As your blog grows, it gets more difficult for your audience to find specific topics. When you use categories and tags as signposts to point them in the right direction, you’ll improve their experience and keep them coming back for more.
Blog content is displayed in date order with the most recent post at the top of the page. No reader wants to scroll through pages and pages of blog posts to find an image or title that piques their interest. This is where categories and tags play an essential role in helping readers find posts that meet their needs and interests.
Let’s look at the difference between a tag and a category and how you can use both to improve your site visitor’s experience.
First, some definitions:
- Categories help you to group your posts into broad inter-related groupings. They become the umbrella terms used to encompass the key subjects you write about.
- Tags help to highlight key topics within your individual posts and are more specific than categories. You can think of tags as keywords related to particular posts.
For example, on my travel blog, I have country categories (Turkey, U.S., Cambodia, U.K., etc.) and a few special interest categories (Art Room, House Sitting, Nomad). As soon as anyone arrives on my site, they can go directly to the country or a special interest.
I’m blogging a book about Cambodia and using the Cambodia category tag to cluster my posts and a hierarchical approach to categories. Rather than creating a long list of primary categories, I’ve added sub-categories to designate a specific town or city. I’ve also used tags to assign specific travel interests (shopping, food, sightseeing, history, etc.).
Once I’ve blogged my book, I can use my sub-categories and tags to pull relevant content into the initial draft of my book.
Inspiration for Your Categories and Tags
There’s a fine line between providing readers with the right level of information and overwhelming them with too much. For this reason, keep your categories broad and use your tags to be specific. You could just use categories if you don’t think tags add value to your audience.
When you’re writing in a broad niche on various topics, it’s helpful to use categories to organize your content. You also may have to establish some sub-categories to segment it even further.
Let’s look at some online examples.
The Blissful Mind blog uses the following Categories:
- Mindset, Self-Care, Personal Growth, Productivity, and Mindful Living
The Embracing Simple blog uses the following Categories and Sub-Categories:
- Category: Self-Development. Sub–Categories: Intentional Living, and Productivity.
- Category: Life. Sub–Categories: Simple Living, Health, Family, and Holidays.
Check out the blogs of companies and bloggers within your industry niche whose website you find easy to navigate. See how they use categories and tags to organize their posts.
The information you gather will help you structure your own content. Of course, you’ll need to customize your categories and tags to support the scope of your content and make sure your selections are relevant and concise.
Creating Categories and Tags
Short categories and tags work best, so keep them to a couple of words. This ensures they stand out and are easy to read and understand. If a one-word category is not self-explanatory, you can extend it to two (or more) for clarity.
Categories and tags are case-sensitive, so be diligent about not duplicating tags with minor differences (capitals vs. lower case, singular vs. plurals). It’s possible to end up with a long list of tags that confuse rather than help your readers.
It’s also good to pick a tag style for the sake of consistency. For example, the first letter capitalized (Shopping, Food, History) or all lower case (shopping, food, history).
Adding New Categories and Tags
In WordPress, you can add a new category or tag from within a blog post. New additions will be added to your master list of categories and tags. You can access these two lists directly via your WordPress dashboard under the Posts section as well.
On most WordPress themes, the category defaults to “uncategorized.” You can change this via the Settings > Writing Settings menu, and choose the default post category based on your list of available categories.
Making your Categories and Tags Visible in your Side Bar
To add categories and tags to your blog’s sidebar, go to Appearance>Widgets and drag the category and tag widgets into your sidebar.
WordPress keeps a running total of the number of times a category or tag has been used, and some themes allow you to display this count in your sidebar.
Alternative to Categories and Tags
If you don’t want to use categories and tags, you will need to provide your audience with a way to find what they’re looking for. If you don’t want the hassle of managing categories and tags, make sure you have a prominent Search Box in your site header and in your sidebar. Make it easy for your audience to find and use.
You only have a few seconds to engage a new site visitor. If they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, you run the risk of having them close the browser and begin another search for a better-organized website.
How are you using categories and tags to help your readers navigate blog content? Let us know how you’ve organized your content by leaving a comment below. And share this post with your network to help them provide a solid framework for their blog readers.
This post is part of our series on how to set up your WordPress website. You can the previous posts in this category. Or use the links below:
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.