This blog is the first I’ve attempted on WordPress. I’ve set up some WordPress sites for others, played with some plugins, widgets, etc., but never had one all to myself to maintain and play with! So when I was going through- I found myself trying to figure out the difference between Tags and Categories. A quick google search later led me to this blog, which covers in detail what I was looking for.
The basic breakdown- from my understanding- is that I will use categories to fit most of my entries. My categories kind of go all over the place, but that’s the point. Most of my posts will fit into only one category. But tags are a quick list of keywords for that particular post. So while this post will be in my “Blogging” category, it will have the following tags: blogging, blogs, wordpress, tags, categories, seo, search engines, optimization
Search engines can pickup on these tags to get a better idea about what this post is about. At least what I think it’s about- since I set the tags. Tags could of course be mis-used. I could add a tag that says “Vegas” or “beach house” — which makes no sense. And the reason I will avoid that kind of trickery, is that it doesn’t earn you any regular readers. Any site that pulls you in with the promise of beach houses in vegas, and then has a link to a get-rich-quick-scheme instead will never have followers.
So it’s simple. Keep your posts in a single category, and tag it to death with anything you think should be searchable or stands out for a particular post.
Um, you are partially right on this. I know it’s confusing.
Honestly, your categories are your table of contents. The first things people look to see what you are blogging about. They are the key navigation feature and entrance to your collected bodies of work.
Tags are your blog’s index words. They can be anything, but it helps if they are relevant to your content, like keywords used to be in the old meta tags. In fact, they are today’s meta tags keywords.
Categories get more play with search engines than tags. Tags are just words. They are not treated in any way specially by search engines. Only one service, Technorati, paid attention to tags, but they dropped it after year two. It’s just a word in a link, so make those words matter and be relevant and they get the same SEO juice as a link.
Google and others are seriously considering banning tag pages from search results as they tend to be duplicate content within a site, and rarely of much use, but categories are great for SEO, but it helps to display only excerpts on them instead of full posts to ensure you aren’t repeating yourself in ways that is 1) not helpful to real people, 2) not duplicating content, and 3) not offering up full content to those who are now scraping category feeds for their spam blogs.
I know it’s confusing, but you’re on the right track. Keep rocking!
So – is there really a purpose to tags at all then?
I read this point on your site-
“Categories don’t help search engines find information. Tags help search engines and tag directories catalog your site.”
Has it changed? Or what am I misunderstanding?
Yes, that’s changed, sort of. This was written when Technorati ruled and search engines were beginning to consider honoring tags as categorical information. It didn’t work. Today, to search engines, the “tag” (a link with rel=”tag” in it) is no more or less valuable than any link. It’s just another bit of information thrown into the mix of what your site is about.
However, to visitors, tags are micro-categorization and navigation tools if you use them right. They help people drill down through the “data” to find the answers.
Search engines index tag pages (often whining about duplicate content) thus are considering ignoring them to filter out such duplication. You can set your robots.txt to ignore tag pages which will help search engines, too. Visitors get confused by multiple mentions of the same pages, and really frustrated when they land on pages without the information they are seeking, since tag pages are dynamically generated and change over time as you add more content to those pages.
Keep it simple and ignore the issues of SEO with tags. Think of your visitor’s relationship and interaction with your site and choose categorization and folksonomy appropriate to your site’s content, reflecting your purpose and identity.
PS: Please don’t use target=”_blank” in your links, even though WordPress.com offers that as an option. It’s bad form, violates web standards, and messes with analytics, and people hate it. Just an extra tip for you and your readers. 😀
Been a long time since I’ve learned webdesign- but I thought a new window allowed people to stay at your site. Since once I send them off, they no longer have access to my site navigation- unless they remember my URL, or click back. That’s how I was taught, and always have thought of it that way. Why is it no longer the norm?
It hasn’t been since 1999. It breaks conventions for web standards for disability. It opens pages without warning. In today’s multi-tab world, it can open tabs in the background. People think the link is broken. They click it again and again, then give up. Not good for your rep. Then their browser slows down and later they find a dozen of the same pages in open tabs – all because it opened without warning and they didn’t know. Think that does even more for your reputation? 😀
People know how to use the back button today. If they are done with your site, they are not happy that they have to find the tab they just opened and then close your site as well. Again, not good for building a trusting relationship with your audience.
Trust them to come back for more. It’s a weird thought, but that’s the magic of the web.
Okay, done with blogging lessons today. 😀 Back to having fun and providing awesome content for your readers.