Using categories and tags in WordPress may seem like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, when we approach them with this mentality, things can get out of hand very quickly, as it’s easy to end up with dozens of categories and hundreds of tags, many of which overlap and cause both SEO and user navigation issues. This leaves us, and more importantly, our audience, confused and unguided.
Like most things in business, you should always be intentional and strategic with your use of categories and tags on your blog. The old saying that “less is more” is definitely appropriate here.
Proper Use of Categories & Tags in Blog Posts
Categories and tags are a type of taxonomy in WordPress, which basically means they are ways to organize your content. They are also different in how they should be used. Each blog post must be assigned to a category, but you don’t have to use any tags at all if you don’t want or need them.
By default, WordPress automatically creates an archive for both categories and tags where you can view every post that has been placed within that specific categorization. You may or may not want to style and link to these archives depending on your usage, but they are there by default, and can help increase search engine traffic if setup correctly.
When naming your categories and tags, always use capital case naming and not all caps or all lowercase. It will look better on the archive pages and will help you to keep things consistent throughout your site.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should never have a category and a tag named the same thing. This is confusing and serves no purpose and can negatively affect you’re site’s SEO efforts.
Proper Use of Categories
Each blog post should ideally be placed in only one category unless you have the need to use sub-categories, then it’s alright to place in the parent and child category.
You should optimally have no more than 12 total categories. It’s best to determine these categories before you ever start your blog so you can ensure that all your content properly fits into each specific category. Since most people didn’t start their blog by doing it this way, it’s often necessary to go through and re-name, re-categorize, and delete what’s no longer needed.
It can be helpful to look at what the majority of your posts are about to determine the proper category naming. This may take some time as you go through old content and make notes about which topics you tend to write about the most. Once you have your list of final categories (remember, less is more!), you can re-categorize your old content to fit within your new framework. Now you can move forward knowing what structure your content must fit into.
Does this make you a little sick to your stomach because you have so many different topics you write about? That’s where tags come into play.
Proper Use of Tags
While each blog post should only be placed in one category, It’s fine to use multiple tags per post, however, don’t get carried away. Since tags are an organizational tool like categories, it’s a good idea to decide on what tags you’ll be using before you start writing, and not just create them on the fly. You should plan out your tags just like you did your categories.
Categories are the broad, general topics you’ll be writing about, but tags should be more specific. For example, you might have a general category called “Health” and tags called “Nutrition” and “Fitness”. You can always add more tags later if you see the need, but a good rule of thumb is that if you won’t be using a tag for a minimum of 5 posts, you probably don’t need it.
Editing Categories and Tags
One very important thing to remember is that if deleting a category or tag, always make sure to create a 301 redirect from the now defunct category to the one that replaces it or where you visitors to be redirected to. Doing this will ensure you don’t lose any search engine rank and will provide a better user experience. My favorite way to do this is by using the WP SEO plugin, which gives the ability to automatically create the redirect from the same dashboard screen once you delete the category or tag.
Have you evaluated your website’s categories and tags to make sure you’re following these recommendations? If not, time to get to work!