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What's the Difference Between Tags & Categories?

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You’re writing your blog post and getting ready to upload it. Then all of a sudden you have to assign it to a category. And a tag. So what’s the difference?

WordPress used to only offer a Category option. It was a way to assign your post to a group, that could then be sorted and helped navigation across your blog. You could have parent categories and child categories for drilling down. As you can imagine, depending on your blog topic, the category structure could get very lengthy and out of hand.

So then tags were implemented. Instead of choosing from your category list, you write your tags out (separated by commas). Tags can be a stream of words or phrases and are not limited by your category or theme design. But in order to work, they need to be consistent. The point of a tag is to literally “tag” your post with some keywords/phrases so that a user can navigate to other posts that are tagged in a similar fashion.

Tags and categories are very similar. They both create pages of posts on your site. They can have long or short names depending on your blog design. They both are used for organization and cross-linking within your blog. But there are a few differences as well:

  • Every blog post HAS to be assigned a category. It does not need to be assigned a tag. That’s a requirement of WordPress. Even if your post is “Uncategorized” – that is still a category.
  • Categories are a hierarchical structure. Tags are not.

Depending on how a blogger uses categories and tags, there can be other differences as well. Some blog pros say that you should only assign your post to one category, and then use tags to further define the post (I disagree). Others feel that you can use a tag once across the blog, because its use is to only further define your post (I disagree).

No matter what your method is for categorizing your posts, my suggestion is to stay consistent and hotlink your keywords frequently. Whether you link your words/phrases to a tag or a category, is your decision!

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Thanks to Wordle.net

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld.com. She has been a freelance writer and blogger for over a decade, writing for About.com, iVillage and b5media. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni.


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