Welcome to the first WordPress explained blog post. WordPress is a powerful tool to publish content online. There are so many awesome features, I want to help you understand and utilize all of them. Today we’re talking about categories and tags and how to really use them to your (and your readers) benefit!
What is the difference between categories and tags?
Once you understand how categories and tags work, you’ll better understand the differences between the two and when you should use a category or a tag. Both are used for organizing and structuring your blog.
Categories are your blog’s main topics
People frequently ask how many categories a blog should have. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer – it depends on the type of blog you have.
A person who blogs every single day of the week will probably have more categories than someone that blogs once a week. I’m sure CNN.com has a billion categories whereas I only have 10.
For the average lifestyle, craft, DIY, business blogger though 4-10 is a good amount of categories. Each post you write should fit within one of your categories. It is okay for some posts to fit inside more than one category. But, if it is happening all the time, then you might want to rethink your categories and change them.
Here are some quick facts about categories:
- A category is required for every post you write.
- Categories help readers know what your blog is about.
- Categories provide navigation
- Categories group similar content
- Search engines use categories to help index your site.
- Categories are hierarchical, so you can add subcategories
Tags are supporting specifics
Tags can belong to many categories. For instance, on my blog, I have a tag “traffic”. It is attached to posts within SEO Tutorial, Social Media Tips, Blogging Tips, and Blog Post Ideas.
Another way to look at tags are as the ingredients to a dish. If you are a food blogger you might have the categories Easy Dinners, Freezer Dinners, and Fancy Dinners. The tags would be the ingredients inside those meals. For instance, chicken could easily be tagged to recipes in all three of those categories.
Don’t get carried away with tags. Only include the tag if you think it will be useful to your reader.
How to use categories and tags
Now that we know what categories and tags are, and how they differ, let’s dig into how to use them on your blog. We’ll start with the basics and then discuss other ways to utilize categories and tags in your blog.
How to Create a Category or Tag
Creating a tag or category is very simple. You can create it within your posts draft, or you can create them from the category or tag page. From you WordPress dashboard navigate to Posts > Categories.
On the left hand side, there is the option to add a new category.
Add the title and then make any desired adjustments to the slug. The slug is how the text will appear in your URL. By default, WordPress will set the slug to be exactly as your title is, with dashes in between each word. You can make the slug whatever you like, but remember to add the dash – between each word.
The URL for a category looks like this: yourblog.com/category/appetizers
You can also choose a Parent category for the new category you create. Going back to my dinner category example: the parent category could be Dinner and the children categories (or sub categories) could be Easy Dinners, Freezer Dinners, Fancy Dinners.
The process to create a tag is similar to creating a category (except there is not the option for assigning Parent categories). Navigate to Posts > Tags to create new tags.
How to add a Category or Tag to a post
One of the 10 things I recommend doing before publishing your post is assign a category to the posts and tags if applicable.
Inside your post, the categories and tags section will most likely appear on the right hand side of your dashboard.
To add a category, simply check the category you want to assign the post to.
*Note about sub categories: when you categorize a post within a sub category, you do not need to select the Parent category, by default it is automatically assigned to the Parent category.
To add a tag, you can type in the descriptive word and hit add, or you can choose from the most used tags. I recommend looking through these tags first, before adding any additional tags. This will help you from creating repetitive, similar, or unnecessary tags.
How to add categories or tags in bulk
It is also possible to add categories or tags to multiple posts at the same time. To add categories and tags in bulk, navigate to Posts > All Posts. Select the posts you want to add the category or tag to and then under bulk actions select edit and then apply.
Add the desired category and/or tags and then click update.
Make Category Pages
Category Pages are pages that display blog posts within a certain category, they are also referred to as archive pages. Adding category pages to your menu will make it very easy for your readers to explore your site.
To add a category page to your menu, navigate to Appearance > Menus
From the Categories tab, select the categories you would like to add to your menu and then click add to menu. You can drag the category to place it where you would like it to appear in the menu. You can also have it show up as a sub-menu by indenting it underneath the main menu item.
If you want the category title to display differently in your menu than the category title, you can click the arrow next to the category and change the navigation title.
Add Categories or Tags to your sidebar or other widget area.
Categories and tags can also be added to your sidebar, or any other widget area on your blog. Navigate to Appearance > Widgets and drag Categories or Tags from the available widgets to your sidebar.
By default, the categories are displayed in a list format on your sidebar. You can check Display as drop-down to save space in your sidebar. You can also select to show post counts or show hierarchy.
To display tags in your sidebar, you can use the Tag Cloud widget. However, I will tell you that I am not the biggest fan of this widget as I feel there are more important things to place in your sidebar.
Convert tags to categories or categories to tags
Now that we’ve fully discussed categories and tags, you might want to reorganize yours a bit. WordPress makes it really easy to convert tags to categories or change categories to tags.
From your WordPress dashboard go to Tools > Import and select Categories and Tags Converter. This will pop open details about the Categorizes to Tags Converter, click Install Now.
Once the install is complete, click Activate & Run Importer
At the top, select whether you want to convert categories to tags or tags to categories. Then select the categories you wish to convert and then click convert categories to tags at the bottom of the page
Note: this is a great tool to use if you moved your blog from Blogger to WordPress.
I mentioned merging categories in my post about cleaning up your blog. If you have categories or tags that are similar, you can use the Term Management Tools plugin to help you merge categories together. For example: if you have a category DIY and a category Do it Yourself, those categories can and should be merged.
First, you’ll need to install the plugin. From the plugin screen, go to Add New and search Term Management Tools. Click Install Now and then activate the plugin.
To use the plugin, go to your list of categories. Select the categories you would like to merge and then click the Bulk Actions drop down.
Type what you would like the categories to be merged into. You can create an entirely new category name or type one of the already existing categories. Click Apply.
Note: this can not be undone, so proceed cautiously.
The process is the same for tags.
BONUS: Genesis and Categories/Tags
Sorry to be exclusive, but this next part is for those using Genesis themes. There might be other themes that function the same, but I am most familiar with Genesis.
Breadcrumbs are one of my favorite Genesis features (okay, let’s be honest – I have a lot of favorites, but breadcrumbs are great).
Here is how breadcrumbs look on my posts:
It tells the reader that they are reading a post inside the category Social Media.
To enable breadcrumbs, navigate to Genesis > Theme Settings and then scroll down to Breadcrumbs. I only enable breadcrumbs on Posts.
Category titles and intro text
Another wonderful Genesis feature: category title and intro text. Genesis themes make it easy for you to add a title and an intro text to the top of your category pages. For instance, if you click my Post Ideas category you will see the title and short blurb at the top of the page.
To add titles and a description (or fun short blurb) to your category pages go to Posts > Categories and then edit the category you want to update.
Genesis also comes with a Featured Posts widget that is great for adding posts to your widget areas. You can set it to display only certain categories. For example, if you want to display all of your dessert recipes as thumbnails in your sidebar you can add the Featured Posts widget to your sidebar and then select the category Desserts.
Your turn – go organize your categories and tags.
Now that we’ve talked about categories and tags, go take a look at yours and see if you can clean them up or re-organize them to make better use of them for you and your readers.
Folder icon created by Creative Stall and tag icon created by Anusha Narvekar, both from the Noun Project.3