Understanding the difference between categories and tags

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Understanding the difference between categories and tags

Understanding the difference between categories and tags

If you’ve used a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress, then you’re probably already familiar with the terms ‘categories’ and ‘tags’. Using categories and tags correctly can improve your SEO and provide better experience for your users, potentially increasing their average time-on-page. They’re used for separating your content into various overall topics, and creating a bridge between posts.

So, what’s the difference between the two?

Categories

Categories are used to group related posts together, and to quickly tell a user what a post is about. A post can be assigned to multiple categories, but must always be assigned to at least one. Depending on how your website looks, categories can be displayed at the top or bottom of posts, within your menu, and/or in the sidebar.

It’s important to assign each post to a category in your CMS. WordPress uses ‘uncategorized’ as a default category for new posts, but it might be worth changing it to something more fitting. For example, if your website focuses on technology you might want to sort your posts into the relevant company categories:

  • Apple
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Sony

Subcategories can be used for more popular topics. For example, if you’re talking about Apple, the main category, you can add a subcategory for its individual products:

  • Apple
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • iPod

As you can see in the example above, more than one subcategory can be added to a category. If you find yourself repeatedly using a certain tag within a category, it might be a good idea to consider using it as subcategory.

Tags

Tags, similar to categories, are generally used to describe your post in more detail. You can use as many tags as you want on a post. However, unlike categories they are entirely optional. Depending on how your website looks, tags can be displayed at the top or bottom of posts, within your menu, and/or in the sidebar.

The smaller details that describe the content of a post should be used as the tags. For example, if you’re writing about an iPhone app you might want to include tags for app name, publisher, genre, and a few keywords that describe themes or topics in the app. Here are some possible tags for the Angry Birds app:

  • Angry Birds
  • Rovio Entertainment
  • Puzzle
  • Strategy
  • Slingshot

The use of the same tag on multiple posts will help a user navigate relevant content without containing them to a specific category. This is particularly useful for keeping a user on your website by providing them with a way to access other areas easily.

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