The Confusion about Categories and tags

There’s one area which always causes confusion in WordPress users, both experienced and new. Categories and Tags

No matter how carefully you plan your tags and category taxonomies (terms) at the beginning of your project, they quickly degenerate and become a complete mess. So, like it or not, every few months you’ll need to clean up your site by merging duplicate terms, updating hierarchies and so on. In some cases, a clean up means converting categories to tags or vice versa.

Take a moment to think about how categories and tags work and how beautifully they complement each other.

Let’s go over what you know so far –

Categories and Tags are essential features for letting your Reader really understand the flow of your content. Clean categories and tags make it simple to understand and navigate your site, automatically yielding you much lower bounce rates, much higher engagement rates and better SEO all round. Much, much better for your Readers.

  • Categories organise or group your content by topic
  • Tags describe your content, highlighting the key elements of a post
  • Both have their own archive pages displaying all the content from each tag or category

(Remember that point about the archive page)


Categories organise or group your content by topic.

While you can create as many categories as you want, best practice is to limit the number as much as possible. When we start a site, we create an initial set of categories to cover the main topics before we start writing, but sites grow and topics grow, more categories are tacked on and the result is a pile of categories some of which have only a tiny number of posts.

When your Reader clicks on one category with the aim of viewing all the posts on that topic, and then they click on another category and see the same posts are also assigned to that category, it totally defeats the point of categories altogether. It also makes a cross and frustrated Reader. Posts should clearly fit into a single category. In some cases it may be appropriate for a post to fit two categories, but this is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

If you find you’re creating posts that fit perfectly into more than one category, perhaps you need to merge those two categories, or a create a new category that better describes the two original categories.

Tags describe your content, highlighting the key elements of a post

If there’s a lot of confusion about categories there’s an even greater confusion about tags.

Before you haphazardly slap a tag or three, or a dozen, onto a post, stop and think about what you’re doing. Good use of tags will help your Reader around your site. Poor use of tags will persuade a Reader to leave your site. Fast.

Tags highlight the key elements in your post.

Try navigating your site using your tags. Don’t follow any categories, don’t follow any featured posts, ignore the menu, don’t follow anything but one tag on one post. Click on that tag. Where does it take you? Has it taken you somewhere relevant? Let’s try another tag, is that taking you to the exact same posts or is it taking you somewhere relevant?

Have a look at all the posts in that tag archive page. Do those posts have other tags that take you to the very same posts? Can you navigate your way around meaningfully?

Think about your tags!