WordPress gives us the option of picking one or more categories for blog posts (or it will just pick the default for you), and you can also use tags. But what exactly are tags and categories, and how should we be using them? Let’s chat about that.
Categories form part of the structure of your site. They’re like big containers to keep your posts organized. Every post needs a container to live in, and the default “uncategorized” category is its own container.
Each of your categories has a URL where they live. My “insights into psychology” category lives at: https://mentalhealthathome.org/category/insights-into-psychology/
I have 17, which is pared down from 20-something I had not long ago. That feels reasonable, given that I’ve got around 1000 posts, which is also pared down quite a bit from what I had several months ago. I didn’t start creating my own categories until maybe a year or so into my blog’s existence; it just didn’t cross my mind.
Categories are containers your posts live in, and tags are identifying labels you stick on them. You don’t have to have any tags at all, or you can have a maximum of 15. Ideally, none of your tags would have the same name as any of your categories, as this can confuse search engines.
Using tags can help bring people to your blog, as the WordPress Reader lets people search for posts by tag.
Like categories, tags have URLs. My “blogging” tag lives at: https://mentalhealthathome.org/tag/blogging/
Reining in your tags
It’s very easy to accumulate massive numbers of tags, include typo tags that you never actually used. Because each tag has a URL, your site can become very large because of all of the tags kicking around. At one point I had around 1000 tags. Yikes!
An easy place to start weeding out tags is to delete any that have 3 or fewer posts using the tag. I’m currently down to 200 tags. I’ve kept a few tags that have low post counts because they’re psychiatric diagnostic labels, and I want those tagged.
How they’re useful
Tags and categories are most useful if they help both you and your readers find things on your site. The longer you’ve been blogging and the bigger your site becomes, the more useful it is to have those extra bits of organization.
How many categories and tags do you have, and do you use them regularly on your site?