How to use Categories and Tags Properly for WordPress SEO

Often, internet marketers, bloggers and webmasters discuss whether tags or categories should be used for better SEO with WordPress. Understanding what both of these are and how to use them, will help you get the most out of your WordPress website.

What are Categories?

CategoriesCategories are used, within WordPress, to group your posts. They provide a table of contents for your site and general topics for your blog posts. With categories, you can help the user find the type of content they are looking for, on your website. Categories can even be split into sub-categories.

What are Tags?

TagsTags, on the other hand, provide a more specific way to organize your posts. You can add more than one tag to each WordPress post, which will create new pages for each tag. If you use the same tag with another post, it will show up on the tag page, as well.

Tags are much like the index of your website. They help visitors navigate throughout your website and find the content they desire. Tags cannot be split into sub-tags, however.


Examples of Categories and Tags

If you were to create a personal blog, you may have categories, such as:

  • Music
  • Travel
  • Family
  • Food
  • Books
  • Sports
  • Random

On this same blog, you may use hundreds of tags, which could include:

  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Italian Dinner
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • R&B
  • Hip Hop
  • Mystery
  • Family Christmas

These are just a few examples. Typically, a website will have a few categories and, over time, hundreds or even thousands of tags.

Differences Between Categories and Tags

You will quickly notice, ALL posts must be categorized, but you don’t have to use tags with every post. If you don’t categorize a post, it will automatically go into your default category. This category starts as the “uncategorized” category before you rename it.

Another difference is found within the permalinks or URLs for each. The difference looks like this:


How Many Categories Should You Use for Your WordPress Website?

Back before WordPress 2.5, bloggers and webmasters had to use a ton of categories. Before WordPress 2.5, there wasn’t any built-in support for tags. However, things are different today.

The right amount of categories for your WordPress site will vary depending on the size and complexity of your site. It’s best to start with a few general categories and grow over time.

As your website/blog grows, you will want to use sub-categories. It’s not a good idea to have 30 categories with just a few posts in each. Instead, you should have around 5-10 categories and use sub-categories, if necessary.

When Should You Start Using Sub-Categories?

Sub-categories are not always necessary. However, if you have enough posts under one category and they can be placed in a sub-category, you should do this. For example, if one of your categories is “sports” you could use the sub-categories football, baseball, basketball and soccer. However, if you don’t plan to create multiple posts for each of these, sub-categories are not necessary.

You don’t have to use sub-categories, but for a larger blog, it will help the reader find what they are looking for. Somebody could be a fan of football, but not baseball. Using sub-categories can help them find more posts about football, without worrying about sifting through all of your sports posts.

Should You Use Multiple Categories for the Same Post?

Placing the same post in more than one category won’t hurt your SEO, if it makes sense. Some believe it does, but this isn’t the truth. However, you should be careful about using multiple categories for the same post. It wouldn’t make much sense to put a post about a football game in both the sports and the food category.

However, if the post you have created fits within both categories, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t assign it to both categories. You won’t gain any SEO benefits by doing this, but it may help you readers find the content they’re after.

How Many Tags Should You Use?

You can assign as many tags to a post as you want. However, you don’t want to just use hundreds of tags that don’t make sense. Ideally, you shouldn’t use any more than 10 tags per post and they should all make sense.

For example, if you created a post about a specific football game, it would make sense to use tags representing both teams playing. However, it may not make sense to use the player’s names, unless you specifically mentioned them in the post. Make sure your tags make sense for your post.

Use Both Tags and Categories

It’s important to use both tags and categories for your blog/website. They both make perfect sense and will help you with your SEO. Just make sure both categories and tags make sense with your posts and your WordPress website.

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