How to Use Categories in WordPress

Johnny Greaves

When you create a post on WordPress, you will notice that the righthand sidebar will allow you to choose categories and tags for your content. They are not just for your own personal form of organisation; they can also be incredibly important for SEO. Let’s take a look at what these categories and tags are, what they can do for you, and why you should be using them.

What are WordPress Categories and Tags?

As you might guess, categories and tags are specific labels you can put on your content to help group them. WordPress categories tend to be a bit more general whilst tags are a lot more focused on the topic of your content. There is no argument for “WordPress categories vs tags”, both are handy tools which you can use. However, tags are optional while categories are not. You must learn how to properly utilise categories on WordPress before you begin to add content to the site.

What Do Categories Do?

The category is the more general of the two and it allows you to organise your content based on the topic. Different posts can belong to a variety of categories but it is usually a good idea to limit it to no more than three per post. You also ideally want no more than ten categories on your site overall as this can complicate it quite a bit. For example, you might run a lifestyle blog and create a post about a new birthday cake recipe you tried. This could be categorised under “baking” and “recipe”. Your next post might be a review for some bread tins you were sent by a brand. The first category here might be “baking”, like with the recipe, but the second category might be “review”.

This primarily allows readers to easily browse through content of a certain type. If they have come to you for one specific thing, a few clicks are all they need to be able to browse all your content on that one type.
Try to keep them as general as you can. You will find a box for categories when you are creating a post which will allow you to easily manage the categories you use for your content.

What Do Tags Do?

Since the categories are general labels, the tags are for a more specialised approach. They are generally formed of specific keywords you have used in the post. If the category tells you about the genre, the tags are the sub-genres which describe what the content is actually about. Let’s return to the example of the birthday cake recipe. We had the categories of “baking” and “recipe” for the post. This lets us know a little more about what to expect from the content and the tags allow us to take it even further. Let’s imagine that this birthday cake in particular is a gluten-free red velvet cake which uses organic ingredients. Tags we could use should include “birthday cake”, “gluten-free”, “red velvet”, and “organic” amongst others. Thanks to these, we now have a clearer indication about what the recipe is exactly about. Just like with categories, you will add them to your posts as you create them. There is a feature when you are putting together a post which allows you to add them. Unlike categories, they are actually optional. However, you should make sure that you are using them as they help towards your WordPress’s SEO.

How Do Categories Help My SEO?

Categories and tags are two parts of your website which search engines like Google look at to determine your site’s rankings. This is why it is important that you try to select important keywords for your tags as this will help your website to climb up the rankings and will help a new audience find you.

What Can I Do to Help the Categories?

One of the first things you should do when dealing with categories is regularly reviewing the ones you are using. Head to both the WordPress category page to have a look at which ones you are using the most. This might help to give you an indication about whether or not you to need to change your categories usage to better improve your SEO.

Another thing you should do is make sure that you are not duplicating the same thing between your categories and tags. If you have a category marked as “News”, you don’t need a tag called “News”. This causes duplication and can actually confuse the search engines; something which is not good for SEO at all.

Finally, make sure you structure your categories in the most efficient way before creating the content for them. You can even find out how to design category pages in WordPress as a custom scheme might be better than what the template offered by your theme. By adding additional content to these custom category pages, there is a higher chance that they will rank better on search engines. This means that, in addition to your individual pages potentially providing a hit to a reader, the category pages themselves might be able to be found. This means that they could have immediate access to everything you have written within the category instead of just one individual post.

Master Categories Today

If you are using WordPress for your website, you are going to have to learn how to successfully use the categories function. Failure to do so can actually result in a negative impact on your SEO and cause you to lose traffic to your site.

Ideally, you want to start planning your categories as you also map the site out. Your structure, your categories, and your content are all linked. The sooner you can strike a balance between these, the better. Categories are not as simple as they may first appear to be but they are also not the most difficult WordPress feature to master. Take the time to get to know this handy function of WordPress for the betterment of your site today.


Johnny Greaves

Author Johnny Greaves

Johnny has been building websites for 9 years, from small family-run company websites to internal web-apps for large enterprises. He has a management degree from the University of Manchester and likes to break things to see how they work. As far as we’re aware he can function solely on coffee and jelly-beans.

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