What’s the Difference Between WordPress Categories and Tags? (And How to Use Them)

by | Apr 24, 2023 | Guides | 0 comments

It’s easy to spin up a WordPress site and start posting, but there’s often a sticking point, especially for new WordPress users. And that’s when it comes to assigning categories and tags to WordPress posts. In tis article we’ll be answering the question what’s the difference between WordPress Categories and Tags? We’re also going to tell you how to use them effectively for site architecture, navigation, and SEO.

To start with, lets define what WordPress Categories and Tags are.

What are WordPress Categories?

WordPress categories are a broad, hierarchical way to organize site posts. They are the broad topics that are going to organize the content you post. Think of it as a directory for your content, if you had a navigation bar for your content, what topic would help group your content so people can quickly get to the kind of content that’s right for them.

Generally you should have a post or product in only one category, but sometimes it makes sense to be in two or three. Again, think of it navigationally. If people clicked in to a category and saw all the content, would it fit there?

What are WordPress Tags?

WordPress tags are descriptive attributes of a post, think of them as filters to help people find what they need within your categories. You can have multiple tags for a post, and you should use them to help with the classification of what a post contains Tags can live both beneath categories, but also group content in a way that transcends categories. Tags are a great way to add context to what the content contains, or what the product is.

The Difference between WordPress Categories and Tags

The big difference is categories are navigational and hierarchical, tags are descriptive. What this means for you is going to be unique. What should be a tag or category is going to be unique to your website based on your content and your website. You have to use both of these taxonomies in a way that makes sense for you.

You should have a clear picture in your mind as to how people are going to use and navigate you website to use them effectively. Just remember the definitions above. Categories should align with how you want people to navigate your site. Tags are how people can filter down through that content.

How to Use WordPress Categories and Tags

Amazon might not be a WordPress site, but they are the perfect example of how to use categories and tags. For example, say you’re looking for a new TV. At a category level, you can drill in to TV, and then OLED TV, and it will give you a wide selection of what you’re looking for. But then you can select the check boxes to narrow this search down, it could be manufacturer, price range, or TV size.

I mentioned this in the section above, but the first thing you need to do when you are setting up your tags and categories is to make sure you have a clear delineation and process in your mind to define what consists of a tag, and what consists of a category.

For example, I ran an international recipe website, and we had to decide how to structure our categories and tags. Some of the things we had in mind were country of origin, course, type of meal, spiciness. we dialed it back to what do people really need the most, so we chose course (breakfast, main course, side, dessert, etc) as the main categories. the tags included the country of origin, spiciness, meal type (I.e. pasta, burger, etc).

Categories are something you should set up before you start writing any content, or posting any products (you can always update or add to these later). On this site I set up the categories before I wrote a single post, because I could define the majority of the main categories of content I would be writing about that.

You can set up tags ahead of time, but you’re likely going to be adding a ton more tags over time as you broaden the scope of the content you’re writing about within your categories.