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Blog Categories And Tags: You’re Using Them Wrong

Blog categories and tags are probably the most misunderstood and abused element on any website. That’s very bad, which we’ll get into later. First, a story.

When I was a few months into blogging for one of my favorite clients, I finally convinced them to let me clean up their blog categories. Just glancing at it, I could see it was a mess, but when I dug in, I found it was much worse. Like, it was the equivalent of a nuclear waste cleanup site.

There weren’t just a few dozen categories – there were more than 1,800. When you consider that it’s best to only have a few – as in, four or five – that number is astronomical.

Blog categories defined

You see, blog categories are like grocery categories. You have fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, bakery, and so on. Grocery store aisles are labeled accordingly so you can find what you’re looking for.

Blog tags defined

Blog tags, meanwhile, are the subcategories. Under fruit, you’ll find bananas, kumquats, Anjou pears, and raspberries. Imagine if your grocery store labeled everything with tags instead of categories. Yup, that’s a hot mess of signage right there. How would you find anything?

Remember I said above that it’s very bad to mess up categories and tags? That’s because it’ll be harder (or impossible) for people to find your blog posts during a search (thus your SEO will be impacted) or while on your website.

Here are the rules of thumb when it comes to using blog categories and tags:

Only use a handful of categories

What are the main topics you’ll be writing about? Those are your categories.

If you’re an accountant, they might include tax planning, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and financial planning. If you’re a photographer, maybe you’ll blog about portraits, nature, corporate photography, children, pets, and photography tips.

You can certainly add categories as you go, just remember that your categories are the equivalent of a grocery store aisle. And capitalize them.

Also keep in mind SEO and try to use keywords for your categories (see the accounting and photography examples above – those are all keywords).

Be a bit more liberal with tags

In theory, you can add as many tags as you’d like to each blog post, but it’s not advisable. Tags help people find blog posts when they do a search on your site, so you want to use slightly broader terms. For example, instead of green bananas, yellow bananas, organic bananas, and conventional bananas, stick with bananas. You’ll probably only use the more specific terms once, but you might use bananas ten or twelve times.

If you use WordPress, previously used tags will autofill as you type – choose those over creating a new one that is similar (choose bananas rather than creating a new tag of banana).

Unlike categories, tags are not capitalized – all lower case.

Choose one category and a few tags per blog post

Remember, you’re trying to make it easy for people to find your blog posts. Therefore, choose one category and a few tags for each blog post. And don’t repeat the category as a tag – that’s unnecessary.

Our accountant friend might choose Tax Planning as a category, and then choose retirement plans, college savings plans, and gift planning as tags. Our photographer friend, meanwhile, might choose Nature as a category and sunrise, beach, and summer as tags.

See? Blog categories and tags aren’t that hard to get right. If you’re still thinking, “Man, I can’t be bothered with this blog stuff,” give us a shout. We’re happy to take your blog off your hands so you can focus on doing what you love best.

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