Categories and Tags are two useful tools for organizing the contents of your WordPress blog or site. Depending on the nature of your content, you might end up using one or the other, or even both of them simultaneously.
It is important to make the choice early on, preferably from day 1 to avoid complications later on. One must also be careful of the effects that this choice has on your site’s SEO. But before we get to that, let’s try to understand what Categories and Tags actually are and how they should be used.
Categories are more of a traditional organization tool, similar to folders on Windows or drawers in real-life. In a category we can put articles that are all about some general topic, on this very site, for example, content is organized into categories like Design, Hosting, and Marketing.
Thus all the hosting reviews I write will go into the Hosting category and so on. It is also quite common to find phrases used as category names (2-5 words), whereas for tags we usually use one or two words.
Categories are best used sparingly to group together posts on a general topic basis.
As for the URL, you may choose to remove the category base in WordPress for a cleaner look.
Tags are used to label a particular post with important related keywords. If used in conjunction with categories, they can help your readers zoom in on specific areas of interest.
For example, I might use a tag named ‘SEO’ and I might apply that to some SEO-related plugins in my ‘Plugins’ category, as well as to SEO-related articles in the ‘Articles’ category.
As you might have noticed, tags have the ability to work across different categories, so my ‘SEO’ tag will in fact have posts that reside both in the ‘Plugins’ and ‘Articles’ categories.
In essence, tags can be thought of as more specific labels for your posts, while categories are more generic.
I must also point out that usually there are a limited number of blog categories, but you can have many more tags.
The URL structure is similar:
www.domain.com/tag/post and www.domain.com/category/post
However, it is good to know that category is seen as being more important in Google’s eyes.
Now an important issue is duplication of content, which is looked on unfavorably by search engines. If you have categories and tags with the same name and their archive pages display the same content, for example, the full post contents, you will have an issue of duplicate content.
I would therefore recommend being careful not to have the same names for categories and tags. To make it clear, if I have a category named ‘Hacks’ and I also use a tag named ‘hacks’ in these hack-related posts, I will have an issue with duplicate content as these URLs will both be showing the same content:
Think well before you start out and make a plan for organizing your site’s content, then stick to your plan and always use categories and tags in a sensible manner.