WordPress Categories vs. Tags – Improve your SEO

WordPress categories and WordPress tags are two methods you can use to organize your content. They’re both just as easy to apply – you can find them within the sidebar when you’re editing a post. Creating and applying them to a post is just a matter of a few clicks.

Simply said, categories are usually used to group content by a more general similarity. Tags are the opposite of categories, used to group content by a more specific similarity. On a blog related to vehicles, you might have a category named “Cars”, but tags such as “SUV, Hatchback, AWD, Chevrolet, Tesla” – and many more.

Tags and categories are typically shown somewhere within the post. This depends on the theme you are using, but they’ll be displayed in many cases, and if not, you might be able to use a plugin to do it.

In this article, we’ll dive a bit deeper into both categories and tags to help you better choose your usage.

What are WordPress Categories?

Categories are the simplest and most general method of grouping content by a general similarity. One category represents a general characteristic that is shared by many posts – such as the “Cars” example above. All the articles related to cars can be placed into the same category.

While articles can belong to more than one category, assigning only 1 or 2 categories per post is usually recommended. Having more categories assigned to a post can mess with the neat organization of your website.

To continue with the “Cars” example from above, let’s say we have a post titled “Tesla’s new car will shock you with its efficiency”.

We can clearly see by the title that this article is about a car from Tesla which is an electric vehicle manufacturer. I’d file this article under the “Cars” category. However, this same article can have many tags.

Typically, you’d create the WordPress categories from WordPress → Posts → Categories. However, they can also be created from the sidebar when you’re publishing a post.

Categories have three things that are visible to the visitors:

  • Name
  • Slug
  • Description (depending on your theme)

The slug is auto-generated from the Name when you save the category during the creation process. However, you can also manually set it. From the post sidebar, you don’t get the option to add a Description or modify the slug, but you can also change that afterward.

Categories can also have sub-categories that provide more specific grouping.

What are WordPress tags?

While categories help you show your visitors the general vicinity of the topic of the post, tags can help you narrow it down even further. Tags are – in their simplest form – words that are used to describe one or more articles.

Tags and categories differ only by the way they’re used. Categories are meant to be used in abundance, while this limitation does not exist with tags. Technically, you could use Tags and Categories in the same fashion – the only difference is in the UI.

Similar to categories, you can create tags both from WordPress → Posts → Tags and from within the post editor, in the sidebar. You can see how the widget for adding tabs is built differently – to promote adding more instead of less.

Let’s continue with our “Cars” analogy. For the post titled “Tesla’s new car will shock you with its efficiency”, I’ve added the above tags. You can be even more specific if you want and mention something like “dual motor”, but for this one, I decided these WordPress tags were enough.

What should you use? Tags or Categories?

All WordPress websites must use categories, but not all of them need to use tags. Let’s dive deeper into this.

WordPress requires each post to have at least one category. Due to this, it’s not a question of whether you should use categories, but whether you should also use tags. Categories can have sub-categories, allowing you to further narrow down the topic of the article. This means there’s not always a need for tags.

It very much depends on how you structure your blog. For example, you could put “EVs” as a category under “Cars”, and just use the other tags we mentioned before. In our analogy, we didn’t do this since we’d need to create it under each category – as there are also electric bikes, bicycles, and trucks.

In all seriousness, you can structure your website to work without tags – tags are completely optional to use.

The goal of WordPress categories and tags is to ensure that the user has the easiest experience navigating your website and finding the content they want. A point can be made that without tags, it is less confusing for the user, and therefore a better user experience.

With the right niche, you can spend some time making a plan for your categories and create all the parent and sub-categories ahead of time, and then think about tags.

Tags are category-agnostic, so using them as supplemental navigation is really the best use case. Since most types of vehicles do have electric ones as well, using a tag “EVs” is a good descriptor for the content.

Conclusion

WordPress tags and WordPress categories are very important elements of your website navigation. They allow you to group your content making it easier for the visitor to better locate what they need.

Our advice regarding this would be to spend some time when building your website to also make plans for your content. Create a structure for your categories and tags. This will also give you a general idea of the topics you can fit in each category or tag.

In the end, categories and tags can both be beneficial to the SEO of your blog – make sure you use them wisely.