Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about blog organization. I’ve covered why you should bother organizing your blog, the basics of setting up your blog, and today I’m covering the ever misunderstood Categories and Tags.

Categories

Categories and tags selector on WordPress

Categories are the filing cabinets of the blog. You should define a reasonable set of categories that do not overlap, are not overly specific, and will cover most if not all of the content you plan to have on the blog. Six to ten is plenty for the majority of blogs, and it’s often good to define only a couple of categories at the start and add more later. Removing categories without creating 404 errors is harder than starting with just a few and building up! Don’t put a post in more than one category if you can help it. If you find yourself wanting to do so a lot, your categories may overlap too much, or your posts might be covering more than one topic (why not make two posts?).

Tags

If categories are the filing cabinets, posts are the manila folders in the cabinets, and tags are the multicolored sticky notes attached to each folder. Unlike categories, it’s okay to have multiple tags per post. In fact, it’s expected. However, you still should not have overlapping tags. Why? Let’s say you have a wedding blog. A reader comes in and wants to read all your posts about wedding dresses. If you have one tag, ‘wedding dresses’, they can easily locate all posts that are related to that topic by clicking that one tag. But what if you had ‘wedding dresses’, ‘wedding gowns’, and ‘wedding dress’ as tags? Now your reader has to look through all of them to see all your posts about a single topic. However, some of the ‘wedding dresses’ posts might also be tagged ‘veils’, and that would not create any conflict or conclusion. In this example, a good category name might be ‘Ceremony Attire’, and most if not all posts tagged ‘wedding dresses’ and/or ‘veils’ would appear in that category.

Keep it Simple

In short, the best thing you can do with Categories and Tags is keep them simple. Don’t add tags before you’ve written a bunch of posts, because you may not ever need them. Remember that a good set of tags and categories makes your posts easier to browse, which will help you keep readers on your site for longer.

Oh, and remember: Tags and Categories are forever. So if you delete them, you might want to redirect their archive pages to an alternate tag, or at least be sure to have a good 404 page with a search function. A good website consultant can help with these sorts of issues.

Part 4 of this series will likely come out after the holidays, folks. I’m afraid I, like many people, have rather a lot to do in the next couple of weeks and blogging about blogging can wait.

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