Sharing content and engaging your readers is a major reason you have a blog. But making it easy to navigate can offer them a much better experience. One of the things that helps is to organize your content with categories and tags. And I am frequently asked what the difference is between categories and tags for WordPress. Since this information can impact your site SEO and user experience, here’s some information you might find helpful.
Categories and Tags
Here is a basic explanation of how I think of categories and tags:
Categories are high level groupings of information, like a book’s Table of Contents. As an author, I always start my books with an outline. The Chapters are categories. It’s how the information is organized.
Tags are the index. More detailed descriptors of the information contained in the book.
As part of our strategic business plan, I usually have clients think this through and create an outline of their business. I find that this practice is not only helpful with their blog posts, but also helps them formulate the content for the pages and the structure of their website. But then we go back to the question, how many categories? And the answer is different for everyone. But if you plan the outline and think of your categories like chapters in a book, you will probably realize you don’t need as many categories as you once thought. Keep the following items in mind when completing this practice:
- Categories should be timeless, while the blog content should be current your categories should be timeless and relevant to your website.
- Categories can be searched on your site.
- You can offer a category widget in your sidebar. So consider this when naming your categories also – brief names are best – you don’t want them to wrap multiple lines in the sidebar.
- You want posts in your categories. If you don’t have a post in a specific category you created, then why do you need it?
- You can check categories for keyword statistics.
- Categories can help with user navigation, but less is more.
- Categories and tags should not overlap – don’t have a category and tag with the same name, it’s redundant.
- Categories can be used as “pages” in your menu system. You could create an entire page of posts from one category, or a landing page for categories offering your readers a “table of contents” option.
Tags can narrow down the search for your readers. While you can have as many tags as you want, too many can be confusing to visitors. Remember categories and tags are a way to organize your content and help visitors navigate it.
SEO Impact on Categories
So now you are thinking you should reorganize the content on your blog? Got a little carried away with those categories didn’t you? Well, before you start reorganizing, consider your SEO. Your current blog posts have been indexed with their current URL’s and that includes the categories you have placed them in. So if you start renaming your categories and deleting some, you could end up with some 404 errors.
You just created a roadblock on your website, and need to provide some alternative directions. Fortunately, some plugin developers realized the impact of this problem and offer plugins to help you with this. If you have realized that the category structure on your site needs to be modified, then you need to install one of these plugins. Set it up properly and you should be fine. Here are the plugins you should look at: