If you’ve been blogging for at least a couple weeks, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled upon these two options in your WordPress Dashboard. And they do feel almost identical.
Categories, tags, what is it that makes them different? And how are they best used?
Understanding and using categories
Imagine a paper filing system. Each page in the system must be filed away in the right drawer. There are only a limited number of drawers, and thus each one must cover a rather broad area.
In your blog, categories are best used in this way:
- Limit the number of categories: resist the temptation to add new categories because a long list of them will not be read or browsed by anyone.
- Every single post must go into (at least) one category.
- Categories are navigation elements: do not just think of categories as a way of labelling posts, they are a core element of your navigation, which means they should be factored into your site’s architecture and navigation, and displayed appropriately.
Your tags aren’t categories. They are supposed to add to your categories; the tags don’t describe the posts themselves, but rather sections within those posts:
- Use the same tags over and over again: if you have a series of posts on article writing, you could tag them as “journalism,” “writing,” or a hundred other variations. The important thing is to reuse the tags on every post you write on the topic.
- The tag cloud is easy to scan: a list of categories is easy to be recognized because it is in a list.
Tags have a lot of potential; they can be used to replace searching, they help you reach more readers in the WordPress Reader. If you use less than ten tags, they appear there, where everyone who follows that certain tag can read your post.
Categories and tags are useful, given that you use them properly.
Are you using tags and categories on your blog? Will you be using them in the future?