How to Use Categories and Tags in Blog Posts

Matthew Broderick

Recently we’ve been looking at how to improve our clients wordpress blog posts to be more user friendly and search engine optimized. Today we’re looking at the use of categories and tags.

Read time: 4 minutes

Bottom line: Less is more, treat categories like chapters and tags like your index. 

For someone new to blogging, or unfamiliar to the wordpress interface, categories and tags can be confusing. Most clients we work with usually take one of two approaches in handling them; ignore them, or use them as a place to stuff keywords. Both approaches are misguided. The truth is that categories and tags are clever ways to make it easier for people to find your blog posts, and for search engines to index them.

Why you shouldn’t use categories and tags for keywords

Keywords are important to SEO, but nowhere near as important as they used to be. Pages dense in keywords would be ranked higher because Google’s bots assumed them to be more relevant. Now Google and other search engines are pushing for usability. They want the internet to be user friendly. This means a page that websites that are built around the experience of the user are preferred over those whose websites are simply built around keywords. Categories and tags are specifically to improve user experience, and should used as such.

That’s not to say keywords are no longer important, they are. It also doesn’t mean you can’t put keywords within your categories and tags, they just can’t be the priority.


Categories should be thought of as the chapters in your blog. You should aim to only have 1 category assigned to a post if possible. Many people fear that assigning more than one category can actually hurt your SEO because of duplicate content. That is generally incorrect, but it certainly doesn’t help. If you’re still concerned about duplicate content there are ways to minimize the risk.

How do you name your categories though? Let’s pretended we’d written a book about web design, online marketing and visual media. Let’s also pretend this blog post is page in that book, what chapter would it fit into. The category would need to be specific enough to set it apart from the majority of other content, but wide enough to not have too many chapters. This ‘page’ would fit safely into a chapter called “blogging”.

Try to keep the number of categories on your blog small enough to have a decent amount of posts in each category. Here’s a post that suggests that most articles can fit in between 3-9 categories.

…people are more likely to buy stuff when they don’t have to consider tons of options. It makes sense, too. Choosing one of three products is much easier than choosing one of twenty-four products.

When dealing with categories, I’ve found that the same applies. When you give people fewer categories to click on, they’re more likely to click on one of them.

This is a common marketing theme and makes sense when you think that companies like Apple make billions despite only offering a handful of products, but I digress.


Treat tags as your index page. They help users find specific themes within your website. There is no necessity to use them (unlike categories), but they are too helpful a tool to really ignore. There is also no real limit to the amount of tags you can use. HOWEVER it’s advised that you keep it around 10 per post (although some suggest as few as 5). Otherwise you might find your website has thousands of tags, and that helps no one.

Your tags should be a loose collection of keywords that people might search for to find what you’ve written about. The tags for this post might be ‘tags, categories, wordpress, blogging, user friendly, SEO and keywords’.

Nuggets of advice

  • Have 1-2 categories and 5-10 tags per blog post
  • Keep 6-9 total categories.
  • Categories are your chapters, tags are your index
  • CAPITALIZE categories and tags, they look better on index pages.
  • Bulk edit your categories in Posts > Categories
  • Don’t stuff keywords into tags


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Matthew Broderick

Owner. Web designer and video producer at Jolly Good Media. Focuses on creating beautiful and targeted content for small business owners. Website designs are also responsive to ensure they are mobile friendly and part a strategy targeted to reach your audience.Originally from England before moving to California. Currently located in the AV.