Intro to Categores and Tags
WordPress categories and tags help your SEO by applying taxonomies to your site. They tell search engines and site visitors how your content is organized, whatever it is: a blog, an online store, tutorials, etc.
What’s a taxonomy? It’s a system of classification. As with the science of classifying plants and animals, the internet has a system to classify content. SEO relies heavily on taxonomies to understand the content and structure of websites. WordPress posts use two basic taxonomies: categories and tags.
The difference between tags and categories in WP is significant. Categories are like book chapters, discussing specific topics. Tags are similar to textbook sidebars, giving you additional information about the topic.
Categories work in WordPress by creating broad-swath labels you use to describe your work or content. These are the highest-level taxonomy.
Categories are hierarchical, so they can have subcategories. For example, I write a lot of posts on websites, and some of those deal with accessibility. So, in my taxonomy, “Accessibility” is a subcategory of “Websites”.
In its basic form, WordPress only gives you the option to categorize posts, not pages, but you can add them to pages with a plugin. WPBeginner has a post about it here. It’s important to note that if you build a post but don’t categorize it, WordPress will automatically label it “uncategorized”.
Categories are applied to posts in the WP Metaboxes, on the right-hand side of a post’s screen. To select a category, just check the box next to it.
When you build a category in WordPress, it will always appear as an option when you’re building a new post. And yes, you can label a post with more than one. My WordPress & Mailchimp Glossary, for example, is categorized as both Websites and Mailchimp. They are listed in the WP Categories Metabox.
What do tags do? Unlike categories, tags are stand-alone labels, and they have no hierarchy. They’re a little like keywords in that way – little paper flags that help you notice something. Tags I use include #SEO, #Mailchimp, #Accessiblity, and #WordPress. I can use any of these tags without concern for which others I use. Some of them get used frequently, and some rarely.
Tags are helpful little bits of info about a post, kind of like dot-points and splashes on packaging. Say you’re buying a box of cereal. You know you want flakes, and it’s easy to see by the images which boxes have that shape. But dot points or word bubbles can tell you if the cereal is organic, or low in sugar, or has a particular ingredient in it. These are the tags; little bits of information that help you find what you want.
Tags generally aren’t seen by the end user. They’re used by search engines to understand your content, or by WordPress when someone searches your website. Tags are applied to posts in the WP Metaboxes, on the right-hand side of a post’s screen. To add tags, type them into the Add New Tag field.
I find it helpful to keep a list of the tags I’ve used, so I can duplicate as often as possible. In the tags metabox, WP gives you a list of your most-used tags, which saves a little time.
You can also find a complete list of your tags under the WordPress Dashboard >> Posts >> Tags. More on this in the next section.
How to use WordPress Categories and Tags
Remember that earlier I said that WP will automatically use “Uncategorized” if you don’t select a category for a new post? Well, you can set a default category to avoid that.
To define a default category for all your posts, start from the WordPress Dashboard. Select Settings >> Writing >> Default Post Category. You’ll get a dropdown menu where you can choose from the categories you have already created.
To build a new category, start from the WordPress Dashboard. Hover over Posts then select Categories. You’ll get a menu to fill out, then hit the “Add New Category” button. To build a new tag, chose it in the menu. You can edit existing tags and categories in these menus, as well.
Category – a broad system of taxonomy which describes the highest-level of classification. Categories are hierarchical, so you can build subcategories.
Tag – a detailed system of taxonomy. One post can have as many tags as you’d like. This post has the tags #beingfreed.com, #wordpress, and #SEO.
Taxonomy – a system of classification. As with the science of classifying plants and animals, the internet has a system to classify content. SEO relies heavily taxonomies to understand the content and structure of websites. WordPress posts use taxonomies of Categories and Tags.