WordPress Categories vs Tags

In the previous lesson, we’ve discussed the differences between posts and pages. If your website is not just a corporate ‘static’ website, chances are you’re gonna have at least some posts. You would likely, as a result, need to categorize and tag them to make it easier for your readers to find and browse your articles. Today, we’re going to explore how you could manage and organize your website content better using WordPress categories vs tags.

Let’s first take a look at some basic differences between WordPress categories vs tags:

Categories Tags
Main topics of your posts. You can think of it as:
– Chapters of a book
Specific keywords or details of your posts. You can think of it as:
– Indexes of a book
Broadly group your related posts * Micro-categorize your content
Category is compulsory. If you don’t choose any category for your posts, they’ll fall under the default “Uncategorised” category Tags are optional
Categories are hierarchical:
Food & Beverages (main category)
– Soft drinks
– Alcoholic drinks
Tags are not
Category archive URL: **
Tag archive URL:

* How broad a group is actually depends on your website topics. For instance, “Travel” might be a main topic (category) of your personal blog, but only a sub-category under “Lifestyle” in a billionaire magazine.

It’s also worth noticing that places like “Rome”, “Manchester”; brands like “Apple”, “Facebook” and specific stuff like “Sugar”, “Money” are usually tags no matter how broad they are. Categories are usually more generic and “intangible” such as “Food & Drink”, “Education”, “Tutorials” and “Business”.

** You can change your category and tag archive URL under: WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks

WordPress categories vs tags: permalinks

For example, if you use “topics” as your category base, your category links will become http://buildwps.com/topics/uncategorized/

What you should know about WordPress Categories

Categories are the main topics that your website covers. In other words, they are what your website is about.

You should categorize every single one of your posts. Posts without any categories will be put under the so-called “uncategorized” category, which leaves you some big question marks: “Why did I write this post?”, “Is it relevant to my website’s topics?”

However, generally speaking, each post should belong to one category only. Whenever you try to fit a post into 2 or more categories, follow these 2 steps:

  1. First, ask yourself this question: “Does this post really belong to these 2 categories?” If your answer is “No”, choose the best fit one.
  2. If it’s a “Yes”, think of a broader category that best describes these 2 categories. That means creating a broader (parent) category with these 2 categories as its sub-categories. For example, if your post legitimately fits in both “Time management” and “Self-discipline” category, how about creating “Personal Development” as its parent category?

This is also how you create your sub-categories. Don’t try to be a genius that have all your categories and sub-categories set up in place even before you write your first articles.

Make use of WordPress Tags

Tags are important keywords & only keywords that best describe your articles. Contrary to categories, you can have multiple tags applied to a post. For instance, if you write a post about breakfast, your tags could be “Bacon”, “Bread”, “Jam”.

Although tags should usually be limited to important keywords covered in your post, there are a few exceptions. For instance, even though you may not write about the United States directly, if you make some comparison with the US while writing about your trip to Paris, it might be helpful to tag “the US” in your post as well as long as you already have at least a few posts about the US.

Start with LESS

One mistake almost all new bloggers make is that they tend to anyhow categorize and tag their posts with the mindset that “more is better”. However, unlike the hashtags on Instagram or Facebook where you can literally put any random #hashtags and have some #ridiculouslylonghashtag ever, it’s generally not helpful to have too many tags, let alone categories.

It’s ridiculously redundant to have 30 posts with 10 categories. Most of your categories will then have less than 3 posts; some may not have any posts at all. When you first start writing content for your website, it’s best to start with 2 to 3 main categories first and then expand them as your website grows.

Likewise, having too many unnecessary tags fragments your website content and makes it more difficult for your readers to find important content as a result.

Remember that you can always go back and tag your post again. So don’t worry if you tag less (or event don’t tag at all); worry if you over-tag your posts. For example, tagging all keywords in your post is not necessary until you have a least a few posts about those keywords.

How to use WordPress Categories vs Tags properly

After you’ve written for a while, you’ll have a clearer sense of what your website is about and what you tend to focus on more often. You may be writing about food in general but focusing more on sugar; you may be writing about traveling but focusing more on Asia Pacific area. This will help you tag and organize your content more properly.

From my own experience, when you write a post, you think of yourself first – your own knowledge and experience that might be helpful to your readers.

When you categorize a post, you think of your website content whether this post and its category fit in your website’s topics as a whole.

But when you tag a post, you must think of your readers first, forget everything else including you, your content or whatever SEO shit that people are talking about. The only question you should consider is: “How could my readers best discover my relevant content through my tags?”

To conclude, your posts should NOT be in more than one, or in some rare cases, 2 categories while your tags must be relevant keywords mentioned in these posts. And always remember,

Start with LESS. Less is More.