Understanding Categories in WordPress

Get Off To A Good Start – Identify The Parts

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When you first install a WordPress site, it is a little like opening a box of disassembled furniture from IKEA: you have a simple, uncluttered guide showing all the separate pieces you should have found in the box and a series of steps outlining how to assemble them together to arrive at the finished product.  But at the outset, it is just a lot of parts spread out across your living room floor with little indication how important any one of those pieces might be until it is time for it to be implemented.  The best way to get started is to identify all the parts, arrange like-with-like, do a rundown of the various steps involved, then go back to step one and get started.

Tags vs. Categories

One of my first experiences with WordPress involved me migrating an existing Blogger.com blog over to a custom WP installation and what it did was take all kinds of tags and convert them into categories, leaving me with dozens of categories for my new WordPress blog.  I am assuming this functionality has been straightened out in the interim, but it sure left me confused about what categories were, especially as compared to tags, so I hope to shed a little light on what Categories in WordPress really are, and best practices for using them as you plan out how to build and organize your site.

Let’s start with what a Category isn’t.  It isn’t just a Tag or a Keyword.  A tag is used as a keyword (for search engines, for example), but isn’t just a keyword because it can be used to identify what you feel are the operative terms of your article that may not be otherwise obvious.  For example, in this article I open with an analogy about IKEA furniture, but this article is about running a blogging content management system.  While I could add “IKEA” as a tag to “trick”  search engines into adding my site to any searches about one of the world’s wealthiest companies, I will not make many friends by using this trick.  Instead, I would be wise to add tags for this article that include terms like “optimization,” “SEO,” and “WordPress tips.”

Organizational Logic

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file_cabinet1Think of tags as the tabs you put on file folders when flipping through a drawer, whereas categories are like the names of the drawers themselves.  Choosing the appropriate top-level labels for the drawers of your filing cabinets takes some proper planning; it will make your future self much better organized, happier, and efficient.  It also makes it easier for you to delegate work to others, because they will have an easier time understanding not only your organizational logic but the logic of your Organization; the way you divide and compartmentalize your content says a lot about the nature of your business.

If a burglar were to break into your office and see drawers labeled “Locations”, “Wardrobe” and “Camera” – they could infer that you are either a photography or video production studio.  If the same drawers were labeled “Accounts Payable,” “Accounts Receivable” and “Budget Sheets” they would quickly realize they had broken into the Accounting department.

The same goes for your blog.  Your categories should be carefully chosen and kept to a bare minimum.  The reason for this is that you can utilize this organizational workflow to great advantage in tandem with a well designed theme that automatically displays tabs or other graphic elements based on your categories.  Not all themes display categories in a prominent way, but some (like WP-Blogger) actually use categories to automatically display as tabs along the top of the content so that readers can easily navigate your site and get a better understanding of what you are about.

TIP: When setting up your blog, create a new category and then go to your Admin Panel->Setting->Writing and select if from the drop down menu beside “Default Post Category.”  This will prevent you from inadvertently filing something under the standard “Uncategorized” option.  In fact, remove the Uncategorized category altogether since you would not want that to ever display within your theme as it is both unprofessional and nonsensical.

Learning how to use categories early will save you a lot of time later on.  Categories are a powerful way to organize and structure your site and its content in a way that can be exploited by a well-designed theme.

About the Author: adrift in manhattan download free

Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com Middletown full movie and find him on Twitter @ConstantChange.

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