These days, it is still hard to launch a website without a blog and as content marketing becomes even bigger in 2014, the blog is ready to take the center stage again. One detail when blogging is that of your categories and tags and choosing them. Typically, bloggers end up with a plethora of categories, some with just a few posts in them.
In this post, I aim to guide you in choosing what to use as categories and tags. I will also share why it is important to be careful and think through your structure.
Plan Your Category Structure
You need to sit down and think through which categories you want to use before you start blogging. Most category failures come from categories being spontaneously added on a whim when you feel the need. In almost all cases, these types of categories will end up just having that one post in them.
Instead, think of categories as your main blogging topics. Apart from giving you a clear structure, these categories will also serve you as a reminder that your posts should fit inside the categories. If a post doesn’t, you need to consider whether you should expand the blog to include this new subject, or if the post really is the right fit for the blog. Categories help you focus.
Keep Categories Scarce and Broad
The only way of making sure that you will have several posts in one category is making sure not to overboard with creating the categories and keeping them broadly defined. For example, you could easily break down “Web Strategy” into several different sub categories, such as “Blogging”, “Content Marketing”, “Online Media”, “Online Ads” and so on.
Each of these sub-categories are however only likely to have just a few posts, and thus, it makes more sense to have the broad category. Leave the added specificity to the tags, which then serve a purpose. Remember, a user will eventually visit the archive to read several posts and be unsatisfied with just being able to see a few.
Don’t Use Categories For Blog Series
Many bloggers create a category for a series of posts. For example, this post is part of the Swedish #blogg100 challenge (where we blog once every day for a hundred days). I could have easily created a category for these posts, except, when you think about it, this doesn’t make much sense.
A category is a broad topic. It should be the main keyword of the post you are writing. If we just take this post as an example, it is certainly not defined by the #blogg100 series, nor would it be best defined if it was in a series on say, “Setting Up Your New Blog”. Series are a separate semantic system and should given a standard blogging setup, best be handled by tags.
Don’t Go Tag-Crazy
Tags should be used with care as well, albeit not as broad as categories are. The reason is that WordPress and most other content management systems create archive pages for your tags as well. Just as with the user psychology on categories, where you want your users to discover a lot of content and not find your archive pages disappointingly empty, tags should be maintained relatively carefully.
Make a conscious decision when you tag a post whether you are likely to use the tag again. While tags are more specific than categories, and rightly should be, you don’t want to end up having a ton of “one-post-tags” on your site.
To sum up, categories and tags need not be tricky. All you need to do is think ahead in advance and make a small plan about your blog’s topics. If you after all find after a while that one of your categories is just too broadly defined it is an easy task to split it.
However, thinking in advance doesn’t mean planning for the eventuality that you will one day end up with hundreds of posts in every conceivable sub-category as this is unlikely to happen any time soon and should be tackled when you get there. After all, if you blog once per day for a year (and few do!) it only adds up to 365 posts.
How do you do it?
How have your set up categories and tags on your blog? Do you have a specific plan behind creating categories or tags or do you perhaps wish that you had when you started? Share your thoughts and experiences below.