Blog categories & tags: Why they matter

By Hannah Moss

Last week, Guy introduced the topic of blog categories in this month’s Content Kitchen video. In this post we’re going to dive a little deeper into using categories and tags for your blog.

Why do I need blog categories and tags?

The short answer is: to help people find your content more easily.

You know that publishing regular, good quality content lies at the heart of content marketing. And you know you need to get your content out there, in front of the right audience. Well, using categories and tags is one way to help ensure that people searching for content like yours can actually find it.

It’s surprising how easy it is to get this wrong. Many personal and business blogs don’t have a clear categorisation system, mismanage their categories, or totally overuse tags and categories to the point where it’s very difficult to find anything at all!

If you have a WordPress website, “Your posts will appear in the Topics listings of any tags or categories you use. Therefore, assigning tags and categories to your post increases the chance that other WordPress.com users will see your content.” (WordPress.com support)

Your category archive pages, i.e. the landing pages for your blog categories, are very important for your SEO (search engine optimisation) and are mandatory in WordPress. For a more detailed look at boosting your website’s SEO through the use of tags and categories, check out this article from Yoast.

So, what’s the difference between blog categories and tags?

To use a kitchen analogy, categories and tags can be compared to salt and pepper. In a nutshell, categories are essential – like salt; tags are optional – like pepper.

Categories are used to broadly group your post topics together, e.g. “Email Marketing”. Tags have a narrower scope and are used to describe your post in more detail, e.g. “MailChimp”.

Categories are limited to a handful across all your posts, and are set by you when you start your blog. Tags are limitless and new ones can be assigned to each post at any point.

For example, if you’ve written a post for your wellbeing blog about hot stone massage for back pain, you could include it in a “Massage” category. If you want to add more detail, you could then apply tags for “hot stone massage”, “back pain”, “therapeutic massage”, etc.

I’m new to blogging – how do I get started with categories and tags?

It’s best to start with categories first, as each post you write needs to be attached to at least one category – although we’d recommend sticking to only one category per post. Tags are entirely optional, so you can always add these later if you want to describe your post in more detail.

Try this:

  • Start by coming up with a list of about 6 blog posts you plan to write.
  • Can you group them together?
  • Think about the categories they naturally fall under and, hey presto, you have your category list!

Or, you could start with your blog categories first:

  • Start by making a list of 4-6 categories within your industry or area of expertise.
  • Now come up with at least 2 blog posts that fall into each category.
  • If you can’t think of any posts to write within a category, there’s no point keeping it. You can always add a category later if it looks likely you’ll be writing a lot of posts on that topic.

How many blog categories should I have?

Well, that really depends on your industry or area of expertise, and how many topics and sub-topics you’re likely to be writing about.

We’d suggest that any more than 8 categories is excessive. The idea is to group your posts systematically so your readers can easily find the content that interests them.

Between 4-6 categories feels about right. Too many will make your content harder to find. If you have too many categories then consider reducing them and supplementing with tags.

Remember: keep your blog categories clear and simple!

I have an established blog – how do I re-categorise my posts?

If your categories are all over the place and you want to get more organised, the best way to re-categorise your blog is to create a simple spreadsheet. 

Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Start a new spreadsheet (in Google Sheets, Numbers or Excel) and create 3 columns for Post Title, Existing Category and New Category.
  2. Add all your existing posts to the Post Title column, being sure to complete the Existing Category column as you go along.
  3. Evaluate the categories with the least number of posts and decide whether any categories can be merged together, e.g. if you have a “Student Interviews” category and a “Teacher Interviews” category with only a few posts in each, you might choose to merge these into a broader category called “Interviews”.
  4. Assign your new categories using the New Category column of the spreadsheet.
  5. Rename your existing categories and/or add your new categories in WordPress (Dashboard > Posts > Categories). It’s a good idea to include a description to help you categorise your posts in future.
  6. Go through your list of posts in WordPress and re-categorise them using your new/amended categories.
  7. You can now sweep through and delete any old categories, as long as there are no posts assigned to them anymore (check the Count column on the Categories page in WordPress).
  8. Finally, don’t forget to check each category landing page, e.g. wildheartmedia.com/category/email-marketing

Our top tips for using blog categories

As a reminder, here are our top tips for getting the most out of your blog categories:

  • Start by sorting out your categories first. Tags are optional and can be added later.
  • It’s best to assign only one category per post.
  • Keep your categories clear and simple.
  • Limit your categories to between 4-6 – be disciplined!
  • Ensure you’re regularly writing in each of your categories, or else consider merging/removing some.
  • Use a simple spreadsheet to help re-categorise your blog.
  • Don’t forget that category archive pages are very important for your SEO and are mandatory in WordPress, so make sure these are clear and well-formatted.

Need help sorting out your blog?

If you need help ensuring your blog, as well as the rest of your website, is in tip top shape to start growing your business, get in touch.

We offer bespoke consulting services as well as monthly marketing packages to help lighten your load.  

Book a free consultation and let’s chat through how we can help. 

Or, to discover the other steps involved in setting up a blog, read How to establish a blog for your wellbeing business

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2 Comments

  • Casper says:

    Good article. Limiting categories between 4 – 6 makes perfect sense.

    Do you have any suggestions on how many posts there can be in a category before it makes sense to create a subcategory?

    Would it be a problem to move certain posts from the main category into a subcategory in the future? Or, would it be a good idea to create a category with subcategories right from the beginning?

    • Guy Anderson says:

      Hey Casper, thanks for a great question! Generally we recommend keeping it simple at the start – so don’t create lots of categories that may never be filled. Instead, start creating regular content and then review when there is enough content to organise.

      There are exceptions to this of course depending on individual cases. All of this is covered in our blog package. If you’re interested then feel free to book a free consultation and we can give you more details.

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