WordPress Tags vs Categories

by Dev Duff on March 26, 2009

This post is based on my personal experiences and I will share my experiences openly so that you can equally benefit by using ‘smart categories’. It wouldn’t be unfair to say ‘wordpress tags’ are ‘smart categories’ and to an extent, we can say ‘tags’ are ‘categories’. Listing a few common questions that came across my mind when I was new to WordPress.

Why should I use tags in my posts?
What is the use of tags?
How many tags are good to provide for each post?
How can tags help me get more traffic?

When you installed your wordpress blog, you must have thought deeply about categories you wish to keep on your blog. We all spend enough time in planning what sort of categories would be best for the blog. However, most of the time, we just skip thinking about tags. Honestly, how many times you ‘ever’ clicked on the tab above the Category tab in your wordpress admin panel? I can bet, very few people define tags as they setup a new blog. It is very important to define tags just like you define categories. Why? Please continue reading to find out why. I will include a few examples to make it clear.

Lets say you setup a brand new blog and your blog is about ‘Latest News’. So you would probably include these categories:

Business, Entertainment, Health, Science, Sports, Technology, Travel, U.S. News, World News, etc.

XSitepro

These would be the main categories, however, we fully understand that there is a lot more than just those Categories. You may think about using sub-categories, so for example, we talk about the category ‘Technology’ and create a few sub-categories under Technology.

Technology –

  • Computers
  • Gadgets
  • Gaming

We have now drilled down Technology category to sub-categories. However, the sub-category in this case ‘Computers’ in itself is a sub-category that can have many other sub-sub-categories. You can’t simply keep going on and on with sub-categories, sub-sub-categories, etc. After all, you want your blog to look good and not a mess of categories, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories. So, the best you can have is Categories and Sub-categories. Now what? When you start writing and adding posts, you will definitely feel that Computers sub-category is getting jammed with all sorts of computer news and you wish to do something about it so that you can differentiate Dell Computers from HP Computers, HP Computers from Gateway Computers and so on. You would really wish that you go ahead and start creating sub-sub-categories under the Computers sub-category. This is where the Tags come into picture.

What I would do in this case, define tags before I write posts so that I can create ‘smart categories’ that will get indexed in search engines just like categories. Each ‘tag’ would act like a category of its own and will represent relative content. This will ensure more traffic to your blog.

Sub-category: Computers
Tags: dell computers, hp computers, gateway computers, acer computers, ibm computers, compaq computers.

Now whenever, I write a new post related to Dell Computers, after the post, I will define tags and will use ‘dell computers’ tag for it. Similarly, when I write posts about HP computers, I will use the tag ‘hp computers’. And so on. You can assign more tags depending on ‘how many smart categories you wish to create’.

Why and how this will be helpful?
Lets say, you wrote 5 posts on Dell Computers, 5 posts on HP Computers and 5 posts on IBM Computers. All these posts will be in Technology Category > Computers Sub-Category. So, your ‘Computers’ sub-category will have 15 posts which will be about computers belonging to 3 different companies. And the category path that will get indexed in search engines would be:

http://www.devduff.com/technology/computers

Where as, with the help of ‘smart categories’/tags, the path for Dell Computers will be indexed in Search Engines like this:

http://www.devduff.com/tag/dell-computers
http://www.devduff.com/tag/hp-computers
http://www.devduff.com/tag/ibm-computers
And so on …

It may be a little hard to get better rankings on Search Engines for a sub-category like ‘Computers’. However, you may get good rankings on search engines if you use ‘smart categories’. The smart categories could be anything ‘discount computers’, ‘computers coupons’, ‘latest computers’, etc. Ranking for these combinations may be quite possible and you may get a lot of traffic if you use good tag combinations.

You can experiment using different combinations of highly searched keywords to use as tags. Probably say a keyword like ‘latest computers’ would be good enough to create smart category and list all the latest computers in that smart category. Go on, experiment a little and see for yourself that you will get a lot of traffic from search engines with the use of tags/smart-categories.

On a side note, it is not advisable to have more than 2 or 3 tags for each post. Tags are ‘very powerful’ and you should use them wisely. Secondly, it is useless to have a tag with similar name to a category or a sub-category. There is no use of running into this situation:

http://www.devduff.com/technology/computers
http://www.devduff.com/tag/computers

Can’t say that this will hurt but both of these links will have almost same content if you are using ‘computers’ tag on all posts subjected to Computers sub-category.

Tags can be used in a lot of different ways. You can use a particular tag to pickup posts from different categories and present related posts in one category. You probably already know about it by now. I will let you figure out how best you can use tags to create new smart-categories.

I hope, I was able to explain ‘how to use tags wisely’. If I was unable to explain it good enough, feel free to ask questions. If you have any better tips wordpress tags and categories, please feel free to post a comment below. You can explore other wordpress tutorials that may interest you or help you in one way or the other.
Thankyou for reading this article!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joginder Bhabra

I am new to wordpress and I have been struggling to understand catagories & tags. This article has thrown more light on the topic than anything else I have read so far.

Thank you

Joginder Bhabra

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US Hosting

OH,Thanks for the information.
it was very helpful for me.
Thx.

Reply

Terrettgnome

Proper useful article! Just the information I’ve been looking for. Thanks!

Reply

Michal

I were preapering my own website, and came into trouble with tags and categories. Now its clear.

Thanks a lot, very usefull and informative post.

Reply

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