Understanding categories vs. tags
If you think of your blog as a textbook, categories are like the chapters, and tags would make up your book’s index.
In other words, categories organize topics you regularly feature or wish to be known for. Tags further describe those topics based on specific features or details.
Here's an easy example:
For example, suppose you run a fashion blog featuring your personal style. “Outfits” would likely be a major category for you. However, you could also apply tags to your Outfit posts, with specific brands, retailers, or items you’re wearing, that better describe the exact nature of the content (for example, a tag list could be, “Nordstorm,” Over the Knee Boots,” “Burgundy Sweater.”
Categories tend to be more useful in organizing content because they correspond with how users search for content on your site. Readers casually browsing your fashion content will want to look at a large group of posts that are all “Outfits.” It’s less useful for them to access a category like “Burgundy Sweater,” of which you also might only have one or two posts anyway.
Additionally, many users will search for something this specific via your Search box, not via an Archive/Category page. This is why it’s important to create categories that focus on the topics you write about most.
Categories may also be applied to series you feature often. For example, if you write a Friday link round up named “Link Love,” creating a “Link Love” category makes a ton of sense. Readers who click on the “Link Love” category could then easily browse every post you’ve categorized with this label.
TAGS & SEO
Contrary to Internet myths, your SEO will not necessarily be enhanced by keywords stuffing your posts with a ton of tags. It’s often dependent upon a ton of other factors, like the copy in your post, how your images are named, what you named your post.
Does it hurt to add them? No, but many blog themes today do not even feature tag listings, because if they’re especially long, they tend to look messy. And, as discussed above, they’re not usually helpful to readers. We recommend prioritizing your category system first, then adding tags if you think about it (and only for posts in which it would be useful. Your Friday link round up post probably doesn’t need a long list of tags).
SUB-CATEGORIES (A.K.A. CHILD CATEGORIES)
Back to categories for a second: categories are great because you can create child, or sub-categories of parent categories.
Let’s go back to our fashion blog example here:
Suppose you created a Parent category, named “Fashion.”
“Outfits” could be a sub-category of fashion, along with additional sub-categories based around other recurring features/columns you publish to your blog (examples here could be “Collages,” “Fitting Room Try-ons,” “Fashion Wish List”). And, sub-categories can even be further sub-categorized. The Outfits sub-category might have additional sub-categories underneath it — perhaps by season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer). Here’s an example of what this taxonomy could look like, visually:
- Fashion –> Parent category
- Outfits –> Sub-category of Fashion
- Fall –> Sub-category of Outfits
- Winter –> Sub-category of Outfits
- Spring –> Sub-category of Outfits
- Summer –> Sub-category of Outfits
- Outfits –> Sub-category of Fashion
- Collage Posts–> Sub-category of Fashion
- Fitting Room Try-Ons –> Sub-category of Fashion
- Wishlist Wednesday –> Sub-category of Fashion
By organizing your specific content features into sub-categories, and featuring those sub-categories in your Primary menu, it’ll allow users to access all posts of that type quickly. Additionally, linking to the parent category of “Fashion,” would return all the sub-category posts. So, you can see how relying on parent and child categories can help you get your content organized and easy to browse!