WordPress Categories and Tags – How To Use Them Correctly and Effectively

Categories and tags in WordPress can be found on the right sidebar of your blog editing window. WordPress categories and tags play an important role when it comes to the content on your website, as well as SEO. Categories and tags are the 2 main ways of classifying content on a WordPress website. To put it simply; categories are used as general labels while tags are used as specific labels. Let’s have a look at each before we dive into how to use them correctly.

WordPress Categories

Categories are used to group large sections of content on your site. In most cases, your site should have about 2 or 3 categories linked to each post. Categories are more like major bullets that are used to arrange the content on your site neatly. They also make the content on your site easy to access for visitors. For example, if you run an online business that sells different products that are related, you can assign each product a category. Each category you create should…

  • Have a name
  • Have a permalink or slug
  • Have a description
  • Connect to a parent category if applicable.

You can easily categorize content on your site when writing or editing a blog post by using the ‘Categories’ options on the right sidebar.

WordPress Tags

Tags are specific keywords used to describe or summarize a blog post. They give a reader a general idea of what to expect from a specific piece of content. Categories and tags differ in their application. While categories are used to group large sections of content, tags are used to indicate what a specific blog post talks about. Because of this, it’s okay to assign multiple tags to a single piece of content on your site. For instance, if you have a post about ‘How To Use WordPress Categories and Tags’, you can use the following tags: WordPress, WordPress Categories, WordPress Tags, WordPress Sites, etc. Tags basically summarize the main things highlighted in a post.

You can check out the specific tags you have associated with certain posts by going to the right sidebar and clicking the ‘Tags’ option. Here, you can find out which tags you use the most as well make necessary changes to tags if needed.

Using WordPress Categories and Tags Correctly

Many people are unaware that the categories and tags they use on their WordPress sites have a huge impact on SEO performance. You must get both right if you want your SEO ranking to improve. Tags specifically can have a negative impact on your SEO ranking if used incorrectly.

WordPress is a great CMS platform for building business websites. It has so many features that make it easy to customize your website and optimize it for search engines. Search engines index WordPress Categories and Tags on your website and stores them in their databases. Failure to have proper categories on your website or using tags incorrectly can make the indexing process unsuccessful. The search engines bots are left with no choice but to move on to other sites.

Duplication Issues

Duplication issues occur when similar words are used in different categories and tags. Words such as ‘Service’ and ‘Services’ are considered similar despite between a singular and pronoun respectively. Because of the sensitivity of indexing processes, you should also try your best to use different words in your categories and tags in order to have a clear distinction of different posts on your site,


WordPress Categories and tags are an excellent way of classifying, grouping and labelling content on your business website. They not only help readers access crucial topics easily, but also contribute immensely to your SEO ranking.


You may also find this video to be of interest…

Video Transcript:

How to Use Categories  Tags in WordPress – The Masterclass

How should you use categories and tags on your WordPress Website? The default feature that just sits there. But how you make use of this makes a huge difference to how navigate tool and user friendly and also how SEO friendly your website ends up being. So, in this video, we’ll take a close look at exactly how to categorize your website and how to use tax. This is great if you’re starting out and you’re building a website. This is a great way to start setting your categories but if you already have a Website and you watch this video and you think Oh there’s some things I have to change. Stick around to the end because I’ve got an important bonus for you there as well.

I’m Shane Melaugh from thrive themes and to get started on this topic let’s first look at what categories and tags are about and what they do? And at its most basic a category or a tag and WordPress, basically is the same thing. It joins together posts, under a group. So, if you have multiple posts with a category or with a tag, there is automatically a index page or an archive page that lists all of those posts. Typically, a magazine like this you’re on a blog and you’ll see a blog post and it tells you what category this blog post is published in and if we click on this. In this case, called Case Studies, then we go to a category page for case studies in which instead of seeing all blog posts we see only blog posts filed under the same category. The same is basically true for tax. Now what this does and some of the benefits of this is, first of all it, makes your site more navigateable. So, if I come to this website and I’m interested in case studies, I don’t have to look through the entire blog to try and find the posts I’m interested in. I can go to the category page and it shows me more relevant stuff to my interests.

At the same time, this also has an SEO benefit because it means that all of these posts are automatically interlinked. So, all of these posts are together on this one page that links out to all of them and every post has this little case studies, in this case link that links them to this page, right! So this is sometimes also referred to as a Silo structure but that’s a basic benefit for SEO. SEO is that you have thematically logically linked together automatically interlinked posts.

The similarities between categories and tags end there and one of the things that sets them apart is that categories are nestedable. That means that if we look at in the admin area here in WordPress, the categories list you can see that we have top level categories and subcategories in this case. Here’s how that works? If we have the entertainment top level category and it has field, music and sports underneath it. If I view these sports category, the subcategory of sports in this case. We see only those posts listed that are related to sports. Makes sense right?

Importantly, if I view the entertainment the top level category, what that means is that any post that was posted directly in the top level entertainment category but also any post that was posted in any of its subcategories is listed on this page. So, that’s the important function or that’s something you need to know about how nested categories function, at the top level category displays all posts of everything that is assigned to itself and to all of its subcategories.

Tags on the other hand are not nested. But having said that as we’ll get to right now, you probably shouldn’t have lots and lots of nested and complicated category structures. So, how many categories should you have and how should you categorize your website? Well the first rule is a very simple one.

Avoid orphans. That means you should never have a category that has only one post in it because technically that just doesn’t make any sense anymore. Since, the category is all about grouping content. If your visitor comes along they click on a category and they see only one post listed then that is pointless. It is also pointless from a technical standpoint. There’s no point in having a group of one. Now, in the same sense, I would count anything that has just a low post count as an orphan as well. Because again if I’m a visitor I’m coming to your website, I see a category I’m interested in I click on it. If I see only three or five posts or something that’s not really in line with what I was hoping to find. Because what the visitor probably wants to do is they want to browse. Right? They want to see what else do you have in this category. And if that’s a small number of things then that’s a bit pointless. In other words, it’s much better to have fewer categories with a lot of content each, than a lot of categories with very little content each.

So rule number two is Go For Fewer Categories. Really only exception, here is a magazine style Website. You know a website where basically you publish dozens of articles a day. You know a news style website where you have many many categories and there it starts making sense of a lot of categories and subcategories and so on. But for the vast majority of Websites for any kind of website the publishes one post per day or less go for fewer and the clear categories.

That brings us to rule number three which is you should Have Clearly Distinct Categories. In whatever your narrow niche is. For example, if you have a website lets say about photography gear and you have a category called News and another one called Rumors. Those two are not distinct enough because basically, as a visitor, if I’m coming to the website and I want to learn about the latest upcoming camera gear which one do I click. Is it news or rumors? Basically, no matter which one i click, I want the same thing. I want to learn the latest upcoming stuff. So your categories should be more distinct so that a visitor never sees two labels and goes, “Well. I don’t know which one of these to choose.”.

As another example, let’s say we have a website and it has one category that is productivity for students, another one that is productivity at work here. These two are clearly distinct from each other but they are the problem is a different one. This Website is probably trying to appeal to too many people, too many different groups of people, all at the same time. If you are a student, you’re probably going to be attracted to a website that has a lot of content about you know productivity at work or in the corporate world or something and vice versa. So, there are probably makes more sense to narrow the topic of the entire Website and make your distinctions between categories within that narrow niche.

But this case maybe we’d narrow down to this is just about productivity for students and we’d have one category that is for reading retention and another category is for writing so efficient writing or academic writing or something. So, this is a good example because both of these categories sit in the same narrow niche. They both appeal to students and they are also clearly distinct from each other. One of them is about learning from what you read. The other is about the writing work that you do.

Part two. How To Name Your categories?

The typical mistake we see here is that we have very generic often one word category labels and they would avoid that. Instead, go for labels that are action oriented and point towards a desired outcome. So, for example, instead of having a category called lead generation, have the category named build your mailing list. So, that is an action and it’s something that the reader wants. I want to build my mailing lists I click here. Same thing you know generic label will be traffic or maybe traffic generation and an action label that is much more personal and much more enticing would be get more visitors or build your audience.

Using category labels like this is also a great way to inject your personality and give it your own voice which is one of the things that makes your website stand out and makes people identify with it. So, let’s say in a fitness and fitness niche. Typical generic label would be muscle building and instead you might want to call that get pumped and the typical generic label will be weight loss and instead you might want to call that get shredded. So, what that does is it gives you a bit of personality and it also appeals more precisely to a specific group of people.

If you’re thinking about SEO here, then my advice is not to worry about that because you’re not going to rank for the generic terms anyway. You’re not going to rank for muscle building or something like that. So it’s much better to have like a brand bold term that people can identify with and whatever you choose make sure that the people you target completely understand what a category label is about when they see it in isolation. So, if someone sees only that category label, they should know what to expect.

So again with my fitness niche example, it depends what kind of person like what sub niche in the fitness industry you are in. Because for a certain group of people, those labels get pumped, get shredded, absolutely make sense in isolation but for other groups of people that would not be the right wording.

How to apply categories?

The rule here is really really simple. When you create a post put it in one category. That’s it. Never put a post in more than one category. Then it starts diluting the structure of your site, makes it more difficult for people to find what they want. Makes navigation more difficult basically defeats the purpose of categories. So, use the simple rule. Every post is in one category, no more and no less.

Now, if you followed the advice previously and you have only a small number of categories what will happen? Inevitably is that you write a post and you look at it and you go Well this doesn’t fit perfectly into any of my categories. Doesn’t matter. Just put it in whatever category is the closest fit because again it’s much better to have a small number of clearly defined categories and a lot of content in each than to have a new category for this one post and someone clicks through to it. They don’t find anything new.

If you’re writing something and you think well, maybe this should be its own category, maybe at some point in the future, I’ll have enough content for this to be its own category. Just apply a tag. Apply a tag and once you have you know 5,10 posts in that tag and you know you’re going to create more then you can turn it into a category of its own.

How to add categories to navigation?

So, as we said one of the purposes of categories is to make your site easier to navigate. So, how do you display them on your site? Well, here’s what you shouldn’t do. If you have a website and you have in your main navigation, you probably have a blog link. But you shouldn’t do is have a dropdown here, that offers the different categories. In general, more menu items and more drop downs are a bad idea. So, that’s what I wouldn’t do. Pretty much any theme you’ll ever use whether it will automatically do is from your blog posts, it will link to the categories.

So, here for example, this is a category. It will always have this post meta which is usually the publish date, the author name, the categories, and then maybe number of comments. In some cases, it will also list tags but if it does that you should make it stop listing tags and they’ll get to that later. So through the post matter, your categories are already reachable. Also, if we go into a post. Most themes have a form of breadcrumbs and here again, the categories should be listed in your breadcrumbs.

So, that’s another way in which people can reach your categories. Very typical place for categories are Widgets. So in WP-admin, if you go to appearance>widgets, you have a categories widget right here and you can place the category widget, in a widget area, such as the sidebar of your blog and that’s a pretty typical place to put it. And that again makes the categories easy to find and navigate.

Then another way in which categories often help with navigation is, if you have some kind of a related posts, widget such as this here. That’s usually created by the theme or maybe by a separate plugin. This will usually look to the categories to decide what posts to list here? And again the visitor here doesn’t actually think in terms of, oh! I’m gonna go to this category or this category page or whatever, but it’s just going to automatically show your visitor some posts that are likely, something, they’re interested in since they’ve just read a post in that same category.

Finally, you should link to category pages manually whenever that makes sense. So, in your content that is one of the linking opportunities. If you mentioned something where it makes sense to have an internal link that helps people find the category page, where they can browse for more.

So what about tags then?

This finally brings us to tags. Now, What did you use tags for? There are a few uses one of them is just for internal organization. For example, one of the things, I do is any post that contains a video, I add a video tag to that post and that is just useful. If I ever need to have an overview of every post that contains video, there’s a tag page I can go to for that.

One of the most important uses of tags for me is for targeting. So, for example, I use thrived leads and there are targeting rules and thrive leads that determine where this form show up. And I have for example, in no opt in tag. Where I simply have a rule that says if the no opt in tag is present, don’t show the form and that I apply that to every form. So if I ever have a post where I know, I don’t want an opt in forms show here. Maybe, there’s a content upgrade inside the post. So, I don’t want you know different opt in offer to overlay that. So, I’d just add the no opt in tag. As you can tell these are tags that are not made for my visitors. The idea is not that my visitor goes to the no opt in tag page.

Another thing that we use is we have top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the final tags. That simply identify kind of which segment of our audience is this post made up and again that’s much more useful internally and for the team than it is for the visitor. Tags can also be used if you create a series of content. So, if you have a series of content where you know instead of ever having everything in one blog post, maybe you have five part series, five different blog posts, on the same topic you give each of them the same tag. And that means you have one place to link to if you tell people you know. Click HERE to view the full series of posts and it takes them to the tag list with exactly those posts in it.

And finally depending on what related post feature you use, if you use any some related post widgets and features will also look through tags to determine the relation of posts with each other. In general, with tags you can apply as many as you want. But the rule here is first of all, also avoid orphans because there’s no point. If every post you create has 100 tags and 90 of them are unique then you’re just completely diluting the structure of your website and you’re basically just clogging up your database with stuff that you’re not going to use. So, even though it makes much more sense for tags to have multiple per post. You still want to be applying the same set of tags over and over again. If you have any tag that has only one post or three posts or something assigned to it then you should probably get rid of it.

And as I mentioned before as a rule do not display tags on the front end. Tags are not a useful navigation element. Tags are basically not useful for your visitors to find their way around the site. So, use them internally for all the purposes, I mentioned but don’t make them a navigation element. Now, to round it off, Let me show you an example of how I would structure the categories on a site? And I’ll use my marketing blog active growth as an example for this. So, if I was starting from scratch on my site, I would decide that there are basically three categories I want to have, three large groups.

The first will be everything about creating your own product. The second would be everything related to building your entrepreneurial skills, building your marketing skills, and so on. And the third would be about just tools and tech. So be like maybe tools and reviews or reviews and tutorials or something like that.

So for a site starting out, I’d be quite happy with three categories. I can start filling them up with my posts and I would only worry about expanding that and having more categories as my site grows. Where I ended up with currently and remember this is for a site that has hundreds of posts. I have still these three main areas but I added three categories to each. So, I have a total of nine categories that I use. In the creating your product idea, i have your killer product idea, create your product, and launch your product. So, I have three aspects of creating your product.

Then in the skills category, I have marketing skills, mindset, and level up your productivity. And then finally in the tools and tech, bucket I have use tutorials and then a category called Traficant conversions. So, as you can see even on a blog with hundreds of posts, I didn’t go and do 15 categories or something like that. I’m still keeping it quite tightly grouped together and I have many instances of posts that don’t perfectly fit one of those categories. Also, you can see that you know my category labeling isn’t perfect. There aren’t all desirable outcome action oriented labels and I wanted to show this example as well because it doesn’t have to be perfect. And these categories have changed and evolved over time many many times. It’s something you don’t have to get it exactly right the first time. I really recommend that you start small and build that up and improve it over time.

I hope you found that useful guidance now. Like I said in the beginning there is a bonus that I put together for you because if you already have a website you’ve already maybe you have a ton of tags. Maybe you see that you have a lot of orphan categories. Maybe you’ve seen that your category labels aren’t that great and you want to make some changes. Well, maybe you’re wondering how do I do that? How do I merge categories together? How do I move posts from a category to another? How do I delete a category without losing my content? How do I change category labels and your urls without causing all kinds of 404 errors and losing all my link juice and all this kind of stuff? And that is exactly what my bonus video is about. So, check out below this video. You can get this bonus that teaches you exactly how to move and merge and mix and match categories and tags without causing any errors or interruptions and without losing link juice. All right. I hope you enjoy this. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. And thanks for watching.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Categories and tags have much more significance when it comes to the content organization on your site, as well as SEO. Categories and tags are the two primary ways to group content on a WordPress site. In simple terms, categories are general labels, while tags are more specific (describe your posts in more detail).
Use WordPress tags the way they should be used and your site will be fine. So, if you really want to use WordPress tags, keep these three things in mind: Keep a clear distinction between Categories and Tags: The categories should define the topics of your site.
Tag is one of the pre-defined taxonomy in WordPress. Users can add tags to their WordPress posts along with categories. However, while a category may cover a broad range of topics, tags are smaller in scope and focused to specific topics. Think of them as keywords used for topics discussed in a particular post.
Edit an Existing Tag

Click on the name of the tag that you wish to edit. If you hover over the tag name, you can also click on Quick Edit which lets you edit the name of the tag or its slug. You will be on the Edit Tag page. Click on the fields that you wish to change and make your changes.

As categories and tags are used to help people find the exact content easily and quickly, you should not use a category and a tag on your website with the same name. For example: If you have a category with “Tree WordPress Themes”, youshould not use a tag with the same name.
Categories are hierarchical, so you can sub-categoriesTags are meant to describe specific details of your posts. Think of these as your site’s index words. One of the biggest difference between tags and categories is that you MUST categorize your post.
To add tags to a new post, go to your blog’s admin area > Posts > Add New. When you write your new post, you can add a tag to it by typing the tag word in the Tags field on the right and clicking the Add button. You can add as many tags as you want.

Go to Appearance » Menus. Click on categories, select categories and then click on Add to Menu button. On the front-end of your WordPress website, each categoryhas their own page. Most WordPress themes come with a template calledcategory.php which controls the display of a category archive page.

WordPress Tags Giving a SEO Boost is a Myth

All it does is create clutter and make it more difficult for your reader to actually use WordPress tags the way they were intended. To make a page rank, you have to mention the keyword phrases you are trying to rank for in the main content of the article.

Tags Are an Important Part of SEO—Don’t Ignore Them

However, they are still critical to developing a good user experience, which is almost always beneficial from a SEO standpoint. The more well-put together your site is, the more traffic you’re likely to attract.

*The information above does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified attorney.

Originally posted 2019-09-04 05:34:12.

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