About Categories and Tags2 min read

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.

About tags

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?

Cristian Mihai

Became Internet famous by the age of 23. Never recovered. I write short author bios all over the web. I’m an acquired taste. Don’t like me? Acquire some taste.

60 thoughts on “About Categories and Tags2 min read

  1. I do find that depending on which tags I use, it shows a different group of posts to the reader. It can be useful for different people are after different things.

  2. I have learned a lot about categories and tags. For any new bloggers, your thoughts would be very helpful. My categories are pretty much set, but I have taken time to rework the most common tags that I am using.

  3. It’s taken me a while to sort out the “categories” and “tags.” In fact, after I’d been blogging for about a month, I went through the old posts and changed what I’d originally marked, for consistency with what I was doing later.

    I do two things that you mightn’t consider quite helpful or “kosher.” For one thing, I use “Uncategorized” as an actual category — I take it off any post that has another, clearly identifiable category (“books,” “classical,” “theatre”).

    For another thing, on any post discussing classical music, I include the names of any composers discussed as tags. In the short run, this will produce a great many tags that each attach to only a single post; in the long run — assuming my energy and patience hold out! — it’ll result in being able to find what I hope will be multiple pieces about, say, Bruckner or Tchaikovsky.

    No way of getting rid of a “Category” once you’ve added it, is there? I started out with a “Choral” category, but now I’m using it, more appropriately, as a tag and would love to lose it as a category.

      1. Oh, thanks! I’d read something in “WordPress Complete” to the effect that you couldn’t, and I guess I simply didn’t look very hard for an option. I’ll try again.

  4. Thank you for the tips. I learnt about categories and tags quite early when I started blogging. It seems I don’t use enough tags. I usually use 3 or 4. Using a few more should help make my posts more searchable on Reader.

  5. You are so right, I’ve found that very few users browse my sight. So I can invest a bunch of time sorting my writing, but really people just read the newest post.

  6. As always, very useful information. What bugs me the most is that good content is only a small part of becoming a successful blogger who makes money. Marketing your blog, keeping it on top for more than a few hours, are all skills that require a luck factor too, beside persistence. With a bigger follower base comes an extended time through which your post will be noticeable.

  7. I’m happy you boiled this down for me. I’ve been wondering for a while now! If I haven’t been using the same tags, is it too late to go back and change them?

  8. I’m sure I could be using Tags better. So much to learn to fine tune results. I’m actually using categories and subcategories on my blog so I think I’m breaking the rule on this one. I have had positive feedback on the menu breakdown to enable readers to view grouped posts, but I’m sure this only works because I post mostly travel items. HMMM….

    1. It kind of gets cluttered, difficult for the reader to navigate through your blog to find all the posts that are related to something they’ve read, or to see at a glance all the topics you’re blogging about.

      1. Of course you can.

        You can change them, add different categories, edit them, remove them, change the posts that are included in those categories, add them under different categories…

  9. I never knew the importance of Categories until you pointed it out Cristian. Once again thank you for the very informative post. It was indeed very helpful 😊

  10. Thank you! I seriously was in need to know the difference although I had a slight clue. I’ll have to rework my categories and tags before I get too many more posts. This is helpful and so glad I read it. I used categories as a general description and used tags to list all the topics for each post. Messy, confusing but not anymore 🙂

  11. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this, gradually. This post helps. I do use them both, but I understand now that it would be helpful to lay out categories visually for my readers somewhere on my site…?

  12. Thanks for sharing. I’m still working on my use of tags and categories. So this is useful

  13. It took me several posts to figure this out, I still haven’t got the hang of pages to be honest, I thought they were posts at first, thanks for the tips!!

  14. As a fairly new blogger, this is all crucial information I wasn’t aware of. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ll try to use them more accurately.

  15. I don’t use categories, but maybe I should, to sort my adult poetry from my children’s fantasy poetry. I do use tags. I think I use the same ones every time but I will certainly make a conscious effort to do so now. Thank you for this post. Very useful.

    1. Categories are extremely useful.

      Also, changing tags to better reflect the kind of content you share and make it easier for readers to find similar post…

      1. Thank you so much 😊 I will bear that in mind. Also you refreshed my memory by reminding me that I can follow tags and I updated the tags I want to follow.

  16. I’m a bit confused; if you have more tags on your posts won’t it be able to reach further in the search terms? I mean, if you stick to ten that’s great but how will you know people will search up exactly those tag words? I feel that maybe you might get out there more if you have more tags…or did I maybe miss something?
    Also, how many categories might you suggest I try to aim for? I have quite a few right now, and it feels messy to me, even though it’s technically sorted neatly.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: