WordPress Categories & Tags Guide

When people start using WordPress one of their first questions is what are categories and tags. New WordPress users want to know what they are used for and how are they different? Let me answer those questions for you.

Categories and tags have two main jobs:

1. Help your visitors quickly find the content they are interested in; and
2. Tell search engines like Google where similar content can be found on your site.

What are Categories and Tags

WordPress says, “Categories are best used for broad groupings of topics. For example, if you’re creating a site that reviews media, you might use categories such as Books or Films or TV.”

WordPress explains tags as follows, “Tags are much more specific topics that you want to use to associate related content. For example, if you were creating a site that reviews media, you might want to use tags such as Science Fiction or Horror or Action Adventure.”

Tags are used to get more specific. You can think of them as subcategories.

To sum it up, categories are broad and tags are for details.

Continuing with the WordPress examples above, your toy review site might have a blog post about a popular video game. You would place that blog post in the Video Game. Applicable tags might include Xbox, Switch, Playstation, role-playing, and the type of game.

You can see that the Toy category is big and broad. The tags help narrow down what subsets of that category the content is about.

How to Use Categories and Tags

When writing a blog post you must choose a category or WordPress will do it for you. WordPress expects you to choose a category for each piece of content. If you don’t, WordPress will automatically add the “Uncategorized” category. This isn’t very helpful to search engines or your readers.

How To Add Categories

You can create categories in two different ways - through the category admin area and while editing a blog post.

Adding new categories through the category admin page is great for bulk adding categories or making changes. To add a category through the category admin area just follow the simple instructions below:

1. Click on the “Categories” menu option under the “Posts” menu on the admin menu.

2. The Categories admin page will display all the categories you currently have on the right side.

3. The left of the Categories admin page will allow you to quickly add categories.

4. Enter the Category Name
This is the name that website visitors will see on your website
5. Enter the Category Slug
This is the URL friendly version of the category name. For example, the slug for a new category named ‘Books’ would be books and the url to display all posts in that category would be http://example.com/books.
6. Choose a Parent Category
If you wish to use nested categories, such as a ‘Non-Fiction’ category under the ‘Books’ category, then you need to choose the parent category.
7. Enter the Category Description

A simple description of the category is best. If your WordPress theme supports the display of category description, this is where the description is pulled from. Not all WordPress themes use the description.

The second and most common way to add categories is through the blog post edit page. Just follow the instructions below to see how it’s done using the Gutenberg editor:

1. Start a new blog post or edit an existing blog post.

2. While you are writing or editing a blog post you can simply add the category from the Document Menu on the right side.
3. On the right side you will see post settings. Be sure “Document” is selected at the top.
4. Look for the “Categories” option and click it. (Usually found about the middle of the menu)

5. Choose the appropriate category or categories or click on the “Add New Category” link to create a new one. You can choose the name and parent category. By default, the name becomes the category slug.

6. Save your post to save your category options. If you are editing a post, you will select the “Update” button to save any changes.

Earlier I mentioned that there are two ways to add categories, which is true, but there is a third way to assign a category to a post by using the “Quick Edit” option.

1. Open the “Posts” admin page. This is the page that shows you all the posts you have created on your site.

2. Hover your mouse over the post you wish to assign a category to. A new menu will appear with “Edit”,”Quick Edit”, “Trash”, and “View” options.
3. Click on the “Quick Edit” option. A new box opens under the post title.

4. Select the categories you want to assign to the post.
5. Save the changes.

How To Add Tags

Just like categories, tags can be created through the Tags admin menu or when writing or editing a post.

To add tags through the Tags admin menu do the following:

1. Click on the “Tags” menu option under the “Posts” menu on the admin menu.

2. The Tags admin page will display all the tags you currently have on the right side.

3. The left of the Tags admin page will allow you to quickly add categories.
4. Enter the Tag Name
This is the name that website visitors will see on your website
5. Enter the Tag Slug
This is the URL friendly version of the tag name. For example, the slug for a new tag named ‘fiction’ would be fiction and the url to display all posts in that tag would be http://example.com/fiction.
6. Enter the Tag Description
A simple description of the tag is best. If your WordPress theme supports the display of tag description, this is where the tag description is pulled from. Not all WordPress themes use the tag description.

To add tags through the blog post edit screen do the following:

1. Start a new blog post or edit an existing blog post.

2. While you are writing or editing a blog post you can simply add the tags from the menu on the right side.
3. On the right side you will see post settings. Be sure “Document” is selected at the top.
4. Look for the “Tags” option and click it. (Usually found about the middle of the menu)

5. Type in any tags you wish you in the “Add New Tag” box. If the tag is brand new, WordPress will automatically create it for you.

6. Save your post to save your tag options. If you are editing a post, you will select the “Update” button to save any changes.

As with categories, you can use the “Quick Edit” option to quickly assign tags to a blog post. The steps are listed below.

1. Open the “Posts” admin page. This is the page that shows you all the posts you have created on your site.

2. Hover your mouse over the post you wish to assign a category to. A new menu will appear with “Edit”,”Quick Edit”, “Trash”, and “View” options.
3. Click on the “Quick Edit” option. A new box opens under the post title.

4. Type in the tags you want to assign to the post in the Tags textbox.
5. Save the changes.

Categories and tags are an essential part of any website.

It helps your website visitors find the information they need and it helps search engines know what your website is about. Implementing a solid category and tag plan, in the beginning, helps keep all your content organized and gives you a head start in search engine optimization.

About the Author Sarah & Kevin Arrow

Sarah & Kevin Arrow have worked in digital marketing since 2006. They share their thoughts and tips here on this site. They'd love to help you become more visible. Book in a call or ping us a message - we're waiting to hear from you!

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