Maybe you decided they weren’t important so all your posts get lumped into the default WordPress category (uncategorized) or you went full out and now you’ve created a category and tag monster that you just don’t know how to clean up?

Using categories and tags in your blog posts can be super confusing but don’t worry, not many people actually get it right the first time.

In this post, I’ll be showing you how to use WordPress categories and tags effectively.

If you have a blog then you’ve probably come across WordPress Categories and Tags and wondered wtf am I meant to do here? This post explains will help you understand how to use WordPress Categories and Tags effectively.

Let’s start with the purpose of WordPress Categories and Tags?

The purpose of categories and tags is simple. They make it easier for your visitors to find what they need based on topic rather than the default sorting method used by WordPress which shows posts in chronological order which in itself, isn’t a very helpful way for folks to find what they need.

Categories and tags add another method for your readers to navigate your site and can help to draw readers deeper into your site which will reduce your bounce rate dramatically.

A well thought out list of categories and tags can also enhance your site structure and a great site structure helps search engines understand what your site is about so they can index it accordingly. We discuss Site Structure in more depth in The Website Manifestation Planner.

What’s the difference between Categories and Tags?

Categories allow you to cover broad topics while tags allow you to cover the specific details of a post.

A good example of how they are used would be a Food Blog that shares recipes. Categories might include Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert, Drinks. These can be further sorted by tags like, beef, chicken, pork, gluten free, dairy free, and so on.

If your website is about gardening your categories might be Trees + Shrubs, Succulents, Grasses, Bulbs, Climbers, Aquatic etc..

You can further sort these by assigning tags such as, the name of the plant, color, low maintenance or otherwise, special growing conditions such as soil requirements.

If you’re an Energy Healer your categories might cover the different types of healing modalities you use and these can be further sorted with tags that cover the conditions you specialise in or vice versa – which ever makes sense to you.

Are they important?

From a user’s perspective, yes. Anything that helps your user to navigate your site better and find what they need is a winning strategy. As I mentioned earlier, categories and tags offer another way for users to find what they need in a way that’s easier than the default WordPress sorting method.

From an SEO perspective? Well the jury’s still out on that and if you scout around the net long enough, you’ll find plenty of differing opinions on it however, Matt Cutts, the former head of the Web Spam team at Google basically says that tags have zero impact on SEO. So much so that he doesn’t even use them on his own blog!

How to choose categories for your blog

Whether you have a library of blog posts already or you’re yet to push publish on your first, choosing the categories for your blog is quite straightforward and can be uncovered by following these 4 steps:

  1. Brainstorm all the different topics your blog will cover. Everything is on the table at this stage so get it all out.
  2. Work through that list and wherever possible group topics that relate to each other. This allows you to form broad categories.
  3. Now you’re bound to have stragglers that don’t fit anywhere. I would save these and use them as tags instead.
  4. The final step is to give each group a new name so it makes sense for them all to be under the same umbrella.

Remember that your blog will grow and evolve so try to keep your categories very broad.

At this stage you may be wondering how many categories your blog should have. The short answer is, it really depends on the type of blog you have. Some blogs may require 30 categories others like mine, might get by with just half a dozen, Personally I prefer the minimal approach simply because it’s easier for me to manage my blog in the long term and it’ll be easier for my users to find what they need.

Whatever you decide just remember, the sole purpose of categories and tags is to help our users find what they need and if you offer too many, it’s going to overwhelm them and will take a bit of effort on your part to manage.

How to organise a disorganised category list

If you’ve got a Category and Tag monster to clean up start by deleting any tags or categories that have no articles assigned to them. Most blogs with category and tag bloat have a few of these. Take stock of what you have left and follow steps 2-4 from above.

Ok, so let’s recap the main points

  • The purpose of categories and tags is to make it easier for your visitors to find what they need based on topic rather than the default sorting method used by WordPress which shows posts in chronological order which isn’t very useful.
  • Categories allow you to cover broad topics
  • Tags help you to assign specific details to a post.
  • Categories are important for your blog from both a user perspective and for the purposes of SEO in regards to the way it enhances your sites structure.

Categories and tags are something that should be revisited every once and while to really keep on top of them. But once you find your rhythm blogging and a categorization method that suits your site, it will get easier. It just takes a bit of practice.

I’m interested to know how you do it? Do you have any tips to share about categorizing your blog posts? I’d love to hear them!

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