Blogging is an important content component for effective inbound marketing, and one of the most popular blogging platforms is WordPress. When you start exploring WordPress, you see that bloggers are asked to assign categories and tags to their posts. We often get asked what the difference is between the two. From a marketing and communications perspective, the distinction is important, so here’s a quick tutorial on WordPress categories and tags.
Both terms have to do with the organization of a blog, which is called its taxonomy — just like the classification system for living things that we all learned in biology.
The animal kingdom provides a good illustration of the roles of categories and tags in the taxonomy of a blog. Let’s say your blog covers environmental news regarding various animals. You would use primary categories to establish broad, overarching topics, such as vertebrates and invertebrates. Further, under the vertebrate category, sub-categories might include birds, fish and mammals. It’s a hierarchy, one that is necessary to keep all your posts organized so they are easy for readers to navigate.
But having too many categories is confusing, so you can’t set up one for every genus and species. Therefore, tags are utilized for more specific animals. Tags are not hierarchical. As long as you know you’ll use a tag more than once, assign one accordingly.
Say you’re writing about hawks. Fascinating subject, and obviously in the “Birds” category. Tag your post “hawks,” and assign that tag to every post thereafter about hawks. Do the same with posts about cranes and ducks. Additional tags will capture other details of interest about your subject matter.
Key points to remember in using WordPress categories and tags
Plan categories early
It’s a best practice to plan your categories when you plan your blog. What are the three or four topics about which you will be publishing posts? These are your categories. You can always add more later, but changing existing categories creates chaos. It can be done, but it’s going to mess up your backlinks and search engine rankings.
Name categories and tags organically
Pick names for categories that will easily make sense to readers. Tags may be any additional terms or phrases you think might help your readers find posts that will interest them. Think about characteristics, synonyms, or some newsworthy tie-in: “waterfowl,” “birds of prey,” or “endangered” for instance. The number of tags per post will vary, depending on what makes sense. Repeating a category name as a tag serves no purpose.
In WordPress, every post must be assigned to at least one category. Tags are optional, but they will help your readers navigate to the content they are seeking, as well as contribute to your SEO.
Remember your reader
Above all else, remember that the whole point of categories and tags is to help your readers find the blog content they want. The easier you make it, the more likely they’ll keep coming back to you as a trusted resource. And that’s the whole point.