person enjoying blog post

Categories and tags in wordpress

You are browsing online one day and click on a result in the search engine that catches your eye…person enjoying blog post

You are taken to the site…and it is almost instant…that puts a smile on your face …at last i can find out about….

Ok so you have read that and are left wanting more of their content …but where do you find it …the menu looks like it won’t help…too abstract…

There are no read about more like this at the bottom…

None of those little words down the bottom or in the sidebar…

Oh well …back to searching….

Do you want this to be your user experience on your wordpress website…

If not then you had better grab a small coffee and dive into using categories and tags in wordpress….

What are categories in wordpress

You start your website and create a few posts and notice they are all coming up with this ‘uncategorized’ label on them…

What’s that about…

It’s all to do with the way wordpress works….

WordPress is a database and likes to keep things nice and organized…

Put in boxes….

And as your posts are linked together as a ‘blog roll’ they come out as a continuous list….

If you want to group them together you really need to look at what your site is about and create structure of websitesections…

These will help you along with the most important people on your site …your visitors find relevant posts on topics they are looking at….

And these sections can be your categories….

The official line from wordpress is that ‘they are helpful ways to group related posts together.’

So they are a structure to group posts together…

They can be created in a hierarchical style…

I tend to think of them as the table of contents of your site….or the contents list of a book…an easy way to see what your site is about and find the sections i am interested in….

So if you were creating a travel blog you could have a top level category of places to visit…

Under that the last thing you want to do is to have all of your posts of places to visit…

So you could have several other categories…beaches, theme parks, beauty spots..

Now your visitor can easily choose between the various sections….

And go back to the main selection after visiting one of the posts on say beaches to find a beauty spot close…

And that is where tags can come into it….

What are tags in wordpress

Tags are the other thing you can add to posts to help your visitors navigate your site….

They are different to categories as they tend to be

I tend to think of these as the index of your site…

So if you had a post about a beach that had a golden sandy beach, clear water, suitable for scuba diving, swimming and was remote…

For the category it would be listed under ‘places to visit’ >>’beaches’

And if you are using tags then i would tag this with ‘sandy beach’, ‘clear water’, ‘scuba’, ‘remote’

A tag is a one or two word phrase that picks something out of the post..

A bit like an ingredient for a recipe…

Hence the thinking of tags like the index at the back of the book…a list of words on the finer topics contained within….

But how do you actually use the taxonomies ( just a word for classifying things) ….

Structuring your site with categories and tags

So this is where you need to take a step back from your site for a little bit..

And knowing what the overall topic of your site is you write it down…

You then think …ok …so if i was looking for that why would i be looking for it…

What are several section of my site going to be about….

Again using the travel site…you want to think like your visitor

What do they want …you have chosen Portugal as the location…

Who wants to visit and what does the country have to offer….

Now the research starts….

What is there to do…

Where to go…

Where to stay….

How to get there….

Themed visits…..

But those can do as a start…as the top level menu…

If you entered a travel site and found those at the top would you know how to get information…hopefully you said yes…

For how to get there…you can find out what the requirements for various parts of the world are and whether it has more than one international airport ( it has three Lisbon, Porto and Faro)

So some sub categories would be air, road, rail, sea

For the themed visits…find out what Portugal is most famous for ( port ??) and maybe do a port tour, wine tour, history tour, beach tour…

But you can see that on paper you can build up your site as an organized space …helping people sort out their holiday to Portugal…

You would add those as categories and put them into the menu structure so people can click on them at the top, with dropdowns for the sub menus…

What if they just want to find the beaches that are sandy, or where they can go scuba diving…..

These can be added as tags on posts and shown in the sidebar as either a list or a cloud.

So visitors can click on scuba and get all of the posts tagged with scuba on one page…see the locations and maybe make their own themed holiday up…

If you do find that people start to click on certain tags and visiting all the pages listed it may be worth looking at promoting that somehow to a category….for easier navigation..

But do they have anything to do with helping you rank…..

Categories, tags and SEO

Does google use categories and tags as a ranking metric...

Well it does index categories and tags for your site…if you let it…

And this may help it determine what your site is about…

And the structure of your site…

So to me both of these do help with ranking….

In the past i have had tags ranking higher than the articles they were related to …as with categories….

Which has caused a bit of confusion, but if you think about the page that has that tag on it has focused posts related to that narrow topic.. .so is very relevant…

Same with the category…it is more focused than one post, so may rank higher…

You just need to make sure anyone jumping into your site through the tag or category has a good user experience…

Categories can be chosen well as keywords related to the topic of the website as can tags…so you can add a little bit of concentration of your overall topic…

But how do you do this….

Tools to help

What can you use to try to determine the best wording for the categories and tags….you need tools to help you

Your research on the topic will bring up several areas you need to investigate more into and these can be the starting point

s…

So are these words related to in out case Portuguese tourism.

You could take out the place for the top level and ask just about tourism.

Three sites you can visit and use to find related and describing words are…

Relatedwords.org…where you can find all manner of related words…

Going along with that you have describingwords.io…where you get descriptive words and there is also the….

Reversedictionary.org…this site i actually managed to add Portuguese tourism and got a lot of words returned, most of them in Portuguese, but they will be the popular words and worth investigating for posts and some tags….

Myvocabulary.com has a travel and leisure word list…very useful

Look for a glossary of the main topic…in this case tourism

But you should be able to get a fair few category words and a tag list together…

You can also do keyword research to find the top words that would describe the sections of your site…

Once you have this you need to know how to add them to your site…

Creating categories

Once in your main dashboard if you then click on posts you get the post list…

And in the sidebar menu you will have a new menu item called categories…

Clicking on this will take you to the main area you can enter your categories…

You add the name of the category…normally you let wordpress create the slug and it puts a dash if there are more than one word in the category name.

If you want to add a description …as it says some themes will add it or set it as the tip when you hover over the category…

And then selecting whether it is a parent ( top level) or child ( sub topic of a parent)

So you could have a category ‘how to travel to…’ set as a parent…and ‘air’, ‘sea’ and ‘land’ as children of the above parent category…..

And when you create your posts in the right hand sidebar there is an opportunity to add a new category whilst creating your post.. this is due to the fact that posts must have at least one category assigned to them….

And the default uncategorized category…cannot be deleted…but can have a name change….

The default category is set under settings >>writing …default category….so if you forget or tend to add posts in one category consider setting that as your default….

But please whatever you do don’t leave your posts categorized as uncategorized …to me nothing looks worse…well there are a few things..but…

What about the tags…

Creating your tag list

In a similar way you create your tag list…

Click on posts and in the expanded menu click on tags

You can enter related words here to start your list off….

You don’t have to go mad with this list and you can add to it at post creation time…when adding tags to your posts you can select from the list or add new ones

Best practices

Don’t add too many categories and tags to each post…limit yourself to between 5 and 15…

Personally i tend to try to use one category and up to 6 tags per post…

If you use your categories as your menu then don’t go too deep, limit to a maximum of four levels…

The reason for this is that many visitors will give up after this and a lot of times i have seen menus of this depth go off screen so as to be inaccessible…

Tags and categories are only related to posts, they are not applied to pages…

So they only affect your blog roll…and any pages you add to your site you will need to make them navigable yourself….

Don’t have tags the same or very similar names to categories as this can signal to google that you have  duplicate content…

Use them they can work to your advantage…

Don’t have singular tags…meaning that only one post is assigned to the tag…unless you are going to use it in the future get rid of it…

The same with categories…don’t have one post in a category…

You can check on usage in the posts >>tags or categories menu…

Don’t use authors names as tags…

Don’t have too many tags as each tag will create an archive page….

Categories and tags are very important for your ecommerce site to keep an orderly structure…

You can use these to your advantage and improve your rankings, so take the time to plan out your site…or at least the major parts before you start creating your content…this provides you with a structure to create posts in along with an easy navigable site for your visitors….

Summing up

So using categories and tags in your wordpress site is an area you can use to improve your ranking…

And anything you can control to do this you should be looking at it…

But not everybody can see clearly how their site structure would help with user navigation.person pulling hair out in frustration

If you are struggling sorting out your site and would like a hand then why not get in touch with me and we can discuss your requirements…

Use the contact form and we can find out how to move your business in the right direction.

Thanks for reading

phil

About the author

Phil has been working online since 2015 and working with computer for longer than he can remember..
He has successfully built a few sites that are ranking highly...
He is now experimenting with techniques to see how far google has gone with the ranking process, with an eye on the speed of the sites along with the web core vitals...
His philosophy is 'if you can control it then do'....
If you want Phil's help then please use the contact page to reach him...

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