Crafting Categories and Tags in WordPress

Categories and Tags in WordPressHere at Webdirexion, we build highly individual and effective business websites on a WordPress foundation. There are several reasons for choosing WordPress as  our preferred platform but one of them is certainly it’s flexibility.

Although originally intended for bloggers, nowadays the ever-evolving WordPress works equally well as a content management system for a more traditional form of business website.

Whether you intend to manage your own website or are outsourcing internet marketing to an agency like Webdirexion  who will handle the design and website management for you, understanding a few facets of how WordPress handles content will help you decide on the best possible navigational structure.

Pages vs Posts

As mentioned above, WordPress was originally intended for blogs. The word blog is  a mash up of two other words – web and log. Like a ship’s log a b-log is intended to be a running commentary so posts are shown in a descending chronological order. While this stream of consciousness can be entertaining, a place is still needed for the static, unchanging information relating to the blog owner or topic. Typically these might be About Us, Contact Us, Price List etc., and in WordPress this content belongs in Pages.

“Another difference between posts and pages are that pages are hierarchical where posts are not. Pages can have an unlimited number of child pages but posts are singular…”

Your content layout plan should differentiate between static content (pages) and dynamic content (posts). It’s also worth noting that although originally conceived as a blogging platform, you do not need to have the blog section as your homepage. In fact you do not have to have a blog at all. Often, on WordPress powered company websites you’ll see a tab on the top navigation bar to Company News or Updates and this is often where the chronologically listed posts can be found but on other corporate sites there is no such tag and no blog to be found because the entire site consists of static pages.

Another difference between posts and pages are that pages are hierarchical where posts are not. Pages can have an unlimited number of child pages but posts are singular. Posts can however, be grouped together by either categories alone or by categories and tags.

The Difference Between Categories and Tags in WordPress

So having identified your static content, the next step is to decide on how you are going to classify the rest of it. There are two built in taxonomies in WordPress to let you do that; categories and tags.

Categories

Top level categories are broad, macro, general containers that classify information at the widest level. You can create as many sub-categories as you like but always remember that you are better to have a rich category that contains many posts, than a thin category that holds only one post.

Similarly posts can be assigned to one category or several but generally speaking you should not need to assign more than two or at the most three categories to the occasional post. If you find that you are doing this repeatedly, it possibly indicates that your content structure is not clearly defined.

Tags

Tags are specific, precise and focused. They are flat and descriptive, not hierarchical. While every post must have one category (even if it is the default one assigned by WordPress which is called Uncategorized), tags are optional. Use them if you feel that including them is helpful for your site’s navigation. And, like Categories, WordPress automatically creates an index page for all the posts marked for a particular tag or category — see the tag index (we call them topics, not tags) for Content Marketing.

Category/Sub-category Tags
Food
 Food/Italian  pizza, spaghetti, provolone, bruschetta, pizza, spaghetti, tomato, oregano
 Food/Chinese/  wonton, kung pao chicken, har gaw, fried rice, chow mein

If you were building a food authority site you might break down the content further by region.

Food/Italian/Tuscany/

Food/Italian/Umbria

Food/Chinese/Schezwan/

Notice that the tags used are like the end of the line; the most defined and singular description given. Of course, in the tag examples above you could argue that there are many different types of pizza, so in fact pizza could be a sub-category of Italian. You would be right too, of course it could.  Whether you chose to make it a category would depend on the overall content of the website. If you will be covering pizza in depth and over many posts, by all means give it a sub-category of its own.

There is no stone-cast rule to limit the number of sub-categories and tags you end up with so go with common-sense. What navigational tactic gives your visitor the better experience, pizza as an end destination or pizza as a category further divided into tags?

In the excellent post, How to Use Tags and Categories the Right Way to Boost SEO, on the  WPManage blog, Tom Ewer advises not to create, “…a vast list of unhelpful categories. Focus on usability and ease of navigation, and you will reap the rewards.”

Tom also goes on to discuss the finer point of SEO in regards to categories and tags in WordPress which is something I have not discussed here at all and gives a nice overview of setting that up with the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.  Tom’s is one of the few voices on the internet which advocates indexing tags and including tag archives in the overall internal linking strategy.

We agree with him. Your indexing and internal linking options should be predicated by the importance of the landing page to your visitors and the overall topic of your site – not by whether it is a tag or a category.

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Author: Julie Hume

Jule Hume, SEO Marketer at WebdirexionJulie Hume, Editor, SEO and Social Media Marketer: is a career Marketing-Communications professional, having served as Director of Communications for Amari Hotels and Resorts, and Content Director for eThailand. For the past several years, she has worked independently as a writer, SEO specialist, and Social Media Marketer for a variety of clients. Currently she is attending Hootsuite University to keep her social media skills updated, as SEO continues to merge with Social Media. Julie enjoys a good mug of coffee, long walks with her children and dog on the island where she lives, and a good laugh watching professional comedians.

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