Categories vs. Tags: Usage, Organization & SEO

I have helped a lot of people set up their web sites and their blogs throughout the years and I would say that a good 90% of the blogs I run into are still using their Categories and Tags ineffectively.  I thought I’d put this post together to help people make better use of their categories and tags.

Categorizing vs. Tagging

Who better to ask about how to use categories and tags than WordPress?  When discussing “Categories vs. Tags”, this is what WordPress says:

“Tags are similar to categories, but they are generally used to describe your post in more detail.”

One good example that helps to illustrate the above is how a food blog might organize itself.  Below may be how a food blog may be organized.
Fridge with Food


Dessert, Entree, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack


Chicken, Beef, Milk, Cereal, Whip Cream, Beans, Potatoes, Butter

So you can see the categories are more about what type of a meal or meal it is, where tags get more into what is in the actual food itself.  You usually want to stick with as few of categories as possible where you can usually use as many tags that make sense. Less is definitely more whenever possible.

Consistency Preserves Organization & Usability

Once you understand how categories and tags work, you now have to prevent them from getting out of control. Your categories and tags can start getting out of control if you don’t take the time to organize your posts properly.  Take the time to organize every post.

Organize Up Front & Lay the Smack Down

OrganizedToolsI recommend creating your categories and tags up front when possible. This can make it much easier to keep your blog organized, especially when you have multiple authors.

Once you’ve organized your categories and tags, you may have to train your authors and lay the smack down to help keep your blog organized. You need to train/restrict any contributors from breaking the organization when possible.


When your blog is organized well, the category lists and tag clouds actually add to the usability of the site and make it easier for your visitors to find what they’re looking for. Better overall organization of your site can give you more time with your readers.

Search Engines

GoogleWhen considering the search engines you need to address the following:

  1. Original Content/Pages
  2. Link Juice & Link Bleeding
  3. Best Links are Relevant Links in Content
  4. Category & Tag Pages Can Rank Well

Original Content/Pages

Writing original content isn’t the hard part. What I’m referring to here has more to do with your index and archive pages. It’s essential that you don’t have duplicate categories and tags, duplicate can also pertain to synonyms. Search engines (Google), understand similar phrases.  If you start categorizing and tagging using synonyms you’ll create the same index and archive pages which will then be considered duplicate content because they will list the same posts on them. You will then eventually get the duplicate content penalty on those pages and they’ll be worthless.

Don’t duplicate or synonymies your categories and tags! 

Link Juice & Link Bleeding


Each page of your site starts with 100% of the page’s total link value and that value is divided among the links on the page. To get the most out of the links on your page you want to minimize the link bleeding.  Link bleeding refers to link value being sent to worthless pages like your contact page, about page, etc. Every link on the page decreases the total value passed through each link, so less links adds more value to each link.

Category Lists & Tag Clouds Bleed Link Juice

Category List Widgets, Tag Cloud Widgets, and Widgets in general bleed link juice. Adding nofollow tags to your category and tag widget links specifically  can prevent the bleed and add more link value to the more important links on the page.

Widgets are meant for usability! Nofollow widget links to preserve link value!

Best Links are Relevant Links in Content

We know that relevant links within the article’s content itself hold more value with the search engines. Whenever possible, link within your content.

Post Meta Category Links & Tag Links Pass Relevant Juice


The category and tag links usually listed in the top or bottom of your posts will pass more relevant juice to the categories and tags for the posts themselves so use these links to help the category and tag pages rank better. This can also help lift relevant rankings to any other posts belonging to these categories and tags.

Category & Tag Pages Can Rank Well

If you do things effectively, you can see your category and tag pages rank better than other pages on your site. Some of the reason these pages rank so well are:

  1. These pages are continually adding new content to them so they’re changing. This provokes the search engine to crawl them more often.
  2. Every post usually links to it’s parent category and tag pages creating a solid internal linking structure. This can pass a lot of juice to these pages.
  3. Categories and Tags can have multiple pages with tons of content within them.

One thing to keep in mind is that some SEO plugins may place noarchive and noindex tags on your category and tag pages so make sure to adjust the settings accordingly if you are trying to rank those pages.

Don’t miss out on the potential rankings your category and tag pages have!

Whatchu Think?

Any feedback? How are you using categories and tags? Any experience or expertise you want to add to this article? Please share it below. Any questions? If this was helpful and/or you have a friend that could benefit from this article, share it with them. We’ve made it easy to do. Just click on the social buttons.

7 thoughts on “Categories vs. Tags: Usage, Organization & SEO

  1. Matt McGee says:

    I’ve had mixed experiences with categories and tags. I generally prefer just using Categories because it can be difficult to remember what tags you’ve used in the past. But there are times when I wish I’d done a better job of using both on certain blogs.

    • Brandon Buttars says:

      Yeah I’m the same way. I try to make sure there is at least a good category selected. The tags should act as detailed support for the categories where it makes sense, and sometimes the category says it all.

  2. Tom Conte says:

    WordPress is the worst when it comes to creating duplicate content between categories, tags, archives, author pages, and other pages you may use. I generally noindex all if I’m not doing anything special with those templates.

    I would like to add that if you wanted to rank category/tag pages, be sure there is enough unique content on them to distinguish them. For instance, in WP, use the excerpt input to generate a unique description to appear on all category or tag pages.

  3. Patrick Ryan says:

    and Tags are just the two default taxonomies that comes with WordPress. Most
    advanced sites use custom taxonomies for sorting their content alongside with
    categories and tags. Think of your blog as an ever evolving book. Choose the
    Table of Content (categories) wisely. Make sure that they are broad topics,
    but be cautious to not make it too vague. Use tags to loosely relate multiple
    posts. If you see a certain tag is becoming popular, then consider adding it
    as a sub-category. However, if you have to add the tag as subcategory of
    multiple top-level categories, then leave it as a tag. The goal is always to
    make the site as user friendly as possible.

  4. Ahsanul Karim says:

    I agree with you. Category & tag are very important to get good rank in SEO. Another thing its important we need to use proper category & Tag to get good ranking. Thanks valuable post

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