Anyone who has done any blogging has come to the point in publishing their blog post where they decide on what categories and tags to use for their post. While on the surface this seems like a really easy thing to do, I see a lot of people using way too many categories for their blog, and not knowing what to do with tags. So it appears to be more complicated than we think!
Categories and tags are both specific ways that you can organize your site. They are a tool to help your readers find the content they are looking for! Therefore, always consider the user experience. What is going to be helpful to them? What will add value to their lives? What will solve their problems? Answer those questions first and foremost. When you know that your content is helping and adding value, then you can organize it in a way that is helping and adding value as well.
But then what? How do you know how to break down the categories and tags? Here is a simple explanation of the difference between categories and tags for your blog.
Categories are the overarching topics that you blog about. For example, I blog about digital marketing. That means that one of the topics I blog about is Social Media. In theory, I could make a different category for each of the different social media platforms that I could blog about. But that would mean that the list of categories could get really long, and that some of the categories might only have a couple of posts within them. Instead, I use “Social Media” as a category, and then I use keywords to identify which platform I’m blogging about.
However, if I was ONLY blogging about social media, it would make more sense to divide my categories out by the platforms, and perhaps add one more category for strategy.
Another example might be that of a food blogger. Making categories for all the various kinds of entrees, sides, and desserts could mean that the category list would get really extensive – poultry, beef, seafood, Mexican, pasta, salads, soups, vegetables, and on and on and on. Instead, the categories should be high level topics: “entree”, “side”, and “dessert” would be three obvious high level topics that could be covered.
Every post you create is required to be placed into a category. When you first set up your site there is an “uncategorized” category. If you don’t select a category, it will automatically be dropped into that one. While, in theory, the idea of an “uncategorized” location is kind of neat, at the end of the day that won’t help your readers find the content they are looking for.
There isn’t a set limit on the number of categories you use, however I do recommend aiming for somewhere around 5. If you find yourself getting closer to 10-15, it might be time to analyze and see if your category titles are getting to detailed and maybe they need to be consolidated.
While categories are few and overarching, tags can be many and can be based on the content of each post. Again, remember you are trying to organize your content in a way that is useful to your audience. So if they are in a category of “entrees” and they want to see all of your recipes that use ground beef, it would be great for them to have a ground beef tag to click on that would show them all of your entries with those recipes! Otherwise they’ll be sifting through loads of recipes that are irrelevant, and that can get really tiresome for the reader.
Tags are important to think about before you write a post, and at the end, just before you publish it.
Before you write a post: The best way to think about what tags you will use is to ask yourself, “what words are people using to search for this type of content?” A food blogger might think of questions like this:
-Light recipe for summer
-Recipe for leftover chicken
-ideas for Thanksgiving side dishes
And as a result, the blogger might use tags like:
-recipe, summer food, light meal
-poultry, chicken, leftover chicken, entree
-Thanksgiving, sides, 10 servings, side for turkey, fall dish
I’m not a food blogger – or a skilled cook – so that was all I could come up with. But someone who knows food really well might come up with more, or different, tags. But it does demonstrate the pattern: What are people searching for, and therefore what tags will i want to be sure to include in my post?
DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT just stick random tags into your post so that you can use them. And DO NOT use tags that are totally irrelevant to the content of your post. Actually write a decent post, just try to find ways to work it in. If you can’t work it in, it’s not the right post for it, and that’s okay. Always prioritize quality post with value for your audience, over tags!!!
After you write a post: review to make sure you used the tags you were hoping to use. If you did, great. Add them to the tags before publishing. Also, give the article a quick scan for any other possible tags that you hadn’t thought of. I often am surprised at tags that I didn’t expect to write, but there they were, in black and white. Add those to they tags as well.
So how do you make sure you have thought intentionally about your categories and tags?
You may be able to just organize your thoughts and just knock out the details on your site without any help. But if you aren’t sure how to go about this, I made you a little handy-dandy worksheet! Click to download and give it a shot.
Still have some questions? Drop me a comment below and let me know what you’re struggling with!