Post categories are one of the most powerful features of WordPress. They are like the queen in chess. They help readers find more of your content, bump up your SEO, and can even have their own RSS feed. Discover how you can make the most of categories on your site and how they differ significantly from tags.
There are two ways to sort your blog posts into topics. They are categories and tags and they work differently. You’ll also find two schools of thought on how you should use them. Both are right and each opinion is usually held with verve.
Let me give you an example of where the split lies.
Categories vs. Tags
A site like MSNBC.com covers topics on world news, sports, and entertainment. Those are all top-level topics, or parent categories as they are called in WordPress.
Now comes the split.
Under the parent category of sports, there are many sub-topics, like baseball, football, and hockey. Some folks say you should make them sub-categories. Some say you should make them tags.
For some of what I’m about to disclose you’ll find a so-called guru who will refute it, with evidence, and with vigor. You’ll want to liberally apply your own discernment and judgment for what works best on your site.
What I Use
On BlogAid, I only use categories and sub-categories and I’ll tell you why – because they are so much more powerful than tags.
Let’s take a category like WordPress. Under it I have a sub-category of Plugins. Google indexes both.
That helps my SEO because both are popular keywords for which I would like BlogAid to rank and have great authority on. (Tags can do this too.)
Visitors Read More
If someone wants to see all of the plugin posts I’ve written, they simply click on the link for it below the post. That will open an archives page with every post I’ve made in that sub-category. Notice that both keywords are in the anchor link to the category archive. The URL looks like this: http://www.blogaid.net/category/wordpress/plugins (Tags can do this too.)
Let’s talk about something tags can’t do. Tips Tuesday is an extremely popular weekly post on BlogAid. I can send the category URL for it to Feedburner, which is my RSS feed service. I can then offer it to readers for subscription either in a reader or via email, which a lot of folks do. Keep in mind that most of these folks also subscribe to BlogAid News, but not all. So, it’s another way for me to offer something valuable and helpful to my readers that is a zero-obligation subscription, which keeps BlogAid constantly in front of them.
Let’s take the category RSS feed bonus one step further. Mashable is a great site, but I find it overwhelming to subscribe to the whole blog. Thankfully, they break out their popular categories into separate RSS feeds and I can select which ones I want for subscription.
I have the pleasure of interviewing some great folks on the BlogAid Podcast. And, I break that category out into its own feed because there is a setting on Feedburner to properly configure it for iTunes. But, that setting is in conflict with another setting needed to configure the feed for a specific publicizing feature. By splitting this category out into its own feed, I can correctly optimize my regular blog feed and specially configure the podcast feed for iTunes. It’s win-win.
I’m pleased as punch about the new Archives page on BlogAid. It is modeled after the one on ProBlogger and is a super way to help folks discover and navigate the depth of information on BlogAid. It displays the last four posts in the most popular categories. (Tags can’t do this.)
Where Categories and Tags Appear
The category and/or tag a post is assigned shows in the post meta data, meaning the information below a post. They will each be linked so readers can click on them and see all of the posts you’ve made in that category or tag.
You can also display both your categories and tags in your sidebar, or any widget-ready area on your site, using standard widgets that come with WordPress. (No additional plugin required.) But, the display options are radically different. With tags, all you can show is a cloud format where the text of the most used tags are bigger or more bold than the rest of the surrounding words.
With categories, you have several display options including showing as a drop-down, as a hierarchy, and you can even show the number of posts in that category. There are good reasons for choosing each. Drop-downs save space. Hierarchy displays give your readers more to be interested in on your site. Numbers of posts let readers know how much depth of info to expect before they click.
More on Categories
For more info on how to get the most from categories and how to manage them, subscribe to the BlogAid WordPress Video Tutorial Library.
What Do You Use?
Do you use both categories and tags, or just categories on your site? Tell us why and if this post has given you some new ideas for getting more visibility on your posts.