WordPress Categories and WordPress Tag Differences
There’s a question that seems to run across every new blogger or WordPress user’s mind: What’s the difference between categories and tags or are they the same? It’s a good question worth paying attention to. Once you know the answer it will help you in your WordPress SEO skills.
In simple terms both tags and categories are used to label and arrange content on your blog. When a visitor clicks on a tag or category link, they are taken to pages with relevant information.
Without customizations, WordPress assigns the same URL format to both. The URLs look like this:
www.yourdomainname.com/category/post and www.yourdomainname/tag/post.
The only real similarities between the two is that they are both a means to organize information on your blog.
A general explanation of the way they differ would be to consider a book’s structure as reference. Essentially, if your blog was a book, categories would be the Table of Contents and tags would be the Index. Just like a book’s Table of Contents and Index, categories are usually determined first while tags can only be created after the content is written.
Tags highlight specific aspects contained within a single blog post. Your aim is to mark the content with the most prominent descriptions you expect browsers to use when searching for that topic. For example, in a post reviewing a power washer, you might add tags for the tool model number, “power washer,” “hand power washer,” and “powerwasher.”
In many ways, tags are like keywords; often they are the same words. Confused? A way to keep keywords and tags straight is to imagine placing all your tags in the actual content of your post. Do they look unnormal, funny, or spammy? Tags give you the place to include those obscure, related phrases that might be awkward in other areas of your blog.
On the other hand, categories house a related “group” of posts and pages. Keeping with the bread maker example, if you have several articles about different bread makers then they could all be listed under a category named “making bread”. In this category, you might also find posts about ingredients and baking techniques.
Another way categories and tags differ is from an SEO perspective. Categories hold more weight than tags since they’re higher in the WordPress hierarchy.
Overall tags and categories serve the same purpose – to organize content. Their major differences are their placement in the structure of your blog and their importance when it comes to SEO.
When I use tags I personally use them as keywords. Frequently as longtail keyword phrases. I’ve noticed that Google indexes tags and juct one page with several tags might be indexed several times because of the tags alone.
Tags, Categories and How to Minimize Duplicate Content
Categories and tags are not created equal. Ignoring their differences can result in a duplicate content mess. Creating a plan for how you will label content before publishing saves a lot of frustration later.
Here’s a quick checklist for their distinctions
- Tags label the topics of the post
- Categories are used to group related posts
- Tags are identified after a post is written.
- Categories are generally determined before content is published.
- It’s possible that all categories will also be tags, but all tags shouldn’t be a category.
To avoid being completely overwhelmed with the initial setup of labeling your posts, start off using the “one to many” principle. Simply put, this principle means that you should assign posts to only one category each, while applying as many tags as you like to the individual post.
Tagging blog posts help you to expand their reach online without putting your blog at risk for a duplicate content penalty from the search engines.
Categorizing a post in multiple categories increases the chance of duplicate content. Google’s own Matt Cutts even suggests assigning posts to one category. You’ve probably seen top bloggers who file the same content under various sections of their blogs. But to keep things simple, especially for new bloggers, just follow Google’s advice.
From an SEO perspective, both categories and tags pose a threat for duplicate content to some extent. Even so, since categories hold more importance than tags, this is the area you should treat with care.
When it comes to categories, aim to use natural-sounding, umbrella keyword terms for which numerous related topics can be filed under. For better SEO, skip the general category names such as “reviews,” “recipes,” and “miscellaneous,” and choose keywords as categories instead, like “bread maker reviews” and “homemade bread recipes.”
Tags and categories are different means to one end. Equipping blogs to efficiently manage content for reader usability and search engine accessibility is the ultimate end for both.