Many things are up for debate in the SEO world when it comes to WordPress tag and category best practice. This piece establishes the knowns and unknowns: what we know to be 100% the most fruitful use of WordPress tags and categories, and what’s still up in the air. It also breaks down the basic arguments for and against certain tag and category uses.
Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress Tags and Categories
1. What are WordPress Tags and Categories?
WordPress tags and categories are organizational tools just for WordPress blogs. Categories help to organize by big picture ideas, while tags denote specific topics covered by each blog. Each tag and category has its own page listing every blog on your website that uses it.
2. How do I Add Tags and Categories in WordPress?
When writing or editing a blog, go to Categories in the right-hand panel and select the most relevant category from the list. Then go to Tags and add up to three tags. See below for advice on which categories and tags to use for your blog.
3. How Should I Organize WordPress Categories?
Make a list of general topics you expect to write about on a regular basis. For example, a salad dressing manufacturer may have “Recipes,” “At the Farm,” and “News.” These should be versatile topics with plenty of new content to publish for each. If a new topic comes along, feel free to add it to the list. WordPress keeps your categories visible, so it’s easy to keep track of.
4. How do I Manage WordPress Tags?
While categories are the main groupings of blogs, tags describe the specific topics. For example, a chicken korma recipe would fall under the “Recipes” category with the tags, “Chicken Dishes” and “Indian Recipes.”
Keeping a consistent list of tags is tricky, but will benefit your website in the long run. As you go along, keep a spreadsheet of all the tags you use. Use this tool to group similar blogs together under one tag. For example, instead of “Chicken,” “Chicken Dishes,” and “Chicken Recipes,” pick one of the three and stick with it.
5. What Should I Avoid When Making Tags and Categories?
The most common mistake in tag and category creation is name overlap. Unregulated tag creation usually leads to a variety of close matches: “Downtown Seattle,” “Seattle Area,” “in Seattle,” “Seattle News,” etc, when just using “Seattle” would keep the blogs organized under one roof. Watch out for misspellings, plurals, and synonyms. Another common mistake is single-use tags: tags that are too specific or too far outside your wheelhouse and only ever end up with one blog on the page.
6. Should I Noindex Tag and Category Pages?
This is the most hotly debated question about WordPress tags and categories in 2019. It’s ultimately narrowed down to two main things: time commitment and user experience. On one hand, tag and category pages can make excellent landing pages if properly optimized. On the other hand, you may prefer for users to land on a specific page instead of a list of blogs.
Think about the most lucrative product or service your company provides. In all likelihood, a large portion of your blogs already touch on the topic, and may bear the tag or category name to match the service. That means you have a tag or category page filled with useful and relevant information ready to go. However, your website may also have a page dedicated to advertising that service, already including the most crucial information you want customers to know. Rather than forcing the two pages to compete for rankings, it’s usually best to pick one landing page, and noindex the other.
If you have lots of blogs under a certain tag or category, don’t have a landing page for it, and don’t plan to, it may be very beneficial to index that page and let customers click right to it.
7. If I Noindex Tag and Category Pages, What Are They Useful For?
By not having tag and category pages appear in Google Search, you lose the most obvious SEO potential of these pages. However, they can still be used to improve user experience and keep customers on your website longer, which does improve the domain authority of your website.
To make tags and categories useful for website visitors, display them somewhere near the top or bottom of each blog page. Users can then click these links to see a full list of relevant blogs. The user can then explore the topic at their leisure, boosting the average time spent and number of clicks per session on your site.
8. Is it Okay to Not Use Tags and Categories?
Short answer: Don’t lose sleep over it. While there is significant potential for tags and categories to improve keyword rankings, especially when working hand-in-hand with other SEO techniques, the same approach can be used to promote other landing pages instead. Note: the world of search engine optimization is always in flux, and these supplemental pieces may become critical at another time. Read more about best SEO practices here.
9. If I Don’t Use Tag and Category Pages, How Should I Keep Users Engaged?
If you are not using tags and categories to keep users clicking from blog to blog, your website needs another way to keep users engaged. Here are a few suggestions that may work well with the aesthetic of your website:
- A “See Also” link at the bottom of the page
- Custom-designed aggregate pages in place of generic tag and category pages
- A prominent search box for finding relevant blogs
- A “More by this Author” link at the bottom of the page
- Strategically placed links within each article
- An automated tool displaying the most popular or most recent blogs (like we do below!)
In WordPress, tags and categories can be a powerful tool, both for SEO and user experience, but only if they’re handled with organization first in mind. Don’t see your question here? Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.