Categories and Tags might be one of the simplest yet most easily confused aspects of WordPress. Depending on your site, your approach to and use of categories and tags may be different. But here’s my five-minute explanation of the whys, the hows, and the differences.
- Broad categories under which your post topics would fall.
- Categories allow for parent and sub categories (i.e. hierarchy).
- A WordPress post must always have a defined category or it defaults into Uncategorized.
- Specific tags for specific subjects or series.
- Tags do not allow for hierarchy.
- Tags are optional: there is no default tag in WordPress.
Ways to use categories and tags:
- Organization: Using categories and tags help you and your readers find similar posts on the same topic or in the same series.
- Overview: If you place your most used categories in your sidebar or navigational menu, it will give visitors a quick overview of the topics you blog about.
- Subscriptions: Each WordPress category and tag has its own separate RSS feed available (yourname.com/category/yourcategoryortag/feed/). Harnessing the power of categories and tags allows you to offer specific subscriptions by RSS or email depending on user interest.
Ways not to use categories and tags:
- Keywords: You can’t trick search engines. It doesn’t matter how many keyword tags you apply to your post; the search engine will look at your post body content rather than your tags to determine what you’re talking about.
- Quantity: Keep your categories and tags broad and at a minimum. If you can’t remember what categories you have on your blog, you have too many. When you are writing a post, you need to know what categories and tags will apply to the post, so you can quickly categorize and publish it. If you have hundreds of categories and tags, you won’t be able to remember which ones apply to which posts, and your readers won’t know which categories to choose to find similar posts.
Need to declare tag bankruptcy and start again? It’s easy to select all your tags and delete them using Bulk Edit (watch for a tutorial on that coming soon). If you just need to do some fine-tuning, check out the Category to Tag Converter (it works vice versa) or Term Management Tools. (WPBeginner has some excellent tutorials on how to merge and bulk edit categories and tags, and how to properly rename categories in WordPress.)
Got more than 5 minutes?
Here are explanations of the categories vs. tags issue from other bloggers. You’ll note that everyone’s opinion on how to use categories and tags differs slightly, but the main principles are the same.
- WPBeginner: What is a category?
- WPBeginner: Categories vs. Tags: SEO Best Practices for Sorting Your Content
- WordPress.com: Categories vs. Tags
- Elembee: Blogkeeping: Clean Up Your Categories
- Independent Fashion Bloggers: Categories + Tags: What Are They & How to Use Them
- WPBeginner Videos: Using Categories and Tags (requires free signup, but the videos from my favorite WP experts are super helpful!)