WordPress Categories & Tags

Mastering WordPress Categories & Tags for SEO (+ Case Studies)

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Learn about the nature of WordPress Tags and Categories, and how you can make these taxonomy tools work in your favour by making users and search engines find your content in an easy way.
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In the ever-evolving world of WordPress, mastering the art of categories and tags is essential for bloggers and website owners alike.

These powerful tools not only organize content for better user navigation but also play a crucial role in enhancing SEO.

This guide delves into the strategic use of categories and tags to optimize your site structure, improve search engine rankings, and offer a seamless browsing experience for your audience.

Stay ahead in 2024 by leveraging these insights to refine your WordPress taxonomy strategy.

WordPress Categories Explained

Categories in WordPress are fundamental for hierarchical content structuring, serving as broad groupings that organize posts (of any post format) under general topics. This hierarchy allows for a more intuitive navigation experience, guiding visitors through your site’s content layers.

Best practices for naming and utilizing categories include keeping names descriptive yet concise, aiming for a balance that reflects the scope of the content while optimizing for search engines.

WP Mayor's category archive for Reviews.
WP Mayor’s category archive for Reviews, a custom taxonomy.

Strategic use of categories enhances site usability and SEO, making content more accessible and improving site structure.

Here on WP Mayor, our categories are called Topics, and you can find a list of them in our footer. We’ve recently cleaned up our topics and did some re-organization, which not only helped our SEO efforts but also improved our visitors’ experience while browsing the site.

WordPress Tags Explained

Tags in WordPress serve as specific descriptors, adding a layer of detail to posts by marking them with relevant keywords.

They enhance your site search by linking related content across different categories, helping users find information through specific interests or topics. Effective tagging involves using precise, relevant terms and avoiding over-tagging to maintain focus and relevance.

WP Mayor's tag archive for analytics.
WP Mayor’s tag archive for Analytics.

Properly utilized tags contribute significantly to a site’s SEO strategy by improving content discoverability and offering additional pathways for user navigation.

WP Mayor recently went through a thorough tag clean-up where we removed unnecessary and barely used tags, added descriptions for each tag archive, and applied more appropriate tags to existing posts.

Part of this exercise was based on and used the Fewer Tags plugin recently released by Joost de Valk, the founder of Yoast SEO. It helped us clean up our tags and determine which ones could be removed or combined.

Should You Use Categories or Tags in WordPress?

While categories and tags may initially appear similar, they serve distinct purposes in content organization and SEO optimization. Both can and should be used, so long as they are implemented correctly.

Think of categories as broad topics, like sections in a library, allowing readers to discover content within specific areas of interest.

On the other hand, tags are more like detailed labels, enabling users to find related content across different categories based on specific keywords or topics.

Categories are hierarchical, supporting the creation of subcategories for further content organization, while tags are non-hierarchical and can be used across different categories.

Understanding the differences between categories and tags as I’ve explained above and then implementing them effectively is essential for organizing content and improving SEO on your WordPress site.

By following best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, you can optimize both your site’s categories and tags to enhance user experience and overall site performance.

SEO Best Practices for Categories and Tags

Organization and Discoverability

To optimize WordPress categories and tags for SEO, focus on creating a site structure that makes content easy to find and categorize.

This involves organizing posts in a way that reflects how users search for and navigate your site.

A clear structure helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relevance of your content, improving its visibility in search results.

Thoughtful naming and strategic use of categories and tags can significantly enhance content discoverability, contributing to better SEO outcomes.

Uniqueness and Relevancy

Choosing unique and relevant categories and tags, named with targeted keywords, is crucial for SEO.

This practice helps prevent duplicate content issues by ensuring each category and tag distinctly classifies your content, making it easier for search engines to index and rank your site.

If your categories and tags overlap in meaning, you can confuse search engines and dilute your SEO efforts over time.

Strategic naming based on keyword research aligns your content with search queries, improving visibility and driving targeted traffic to your site.

One issue we had in the past on WP Mayor was duplication or an overlap between categories and tags. This can contribute to keyword cannibalization, hurting your SEO efforts.

WP Mayor's organized list of topics, which are our categories.
WP Mayor’s organized list of topics, which are our post categories.

Regularly Review Your Categories and Tags

Regularly reviewing and updating your WordPress categories and tags is crucial for maintaining SEO relevance and effectiveness.

As your content evolves and search trends change, some categories and tags may become less relevant or too broad. Periodic reviews allow you to refine your taxonomy, ensuring it aligns with current SEO best practices and your audience’s search behavior.

This process involves reassessing the keywords your categories and tags are targeting, ensuring they still match user search queries and reflect the content accurately. These regular updates will help you maintain a site structure that is both user- and search-engine-friendly.

Internal Linking Using Taxonomies

Utilizing categories and tags for internal linking is a strategic SEO practice.

By linking related posts within your site, you guide users to more relevant content, increasing engagement and time spent on the site.

This internal linking structure also aids search engines in crawling and indexing your content more effectively, providing a clearer picture of the relationships and relevance between different posts.

This approach not only improves user experience but also strengthens the overall SEO of your website.

Limit Tag Usage

Limiting tag usage is key to maintaining content focus. Excessive tagging can clutter your site and dilute the thematic focus, potentially confusing both users and search engines.

A disciplined approach to tagging involves selecting a few relevant tags per post that directly relate to the content’s core themes.

This precision helps in keeping your site’s content well-organized and thematically consistent, which is beneficial for SEO as it enhances the clarity and relevance of your site’s content structure.

Joost de Valk’s recent research into the misuse of tags in WordPress is worth a read to understand better why this is so important.

The User Experience

User experience (UX) is at the core of any successful website, and well-planned categories and tags play a pivotal role in enhancing it.

When visitors land on your website, they often seek specific information or content that aligns with their interests or needs. This is where categories and tags come into play as valuable signposts that guide them through your digital landscape.

Firstly, organized categories create a structured framework for your content.

Just as a book library arranges its books into sections like “Fiction,” “Non-Fiction,” or “Science Fiction,” categories group your articles into broader topics.

This organization immediately provides users with a sense of your content’s scope, making it easier for them to decide where to begin exploring.

Moreover, well-chosen categories ensure that your content remains relevant to your audience. When visitors encounter a clear and intuitive taxonomy, they are more likely to engage with your site because they can quickly identify content that interests them.

For example, if you run a recipe blog, categories like “Vegetarian,” “Healthy,” and “Vegan” allow users to navigate directly to the recipes they like, resulting in a more satisfying experience.

The Pinch of Yum food blog showing recipe categories.
The Pinch of Yum food blog shows recipe categories for quick navigation.

Secondly, tags serve as micro-navigation tools, allowing users to delve deeper into specific aspects of your content. Think of them as the index or glossary of your site.

If a visitor is interested in a particular ingredient like “chocolate” in the context of your cooking blog, relevant tags can lead them to a treasure trove of recipes and articles where chocolate is a prominent feature.

This level of detail not only enhances engagement but also demonstrates your commitment to providing a rich and comprehensive user experience. For example, you’ll find the assigned tags for this post on WP Mayor in the left-hand sidebar, under the table of contents (on desktop).

In addition to improving content discoverability, these well-structured categories and tags go as far as to encourage users to explore more of your website.

As visitors click through related articles, they stay engaged longer, reducing bounce rates, and potentially converting casual readers into loyal followers. This, in turn, can positively impact metrics such as time on site and page views, which are crucial for SEO and your site’s overall success.

Well-planned categories and tags are the unsung heroes when creating your WordPress site, silently guiding users to the information they seek, enhancing engagement, and ultimately delivering an exceptional user experience.

Technical Tips for Categories and Tags in WordPress

Staying up-to-date with the latest technical tips and tools is essential for effectively managing categories and tags in WordPress.

The platform itself is continually evolving, offering new features and functionalities that can streamline your content organization and enhance SEO. There are also various plugins available that can help you optimize your category and tag management.

Let’s delve into these technical tips and tools to boost your WordPress site.

Block Editor Enhancements

WordPress’s block editor (originally referred to as Gutenberg) has seen significant improvements in handling categories and tags.

You can easily add and manage them within the editor itself, making the process more intuitive and saving you time as you work on producing more quality content.

WordPress' categories and tags in the block editor.

Nested Categories

Depending on your content volume and complexity, you might consider implementing nested categories.

This feature allows you to create subcategories within main categories, providing a more granular organizational structure.

You can even do this within the block editor itself by using the “Parent Category” setting when addin a new category, as seen below.

Creating a WordPress nested category using "Parent Category".

Tag Suggestions

WordPress often suggests tags based on your content, which can save you time and ensure consistency in your tagging strategy.

Bulk Editing

When you have a large number of posts, bulk editing can be a lifesaver. I know it has been for us here on WP Mayor since we have thousands of posts to manage.

WordPress enables you to assign or remove categories and tags in bulk in the Posts table. You can even use the bulk actions in the individual tables for categories and tags.

Tools to Manage Your Categories and Tags

SEO Plugins

Yoast SEO offers advanced features for optimizing categories and tags for SEO. It provides suggestions for improving your content’s search engine visibility and readability.

Although that’s what we use here on WP Mayor, there are several other top SEO plugins out there that can do just as good a job with your categories and tags. Here are a few alternatives worth looking at, each with their own unique selling points:

Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order

The Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order plugin is free and it allows you to customize the order of your categories and tags, ensuring they appear in a logical sequence to help with visitors’ navigation.


The TaxoPress plugin is designed to enhance the management and functionality of tags within your WordPress site. It offers a comprehensive suite of features to streamline the tagging process, including auto-tagging, tag cloud widgets, related posts, and more.


Sometimes, you might need to change category or tag URLs. The Redirection plugin helps you set up redirects to maintain SEO and prevent broken links.

Various related posts plugins help you display related posts at the end of your articles, based on categories and tags. This can boost user engagement by encouraging readers to explore more of your content.

By harnessing WordPress’ built-in features and using these recommended plugins, you can streamline your category and tag management, enhance SEO, and offer an improved user experience across your website.

Case Study 1: Tech Blog Categorization by Product Type

Digital Trends is a technology news, lifestyle, and information website that covers a wide range of topics including consumer electronics, entertainment, gaming, and emerging tech, providing reviews, insights, and guides to help consumers navigate the complex landscape of technology.

Their articles are organized into both categories and sub-categories, and they use tags to further enhance their website’s navigation and sorting.

For example, an article such as the one above, which was placed in the Gaming category may be further organized into the Features sub-category, while it then has a PC Gaming tag applied to add more relevancy.

They even went as far as to create beautiful pages for their tags, including the oh-so-important descriptions that inform both search engines and visitors about the topic in question.

This attention to detail is what has made and kept the Digital Trends website among the most popular tech blogs on the internet.

Case Study 2: Food Blog Organized by Ingredients and Dietary Preferences

Pinch of Yum is a food and recipe website aimed to cater to various dietary preferences.

Their posts are called Recipes, and on the main archive page, you’ll find a list of their categories, including vegan, pasta, snacks, baking, casserole, and more.

This website has employed a meticulous categorization and tagging system that includes ingredients, preparation methods, and dietary preferences. This allows visitors to find recipes aligned with their dietary choices more quickly.

Pinch of Yum's category archive page for Instant Pot Recipes
Pinch of Yum’s category archive page for Instant Pot Recipes.

As a result, user engagement and satisfaction will naturally increase as visitors easily find the recipes that meet their specific dietary needs.

The website itself will therefore benefit from improved SEO rankings for both food blogs in general as well as niche dietary keywords, which is how I came across it.

A Few Common Questions from WordPress Users

Think of these as your straight-to-the-point answers to using categories and tags on your WordPress site.

Do tags in WordPress help with SEO?

Yes, by using tags, your website visitors can more easily find the content they’re looking for, encouraging them to linger longer on your site. Therefore, this contributes to an enhancement in your SEO performance, signaling to Google that your website provides relevant content that resonates with visitors’ interests.

Should tags and categories be indexed?

Having unique and valuable content within your tags and categories may warrant their indexing since they serve as valuable resources for your users. However, if they merely duplicate content already present elsewhere on your site, they could potentially trigger duplicate content issues. Ideally, set up well-structured archive pages for each one with descriptions and relevant information.

Can categories and tags be the same?

Using the same term for both categories and tags in WordPress is technically feasible but not recommended. Categories are intended for broad classifications, guiding users to major topics, while tags offer specific descriptors for filtering content. Using the same term for both blurs their distinction, potentially confusing users and search engines. It’s advisable to use unique terms for categories and tags to maintain clarity and optimize content organization and discoverability.

How do I clean up my categories and tags?

We recommend using Joost de Valk’s Fewer Tags plugin to clean up both your tags and categories. It’s a simple tool that helps you speed up the process and clean up your website at the same time.

Become the Master of Your WordPress Categories & Tags

In conclusion, mastering the use of categories and tags in WordPress is essential for enhancing SEO, improving user navigation, and achieving a successful website.

These seemingly small elements have a significant impact, guiding both users and search engines through your content.

The same also applies to running an online store using WooCommerce, where product categories and tags allow you to organize your product in an attractive and easily understandable way, enhancing the visual appeal and navigation of your shop and helping your WooCommerce SEO efforts.

By following best practices, utilizing the latest WordPress features, and considering real-world examples, you can leverage categories and tags to optimize your site and offer an exceptional user experience.

So, as you continue your WordPress journey, remember that these tools are your allies in achieving better rankings, engaged users, and a thriving online presence.

Mark Zahra

Mark is the CEO behind the WP Mayor project. He has been using WordPress since 2012, joining the WP Mayor team in 2014. Since then, he has helped to review, test, and write about hundreds of WordPress products and services; educating the community of millions of WordPress users around the globe.

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