Although writing good-quality content is the number on requirement for creating a popular blog, bloggers also need to introduce themselves to all possibilities their blogging platform provides. One of the most helpful tools most platforms come with are categories and tags. These can be found on almost all blogging platforms and content management systems, and they represent very important elements of on-page SEO. Many people don’t understand the difference between these two taxonomies, which is why they use them in completely wrong way. Purpose of categories and tags is to improve blog’s UX, by enabling users to easily find content associated with certain topic. Before the introduction of these (now usual) blog elements, blog posts were only laid out in chronological order.
So what’s the difference between categories and tags?
Categories should group blog posts in broad terms and they should reflect general topics blog is about. They are equal to book’s table of contents. Tags on the other hand are much more specific. They are equal to book’s word index and are used for micro-categorizing blog post’s content. For example possible category for this post would be ‘Blogging’, while tags might include words like: ‘categories’, ‘tags’, ‘blog posts’, ‘keywords’ etc.
Another difference between categories and tags is that on most blogging platforms each post needs to be categorized, while tags are optional. Posts that are not categorized are usually automatically added to ‘Uncategorized’ category.
How to manage blog categories
Bloggers tend to add too many categories to their blog, which results in category pages with only one or two entries. Optimal number of categories depend on blog’s complexity, but 5 generic categories would be a good number to start. From there you can spread your content to sub-categories. For example a website that deals with professional orientation can have these categories:
- Job search;
- At a workplace;
- Professional development;
- Career advancement;
Each one of these categories can be divided in several sub-categories. For example ‘Job search’ category can be divided into: ‘Job ads’, ‘Resume writing’, ‘Job interview’ etc. Of course not all blogs need to have sub-categories. For better navigation category pages can be added to the blog’s menu, or can be added to the more traditional sidebar list.
How to manage blog post tags
On most blog’s there’s no limit on how much tags bloggers can add to their posts. Some bloggers use this rule to add as many tags as possible to their entries. Tags are keywords that relate to post’s content, which means that they shouldn’t use words that are simply mentioned in the post, but the ones that relate to post’s topic. It is hard to figure out optimal amount of tags, because this mainly depends on post’s structure, length and topics that covers, but it is not advisable for bloggers to add more than 10 tags per post. This ‘rule of the thumb’ is not influenced by SEO, but by user’s navigation, because limited number of smart tags can be turned in helpful tag archive.
Tags are also not exclusively related to textual blog entries. Photo blog entry that features coffee images, can have these tags: ‘coffee’, ‘macchiato’, ‘espresso’, ‘Arabica’ etc.
Although most people think that tags are the same as post’s meta keywords, they are actually made exclusively for user’s navigation. Certain WordPress plugins on the other hand allow bloggers to use tags in meta keywords template.
Most people pay attention to categories and tags only when they want to make their blog more optimized for search engine crawlers. With this approach they are missing the main purpose of categories and tags, as well as the purpose of the blog itself. Blog should be made for readers to enjoy it. When choosing both categories and tags bloggers should have user’s experience in mind and they should view taxonomies as tools that will help them to present their thoughts in the most practical way.