How to Use Categories and Tags in WordPress

Easy user navigation of a website or blog is of vital importance, but something that’s too often overlooked by many website owners. Visitors to your site have certain expectations as to where they will likely find various pieces of information or other functionality, so if your layout is one that is confusing to a user or you haven’t thought to include some of the expected information or functionality on your site, a user may become frustrated and click away.

Bloggers and business owners who have a blog component on their sites need to be especially aware of including content search tools like a search box, archives function, category list and tag cloud. The WordPress platform (both self-hosted and free versions) offers all 4 of these functions, but many site owners are unsure how to put both categories and tags to use.

Confusion over WordPress Categories and Tags

For starters, other platforms may offer either a category list or a tag cloud option, so those who migrate over to WordPress at some point are left wondering about the best way to utilize both categories and tags on their new site. Adding to that is WordPress’ quirk of automatically changing, for example, Blogger labels into WordPress categories when your Blogger posts are imported to your WordPress site.

(Note: WordPress has a Category to Tag Converter that allows you to convert those back to tags. You can find it in the Tools section of your WP dashboard.)

How to use both Categories and Tags

Categories should represent the very broad topics that you write about on your blog. For a parenting blogger, categories may be Parenting, Marriage and Life in General. A hobby blogger may categorize content by the types of projects covered – Knitting, Crochet, Quilting and Sewing. And a foodie blogger could choose to organize their posts into general topics like Meat, Poultry, Pasta, Salads, Side Dishes, Dessert, etc.

Tags give you the ability to be more specific with how you organize your posts. Posts tagged with Parenting Challenges, School, Birthday Parties, Little Susie or Little Bobby would all fall under the Parenting category. One way to tag posts marked with the Sewing category, for example, may be Drapes, Dresses, Skirts, Pants and Kids Clothes. And recipe posts that are part of the Pasta category may use tags like Spaghetti, Angel Hair, Fettucini, Lasagna and Ravioli.

Reasons for Using Categories and Tags

You might be wondering why you need to bother with marking any of your posts with categories or tags. Here are 3 reasons as to why it is important to do so.

  1. Content at a Glance – A new visitor to your site can scan through your category list and tag cloud to get a good idea of what you write about and if your website is worth subscribing to or visiting again.
  2. Improved Navigation – Readers don’t want to scroll through pages and pages of old posts in hopes of finding what they are looking for. Clicking on a specific category or tag brings up only the specific posts marked with that category or tag. It makes searching for what a reader wants so much easier and quicker.
  3. Use your Categories and Tags as SEO Keywords - This varies by theme, but it is possible to designate your categories and tags for a post to also be the SEO keywords for that post, saving you the time of entering keywords separately. In Headway, navigate to Configuration, then Search Engine Optimization. About halfway down the page, in the Meta Content area, and you’ll see 2 checkboxes to allow this, if desired.

Crafting and implementing the use of categories and tags for your content takes some planning and forethought, but using them makes a big difference in how a visitor clicks through your site.

Do you have a category list or tag cloud in your sidebar?


  1. Candi Elm

    Thanks for your article. I have come across this when I did start a new wordpress blog. This made it a little clearer.

  2. angela

    I am planning to move within the month. I love you for posting this 🙂

  3. Deborah

    I do have categories on my side bar as well as on my navigation bar. However, I have not used tags or tag clouds. I guess I need to figure out how to do that through wordpress. And thank you for the insight regarding the SEO keywords.

  4. Catherine Tatum

    Good post about website essentials…..I found you because I was trying to understand Google Ripples and found your post through Google search. We are both from the Memphis area and my blog and website is My business is Classic Legacy custom gifts and I look forward to your updates and hope that you will follow Classic Legacy and my updates as well! Thanks Catherine


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