22 Jul In the Era of Search, Blog Categories and Tags Are More Important Than Ever
It’s been years since I talked about how to use blog categories and tags properly, and it’s high time we revisited this important topic. Sexy? No. Critical to a great experience on your website? You better believe it.
It’s all about that search function
In June, my family moved from crowded and expensive northern Virginia to the quiet mountains of Colorado. It’s one of the best decisions we ever made.
We didn’t bring most of our furniture with us, which means we’ve done a lot of (mostly online) shopping. I don’t even want to know how much we’ve spent just at Wayfair.
Because I have zero patience, I’m constantly using a website’s search function. You probably do the same.
When you’re looking for information online, you do a search on Google. Once Google directs you to a website or two, you might refine your search through the website’s search function. We all do it, and we’re used to doing it.
And this is where blog categories and tags come into the picture.
When someone is searching for information, they want to find it quickly and easily. Blog categories and tags facilitate this discovery. The more optimized your website is, the easier it is for Google to understand what information is on your website and the more likely your website and blog posts will show up in a search.
Once people are on your site, they can keep searching to find more or other information. But if they can’t find what they need, guess what? Off they go to another website, abandoning yours in the process.
A blog categories and tags horror story
Years ago, I had a client. We’ll call them the Acme Company. They were super fun and easy to work with, but they were also a hot mess.
A few months into blogging for them, I 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. It was the equivalent of a nuclear waste cleanup site.
Their previous blogger didn’t understand how categories and tags work, so he just kept creating categories. I found more than 1,800. When you consider that it’s best to only have a few – as in, five or up to 10 – that number is astronomical.
Oh, and he had created absolutely zero tags.
This made a search on their website impossible.
How they work
Categories on a blog are like aisles or departments in a grocery store. You have produce, dairy, meats, bakery, and so on. Grocery store aisles are labeled accordingly so you can find what you’re looking for.
(Mostly. Our new Safeway doesn’t label the aisle with the pasta and pasta sauce on it properly. I can’t tell you how long I spent trying to find that stuff two weeks ago.)
Tags include more details about what topics you cover in your blog post. If we go back to the grocery store analogy, you’ll find bananas, kumquats, avocadoes and onions in the produce aisle.
For your blog, think of categories as broad topics or top keywords you want to be found for. Here are some the categories I use on my website: email marketing, copywriting, branding and blogging.
Tags, meanwhile, dive deeper into the topic. Here are some tags I used in a blog post on content marketing: blogging, content marketing, guest blogging, LinkedIn marketing, social media marketing. (Yes, you can turn a category into a tag.)
Imagine if grocery store aisles were labeled with tags instead of categories. Yup, that’s a hot mess of signage right there. How would you find anything?
Same thing is true for your website.
Rules for categories and tags
Only use a handful of categories
What are the main topics you’ll be writing about? Those are your categories.
They are also likely the main keywords you want to be found for during a search. For a service-based business, they are your service offerings. For a product-based business, they are the, um, categories of things you sell.
If you’re an accountant, your categories might be tax planning, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and financial planning. If you’re an outdoor furniture store, your categories could include outdoor dining sets, umbrellas, chaise lounges, and hammocks.
You can certainly add categories as you go, just remember that your categories are the equivalent of a grocery store aisle.
Oh, and capitalize them.
Make sure tags are more detailed
In theory, you can add as many tags as you’d like to each blog post, but it’s not advisable. Like I said above, tags help people find blog posts when they do a search on your site.
For our accountant, tags under tax preparation might be personal taxes, small business taxes, estate taxes, tax preparation tips, organizing taxes, etc.
However, don’t get crazy and constantly create new tags. You want to re-use them so when someone does a search for estate taxes on your website, they get several hits instead of one.
Here’s another way to look at it. Instead of having tags for green bananas, yellow bananas, organic bananas, and conventional bananas, stick with bananas.
If you’re ever unsure of what tag to use, look up the most used tags on your website. For WordPress website users, previously used tags will autofill as you type – choose those over creating a new one that is similar.
Unlike categories, tags are not capitalized – all lower case.
Choose one category and a few tags
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.
For this blog post, my category is blogging and my tags are content marketing, blogging, keywords and SEO.
If you’re thinking, “Man, I can’t be bothered with this blog stuff,” give us a shout. We handle blogging for small businesses and mid-size companies that just don’t have the time and/or resources to handle it in-house. We’re happy to take blogging off your plate so you can focus on what you love to do.