I’m often asked about the difference between and benefits of using categories and tags for blog posts. For the record, categories and tags are not interchangeable. A blog I followed used tags as categories and vice-versa. This made finding their older posts virtually impossible and actually hurt their search engine optimization (SEO).
One of the biggest differences between tags and categories is that you must categorize your post. Tags are optional. If you don’t categorize your post, the default is the dreaded “uncategorized” category.
What are categories?
Categories are meant for a broad grouping of your posts. Think of them as your blog’s version of book chapters. Categories are there to help your reader identify what your blog is really about. (Hint: they also keep the writer focused!)
How do you choose categories?
The best way I know to choose tags is to look at what your clients ask you about and group the questions into broad categories.
For example, a health coach’s blog might have the following categories: General Wellness, Exercise, Recipes, Supplements, and Questions. All of her posts would fall into one of those categories. (Yes, technically, you can have a post which falls into multiple categories, but I recommend selecting only one.)
To help you get out of analysis paralysis, it may help you to know that you can change or modify your categories.
How many categories should you have?
Just like too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew, too many categories confuses your readers. While you aren’t technically limited in the number of categories you can create, I suggest having five categories. What you’re focused on ought to fall into five broad groups.
What are tags?
Tags are meant to describe specific details of your posts. Think of these as your post’s index words. If you’re familiar with the term “keyword,” then a post tag is its equivalent.
A tag isn’t necessarily one word; it can be a name or a phrase.
How do you choose tags?
The easiest way to think about tags is to figure out what your ideal reader might type into the Google search bar and how that word or phrase could pull up your post. A best practice is to compile a list of potential tags.
Even though you can choose your own tags and they can be whatever you want, consider using the list of highly searched keywords you’ve compiled as your tag list. The benefit of this is that keywords are terms you know your ideal clients are searching for. Visitors to your blog may stay and use the search bar to find other articles they’re interested in, and they’re most likely going to use a common search term – which is inherently a keyword.
To continue with the health coach example from above, if the blog post about burning tummy fat was categorized as “Exercise,” then good tags might be “fat burning exercises,” “tummy fat,” or “exercises for burning fat.”
How many tags should each post have?
Just like categories, the optimal number of tags is five; however, it’s possible to add unlimited tags. I caution you about going above seven tags because Google will discount your post as SPAM. And nobody likes SPAM!
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