The Difference Between Tags and Categories

When I first started blogging, I categorized and tagged like crazy, thinking it would be great for SEO. As I gained more experience blogging I started to realize that simple was better and I began to rethink my strategy for categorizing content. I started to think that maybe putting posts in a ton of categories and tags might not be such a good thing. Here are some things to consider when it comes to tagging and categorizing your WordPress content.

What Are Categories?

In the simplest explanation possible, categories are simply a hierarchical way to organize content. Let’s use a bucket analogy for this. If you create a category then it’s basically a giant bucket for anything that fits into that category. If you write 10 blogs posts that are somehow related to one subject, they would go into that one giant category bucket.

Categories have a hierarchy, meaning that you can organize sub-categories under categories to narrow things down. The way you organize these categories determines how WordPress displays them. For example, in WordPress when you click a category it will take you to a page that will display the title and excerpt from all the articles that have been placed in that category. Also, you can place a category slug on that page, a short description of everything in that category (which is wise for SEO purposes). If you’re theme supports drop-down menus, then sub-categories will usually be displayed under those menus.

What Are Tags?

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To make things a little more confusing, tags are another way to categorize content. But instead of creating a giant bucket of related articles, you’re creating a smaller bucket for only 1 or 2 blog posts. Tags are perfect for blog posts that don’t have their own category, but you’d like for them to be parsed in a way that treats them like they have their own category. But tags are NOT categories.

Tags don’t have a hierarchy like categories do. You cannot arrange tags under other tags, tags are linear and each exists as the same weight as other tags, unlike categories. Also, in WordPress, you cannot place slug descriptions on a tag page. However, a Tag page will look very similar to a category page when you click it.

What Are They Not?

It’s a very difficult to distinguish the difference between tags and categories but the simple way to say it is: Tags are NOT categories and categories are NOT tags.

SEO Issues

You need to be careful in what you allow the search engine to crawl. For example, if you tag things like crazy, that means that you’ll have the same content in multiple parts of your blog. The search engines are notorious for penalizing this type of duplicate content. So, it’s important to edit your blog sitemap so that the search engines aren’t crawling every single tag and category of you’re site. So, what should you let them crawl?

Simplicity Strategy

I like the idea of the search engines having free reign over the content. So, I usually arrange it in a way to avoid too much duplicate content. Search Engines understand the architecture of WordPress, so it’s important to exploit that.

The best way to avoid duplicate content issues is to apply the simplicity doctrine, also known as KISS. What this means is that when running a WordPress blog, you should be very selective in how to categorize or tag your content.

My winning SEO strategy is to create a small number of categories (24 or less) and only select ONE category for a blog post. If you feel you have a great post that deserves it’s own category, think long and hard about this. Will you be writing more posts in the category? If not, then simply Tag it. If you become selective about how your posts get categorized, then you’ll understand quickly what should be tagged.

I simply use tagging as a way to describe content that DOES NOT deserve it’s own category. I let the search engine bots crawl it all and I’ve had no SEO issues.

One last thing worth noting is that it’s important for people to be able to easily browse your categories and tags. So, it’s a good idea to have a category drop down menu in the sidebar, as well as a tag cloud so that people can easily find what subjects they’re interested in.

How do you deal with categories and tags on your own blog?

How To Move Your WordPress.com Content to a Custom WP Installation

Moving On Up

I have been helping out a very design and web savvy friend lately with a new enterprise she is undertaking using the WordPress sandbox. I find this interesting because this friend was actually far ahead of the curve when it comes to blogging as she used to run an excellent blog site that was in fact built from scratch some eight or nine years ago. Her original site used some custom php and MySQL underneath a handsome and clever design to essentially post articles, link them to one another and even used categories for navigating through the content.

These days that doesn’t seem quite so impressive since anyone can sign up for a free blog at Blogger.com or WordPress.com and be up and running in minutes.

But as I have mentioned before, these free blog services eventually come at a price. The new user will quickly discover that any sort of “premium” features – specialized plugins, extra storage space, custom domains and even themes are paid services and soon enough they will find that they need the extra tools but fear they can’t abandon all the content they have so painstakingly created.

The good news, as I explained to my friend, is that moving from (most) of these free services to a custom WordPress installation (WordPress is by now unquestionably the blogging platform of choice) is a lot easier than one might suspect. Here are the instructions as outlined at the WordPress Support Edtv movie full pages:

“1) In the old blog, go to Tools -> Export

and download the XML file to your computer.

2) In the new blog, go to Tools -> Import and upload the XML file you downloaded in step 1.

Note: This will move your your posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags; any uploads and images will need to be manually transferred to the new blog.”

First Things First

Of course, before any of this is possible, you will need to set up an account with a Host Provider (I mentioned several of these in my article about getting started) and then register your own domain name.

Once you are all done with that, you will likely use Fantastico or Simple Scripts to do a quick install of WordPress on your new server, be it a shared or dedicated option.

Then you will likely want to follow the many excellent tips and resources on this site to get everything humming along smoothly.

Finally, from your admin panel, select the Import option, locate you exported XML file and upload. Presto, watch your new, very own, infinitely expandable, with no one watching your back, WP site magically repopulate with all your old content. Couldn’t be easier.

But Before We Go…

One caveat, I did mention in my article about Tags and Categories that when importing from a Blogger.com account funky things can happen between tags and categories. In this case, you may want to do some cleanup and reorganize your tags and categories before going live.

About the Author:
Keram (follow him on twitter @ConstantChange) 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

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.

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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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