What are WordPress categories and tags?

WordPress websites have a two-level taxonomy. This post explains how to harness this hierarchy to:

  • keep your site organised
  • help your visitors find the right content
  • increase traffic to your site (by aligning your taxonomy with your SEO strategy, targeting your taxonomy with kws and automatically creating kw targeted landing pages for your content)

Let’s get organised

Organsing your WP site

First things first. It’s important to bear in mind the difference between categories and tags.

Categories are like the table of contents of you site’s posts. Tags are more like the index. As such, you shouldn’t (disclaimer: except in exceptional cases) include a single post in multiple categories.

If you plan your taxonomy correctly, both essentially create a series of extra landing pages that are ready-made for targeting more general keywords than individual posts and therefore don’t directly compete with those pages. This also means that you can target more specific keyword searches with your individual posts. A post about Black Sabbath can target the keyword ‘Black Sabbath’, while the ‘Heavy Metal’ category you place the post inside can target the keyword ‘Heavy Metal’.

A major reason for this is that categories can better optimise your content for search engines by targeting higher-level keywords. If you run a website about rock music, you can use your category pages

It’s also possible to set a parent for each category, so categories can be a multi-level hierarchy. Tags cannot be nested.


If categories are your site’s table of contents, tags are more like your site’s index. They can be more detailed and more specific:

  • No duplicates
  • Posts should belong to one category (with special case exceptions)
  • Contents/index
  • Categories are best for SEO focus
  • Categories can be nested (you can have assign a parent category to a category); you can’t with tags
  • Tags should be more detailed/specific that categories
  • Categories should be indexed; tags should not be (the easiest way to set this using Yoast SEO plugin

You shouldn’t have a category that is also a tag (from an SEO perspective, which should rank?)

Of course, WP has the added benefit of being able to list each piece of content under a variety of categories, but it’s important not to go mad adding a million tags and categories to your content.

Categories and tags can be set on custom post types like products, portfolio items, services, and team members in addition to posts and pages. With a plugin such as Enhanced Media Library you can even add a custom taxonomy to your images and other media items, enabling you to filter media items far more intelligently than the out-the-box settings allow.

Each taxonomy item you use creates a new URL – meaning you effectively have a ready-made page at your disposal that updates as your organise and reorgansise your content.

Use for: navigation, intelligently relating posts to each other,

If I told you that 1 in every 20 blog referrals are from a tag page found in google, you might think twice about ignoring them.

Duplicate content concerns: https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/demystifying-duplicate-content-penalty.html – Google’s own disclaimer, way back in 2008, stated (fittingly) categorically that they will never penalise WP users for duplicate content arising from use of tags and categories. Google’s (fittingly) categorical attempt to ‘put this to bed once and for all’.

No duplicate content penalty arises from WP users’ category and tag pages.

Google understands that correct use of taxonomy is not an attempt to deceive users or search engines into believing a site has more or better content, but is in fact used to assist the visitor.


It’s become something of a cliché, but it’s a good illustration of the point.

Contents/index: https://managewp.com/wordpress-categories-tags-seo, http://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/categories-vs-tags-seo-best-practices-which-one-is-better/,


But don’t go mad

Over-categorising can lead to its own issues. You sometimes find a blog in which almost every post is in almost every category. This makes the whole process redundant, as the taxonomy no longer serves the purpose of assisting navigation or filtering. If your categories all list the same content, you’re not helping anyone.

If your website is used for your personal training business, you don’t need a category called Personal Training. But you probably do want categories on Exercise, Nutrition, Running, and so on. You might then have tags on Marathon Running, Short-distance Running, and so on.


Why not actually link to your categories?

In some cases, we even use category pages as top-level pages.


Planning your site taxonomy

You should think about your taxonomy early in the process of designing a site. For one thing, it’s far easy to maintain a taxonomy that’s been well thought out in the beginning. Going through the process of planning a taxonomy also helps you think about the component parts of your business, your service offering and the varying needs and interests of your clients and customers.