categories and tags for SEO

We display our tags on our blog page (top right) to help guide readers towards the topics they are most interested in.

Making sure that the search engine spiders know what your website and pages are about is an important part of your SEO strategy. Most website owners have built their website with some kind of site structure. But beyond that, you also have to make sure you set up categories and tags for SEO purposes.

As you will find out, categories and tags aren’t just great for SEO. They are also great for your audience, as they help them to easily find blogs on the topics they are interested in. Since it’s great for search engines and for your audience – that’s a winning combo!

If you aren’t sure what purpose categories and tags serve for SEO, don’t worry. Here’s everything you need to know so that you can make the most of these important SEO tools.

Why are categories and tags so important?

When you start creating content for your blog or website, you’ll naturally find yourself coming up with numerous blogs for the same topic. For example, if you are building a gardening blog, you might have five articles on the topic of growing tomatoes. Here are some titles that may be covered:

  • 5 Steps to Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden
  • How to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
  • The Secret to Increasing Your Tomato Yield This Summer

What setting up categories does is that it creates a landing page that curates all of these blog posts in one spot. This allows users to find the exact content they may be looking for without having to search through a bunch of other unrelated topics. For search engines, it also allows the search crawlers to get a clear idea of what these articles are focusing on.

Categories give all your pages equal opportunity to rank

Without categories, you’ll find the SEO for your pages becoming imbalanced. The pages may start competing for the same search keywords, ensuring that none of them will end up ranking well at all. With a category page, you have a clear focus for one topic that, over time, can rank well as you continue to add content that falls into that category. While SEO for individual blog posts is also important, category pages are a major area of opportunity for businesses looking to boost their organic traffic. This approach is cleaner, more organized, and better for your SEO campaign.

What role do tags play?

In many CMS platforms, you can also assign a tag to your pages. The purpose of tags is simply to provide a better description of your page. Going back to the previous example, a post on growing tomatoes organically can use the tag “organic tomatoes.” When using tags, you want to avoid broad descriptions. Instead, you want to use very specific keywords that describe why a page is unique. You should also avoid using the same keywords for tags as you use for your categories.

We like to follow the analogy put forth by our CMO and Chief Optimizer, Scott Frangos. As he puts it, “think of your categories as the chapters in a book, and the tags as the index.” Chapters are broader and have a lot more to them, whereas tags are more specific. Both serve a unique purpose and thought and should be given to both when forming your overall blog and content marketing strategy.

Setting up a category and tag structure

Now that you understand the importance of categories and tags for SEO, how do you go about setting up a solid structure? We recommend taking a step back and looking at the big picture – what topics have you either already covered or are likely to include, based on your business and industry?

From there, you should then come up with around five to ten categories to use. You want enough categories so that you can properly group your topics, but you don’t want so many that each category will only have one or two posts. If you are just starting out and don’t have any blog posts, we still recommend choosing around three to five categories to get started. And, as you grow, you can add a few more as needed.

After selecting your categories, it’s time to select your tags. You are likely going to have more tags than categories because your tags are more focused and specific. If you have existing blog posts, think about the particular topics they have covered, and start to create your tag list from that. If you are brand new, start coming up with blog post ideas that you will write about and put together an initial tag list from there.

To give you an idea, let’s use a home remodeling blog as an example. How might you set up your categories and tags? Your categories may be different areas of the home, say Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom, Basement, Living Room. Tags should be more specific, say various aspects of home remodeling: DIY, Flooring, Cabinets, Decorating.

In our situation, say we have a category on Digital Marketing, tags could be various aspects of digital marketing, including social media, blogging, and landing pages. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how your categories and tags should work. And remember, our team can always help you build your perfect content marketing strategy, including deciding on the right categories and tags for both SEO value and to guide your audience to the correct information.

Displaying categories and tags at your website

Now that you understand the value of categories and tags and you’ve maybe started to think about which ones are right for your website, you need the final piece of the puzzle. You need to display them! While categories and tags serve an internal purpose of organizing your site for SEO, remember that we said they also help your audience. They can only help your readers if they can see them!

Therefore, once you’ve got your categories and tags selected, you need to figure out how to best display them on your blog so that people can easily click to where they want to go. Our blog page, as seen above, displays our tags so that people can quickly learn more about the specific topic they are interested in.

You have a few options for how you display your categories and tags. A client of ours, Revint, chooses to display their tags on their blog page in a cloud arrangement where tags with more articles in them display larger. This can help to visually show off your top areas of expertise and draw a user’s eye to the tag area, to begin with.

revint Categories and Tags for SEO

This is a great option if you do cover a wide range of topics. Readers can quickly see which topics are covered the most and can click on whichever one they are interested in.

If you don’t like the idea of a tag cloud, or if perhaps you have a more concise list of topics, you can always opt for a basic list design. Sometimes simplicity is best, and this is a great way to show off the various categories you have created for your blog. Another client of ours, Eagle Consulting Partners, opted for this more simplistic design:

eagle Categories and Tags for SEO

Because their list is shorter, a simple list design makes sense for them. Depending on your brand, industry, and category and tag list, you can decide what the best design will be. No matter what you choose, what matters is that it is visible for your readers so that they can easily select the topic they want to learn more about.

And hey- you don’t have to just guess what will work best! Running an A/B test is one way to test out different variations to see what gives you the best results. Conversion rate optimization (otherwise known as CRO) is a specialty of ours, and we would be happy to help you boost your conversions through a series of A/B tests and other CRO tactics, including optimizing your categories and tags.

Need help reorganizing your site?

Setting up the right site structure with your categories and tags for your website is critical to your SEO campaign. Other things like link structure, page speed, and navigation are also important. These things can get very technical and time-consuming but are worthy of your time to ensure real business success.

If you need help making sure your website is set up to succeed on search, consider leaving it to the experts. Webdirexion has helped many businesses build winning SEO campaigns. And you could be next! Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for your brand.

Briana Barkett
Briana Barkett

Briana is our content maven at Webdirexion bringing writing, editing, SEO, and social media skills to the team.  She graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Communication Studies and has served as an “Ambassador for Global Awareness” a volunteer assignment to promote civil rights and social action.

At Webdirexion she is helping with writing, editing, quality checks, and learning page layout and split testing using the Divi WordPress theme.

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