In the competitive world of SEO, every bit helps. And that’s certainly true with WordPress, where there are several features you need to consider when managing and organizing your blog
One of these things you might have some confusion around is the usage of tags and categories. WordPress tags and categories can be a little intimidating at first. Which one should you use? Should you be using both? How do you use them properly for maximum SEO effect?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the difference between categories and tags and how to use them both efficiently.
What are Categories?
Broadly speaking, WordPress categories are intended to be the method you use to organize your content. You use them to group posts that belong to a particular subject. They’re also hierarchical, meaning you can have sub-categories that belong to a parent category.
For example, if you publish posts about music, you can have sub-categories named “Rock” and “Pop” that belong to the main category called “Music.” And you might have more sub-categories under your genre categories. It all depends on what kind of content you’re publishing and how you want to organize it to make it accessible for your readers.
Categories are required by WordPress, and that’s a good thing: They’re important for search engines as it helps them understand what your content is about. Having this distinction allows search engines to analyze your content more accurately and determine its quality against other sites. Moreover, it’s important that you pick a category otherwise WordPress will make the category Uncategorized by default.
When you’re working with categories on your site, it’s a good idea to keep things as simple as possible while still remaining organized. Don’t try to have a single post in multiple categories. This can cause duplicate content issues resulting in a negative SEO impact.
One way that categories can affect your SEO positively is by enabling the feature in WordPress that changes the URL of your posts to that of its category. This helps search engines more accurately assess and categorize your content and can give you a helpful SEO boost
What are Tags?
Tags, on the other hand, are intended to organize your content more granularly. Unlike categories, tags are not hierarchical. And while all posts in WordPress are required to be in a category, tags aren’t required at all.
Using the previous music example, let’s say you decided to write an article about The Beatles. You’d probably put this post in the “Pop” sub-category inside the “Music” category. You could then create a tag called “The Beatles” to more accurately describe what the post is about.
Whereas it’s a bad idea to put a post into multiple categories, assigning tags to multiple posts is the intent of the feature. Not only does it help your readers look for similar posts but it has zero negative impact on your SEO.
Whereas excess categories can be confusing to your visitor, you can use as many tags per post as you want. WordPress has no limits on how many tags you can use Depending on your theme you may not even see the tags. So your visitors won’t be overwhelmed if you add too many.
That said, a useful way of thinking about tags is to see them as hashtags on social media. Multiple tags on an Instagram post, for example, isn’t necessarily great, but it’s good to have a few to help describe what your content is about.
How to Add Tags vs Categories
Go to the post you want to edit and look for the “Documents” settings on the right-hand side. Then just select the tags and categories you want to add. If it’s a new blog you’ll need to add categories by clicking on “Add New Category” and adding new tags by entering them in the Tags box. We recommend limiting the total amount of categories to 10. Try not to tag a post with more than 10 tags.
WordPress Tags vs Categories
The big question is whether there’s one you should use exclusively when thinking about tags vs categories. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to use both appropriately.
Categories are required by WordPress, and they can have a direct effect on SEO in the form of how your URL is structured. So, you’ll undoubtedly want to be using these effectively.
While tags aren’t required, and you can certainly get away without using them and have little impact on your SEO, it’s important to design your site with your readers in mind. In fact, we recommend no-following Tags. This can easily be done with the Yoast plugin.
At the end of the day, search engines attempt to rank content based on quality and usability. They want to provide the people searching for things with the best possible and easiest to obtain answers. If you use both categories and tags smartly, you’ll go a long way in making your site friendly and accessible.
Tags and categories are only one small facet of configuring your WordPress site for SEO. If you’d like to learn about all the other ways you can improve your site’s ranking, look into hiring a WordPress SEO consultant to improve your rankings.