My last article covered the basics of WordPress search engine optimization (SEO). The bottom line for SEO — make it as easy as possible for search engines to discover and index your content and, in turn, drive relevant traffic to your site. Once SEO has done its job, your WordPress site structure takes over.
Your site structure is all about user experience. It’s more than attractive design. It’s about making it as easy as possible for your potential client, customer or fan to find the specific content they want and need and, in the process, encouraging them explore the other great content you offer.
There are many different ways to tease your new visitor into exploring your site. A list of your most popular or most recent posts, tag clouds, custom archive pages, and well-structured navigation menus are just a few possibilities.
WordPress Categories and Tags
One less frequently discussed method is the use of well-defined WordPress categories and tags. Most of your content is going to reside in your blog, so an efficient, search engine friendly structure is essential but, how you structure your categories and tags can greatly enhance user experience. Next well-designed, intuitive menus, categories and tags are the most important elements for designing an effective site structure.
Categories and tags are great for several reasons:
- They serve your reader by creating a means to discover related content on your site.
- They help you stay focused on the purpose of your blog and keep you from straying into irrelevant topics.
- They improve your SEO and make it easier for search engines to index your site.
- They strengthen your internal site links. For example, if I am writing an article about the benefits of using images in WordPress I could create a link directing my reader to all the posts tagged with ‘image editing,’ as I just did.
How to Setup Categories and Tags
Before setting up your categories and tags, a quick orientation. The most common analogy given when talking about WordPress categories and tags is this — think of categories and tags in the same way as you think of a table of contents and an index in a book. Your site’s categories constitute a Table of Contents, much like chapters do in a book. Tags are your Index. That’s all there is to it.
Categories help you organize and group your content by topic, i.e., blogging, podcasts, video blogging, etc. Tags describe the essential elements or subjects of your content in individual posts.
To set up your categories and tags follow a few simple guidelines:
- Don’t set up your categories ‘on-the-fly’. If you are just starting your blog, identify 3 to 5 content categories in which you want to focus content. As you produce more content and expand your knowledge, you can always branch out into new categories. If you have already started your blog and ignored WordPress categories, stop! Take time to get organized and categorize your content as necessary.
- Be miserly and intentional in creating new categories. Only create categories when your goal is to create or group a series of new articles, videos, podcasts, etc.
- Categories are hierarchical; you can create sub-categories. For example, if you start a pet blog you might have one category for dogs, another for cats. Sub-categories for dogs might include dog breeds, dog training, dog nutrition, etc.
When creating your categories in WordPress be sure to include a full category description, its topic, and your intent. This information can be useful if you decide to create custom category archive pages for your site. Category descriptions also help bring your writing or content creation into better focus.
- Assign each post to a category — this is mandatory in WordPress. If you don’t, WordPress will designate the post as “uncategorized”.
- Ideally, assign posts to only one category, but never more than 2 — try to stick to the same principle as a Table of Contents. Assigning a post to more than one category can weaken or dilute SEO value.
- Tags are optional but encouraged. Unlike categories, tags are not hierarchical. They have a flat structure.
- Like categories, complete a full description of each tag.
- Be liberal in your use of tags, but avoid using one-time or single-use tags. If you do assign tags make sure they are directly related to a particular topic or concept within the post. Again, think of the same analogy as a book index.
- Do not use the same name for both a category and tag. Names should be unique.
- Maintain content balance across your categories. If you find you have categories with only one or two posts while others have 10 to 15, consider moving those posts into another category.
The Bottom Line for WordPress Categories and Tags
Categories and tags are designed to enhance user experience and engagement with your content. They help you stay on topic in your content creation. And, they improve your site’s SEO when they used for internal links and custom archive pages.
Related content you’ll find useful:
Using Category and Tag Pages for Your Site’s SEO
10 Handy Plugins to Help You Do More with WordPress Categories
How to Add Categories and Subcategories to WordPress