WordPress Categories vs Tags

WordPress Categories vs Tags


If you’re a seasoned blogger or just starting out, many people consider WordPress to be the easiest and most user-friendly content management system around. Starting a new blog to share ideas, insights, tips and reviews has never been more readily accessible thanks to this great piece of open-source software. WordPress is versatile, and in addition to blogs, can be used to create regular websites even if you’re not very familiar with code languages like CSS or HTML. When you use WordPress, you have the advantage of getting a Google listing within just a couple days, whereas with other systems it might take up to a week or longer.

The Importance of Categories and Tags

This helps you extend your reach and expand your readership, so that more people can find you online. To get the most out of your Google listing, you want to make sure that you’re using categories and tags. Search engine optimization, also called SEO, is an important technique you can use to bump up your traffic and attract more visitors. They sound similar, but a tag and a category aren’t quite the same thing. They are both useful because they enhance the usability of your site, making it so readers can browse through your posts by topics rather than just by the date they were posted.

Key Differences

For starters, let’s look at the key differences between a category and a tag. A category is, as it sounds, a way of categorizing the topics your blog covers. It is a broad way of labeling the type of content in your blog post. Each post in WordPress is required to have at least one category attached to it, so that when people are browsing WordPress, they can find more posts related to their interests. The category system is hierarchical, so you can additionally use sub-categories to be a bit more specific about what areas of a certain topic your blog content covers.

Categories Explained

Categories are meant to engender a group of your posts, so it’s best to start off using a handful of generic ones that describe the main themes and topics you’re writing about. You don’t want to use too many categories, because it will make things unnecessarily confusing. To be more specific about your content, you can add tags alongside the categories. If you do not use a category to label your posts, they will be relegated to the “other” category, making them harder to find for you and your readers.

Tags Explained

Tags are used to describe the specific content in each post. For instance, let’s say you’ve created a blog about technology and gadgets. You might have a lot of posts labeled with the category “software”, but since you’re making posts about different kinds of software, you want your users to be able to find those posts more easily. So when a visitor clicks the “software” category, they can look at the tags to see what products you’re writing about.

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When to Use Categories and Tags

If you’ve made several posts about WordPress plugins, you can tag them as such, making them distinctive from your posts about other software, like games or photo editing programs. Unlike categories, you aren’t required to use tags, but it definitely makes locating specific information much easier.

Now that you know the difference between the two, you’re probably wondering how you should use them best. Typically, when you first launch a site, you won’t have that many posts. If you only have a handful of posts, it is pointless to have too many categories. Keep the categories basic and broad. Using our tech blog example, you’d want to begin with just a few, such as: software, hardware, devices, books. From there, you can add subcategories when you start posting more. The software category could have so many different topics covered, so you can tag each post with relevant information. You might be writing about games you like, interesting software, troubleshooting, or product reviews, and tagging them as such will make it easier for people using search engines to find your pages that specifically match the keywords they typed in.

While you don’t have to use subcategories, they are useful if you find yourself making posts about the same subject within one category regularly. You can create your own subcategories if you feel like this will index a specific topic that you write about often. However, this is not necessary, and some people feel that using tags is just easier. You can use as many tags as you like as long as they are actually relevant to your content, although it is recommended that you use no more than 5 to 20. Using more than that reduces the likeliness of your site being included in the topics listings.

Adding a Category to a Post

When you add a category to a post, it will change the way the URL (the post’s address) looks. Here is an example of what a URL looks like with a category added to it:

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Now, when you click it, it will show all the posts you’ve created that are related to the topic software. When you add your tags, you will be able to see more specific posts that are related to software, but individually indexed by the tags.


Your main objective is to magnetize readers to your site, and make it as user-friendly as possible. If you notice that maybe a particular tag is getting a lot of attention, you might want to consider making that tag its own subcategory.

After reading about the differences between tags and categories, you have probably realized that it isn’t a matter of using one versus the other. It is a good idea to use both of them, so that your site reaches more people with similar interests. Make sure to use both of them efficiently— don’t add too many categories (those are meant to be broad), and don’t use too many tags or the blog will seem disorganized. Just use common sense, and you’ll find that it isn’t so hard after all. Your blog, much like a book, simply needs an index for quick reference, which you can create now that you know how to use tags and categories.

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Brandon is a one of the top small business bloggers in the world. His small business blog (http://BrandonGaille.com), which uses WordPress, gets over 500,000 unique visitors per month. He is the CEO of ByReputation, and has founded several multi-million dollar companies.