Blog Categories and Tags: What’s the Difference?

Blogs are a staple in today’s post content-is-king world. We spend tons of time discussing content marketing strategies, backlinking, guest blogging, and how to integrate blogs into social media. But how a blog is organized is just as important, if not more important, in successfully hitting engagement and performance goals. Categories and tags are a crucial part of that blog organization.

What exactly are blog categories and tags?

Categories and tags are ways of grouping blog posts. They work together to create the skeletal structure of the blog, telling both readers and search engines what kind of content they can expect to find. When done correctly, categories and tags make it easy for a reader to navigate the blog and find the content they want.

blog tags categoriesBlog Categories

  • Categories are like the chapters of a book; they group content into easily digestible segments
  • Far fewer in number than tags
  • Do not change
  • Most blog posts will fall under only one category (there may be a few exceptions)

Blog Tags

  • Tags are comparable to the index of a book; they are helpful for readers looking for specific content rather than a theme of content
  • There are usually more tags than categories
  • The list of tags can grow, but the initial list should be fairly stable
  • A blog post can have multiple tags

Are categories and tags important for SEO?

Short answer: Yes – categories and tags are important for SEO. However, categories and tags are not like meta titles and descriptions where keywords play a crucial role. Instead, categories and tags help SEO efforts in a more round-about way by improving the reader’s experience.

If the reader understands the content, the time on site will often be longer and readers are more likely to return to and link to the blog. These actions let Google know the blog is a valuable source of content and, in turn, help the individual posts rank higher in search.

To this end, categories and tags should be easy to understand. Categories and tags do not need to be keyword heavy, but they should make it clear to the reader what content they’ll find if they click through to the category or tag.

There is also an art to categorizing blog posts in a way that fits brand voice, meaning keyword integration into categories and tags can be difficult. But if it’s possible to use keywords in categories and tags in a clear, succinct way that fits brand voice, that is always best practice.

One quick note in relation to technical SEO and blogs. Be sure to add “noindex,follow” meta tags to category and tag pages. “noindex,follow” tags are recommended by Google to avoid duplicate content and indexation problems. It also ensures that users can still find important pages and not get bogged down by internal site structure.

How to write categories and tags

Consider the reader when creating tags or categories. How would a reader try to use the blog? What kind of content will they be looking for? How do they talk about this content? For answers to these questions, look at keyword research, internal site search, and analytics to get a better understanding of blog readers.

Categories

  • There should only be a handful of categories that are stable and apply to nearly every blog post
  • Look at the mission statement, goals, site structure, and content or social pillars (if available) for category ideas

blog tags categories

(Blog categories on a live blog post, visible to the public)

Tags

  • Use the tags to be descriptive and granular
  • Look at past blog posts and think about future topics to create a list of tags topics
  • Look at keyword research and internal site search to guide tag language
  • Think of how readers use the blog content
    • Choose tags that provide similar content for a reader who wants to see more of those topics
    • Avoid tags that are too specific to the products/features/services/company jargon to be helpful for a reader navigating blog content

blog tags categories

(Blog tags on a live blog post, visible to the public)

Final steps for creating blog categories and tags:

  1. Identify the categories (best practice is 10 or less)
  2. Look at the content that would fit under each category and create a list of tags that would accurately label the blogs while providing helpful navigation to readers
    • This initial tag list may grow as the blog evolves, but it should be a fairly comprehensive list
  3. Ensure the “noindex,follow” tags are added to the category and tag pages

Why Marketers Should Care About Categorizing and Tagging

Why marketers should care: Being thoughtful when creating categories and tags can significantly improve reader satisfaction. This in turn can snowball into improved retention, time on site, links, referral traffic, higher ranks, and increased organic traffic. A blog can always be audited, categories and tags always reorganized. Taking the time now to create a well-organized blog can pay dividends down the road.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Google Webmasters: Robots Meta Tag

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