Blogging and Writing

How Do You Use Tags and Categories on Your Blog?

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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 categories and tags, and how should we be using them? Let’s chat about that.

Categories

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.

Tags

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/

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.


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?

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49 thoughts on “How Do You Use Tags and Categories on Your Blog?”

  1. I don’t use categories because I don’t feel the need, my use of tags comes and goes. I have never used ‘tags’ to search for anything and there are some posts easily tagged but I don’t want them to be found by the general population. Actually I don’t think I want my blog found by the general population.

    1. For tags you actually have to type them in rather than just being able to select from categories, But if you start typing the name of a tag (or tags) you’ve already used, WordPress will suggest them for you.

  2. I don’t use categories. I don’t need two levels of labelling, and all my posts are really of the same kind (journal entries).

    I feel that, as a librarian, trained in metadata (data about data, which is what tags are), I should be a bit less slapdash in my use of tags. When cataloguing as a librarian, one would really only consider giving a topic a subject keyword if it was in 20% or more of the book, and sometimes I use tags for posts with much less than that about that particular topic. But I tend to think, “If I come back to my blog in five years and want to see what I was thinking about “depression” (for example) in 2021, would I want to see this post, even if it’s not predominantly about depression?” For the same reason, I occasionally use over fifteen tags in one post, even though that stops things showing up on WordPress searches.

    1. I use tags partly for my own purposes and partly for others. When I use a lot of tags, it’s usually less for myself and more variations on the same subject term, which I’m trying to stop doinmg.

  3. I have about 5 categories to organize my content. I have no clue on how many tags I have, I’ll have to check that out

  4. When I first started blogging, I thought the tags spot was where you put keywords for Google to find πŸ˜…. I had to go back and revise my posts when I found out keywords should actually go in the writing. So embarrassing.

    1. I think there’s a lot of things about blogging that seem obvious once you know them, but aren’t obvious at all when you don’t.

  5. Thanks for an enlightening post. I had no idea you should not have tags with the same name as your categories. I had no idea you can have a maximum of 15 tags either. I’m pretty sure I’ve had more on a lot of posts, so what happens to those?

    1. I think when there’s more WordPress just ignores them. I only found out recently about not having the same tag/category names, which I did have for a long time. I think it’s only really relevant to help with SEO.

      1. I found out what happens the hard way, recently. When you use more than 15 tags, your post won’t appear on any of the tags you used.

        This is what WordPress support says about it, “If you use more than 15 tags and categories (total), your posts will not appear on tag pages (because you don’t want to see irrelevant content showing up there, and neither do we). ” https://wordpress.com/support/topics/

  6. I have a LOT of categories (142 – that can’t possibly be right O_o ) and I keep thinking of new ones to add too. That could get confusing I suppose, but I ‘nest’ some categories under a main category (confusing now? πŸ˜‰ ) for example under ‘Mental Health” I have Depression, Anxiety and about six or seven more mental illness issues I deal with. Theoretically (it’s my own supposition and not supported by fact) those categories make it easier for a WordPress blogger to find a topic that interests them and to find posts listed under the category. Tags I only use when another blogger provides them, I haven’t created any of my own. I don’t ‘tweet’ so I have a vague suspicion that tags are fairly useless.

    1. Oh interesting. Tags don’t actually affect social media shares; those get added separately if one so desires. People can find things by category or by tag on someone’s site, but in the WordPress Reader you can only search by tag.

  7. Tags and categories were two areas I worked on a lot for my blog’s refresh. I had way WAY too many of both. I am down to 10 categories and 42 tags, which is still a lot. I need them to make sense, such as a writing category, underneath which are tags such as fiction, poetry, etc. I used to have poetry as a category, but no types of poems as tags. That’s didn’t help me at all. Same with food. No reason for cupcakes, candy, etc. to be separated. Now there is a food category, with sweets as a tag to grab all my dessert type posts. I don’t really think I’m going to lose the cupcake-tag searchers, if there are any. If you search in the main WP reader bar, any words in a post come up, not just tags. The main thing though is I deleted all the tags from other people ~ what is up with that? Idk why every time someone begins a prompt they create a new tag and tell peeps to add it. But I was doing it regardless. No more. It hasn’t changed anything about how people respond to my prompt posts either and no prompter has complained! It’s just silly. We don’t search on the tags to find replies to our prompt when everyone uses the link back. Tags are for ourselves ~ forex, I have TMP for my Monday Peeve, but no one else needs to use it. Yeah, this was a big deal lol…

  8. All of a sudden my blog is categorising and tagging posts itself? I still can’t get my head around it. But I’ve realised something today — I’m doing too much of everything in one day! I can’t seem to focus on one thing alone! πŸ™

    1. With blogging, anything other than the actual reading and writing is just fluff, and doesn’t deserve to steal any limited resources.

  9. This was really insightful, thank you for sharing – I know for a fact I need to go through my tags and give them a bit of a spring clean! x

  10. I am still learning the in’s and out’s of categories and tags.
    It wasn’t until about two years ago that I finally started learning how to use both correctly. I am not sure how many I have of either. Probably need to spend some time and pare them down to a manageable number.
    A fellow blogger explained both of these to me. I only learned about the maximum number of tags about two months ago when you gave me the answer after a post I wrote.

    1. There’s so much to learn. I’ve picked things up in dribs and drabs along the way, and on a pretty regular basis I’m finding out about new things I hadn’t heard before.

  11. OMG! I have over 1200 tags! I definitely don’t use all of them! I am just too lazy to go through them and get rid of what I don’t use!

  12. I have about 6 categories I think, but actively use 3, so a weeding out session is next on my spring clean list. I don’t know how many tags there are but I prefer to keep them concise and not make a tag for every little detail. There’s a blog that I follow and most of their posts have many more tags included than the length of actual content… which baffles me.

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