How To Use WordPress Categories and Tags

Categories Vs TagsWordPress gives you two ways to organize your posts: categories and tags. Called “taxonomies” in WordPress lingo, categories and tags help your readers find posts on a specific topic. When you publish posts, WordPress typically adds your posts in reverse chronological order, with the latest post on top. But if your readers only want to read articles on a specific topic, categories and tags give them an easy way to filter articles based on one topic or keyword. Categories and tags are only applied to posts, not pages. See our article on the difference between posts and pages for more information.

Categories

Categories are best used to group your posts into broad and general “sections”. While WordPress does not limit the total number of categories you can have, you should limit your categories to a manageable number. For a new site, start with a few major categories. You can always expand to more categories as your blog grows. WordPress requires all posts to belong to at least one category and will put posts into a category called “uncategorized” if no categories are set up. If you are not using categories, or are only using one category, you can rename “uncategorized”.

Categories can be hierarchical. You can create sub categories under each main category. For example you can have “Pets” as a main category, and then “Dogs”, “Cats”, and “Fish” as subcategories of “Pets”. Subcategories are optional, but you may want to consider using them if it makes sense for your blog’s content.

You can associate one post with an unlimited number of categories in WordPress, but we don’t recommend using a lot of categories in one post. The whole point of categories is to improve your reader’s experience and give them a way to easily get to multiple articles on one topic. So if your latest article is showing up first in every category your reader clicks, the value of your categories is diminished (and it might even cause a reader to leave your site). Generally, put each post into the one main category that makes the most sense. A second category is best used for something like grouping all posts with videos into a  ”videos” category in addition to the main category.

Tags

Tags are used to highlight keywords in a post, and give the reader the option to find all other posts with the same keywords. Think of tags as the index in the back of a book, where you can quickly go to get the information on a specific keyword. WordPress does not limit the number of tags you can associate with one post and you should classify your posts with as many relevant tags as you can. Relevant is the key. Your tags should be relevant to your blog’s overall topic.

Don’t overdo it, but tag as many good quality keywords as you can in each post. For example, your post “How To Train Your Dog” may be tagged with: dogs, animal training, training schools, dog tricks, etc.  But be mindful of the relevance of the post in terms of the tag. Ask yourself, “does this post deserve to be under this tag? Is there enough content related to that keyword in this post or does the keyword just appear briefly?” Just because a word is mentioned in a blog post does not mean it should be tagged with that word.

Unlike categories, tags are not required. Also unlike categories, tags are not hierarchical. There are no parent tags and child tags (sub tags). Each tag is an entity on its own. 

Conclusion

Between categories and tags, WordPress offers an easy way for you to organize your blog and an easy way for your readers to get to the posts they want to read. Once you have built up a good number of posts on your blog, remember to give your readers an easy way to access tags and categories in your menu or sidebar. Remember, an added benefit is that categories and tags are also links, so they can be helpful for SEO purposes. 

The way you structure your blog will depend on the topics you cover and what makes the most sense for your readers. But in general, we recommend you divide your posts into a few number of major categories, and then use subcategories and tags to further organize your posts.

Comments

  1. I LOVE tags, but as you said, “don’t overdo it”. I had too many tags to the point where I couldn’t find anything. My tag cloud looked ridiculous. I had to many irrelevant keywords in an attempt to gain SEO.

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