categories vs tags

Categories vs. Tags: What’s the Difference?

Posted 5 March, 2015 in Blogging Tips / 7 Comments

Welcome to the first Bumblings Blog Tip of this month’s Be a Better Blogger challenge: clean up your categories.

In the 10 years I’ve been blogging, I’ve seen so many things about categories and tags. Most of the conflicting advice stems from the fact that people think they’re basically interchangeable. And while you can certainly structure your own blog however you want to, there are certain things to understand if you want to make your blog as browsable as possible.

In my opinion, you have three options:

  • Use categories but not tags
  • Use tags but not categories
  • Use them both

I’ve always gone with option 3, and it seems like most other bloggers do, too. But they use them in a way that doesn’t really make sense.

What’s the Point of Categories and Tags?

Categories and tags make it easy for readers to browse through your blog looking at posts about certain topics. When they come to your home page, they have one choice: look at your recent posts.

But let’s get in the mind of a reader.

They come to your blog through a Facebook post for a certain book review. For a new adult romance book. They read the review and take a look around your blog, determining that you read several genres and publish reviews, memes, cover reveals, excerpts, release day blitzes, and personal posts. But right now, they’re looking for a new book to read, and they’re in the mood for a new adult romance.

If they’re scrolling through your blog’s home page/archive, they have to scroll past a ton of other content to find what they’re interested in today: new adult romance reviews.

But if you followed the category and tag hierarchy I’m going to be talking about this month, they can find it quite easily. They can either browse through the “Reviews” category, or go straight to your “new adult romance” tag. Neither of these will be perfect with the basic blog configuration, though. The “Reviews” category will show reviews for other genres, and the “new adult romance” tag might include posts that aren’t reviews.

But I digress…

Categories and tags let readers browse your blog by topic. They came there looking for something, and these things make it easier to find what they’re looking for.

What’s the Difference?

Categories

Bloggers have generally agreed that categories are top-level. They’re broad and vague. Think of them like sections of the newspaper. Or a table of contents. For most bloggers, the category will either describe the type of post, or the broad topic.

For example, I categorize my blog posts by type. I have reviews, blogging tips, The Weekly Write-Up, etc.

You can also get into sub-categories, but it’s always best to keep things simple. One set of categories makes it easier on the reader to figure out what’s going on with your blog and how to find what they need.

Tags

Tags dig deeper into what the reader will find in your blog post. This is where you can get specific. It’s not just a review, it’s a 5-star review. And it’s about new adult romance. And it’s by so-and-so author. And it’s part of this series. And the male protagonist is an alpha male (of course he is :P).

Stay Tuned

I’m going to be writing more about categories and tags over the next two months (tags are next month’s BABB challenge). What questions do you have? What struggles are you encountering trying to keep them all organized? Knowing what info you guys need will help me decide what to write.

And if your categories need some work, be sure to join this month’s Be a Better Blogger challenge!

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7 Responses to “Categories vs. Tags: What’s the Difference?”

  1. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I get kind of annoyed when tags are overly-detailed. Like, I’ve never felt the need to tag an author’s name in a review, because I might never review a second book by that author, and also, if I want to see if someone has more than one review by an author I just use the search function on their blog… anyway, I definitely might be alone in this. 😛

    • Haha I definitely see where you’re coming from. But in your scenario, you’re searching for something in particular. Someone may not decide that they want to see all posts with a certain tag until they see the tag link there. I think they’re a good way to pull readers in to just browse around. 🙂

      I also do really like when bloggers tag certain things that happened in the book, like “friends with benefits” or “firefighters” (yes, firefighters :P), because if they never actually say “friends with benefits” in the review, I can still easily find all of their reviews of books about FWBs. 🙂

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