However, even though WordPress is relatively straightforward to use, there are still certain issues which confuse people now and then. Today we’re tackling the categories vs. tags issue which leaves many bloggers completely confused.
So what’s the difference?
The best way to see categories is as a grouping of posts, generically labeled to roughly indicate what the post is about. Ideally you’d have 5-7 categories for your blog and normally each post is put in at least one category.
On the other hand, tags are just keywords that give an indication what the post relates to. A blog and even a post can have as many tags as you wish. That’s the main difference.
So for example, for this particular post, I already know that the category is ‘Online Marketing’ but the tags used will include keywords like WordPress, SEO and Blogging.
What are the SEO implications of all this?
Well firstly, categories and tags have different URL structures: www.domain.com/tag/post and www.domain.com/category/post. This means it’s important not to have categories and tags that are exactly the same word. Since you’d probably use them with the same posts, you’d end up with two very similar pages creating very little new value for your users.
So for example, if you’re using SEO as both a category and a tag, then when you visit www.domain.com/category/seo & www.domain.com/tag/seo, they’ll practically be the same page. That’s duplicate content.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that categories are really helpful to improve the internal linking within your blog. Category pages however, shouldn’t be seen as just a list of related blog posts, but they are an opportunity for you to provide even more unique content.
For example, if one of your categories relates to ‘Company News’, why not use that category page to present some information about your company. If you have a category called ‘SEO’, why not also use that page to present a testimonial and a link to your SEO service page?To do the above you can use plug-ins like this one.
Moving on to tags, the general advice is to noindex them, something that many WordPress SEO plugins allow you to do. The reason I would suggest this isn’t necessarily because of duplicate content issues as many say, but because it’s not possible to keep editing every tag page.
I don’t think tag pages provide much value to someone searching on a search engine and its probably best if another post or page from your site is presented instead. You don’t want to mess up that opportunity in the SERPs by presenting a tag page.
It’s probably best to focus on ranking your other pages and posts.
Any final tips
Here are three more tips, just because you’ve found this article interesting enough to have read so far:
1) Rename the Uncategorized category … call it something like ‘General’.
2) You can link to your categories in the sidebar.
3) Make sure you use only relevant tags. Don’t spam your own site!
Now that you know how categories and tags are used, you can easily go and optimize them on your blog. Don’t worry if you don’t do it straight away. Most people use them incorrectly anyway. Since this is a new blog, at the time of writing, I haven’t even done the category pages here yet (…I know I know!).
Remember that using categories and tags correctly is another way to stand out, provide more value to your website visitors, and even get more leads!
Lesson of the day: don’t underestimate them.
So will you be using categories and tags differently from now on?
Jeffrey Romano is the Marketing Manager at Clever Solutions Ltd. and is also in charge of managing client SEO projects internally.