WordPress uses tags and categories as grouping systems or taxonomies for managing content, creating a type of referencing system. This provides a way to organise the structure of your content, making it easy to find and access – which means improved user experience. So, your visitor has an option to either browse through your blog posts through the default chronological listing (according to the date posted) or your visitor can explore your blog content according to the particular topic.
Categories are the big umbrella topics that get regular blog content, providing a broad grouping of similar related content. For example, on Netflix, you will have categories of Drama, Romance, Action.
Tags on the other hand are much more specific. They describe details in your posts, while they can also be sued across categories. So, going back to the Netflix example – tags here could be series, parental guidance, new releases or movies with a strong female character etc.
Put another way: if you think of a book, categories would be the name of a particular chapter, whereas tags are the words found in the index section and may appear in many different pages or chapters.
Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the difference between categories and tags:
A category is basically the big picture – the main topic of your blog posts. Categories provide an overall description about the blog, sorting and grouping content, guiding the visitor to the relevant content required. In this way they serve as breadcrumbs – enabling your visitor to find and read other information on your site.
Categories are hierarchical, so you can get main categories which are parent categories which in turn can have sub-categories. For example: the category “mystery” may have a sub-category Mysteries of the 21st century or mysteries of outer space.
Categories are a quick overview of the blog subject, providing a helpful way to group related posts together, allowing visitors to quickly understand what a post is about.
They are displayed in various ways, depending on the WordPress theme and widgets you have activated. They can be found at the top or bottom of posts, on the individual post view, on your menu, and/or in the sidebar.
While posts can fall into multiple categories, the best practice is to use an overarching category which can be used as a broad term to describe the various aspects of a blog topic. This simplifies your site, enhancing the user experience. For example, instead of having separate categories of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – you may rather want to use an umbrella term such as “Social Media” as the category. Then you can use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as sub-categories.
As there are no SEO advantages to multiple categories, if you have placed your blogs in multiple categories, you may need to re-look at your classification – combining these categories under a single umbrella label. Additionally, if these categories refer to specific aspects of the content which could apply across other blogs, then you may want to consider using these additional labels as tags. This makes your site appear more organised, simplifying access by placing content in limited groupings which enhance the user experience of your site.
Tags are managed in a similar manner to categories, except that tags do not have a parent property, so they cannot be organised in a hierarchy. Remember that posts can and should have multiple tags, where relevant as they are more specific than categories.
Tags are smaller in scope and relate to specific items with the blog topic. Although they are unique and specific to a particular post – they can be used across different posts. If we use the “Social Media” example again – tags may include content marketing, content creation, images, video, content plan, advertising, algorithms. These tags could then be used in other blog posts where relevant.
Tags provide a useful way to group related content together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about, while facilitating user experience and ease of access for people to find your content.
Benefits of niche tags
Tags match the reader’s preferences and search query. While using niche tags may mean that less people will come across your blog post, it also refines your targeting, attracting people who are interested in your particular subject. This enables you to present relevant content to the right audience.
Cornering the attention market
Using broad, more generalised tags increases your chances of being part of the thousands of posts on the subject which will inevitably be using many of the same tags.
The good news is that because of its popularity, your blog has potential of being exposed to tens of thousands of people searching for that content.
The bad news is that their shelf life is very limited, with your post getting pushed down in the Reader by hundreds of other posts with the same tags.
But if you’re wanting a quick impact with let’s say an hour or so of potential fame (well at least an increased number of eyeballs) – then this can be impactful and effective.
Wrapping it up
Categories and tags are effective organisational tools that you can maximise your user experience by using them as structures to organise your site, enhancing site navigation and UX. Remember the easier your site is to navigate and the more helpful the content – the more your visitor will interact with your content, returning to engage with your site and its offerings.