WordPress encourages you to assign categories and tags when writing a post. If you’re just getting started with WordPress, it can be difficult to understand the difference between the two and their intended usage.
Simply put, categories and tags are used to group a number of posts together. For a visitor, they’re useful for discovering interesting content. A blog’s homepage typically presents visitors with all your posts, ordered by date, latest first. A blog can cover a wide range of topics and themes. Categories and tags allow the visitor to drill down, to filter these posts by interest. A post’s associated categories and tags are also typically listed at the bottom of the post content. Giving your visitor the opportunity to click through and discover more content along a similar subject.
So we get why we categorise and tag our posts, but what is the difference between categories and tags? As a WordPress developer, it’s a question which pops up once in a while! It can be a difficult concept to both communicate and grasp. However, with a little practice it becomes second nature!
You should aim to have a few broad categories and then use tags to get more specific. For example, say you’re writing about a charity event your business is taking part in. You might have a general “Charity” category and then get specific with tags, such as “Red Nose Day” and “Red Nose Day 2015”. This allows people to see all your charity activity as a whole, and then optionally, drill down into both “Red Nose Day” and super-specifically, just this years activity.
If you’re just starting out with a blog, a little planning can go a long way. The most common mistake I see is overusing categories. It doesn’t matter so much if you add too many tags as typically you wouldn’t list out all your tags. Consider the topics your blog will cover and plan the categories. You might list all your categories in a sidebar widget to give your visitor quick access to content of interest to them. There is no rule to how many categories you should have, but a glanceable list would be ideal.
Over time you’ll be able to see if your categories are too specific. They’re the categories with only a few posts each. If this is the case, there is a good chance it’s either a recently added category or the category is too specific and likely should have been a tag.