Categories and tags are often misunderstood and misused in the blogging world.
The biggest culprit, as is often in the case in digital marketing, is thinking about how categories and tags might affect SEO.
Several years ago there was a feeling in the online marketing world that adding all kinds of keywords to the keyword meta field on a website would help a website rank better. That might have been the case for a short time, but Google has cleared that up.
After that, the new thing became stuffing keywords on the web page or blog post itself. Saying the same word or phrases over and over again even if it made zero sense to an actual person. That’s pretty much been cleaned up.
For the last few years some website and blog owners have taken a similar approach and have used categories and tags as a way to try to improve SEO by adding as many categories and tags to posts as they can think of.
When it comes to blogging, a website and SEO, my general rule is to do what is good for the consumer.
I figure if that’s what Google says they want you to do then it makes sense to do it. What’s good for people is good for you…in the long run. Sometimes people figure out a way to game Google, but it usually doesn’t last very long. You have to trust that Google is really good at what they do.
Anyway, that brings us back to categories and tags.
How should they be used?
What is the difference?
Categories are best used for broad groupings. Tags are best used for specific groupings.
If that’s confusing, you’re not alone. It’s a pretty gray area for how to use categories and tags. They’re very similar.
The BIG thing to remember when using categories and tags is to focus on how to make it as easy as possible for users to consume the content you create.
Categories and tags should be used to help users find related content.
I used to run a blog about country music, for example. I thought about how to best use categories and tags for that site and came up with the strategy that the categories would be for the different blog post types such as:
- Song Review
- Song List
- Album Review
- Album List
- Country Music News
The tags, to be more specific, would be artist names like:
- Tim McGraw
- Faith Hill
- Jake Owen
- Martina McBride
That worked pretty well. I had a theme that include the category and tag(s) for each of the posts so that if someone was reading a post and wanted to find similar posts they could click on either the category or tag.
It seemed to work well for people that liked specific artists. They could read a new song review about Faith Hill and click on the Faith Hill tag and see all the posts about Faith Hill on the entire blog.
As I think about it now, I could have even done it the other way around. The artist, for many people, is the most important aspect of content. So the category could have been the artist name and the tag could have been the type of post…
But really, it doesn’t matter in that respect. Categories and Tags are the same thing anyway. They’re a way to link to and organize content so people can find content they’re looking for and interested in.
The first takeaway with categories and tags is to use them in a way that makes it easy for consumers to find content they want or that you think they might like.
The second takeaway is to not abuse categories and tags for perceived SEO purposes. Trust that Google knows what its doing. They will dive into your content and figure out what it’s all about whether you use categories or tags or whatever. They know. Don’t try to abuse categories and tags with keywords you think will help you rank.
And finally, however you decide to use categories and tags make sure to keep it consistent. It might not be exactly the best way, but if it’s helpful to consumers then stick with the method you’re using for future content.