August 1, 2015
WordPress Categories vs Tags: What’s the Difference?
We get this question a lot: “When organizing my WordPress posts, should I use categories or tags… or both?” The answer is not as complicated as you might think.
There are several benefits to using tags and categories. Grouping your posts by category or tag can help users navigate your website, discover new content, and better understand the value of your content. Additionally, tags and categories can actually help drive traffic to your website. At first glance, these two grouping mechanisms can seem very similar, but they do have some very distinct differences.
The definition of a category is “a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics”. That’s exactly how they are intended to be used in WordPress – a class or division of blog posts that have shared characteristics. The key to categorizing blog posts is to keep the categories as different as possible so you can have as few of them as possible. Each blog post should be grouped in a single, defined category. Very rarely should a blog post be appropriate for more than one category. Think of categories, like a table of contents. If your blog were laid out like a book, categories would be your chapters. This way, readers can see clearly defined topics to browse.
Tags can be used to more narrowly define a subject than categories. While categories are used to group content into logical groups, tags are used to organize content that cover a large range of topics, but touch a singular subject. If your blog were a book, your tags would be the index. They key to tagging blog posts is to use as few as possible while still keeping them keyword rich. For example, lets say you have the following blog posts on your food blog:
- Chicken Casserole Recipe
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Making a Thanksgiving Turkey
- Our Favorite Dessert Recipes
You would likely have a category called “Recipes”, which would contain both the casserole and dessert recipes. Because your blog has a lot of recipes it is a natural grouping for blog posts of that type. However, you probably wouldn’t have “Chicken” or “Turkey” categories because there are far too many ingredients for each one to have their own. Instead, you can tag the chicken and turkey recipes with a “Poultry” tag. This way, if someone is searching your blog (or the search engines) for “cooking poultry” they could theoretically find your site page that lists all the content with that tag.
Both categories and tags are useful for navigation and discovery of your content. We highly recommend creating a system for how you plan to categorize and tags things, but keep it simple. The easier it is for your readers to tell the difference the better the experience.