Understanding WordPress Categories and Tags (And How to Use Them Properly)

Understanding WordPress Categories and Tags (And How to Use Them Properly)

A.J. Kmetz WordPress 1 Comment

If you have a WordPress blog, what can you learn from a library?

That sounds like an insane question. It’s a library! They hold the depth and breadth of human knowledge! But it’s not the knowledge they hold we’re looking for – it’s how they organize it and make it accessible. Libraries perfected information organization long before databases and search engines came along. Books are sorted categorically and alphabetically and librarians can take you right through the stacks to the kind of information you need.

Blogs need organization too. If you’re making content without a framework in place to sort it, you’re taking a wheelbarrow full of your work and dumping it on the floor for your poor readers to sift through. It’s not organized or usable and your readers are likely to give up and leave your site. Fortunately WordPress provides an easy way to structure your posts by category and tag, like a tiny robot librarian and Dewey decimal system for your blog.

How to Use WordPress Categories and Tags

Categories

Access the Categories page by clicking on Posts on the left-hand menu of the WordPress dashboard. This is where you’ll track and manage your categories. Each one needs a name, a slug (or URL), and a description.

WordPress categories are hierarchical, meaning you can add subcategories within parent ones to narrow down your topics, or even assign more than one category to a single piece of content. This is especially useful when you’re managing a lot of content. You can also assign categories to posts directly using the Categories box on the right side of the post editing screen.

In keeping with our metaphor, categories are how you’ll catalogue and organize your content, like the sections in a library. They allow people to sort through your content by type. For example, if you’re a travel writer, you might sort your blog categories by continent, then break them down into country and then city. If someone wanted to see your thoughts on Tokyo, they would look under Asia > Japan > Tokyo.

Tags

You’ll find the Tags page under the Categories page, in the left-hand dashboard menu. It has the same basic function as the other page, as well; you can manage your tags and track the ones you use the most.

If categories are your Dewey Decimal system, tags are your librarian (but don’t worry, you won’t be shushed if you’re talking). Use these to describe specific details of each post. However, avoid using your category titles as tags – the two systems work best if they don’t overlap.

Let’s jump back to the travel writer example: if you have several posts about different aspects of your time in Tokyo, you might label them #food, #museums, #Godzilla, etc. This makes it easy for your readers to search your site for specific topics. They can look up all of your culinary articles or see how many run-ins you’ve had with fire-breathing kaiju.

Sorting Your Content

Categories let readers look through topics in a structured way while tags let them home in on specific keywords. There are right and wrong ways utilize these tools, though, so here are some pointers:

  • Keep your category names short and on topic; similarly, your tags should be short and highly relevant to your post.
  • Each post must be assigned to at least one category, but assigning tags to posts is optional.
  • Don’t create separate categories for your content authors – WordPress already has an author categorization system.
  • It pays to do keyword research before you tag and categorize posts, as keyword-rich categories and tags can help increase your content’s traffic.
  • Capitalization doesn’t make a difference in your tags (#Godzilla and #godzilla will be the same).
  • You can use as many tags or categories as you want, but the WordPress Reader filters out posts with more than 15 of either.

By sorting your content with tags and categories, you give your readers two ways to find what interests them on your site. Organizing your WordPress site is a great way to set it up for future growth!

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Comments 1

  1. Avatar for A.J. Kmetz

    Thank you for this information. I used my new dual-screen for this story – one for my website and the other with your recommendations. Guess what I will be doing this weekend – getting my categories and tags sorted out!

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