Categories and Tags: SEO Best Practices For Sorting Your WordPress Content

Confused about the difference (or the similarities) between WordPress categories and tags? You’re not alone. Of course you want to organize your site’s content in the most effective way possible for your readers and visitors to be able to easily find what they’re looking for. But you also want to make sure your site is as search engine friendly as possible so that people can find your site in the first place.

So what is the difference between WordPress categories and tags? It depends entirely on whether you’re asking for posting or SEO purposes. Let’s start with a general overview.

Categories

Category designation is a great tool for separating your posts into various overall topics. For example, if you are creating a blog for film reviews, you would want to create categories like action, drama, horror, romance, tween comedy, etc. This provides a simple and effective way to distinguish what category each film fits into without getting too specific.

Categories can have multiple words with no diminishment of SEO, so if you’re blogging multiple posts about “Things to Do with $5 in Charleston, SC”, you will want to create a category. You could also create multiple categories to express the same thing for that one post, like “Charleston,” “$5,” “Activities,” and “SC.” The best key approach to categories is that you don’t want to have a million of them. They are best used sparingly in an over-reaching way to categorize your content. Think of them as root folders, as opposed to subfolders.

Tags

Tags are the stuff of detail and provide meta information, where categories do not. If categories are the root folders, tags are the subfolders. Using the film review website example again, you might want to tag a particular review with specific tags such as Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser, Josh Brolin, Drama and President Bush to describe your review of the film “W.”

Tags are great because they can help to build topic authority on your site with search engines. They can also be used effectively in a tag cloud if you like that sort of thing. Try to limit your tags to one word if possible. Creating tags with multiple words actually creates multiple tag page feeds for the same topic, which can lead to redundancies. The more posts you tag similarly, the better return on SEO you’ll get.

Yes, But Which One Is Better For SEO?

The amazing answer is both. For SEO purposes, let’s use the master of all things SEO, Google. Google spiders look at tags and categories on your page in the same exact way. It goes page/category or page/tag in determining how best to rank your content. But remember, it still all comes down to content. Simply tagging or categorizing to your heart’s content will not automatically increase your search results. Make sure your content is relevant and applicable before you go trying to use this as some sort of catch-all SEO secret weapon.

The biggest reason to use categories and tags is to give your users another way to sort through your content and most simply find what they’re looking for. Remember, SEO is only part of the battle. If you can provide a simple and effective way for your readers to sift through posts on your site to find exactly what they’re looking for, then you’ve won.

Key Recommendations

It’s best to let search engines spider your site by using EITHER category pages OR tag pages…NOT both. Sort this out in your XML sitemap under “Sitemap Content.”

Either way you look at it, taxonomy tools like categories and tags are an excellent way to optimize your content. The question of how best to use categories and tags may seem complicated but the answer is pretty basic. Keep it simple and understand that your content will speak louder than tricks. Keep categories sacred to overall topics and use tags as descriptive tools to let spiders and readers know precisely what’s in each post. Just make sure that your categories and tags don’t overlap!

Above all else, if you want the best possible SEO results from the content you crank out, prioritize an organizational system and then give your readers a simple way to find what they’re looking for. Spiders will find it useful and your readers will too.