How to use Tags and Categories in WordPress websites

Uploading a blog to your WordPress site? Making proper use of tags and categories could have quite a meaningful impact on your SEO.

When finishing up a blog post to share with the world, you may be tempted to add as many tags and categories as you can think of. But taking a more strategic approach could do wonders for your SEO. Read on to find out how.

What makes WordPress so special?

You may have heard before that the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) is a great tool for SEO. But you might not have heard why. The crooks of it is that WordPress allows you to structure your site and your articles in such a way that allows search engines to identify which pages are most important. How does it do this? One of the ways is through tags and categories. Before we dive into this, let’s look at site structure and how it fits into all this.

Site structure

When a website is ‘crawled’ by a search engine spider (aka bot / crawler) it starts with the most important pages and works down the ranks to the least important pages. Having pages that group a series of blog posts together (like a category archive) helps with the hierarchy of a large website. You can think of your website’s structure as a sort of family tree of webpages. Having good site structure will make it obvious which pages should be given more attention, and therefore more relevance when it comes to ranking.

Top kevek is the homepage, second level: categories, third level: sub-categories, fourth level: individual pages

Tags and Categories: Which to Choose?

Still a bit fuzzy on the whole tags and categories thing? Don’t worry, we’ll get there. The simplest way to explain the difference between the two is this; WordPress categories are large groups of posts all connected by a shared topic, while tags can be thought of more like features or attributes.

Particularly with large blog websites, you can even expect to find the different categories in their own navigation bar, but this isn’t the case for tags. For example, if blogs were computers, you could think of a tag as a feature, or spec, (4 core processor, 16GB RAM, 2TB storage) while categories might be the different brands (Intel, Lenovo, HP).

Example of how other websites (e.g. Hubspot) choose to categories their blog articles

The Italian Job

To apply this concept to something simpler – an Italian cooking blog might have hundreds of different pasta recipes, but not many dishes featuring avocados. So ‘avocado’ might be a tag in this case, while pasta dishes would be well suited to category status. That same website could decide to set out their categories differently and organise by meal; breakfast, dinner & dessert, and then have subcategories within those categories.

The exact way you determine how your categories and tags are set out will differ for everyone depending on what suits your website and audience. But a good rule of thumb would be, that if it fits under a large group of content, go for category. But if it’s more of a feature of the article, we recommend using a tag.

Some Tags may Graduate to Category Status.

When a tag graduates

As the focus of your content changes over time, you’ll likely find that your site structure evolves along with it. This could easily lead to a tag that started out as a minor feature of a few articles, becomes such a common occurrence that it warrants its own category. This is fine! It’s just a part of your websites’ growth. If it makes sense, you can simply convert an overgrown tag into a blog category. There’s even a WordPress tool that can help you accomplish this.

Ultimately it may be a judgement call, but being consistent with what is a category and what is a tag will help solidify your site structure and organise your blog much more effectively.

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