Updated : March 2013
Please also read Quick Blog Post Tagging Tips
Not categorizing and tagging the content in your blog posts is like purposely playing hide- and- seek with search engines and therefore, making it difficult for their users to find your blog. By organizing your content by categories and tags, you are not only making it easier for your existing readers to navigate through your site, but you are also telling the search engine spiders how to index your blog to bring in more readers. But assigning too many and/or irrelevant tags means your posts will not be well positioned in the SERPs (search engine pager results).
Categories are broad: tags are narrow and specific
Keep your categories as really broad keyword and topic headings, and assign keyword tags as finer and more specific ways of indicating what a post is about. If I used a book as a metaphor, the categories would be like the chapter titles in the front of a book, and the tags would be like the words in the index.
Categorizing and tagging your posts allows you to assign relevant keywords to your posts. When you assign categories think in terms of words people would expect to see in a Table of Contents. When you assign tags to your post think in terms of words people would look up in an Index in the back of the book.
Let’s try some examples:
Categories and tags example 1:
Suppose you write a post about a family and friends camping and fishing trip to a well known river.
First think of the table of contents in a book.
Now think of the chapters as being broad categories.
Categories: Camping, Fishing, Rivers
Second think of the index in the back of the book.
Now think of the index terms as being narrow semantic tags.
Tags: friends, boats, brother, father, mother, sister, sports, fly fishing, Well Known River.
Categories and tags example 2:
Suppose you write a post on baking the perfect pineapple upside down cake.
Categories: Baking, Food and Recipes.
Tags: cakes, desserts, pineapple, pineapple upside down cake.
For a deeper understanding here is a synopsis of the similarities and differences between tags and categories provided by Lorelle in Categories versus Tags: What’s the Difference? and in Categories are not tags: Got it?
- Categories can have unique names. Tags need to be known names.
- Categories can have long wordy names. Tags should have short one, two, or at the most, three words.
- Categories generate a page of posts on your site. Tags can, too, but often generate a page of off-site posts on an off-site website.
- Categories are not tags. Tags can be categories.
- Categories don’t help search engines find information. Tags help search engines and tag directories catalog your site.
- Posts are usually in one to four categories. A single post can list as many tags as you want.
- Categories help visitors find related information on your site. Tags help visitors find related information on your site and on other sites.
- Categories organize, hierarchically. Tags need not.
- Tags provide meta-information, Categories need not.
- Tags cross-connect, Categories do not.
- Use only relevant categories and tags on your posts. Remember garbage in – garbage out.
- Don’t overdo it! It’s unlikely that any post will ever requires more than a total of 15 categories and tags. If you go overboard you will be consider to be a “spam-dexer”. See > Global Tags or Topics
(1) Have you been assigning categories and tags to your posts?
(2) If so, then how you determine which ones to use?