Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Categories vs Tags: Which should you use? [Wordpress]

Before deciding between categories vs tags, you need to fully understand what they each do.
Categories vs Tags: Which should you use? [Wordpress]
Categories vs Tags: Which should you use? [Wordpress]


Categories are used to broadly organize your posts in WordPress.
A category is like a large folder you use to group similar posts together.
They are hierarchical, so you can further organize your content with sub-categories.  The top category is known as the ‘parent category’ and the sub-category is known as the ‘child category’
For example, if you have a site about knitting you might have a main category for stitches and a sub-categories for cable stitches and lace stitches.
  • Stitches
    • Cable stitches
    • Lace stitches.
Every post you write has to belong to at least one category, and if you don’t assign a category then your post will be assigned to the default category.
When you install WordPress, then the default category is “Uncategorized”.  However you can rename this to whatever you want.

How to add or edit a category

There are 2 ways to add or edit a category.

1. Via the Dashboard

  • Hover over the Posts option in the left hand of the Dashboard until the sub-menu appears
  • Click on the “Categories” option
  • A new category page will open
add a category via dashboard
All you need to do is enter:
  • the name of your new category
  • the slug (for the URL) of your category
  • the parent category (if it has one)
  • a description of the category (optional)
Remember to press the blue button to save it and you’re done.

2. Within the Post Editor

  • Open a post in the Editor
  • On the right hand side, look for the Categories option box:
how to add a new category
  • Click on the blue “+ Add New Category” option and a space will appear for you to enter your new category name
  • If you want the category to be a top level one, then just click the “Add New Category” button to save it, but
  • If you want the category to be a sub-category, then click on the -Parent Category- drop down list and choose the top level category you want to assign it to.


Tags are like keywords and they are used to describe specific details of your post.
In fact, that people might use to find that particular post and are usually quite specific and narrow.
For example, say you have a blog about cooking and you write a post with a recipe for baking gluten-free cookies, the category could be ‘baking’ and the tags could be ‘cookies’ and ‘gluten-free’.
Unlike categories, tags are not essential and you don’t have to give your post any tags.  If you do not assign a tag to your post, it will simply have no tags as there is no default tag.

To add or edit tags is a similar process to adding and editing categories

How to add Tags

1. Within the Dashboard

  • As with the categories, you can change the tags by going to the Tag menu under the Plugins menu in the Dashboard.
  • Then you just enter the Name, Slug and Description you want (though these are completely optional)
add a tag

2. Within the Post Editor

  • When you are in the the Post Editor, look for the Tags options box in the left hand side
how to add tags
  • Enter your tags separated with commas eg cookies, gluten-free
  • Press the Add key and you’re done.

Tag Clouds

One of the cool things you can do with tags is create tag clouds.  These are visual representations of the tags that show larger words for the tags that are used more:

How to add a Tag Cloud

WordPress has a built in feature for adding tag clouds.
You will find it under the Appearance>Widgets Menu:
How to add a tag cloud
All you need to do is drag the tag cloud widget to one of your widget areas.

Are Categories or Tags better for SEO?

There is no definitive answer to this question.
Categories and tags are used to help readers find their way around your site to the content they want.  These labelling tools are aimed at making your site user friendly rather than bot friendly.
If you use categories and tags to make your site user-friendly, then the likelihood is that your visitors will stick around and that will be better for your SEO.
Whatever combination of categories and tags you go for, I suggest the following …

2 Important Tips

  • Don’t have a category and a tag with the same name
  • Stick with either singular or plural labels, not both.


Be aware that changing the category or tag of a post can change it’s permalink, depending on how your permalinks are set up.
If your site permalink structure contains the category, then if you renamed the tag Cookies to Biscuits the URL would change from this:
to this:
If you have an existing blog or website I do not recommend changing the permalink settings as you will end up with lots of redirects which will be bad for your SEO.

Category Archive Pages

Don’t overlook your category archive pages!
Category archive pages are where all your posts for a particular category are displayed and they can be important landing pages for SEO.   If you write several articles about a topic, your category archive page for that topic is likely to appear higher in search rankings.
Boost your category archive pages by adding some introductory text with links pointing to your best articles.

Review your Categories and Tags Regularly

As your site grows remember to review your categories and tags as you may well need to reorganize or rethink how your content is organized.
If one category is becoming very big, you may need to divide it into sub-categories, or even two top level categories.
With tags, make sure you have a good spread of tags across your posts and add new tags as needed.
So, hopefully the difference between categories vs tags is now clear and you can use them organize your site with confidence.

How do you use categories and tags to sort your content?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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