What are tags and categories?
How do they work?
What are the best tags and categories to use on a blog post?
How do you make the categories and tags you’re using on your blog posts more influential?
WordPress offers two different ways to organise blog posts; Categories and Tags. And every blogger should be using them.
What are categories?
Categories act like groups where blog posts that have a connection with each other are stored.
For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you could have a category called The United Kingdom, of which you could list the sub-categories – Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
Every blog post should have at least one category.
Categories are important because they make finding specific blog posts easier to find for visitors to your blog (especially first-time visitors).
Let’s say I’ve just read a blog post you published about your Grandmother’s recipe for the world’s best apple pie.
I want to find out if you’ve published other recipes for pies, and search for a recipe category.
Unfortunately, you don’t have one, or you don’t categorise any of your posts (so they all fall under ‘uncategorised’).
I could search for the information (if you have a search bar on your blog), but I want to check out all your pie recipe posts, not just one.
The only option I now have is to scroll through all your posts looking for pie recipes that may interest me.
I don’t have enough time to do that, so I’ll probably search for pie recipes elsewhere.
It’s likely that I’ll never return to visit your blog because you don’t categorise your blog posts.
Adding a category to your blog post is simple to do.
How to add a category to your blog post
- While drafting a blog post, you’ll see a toolbar on the righthand side of the page.
- This is where you can add categories.
For more information about adding categories to your blog, click here.
It’s also a good idea to do some housekeeping of the categories you have on your blog.
For example, delete categories that are no longer being used. Update categories and give them a new name if you think something works better.
How to maintain the categories on your blog
- On the dashboard of your blog, click on Manage and Settings.
- On the Settings page, click on Writing.
- Click anywhere inside the ‘Categories‘ box.
- A page will appear showing all the categories you have and how many blog posts are stored under each one.
Any sub-categories will show under each category.
- To edit, delete, view posts or set a category as your default category, click on the three vertical dots next to the number.
You may have noticed in one of the above images that I have set my default category to ‘uncategorised.’ Doing this makes it easy for me to search for any blog posts I’ve not categorised.
What about adding tags?
Like categories, tags can be added to blog posts in the toolbar that appears on the right hand side of a draft post.
Generally, tags do not need to have a connection with each other but, when used correctly, can generate lots of extra traffic to a blog post.
Tags act as the keywords you think somebody would add to the WordPress search bar when looking for specific blog posts.
For example, somebody searching for blogging tips may add ‘blogging’, ‘blogging tips’, blogging advice’ blogging help’ in the search bar.
When adding tags to your blog post, think of words you would use if searching for the post.
Check out the tags I’ve added for this blog post. They appear at the end of the post.
Each tag should be separated with a comma or by pushing ‘Enter’ on your keyboard.
Important information – Did you know this…?
The cardinal rule of tagging on WordPress.com is you should never add more than a total of 15 tags and categories (combined) to your post; otherwise, it won’t show up in the WordPress Reader.
This cap is used to keep out spam blogs — it means that you need to ensure that your tags are only those that are most relevant to your post.
Don’t tag your blog post with words that have nothing to do with the subject of the post.
15 tags is still a lot, but you don’t need to use all of them.
As a general rule, I add no more than three categories and between six and eight tags to my blog posts.
Tags containing more than one word (such as ‘Blogging tips’) act as one tag word.
As with categories, it’s essential to also do some housekeeping of the tags you’ve used on your blog.
How to delete and update tags
- As we did earlier with categories, on the dashboard of your blog, click on Manage and Settings.
- On the Settings page, click on Writing and then on the ‘Tags‘ box.
- A page will appear showing all of your tags and how many blog posts contain each tag.
- To edit, delete, and views posts containing a tag word, click on the three vertical dots next to the number.
- All blog posts should be categorised and tagged.
- Categorising and tagging your blog posts makes your blog user-friendly. As a result, people are likely to keep coming back.
- Not categorising your blog posts means they get mixed up and not easy to sort through.
- If you don’t categorise your blog posts, how will people find them?
- When tagging posts, think of keywords that other people will use when searching for your blog post.
- Don’t use tag-words that have nothing to do with the subject of your blog post.
- WordPress users – Never add more than 15 tags and categories (combined) to your posts, otherwise they won’t show up on the WordPress Reader.
- Remember to perform regular housekeeping of categories and tags on your blog. Keep them tidy and in order.
- Adding the right tags to your blog posts will result in more readers finding them. More readers means higher stats, more comments and new followers.
What about you?
- Do you have any tips for adding categories and tags to your blog posts?
- Do you have any rules for how many tags and categories you add?
- Do you categorise and add tags to all your blog posts? If not, why not?
- Which tags-words work best for you?
- Is there anything you’d like to add about adding categories and tags to blog posts that I’ve not mentioned?
Join the discussion by leaving me a comment that I can respond to with more than just a ‘thank you.’
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89 thoughts on “How To Make Categorising And Tagging Blog Posts More Powerful”
Hi Hugh, Do Categories, Sub-categories and Tags work the same way for an online shop? my business partner & I are working building an online WordPress Shop. I found this post helpful, Thank you.
Absolutely, yes, they do. Think of the words your customers may put into the WordPress search bar when searching for the items you sell. Then add them as tags. If you sell lots of different types of items, then categorise them and use sub-categories where necessary. Remember, though, no more than 15 categories and tags combined. This will help your customers quickly find what they are looking for or what you have for sale.
Hi Hugh, lovely to catch up with you again. Been too long. This is a great post for new bloggers especially but also for those of us more ‘ancient’ bloggers as a reminder of the importance of those key tag words and categories. Also that all important clean up, something I’ve never done, yikes! When I started out blogging, I didn’t know about either and didn’t use them at all on my early posts. Then, when I started using, they I went overboard with way more than 15! I can’t remember when I found out about the cardinal rule of 15 max but I am careful to count them for the very reason you state here. I will be in touch. Hope all is well with you and yours, Hugh. Take care. xxx
Likewise, Sherri, in those early days of blogging, I never used categories or tags. Fortunately for me, I signed up to a free online ‘blogging for beginners’ course that was run by WordPress. That’s where I was taught the importance of adding both categories and tags to every blog post. Those early posts have long been deleted, but I guess we all have to learn from somewhere. I hope my blogging tips posts are now the learning vessel for many in the blogging world.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Have a lovely weekend.
You’re a great teacher with a whole resource of blogging tips. Thanks, Hugh, you too, and take care xxx
Nice info Hugh. The idea of using sub-categories struck me. I never considered them before. But now I am…
I used to strictly apply only one category to a post, for simplicity and focus I guess. But some posts truly span multiple categories, so why not?
I try to use 5 to 10 tags I think. Not too many, nor too few.
Looks like you have the categorising and tagging of your posts on the right track, Jason. That’s good to hear. I see far too many bloggers not doing either, or overdoing both. Sub-Categories can come in really handy. I use a few myself, and they’ve worked out great.
CONGRATULATIONS. Our Julie has chosen your very helpful tutorial to be featured in the next Blogger’s Pit Stop. Thanks for sharing with our readers.
Thank you for the great news, Kathleen. That’s fantastic to hear.
Have a great week.
Great advice as always Hugh. I see tons of blogs with no tags. Just so much easier for readers to snoop around and for ourselves to find our own work LOL ❤
Blogs posts without tags and categories are great examples of little fishes in vast oceans, Debby. Add them, and your little fishes become much bigger and more likely to get caught by SEOs.
True dat! 🙂
Hugh, I’ve always used categories and tags for my posts. I remember the 15 limit rule but thought it was for Tags only. Your reminder that the total 15 is ‘combined” is helpful. Thank you for that.
I always thought it was 14, but only applied to tags, Natalie. I was right but didn’t realise until recently that the number of tags and categories used on a post are combined and that the magic number is no more than 15—good job I did some research on this post before publishing it.
I’m just getting to grips with Guttenburg, taking me a while I have to add. I hadn’t realised we could edit tags and categories in this way, so thank you Hugh, very helpful as always.
Good to hear, Sam. I’ve had a look at some of the tags I’d been using on previous posts and have no idea why I used them. Nobody would have used some of those words I’d used as tags when searching for posts. So it’s a good idea to sort them out.
Something for me to check too. Not liking Gutenberg as yet, but I guess I’ll get used to it 😊
To start with, I disliked the block editor, Sam. However, the more I used it, the more confident I became with using it. I watched and read the tutorials and soon discovered that it wasn’t hard to use, just different. Now, when I compare classic vs block editor posts, there’s a clear winner. Recent changes to the block editor have taken blogging to a new level. I’m sure it won’t be long before WordPress says its final goodbye to the classic editor. Don’t get left behind.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Hugh…The penny has just dropped…sigh…after a few years of blogging…I followed your instructions although mine was elsewhere on my blog but found it and have spent the best part of an hour and need to spend more time so it will take me a couple of weeks… I think I now have it sussed…My likes and notifications are now sorted( a browser) change…All in all a good morning..Stay safe and well Hugh 🙂 and thank you for a timely post 🙂
You may have gone through the ‘WP Admin’ button via the older dashboard route, Carol. It works just as well as going via the newer dashboard route. I tend to switch between both for various elements. It depends on what information I am looking for. Plus, not everything on the older dashboard is available on the newer dashboard yet.
Good to hear you sorted out the problems with the likes and notifications.
I did Hugh…I will try the other way I just automatically go via WP admin…Yes that was relief just the browser…sigh
Thanks Hugh. You explain the technicalities of blogging in simple language. I didn’t know about the 15 tag and category limit. These are the small things that make a big difference to a blog.
I don’t think many WordPress users know the 15 tags and category rule, Rob. I try and stick to between six and ten. That way, I know my posts should then show up on the WP Reader.
Right! It never occurred to me. I can see you hosting online blogging courses, Hugh. I’d sign up.
Thanks, Rob. Something for me to maybe think about.
Or I can see you publishing a ‘how to’ book.
Great Post Hugh!! Thanks so much for this!!!
You’re welcome, Chuck. Thank you for sharing it with your readers.
Reblogged this on The Reluctant Poet and commented:
Be sure and read Hugh’s post:
WordPress users – Never add more than 15 tags and categories (combined) to your posts, otherwise they won’t show up on the WordPress Reader.
Hugh, I did not know about the 15 limit rule. Thanks for that helpful bit. Instagram has a warning when you go over 30 and will not allow the post. Hadn’t thought WP might have a similar rule.
I don’t think many people know about the WordPress rule regarding the limit of how many tags and categories you can apply to a blog post, Suzanne. I think it would be a good idea for WordPress to give a warning. Next time I speak with them, I will suggest it.
Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
Check out this very helpful post from Hugh’s Views And News blog with the topic How To Make Categorizing And Tagging Blog Posts More Powerful
Your info is always so helpful Hugh, and, much appreciated. Upon reading your info, I’ve realized the categories I use are probably more helpful to me than someone else and wonder if I should change all of them to something someone else would search for, e.g. photos, rather than inspiration let’s say. Also, do subcategories count in the total of 15? I think I had subcategories before but deleted them because I thought it was going against that count. Any clarification you can provide would be helpful. Thank you.
It’s essential to give your categories a name that really sums up what types of blog posts you’re putting in there. For example, I use photography, rather than photos, and have some sub-categories under photography like Wordless Wednesday, Sunday Stills, etc. Those sub-categories are various photography challenges I participate in. I think it vital that you help visitors to your blog and give them a user-friendly experience. That way, they’ll keep coming back.
Yes, sub-categories count towards the total number of categories and tags you use. For example, I’ve listed this post under ‘Blogging,’ but also ‘Blogging tips’ which is a sub-category I have under blogging. So it counts as two, rather than just one.
I hope that helps?
Yes, that helps very much. If I haven’t said it before, “You are the BEST!” Thank you for giving me a clear and speedy response. I couldn’t ask for more.
Hi, Hugh – Thanks for another great reminder. I previously categorized and tagged all of my posts. Since switching to WP.com I have definitely let this slip. Your gentle nudge is greatly appreciated!
Good to hear, Donna. Categorising and tagging posts on self-hosted platforms is just as essential to do as it is on the WordPress.Com platform.
I’ve always used categories and tags on my blog, as I find they help both readers and myself to navigate. I link the most regular categories to my menu, so that readers can find related posts. And, like you, I really don’t like blogs without a search box!
Likewise Clive. Categorising my blog posts helps me find specific posts very quickly. I also list some of my most used and popular categories on the menubar of my blog. I believe having a visible search bar on a blog as being vital. I don’t stay long if I can’t find what I’m looking for on a blog. I’ll go and find the information somewhere else, and probably never visit again.
I agree on all counts! I haven’t used that many categories, so selecting the contents of the menu isn’t difficult for me. I can’t see how anyone who professes to be serious about their blog doesn’t include a search bar, preferably near the top of their site. The other widget I find useful is the Google Translate one: very helpful for those of us who would like to read blogs written in languages we don’t speak!
I see some bloggers complaining about blog posts not being written in English. I’m not sure why, but they’ve obviously not discovered the Google Translate widget.
As I understand it, that widget needs to be installed on the blog you’re trying to read. It beats me why people writing in other languages don’t use it, given that English is by far the most commonly used blogging language.
When I started blogging I misunderstood the “category” in the first months. I really should clean those categories out.
Yes, I’d recommend you clean them out. Categories play a vital part in a well organised and user-friendly blog. We should do all we can in giving our visitors an easy to navigate experience when searching for information on our blogs.
That’s so true. It is on my list… hopefully, I can get to it any time soon!
Thanks for pointing the way for editing categories and tags, Hugh. I have a few that need updating 🙂
You’re welcome, Jacquie. I need to do the same with the tags I’ve used. I have over 1,000 of them and need to trim them down.
I’ve found that the categories tab doesn’t always come up when I write a wordpress post. Sometimes it does, but more often than not it’s conspicuous by its absence.
I always add categories when I can, though. And tags.
That’s very strange about the categories box not always showing when you’re drafting a post. It sounds to me as if the theme you’re using has a bug, although it could also be down to which editor you’re using. It’s something I would recommend you report to WordPress to they can fix it for you.
Categories and tags are smart ideas for successful blogging, Hugh. I’m amazed at how many bloggers publish their posts as “uncategorized.” Somehow I have “leisure” auto-set as a category. I forgot how I did it, LOL. I need to get a search bar…so off to do that!
I have ‘uncategorised’ set as my default category, Terri. It helps me spot any posts I’ve forgotten to categorise. You can change the default category by clicking on the three verticle dots next to the category you want to set as your default category.
Likewise, I’m amazed by the number of bloggers who do not give their blog posts a category or tag any of them. That’s like crossing your fingers after throwing the post into outa space. No wonder many of these posts never get little if any reaction.
I’m amazed at the number of blog posts I see that are uncategorised without tags and no search bar. I didn’t know about the 15 tag/category limit though.
Same here, Cathy. I’m always amazed by how many blog posts I see that are not categorised. It’s like throwing all your blog posts into one big pile that nobody is going to want to sort through.
I knew about the 15 tag/category rule, although I thought it only applied to tags. Apparently not. I’m glad I did some research while writing this post.
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
Another of Hugh’s great blogging tips 👍😃
Thank you so much! This is very much helpful for a newbie like me. 🙂
Unfortunately, your comment went straight to my WordPress spam folder. Not sure why, but it may be worth you checking if any of the other comments you’re leaving on other blogs are also ending up in spam. If they are, there’s a way out, but you have to contact WordPress. Most bloggers don’t know their comments are ending up in the spam folder unless somebody mentions it to then. Fortunately, I check my spam folder at least a couple of times a day.
Thanks for this! So far, you’re the only one who have notified me about it. I already emailed WordPress Support to check whether I have to adjust somewhere on my settings.
Great. It’s worth checking, but hopefully, it’s only happened once on the original comment you left here. Another sign of comments ending up in spam is when you don’t get a reply to the comments.
Sir, just want to inform you that Akismet Support had responded quickly and made changes on their end to prevent this from happening again. I wouldn’t have known, if you didn’t tell me. Thank you so much! 🙂
That’s great to hear. I’m delighted they helped so quickly. I’ve always found the Happiness Engineers at WordPress so helpful.
Thanks, your tips are always helpful.
I’m glad to hear it. I enjoy sharing all these tips with you all.
Excellent and very informative post Hugh. I have been adding 3 categories and lots of tags but never realised that 6 or 8 tags work better. No wonder I’ve had little views if my posts were not being shown in the reader. Thank you for these tips!
Thank you. The six to eight rule I mentioned in this post is what I find works best for me. The most important thing is to remember not to have more than 15 categories and/or tags (combined). That’s the point where your blog posts containing more than 15 tags and/or categories fall off the WordPress Reader. And nobody wants that to happen.
Definitely Hugh, a waste of time and energy to have our efforts drop to the wayside!
Absolutely. It’s as bad as the comments we leave on other blog posts being sent straight to the spam folder.
Being a poet, I always use the tags “kevin morris poet”, “k morris poet”, rhyme (as nearly all of my poetry rhymes), and other relevant poetry related tags. I also have (amongst my categories) “poetry”, “poems”, “Literature” and “Creative writing”. I find that tagging post not only helps my readers, it also assists me when searching trhough my own blog! I agree with you about the importance of having a search bar. Kevin
Same here, Kevin. I use categories and tags when searching for my own blog posts. Having a search bar on your blog helps with finding those blog posts with specific words in their title. Having the category widget in my widget bar also helps with that.
It looks as if you have categories and tags covered on your blog. Well done.