You’re excited. You’re getting ready to launch your new blog, and you have some great ideas for your first posts. Then you get to the part where you need to create categories and tags. And you freeze.
What are categories? What are tags?
Categories and tags are really quite similar. They are tools that you use to categorize your blog posts and make it easier for your visitor to find related content. They can also be used to help search engines, such as Google, understand what your website and posts are about.
Is there a difference between categories and tags?
There are many different ways of distinguishing between categories and tags. In my own view, categories are broader topics and tags are descriptive words.
A topic that you write about often, or a common theme that you can use to group blog posts.
If you think of a textbook, in the front you probably have a table of contents that gives a general idea of what topic each chapter is about. The table of contents is like a list of categories.
A specific word or phrase that describes what a blog post is about.
Back to our textbook analogy, at the back of the book, you might have an index with lists of words and what pages you’ll find them on. The index is like a list of tags.
A blog post might also fall into multiple categories, but you must always choose one that it fits in best.
One word in the index might show up in multiple chapters, just like one tag can be in as many categories as you’d like.
Are there any strategies you should use?
I like to set up categories on a blog ahead of time – right when you’re deciding what kinds of topics you’ll be writing about. What those categories are will depend entirely on your industry and what you are writing about. If you write about a general topic or industry, your categories might be a collection of loosely related topics. My own blog follows this structure, writing about a broad range of business, marketing, design and communications topics. If your entire blog is going to be about a very specific niche, your categories will be ways to help you break that topic down even further.
For example, you might choose broad categories such as travel, books, and food if you are writing about your life in general. If you were a food blogger, however, you might choose categories such as recipes, food books, and cooking tips.
You should keep your categories pretty broad because you can always narrow in with sub-categories. I like to suggest between 3-6 top-level categories. You’re probably not going to want to create sub-categories until you have at least 15 posts in a top-level category.
For example, the food blogger from the previous example might have a pretty big list of recipes. In this case, you would want to create sub-categories for the recipes such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, dessert, and snacks.
Each of the categories should be a topic you plan to write about for the life of your blog. You really don’t want a category sitting around for months without having a new post added to it.
For example, a food blogger may not want to use trend diets as categories. You may create a paleo category, but that means you would need to keep writing about those topics on an ongoing basis. What happens if you choose to go from being paleo to being a vegetarian? Would you want to keep writing recipes that use meat when you’re not eating meat yourself?
If it is a business blog or website, I highly suggest a News category so that you have a place to publish any news releases or interesting updates about your business. Blog posts in a news category don’t have to be overly formal – think of them as expanded Facebook page updates.
For example, you might want to inform your readers that you are expanding into a new market, have formed a new partnership, have won an award, or are hosting an event.
When I use tags, I start by thinking of words someone might search Google for to find my post. A tag might also be a term you’d like to use as the sub-category for your blog, but you know you’re not going to write about it often enough or long-term enough to make it one of your categories.
For example, a food blogger might choose to use paleo and vegetarian as tags rather than categories. That way, anytime you write a recipe you can place it in one of your broader recipe categories, such as breakfast, and just tag it with the word gluten-free. Other optional tags for a food blogger might be crockpot or 5 ingredients or even seasonal tags such as Christmas.
You can use as many tags as you want, and create new ones for each post.
Because they are case-sensitive, I suggest keeping tags in lower-case to avoid confusion.
For example, raspberry and Raspberry are two different tags.
Can you change your categories and tags later?
Tags are created on the go, chosen for each blog post as you publish them. You can add or remove tags at a later date, although you might not remember to.
Don’t sweat your category choices too much. It’s important to pick categories that work for you, but blogs grow and change over time. If you need to change categories at a later date, you can do that. You just need to be aware of whether the category is listed in your blog post URLs, and create a redirect if that is the case.
It’s a good idea to spend a few minutes working out what you think your categories will be for at least the next few years to avoid the hassle of changing them in the future, but chances are your topics and ideas will shift over time anyway.