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Content: How to tag and categorize it

taggingUpdated : 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.

Blogging tips:

  1. Use only relevant categories and tags on your posts. Remember garbage in – garbage out.
  2. 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


Categories can be arranged in a hierarchy. Tags, however, exist in their own right and have no set relationship to anything else. Categories vs. Tags

Discussion questions:

(1) Have you been assigning categories and tags to your posts?

(2)  If so, then how you determine which ones to use?

15 thoughts on “Content: How to tag and categorize it

  1. This is what I thought – that it was tags rather than categories that were searchable – but today’s post from you says different so perhaps things have moved on?

    • Hi there,
      Both categories and tags are searchable and are treated the same way by search engines. However, they are different as I have described. Categories are for broad topical areas. Tags are narrow ie. more specific. specific. When we create and assign categories we have blog organization in mind. When readers click either a category or tag in our blogs they ought to find all related articles in the blog. The most difficult part of the tagging practice is to resist the temptation to add too many. Keep them relevant and few in number.

      P.S. It’s good to meet you. I’m also a yogini with a long standing practice. My personal blog is here

      • OK, less shall be more from now on :)
        Thanks for your blog link, I’m off to check it out now! I’ve been following one cool site since you helped me out on the forum in my first couple of weeks blogging, and I follow you on Twitter too (although I’m usually only on Twitter for about half an hour a day at most!)

  2. Pingback: Blog Post Checklist « Under Construction Blog

    • @Kristen
      The blog linked to your username is a Blogger (blogspot) blog and you can assign “labels” to your posts. WordPress blogs have Categories and Tags features so I’m not sure about how helpful this post will be for you. Best wishes with your blogging.

  3. timethief,

    Thank you for this very informative tips. At least now, one of the questions in my mind was cleared up. It will be easier for me now to use the right category and tags.

  4. Still so much to learn and do! My blog is almost 30 days old, has 30 posts on it, but all uncategorised. I know I need to get around to sorting out categories for my posts, and your blog post is helpful. Thanks.

  5. Great advice. This is sthg I’ve been wondering about. In the past I used to tag all my posts but on ‘tidying’ up my site thought that they were unnecessary since I wasn’t using a tag cloud and believed categories were enough for search engines. How wrong I’ve been. I’m off to add my tags! thanks for this advice!

  6. This makes sense to me, but I do have a question. After I read your blog, I began to clean up my categories and tags. I have a category for photography, tagged as Arizona. With WordPress’s tag surfer, would I also have to include the word Photography as a tag? Would my PhotoShop category have to include PhotoShop as a tag?

  7. timethief,
    Thanks you so much for writing on tags and categories.

    I use blogspot for blogging can you please further explain using categories on a Blogger blog.

  8. this is great information David and I will review this together we’re having a comment issue right now so I hope you’ll come back after we fix it.

    Thanks so much..

    Dorothy from grammology

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