We’re going to learn more about SEO (search engine optimization) in our next post, but first let’s get started with how to structure your site to make it user-friendly and easy for search engines like Google to index. Think of this process as writing an outline or mapping out chapters in a book that will help your readers find your valuable content.

wordpress categories vs tags SEO

It’s Never Too Late To Start

First of all, it’s always easier to do things the ‘right’ way from the start. My first blog has room to improve in this area because I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Trying to go back now and reorganize everything is so much harder than just setting it up correctly in the first place. Live and learn, right? So don’t be discouraged if you’re feeling like you have a lot of things to go back and change on your current site after reading this; just tackle it one topic/category at a time.

You can also bulk edit your WordPress categories if you have a lot to do. For example, let’s say you have all of your posts “uncategorized” right now. You can open up your post index, check multiple posts, and assign them all to Category A in one click. You can also do this to update and sort into new categories, multiple posts at a time.

What Are WordPress Categories?

Think of categories as your site’s table of contents. They’re primarily used for readers, but can help search engines crawl your site too. However, when I’m thinking about site structure my goal is to make sure readers can easily find what they want on my site.

While there isn’t a magic number of categories, you do want to keep a handle on it and keep it to your most important topics. This is where really mapping out your site and planning your content counts. So for example, a food blogger may initially set up Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks as her categories. As her content grows, maybe she choose to add Drinks to her categories as well.

You can also use subcategories to further organize your content. Again, don’t go crazy here. Think about your overall structure and the most important topics a reader would want to browse. In my case, I have my categories set as WordPress, Blogger (Blogspot), Branding, and SEO. This is because the majority of my content is helping users navigate their chosen platform, elevate their brand look, and improve their SEO performance to reach their target audience. However, there are some really important topics that deserve their own space underneath my categories. For example WordPress uses plug-ins and they are a big deal, so I needed to create WordPress –> Plug-Ins as a subcategory. Likewise, Branding could host the subcategories Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest.

What Are WordPress Tags?

Just to keep things interesting, WordPress also has a tag feature. Think of tags as all of the little details that give your readers additional ways to sort your content. If you opt to use tags, you will most likely have many more of these than your main categories. A food blogger may choose tags such as healthy options, chocolate, casseroles, etc. I personally need to use tags on my education blog because of the amount of content, but not so much here on my design site.

Category vs Tag Navigation

Both categories and tags can be used for navigation, but categories are the most common way and many WordPress plug-ins revolve around categories. Ex: https://design.christifultz.com/category/blog/seo/ will display all of my posts about SEO (you can also provide a similar link with tags, though it’s less common). You can then use those links to highlight your content in your navigation menu, promo boxes, or sidebar.

example of sidebar categories on my education blog
example of promo box categories on a parenting blog

Many themes also have category index pages, which display excerpts of all posts from a specific category. Here’s an example from my education blog.

What’s Next?

If you’ve just started a brand new site, spend some time thinking about your goals. What content will you share? How does it all fit together? Then head over to your WordPress posts tab and create your categories and subcategories. Remember, think big topics!

If you already have a site, but haven’t used categories at all, you’ll still need to plan what your primary categories will be and create them. Then start going through your all posts tab, checking all the posts in one of your new categories, and assigning them to their new home.

Finally if you already have a site with categories that are all over the place, you’ll need to map out your most important topics. Then begin working your way through consolidating and rearranging.

If you want to learn more about categories and tags, here’s a great post from WPBeginner.

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