Understanding categories and tags to improve usability and SEO

This article explains how to use categories and tags the right way to improve your website’s user-friendliness and search engine ranking.

Categories and tags help your readers to easily access your content and find their way around your website. Like a table of contents and index, they link your content and put the focus on related posts for your readers at the right moment.

Categories or tags

Categories organize your content and offer direct access to topics on your website. They help readers to quickly find the relevant posts.

To avoid confusing your readers with too many categories, we recommend that you limit yourself to just a few categories.

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It is up to you whether you also create subcategories for these categories to offer a finer structure for your website. Categories and subcategories appear in a hierarchical order in a sidebar on the right or left side of your website.

Tags describe the content of your posts more precisely. You can think of tags like the index of individual chapters of a book. They describe the posts in more detail than the categories do by specifying individual keywords from your posts.

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Unlike categories, tags are not hierarchical, so there are no”subtags”.

With regard to SEO, tags are useful because search engines use tags to find posts on the relevant topics. Set the tags so you can reach as many readers as possible with your topics. In other words, think about which keywords you would use to search for a certain topic in a search engine.

Example

Imagine you run a cooking website where you blog about recipes, nutritional advice and health.

Start with the general categories:

  • Recipes
  • Nutrition
  • Health

You can narrow them down with subcategories:

  • Pasta
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Baking
  • Fast recipes

This way, readers visiting your website for the first time know that your website is about cooking, nutrition and health.

Now, if you write a post, for example a vegetarian recipe for children, use tags that reflect the content of this post:

main course, children, low carb, hot, vegetarian, gluten-free, healthy, simple, etc.

This way, if someone searches for a vegetarian recipe on the Internet, he or she will probably enter one of these keywords and find your post.

The right amount of categories and tags

Usually, you assign just the one category that fits best to a post. Occasionally, authors cannot decide on a single category and select two instead.

If a post does not fit any category on your blog, you can also upload it without a category. By default, this post will then end up in the “Uncategorized” category.

You can set as many tags as you want. However, you should select fitting tags that make sense for your post to put the focus on the most important things and ensure that the post is really relevant for your readers.

Conclusion

Do not try to stuff your posts with an unnatural number of tags because this will negatively affect your search engine ranking and – much more importantly – your readers. If you assign categories and tags with the goal of clearly structuring content and improving the user-friendliness of your website, you will automatically enjoy the advantages in terms of SEO.

 

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