How to use categories & tags (the right way) in WordPress.

I have noticed that many people do not fully utilize the categories and tags on their WordPress sites. When used correctly, categories and tags can be super powerful, both for the usability of your site, and also for its search engine optimization (or, SEO – which means, how easy it is for Google and other search engines to crawl and index the pages of your site).

Categories and tags are used to organize your website’s posts (not its pages, as we discussed in the previous video). You’ll be able to create new categories and tags, as well as manage any existing categories and tags, under Posts > Categories, and Posts > Tags, in the left navigation of the Dashboard.

Although both categories and tags are used for organizational purposes, categories are used as a broad, overall way to organize your posts, and tags are used to drill down those broad topics even further.

This quote from explains it pretty well:

“….in a nutshell, if categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index.”

It is best to come up with only a few good, clear category names for your website. If you don’t know yet what topics you’ll be covering in the future, don’t worry about trying to come up with all of your categories now…. you can always add them as you go. But, just make sure that you keep them very simple, and very clear for your readers to use and understand when they are on your website. (In other words, no trying to be cute and clever with category names… a mistake I made on my own blog!) Using clear, simple words is also best for Google and other search engines to see what your site and its pages are all about.

Tags are where you can begin to drill down your topics a little more specifically. Tags in WordPress should not be used the same way though as you would use them in your Etsy listings. On Etsy, you would typically add on any words that are relevant to your listing. For example, let’s say you make beaded jewelry. On your Etsy listing for a blue beaded bracelet, you might add the words “bracelet”, “blue”, “beads”, etc.

In WordPress, tagging your posts in this way will not allow you to utilize the full power of tags. The reason is this: each new tag that you create, also creates a tag archive page. This is a brand new page on your website, which contains any posts that are tagged with that tag. If you tag your blue beaded bracelet with the words “bracelet”, “blue”, and “beads”, you will now have 3 new pages on your site: one for “bracelet”, one for “blue”, and one for “beads.” These pages are pretty much worthless in terms of how Google sees your site. You don’t want Google to think your site is important for the word “blue.” You would however want Google to think your site was important for “beaded bracelets”, right?

And so, a much better tag idea is “beaded bracelets.” Now, you would be able to use that tag over and over for every new post you write about your new beaded bracelets, and each of those posts would show up on that tag archive page. This would not only show Google that beaded bracelets are a big deal on your website, but this would also be an excellent page to send your visitors…. especially if they have found your site through one of those posts.

Tags are SO powerful in this way, and yet so few people use them correctly.

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