Your WordPress blog has the option to have both categories and tags. When do you use them? And how? In this blog, we talk all about categories and tags for your blog posts.

The difference between tags and categories

To discuss the difference between categories and tags, we need to first understand what they are. They are both meant to help with the sorting of your content, your blogs. They help your website visitor to quickly find topics that might interest them and read other relevant content, instead of just scrolling through a list.

This is something they have in common. However, categories are meant for big groups of content, while tags are intended to be more specific. Categories help identify the big topics that your blog cover, while tags are more specific subjects.

For instance, my blog talks about Marketing, Business, Websites, Social Media, Content, those are the categories. While tags would be more specific and might be subjects like ‘blogs’, ’email’, ‘WordPress’, ‘Facebook’.

You can have subcategories though I hardly ever recommend that to clients. Most of the time it’s better to add tags then. There is no hierarchy in the tag structure.

You MUST have at least one category on your blog. WordPress will have you set a default so if you forget to choose your category the default will automatically be picked. If you haven’t changed the defaults name, it’s “uncategorized”. I therefore highly recommend you change that name to something else. You don’t need to add tags, and you can add one or many tags to your post.

A closer look at categories

I’ve come across blogs where there were many categories. I mean, I have seen blogs with over 100 categories! Sometimes this has just grown this way, or people have confused tags and categories in their mind. I would never recommend having many categories, even though officially there is no max in WordPress. The best is to have somewhere between 3 and 7, making them the main topics of your blog.

Let’s say we have a crafting blog. We talk about cards, scrapbook pages, and 3D projects we make. But there are also promotions and news, and we go to events regularly. You could make the following categories:

  • Cards
  • Scrapbooking
  • 3D projects
  • News/promotions
  • Events

Or maybe you would want to split up News and Promotions. That is up to you.

When would you need subcategories?

Let’s say that you go to several sorts of events. You could have those as different tags, but if you find that tag growing rapidly, it might be interesting to add it in as a subcategory instead. You don’t need subcategories though, and I must say I hardly ever use it. I prefer tags in most cases.

Adding multiple categories to your blog post

There is a lot of conflicting material on whether it is a good or bad idea to add various categories to a post. I feel that if you once in a while have a post that fits in multiple categories, I would tell you to go ahead and add it to multiple categories, there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you see that a post almost always falls under two the same categories, they might need to be combined into one new category, with subcategories underneath.

Diving into tags

You can have as many tags as you want. You can have as many as you want in general, and you can add as many as you want to a specific blog. I would recommend keeping it under 10 in most cases. It is still about the subjects that are in that particular blog post. And to keep a blog post readable and understandable, I would not recommend talking about too many different topics in one post.

In the example of our crafting blog, you might end up with a tag per product that you used. And maybe some other tags that explain what kind of card or what technique was used. If you get over ten then, don’t worry too much about it, just make sure that all those tags will have more than one post attached to them.

I also would recommend thinking about what you make a tag and what not. Something could be a tag if it is a specific subject that you will make multiple blogs about. If there will only be one blog attached to that tag, then it isn’t beneficial to use it. Because that tag is meant for sorting, and there isn’t much sorting needed with one blog.

By the way, don’t think tags are great for your SEO by acting as keywords. Tags are not keywords for the SEO of your blog post and should not be treated as such.

Changing your category/tag structure later on

If you started blogging without much of a plan, then the chances are high that at some point, you want to change the categories and tags you have and use. It might happen because you change a tag to a subcategory, or just because you have slightly shifted your business. I would recommend thinking about the structure first:

  • How do you want the new situation to be?
  • What categories, subcategories and tags will you have?
  • What categories, subcategories and tags that you have now can be changed over to the new structure?
  • What needs to happen with the rest?

Only when you have a plan on how to start sorting through the blogs and giving them their new structure I would recommend starting it. It will be a bit of a time-consuming action, but it is significant for your reader’s convenience going forward.

I would recommend not letting too many days go in between starting and ending the sorting. Once you start, make sure you have the hours to finish it soon (depending on the number of blogs you have). Tricks that might help is that you can pick all blogs that belong to a particular tag and select them and give them another tag. So if you have realised that all blogs that have tag X also need tag Y, you can quickly add them that way.

Another crucial thing is to keep in mind the URL structure of your blog posts. If you use the category in the URL, then the blog post might change its URL. You still want people to be able to find it, even if they got from an old link. Use a redirection plugin to redirect from the old URL to the new one.

Conclusion

Think about what makes sense for your readers. What should be categories on your blog? Should you have subcategories? What tags can you see right now that need to be added? It is not that much about SEO but about readability and searchability within your website. And if you need to change the structure, don’t hesitate to do so. Just make sure you first have thought out how you will be changing it!