How To Pick Blog Categories and Tags That Stick

blog master tipsBlog content is typically organized by publication date, categories and tags. Publication date is self evident. Categories and tags are not. This post talks about how to pick categories and tags for your blog and contains recommendations / best practices for their implementation and use.


An Analogy

John Haydon at Social Bright draws an analogy between categories and tags and grocery store aisles and ingredients.

Image of fruits and vegetables in a grocery store. Makes the case for an analogy about how to pick blog categories and tags.Categories are like the aisles in a grocery store. Tags are like the ingredients contained in foods within those aisles. There is only one ethnic food aisle in the store for example, but garlic (an ingredient) can be found there, in the fruit and vegetable aisle, in the spice aisle, and in the frozen dinners aisle.


How To Pick Blog Categories

Blog categories are a convenient way of grouping posts that all deal with similar and broad topics like fruits and vegetables or frozen dinners.

Categories are for your readers. They’re supposed to help website visitors find what they want quickly. So when you’re thinking about how to pick blog categories and tags, think about what makes sense for your visitors, not you.

You also shouldn’t overwhelm readers with too much choice. Less is more. Just like restaurant owners like to categorize dishes on their menu by the day of the week, meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or both (as in the photo on the left), you should categorize your bog content around the broad topics your audience cares most about.

Blog categories should be simple and easy-to-understand. They should relate to the things people most want information about when they come to your site. They should be few in number and mutually exclusive.

A good rule of thumb is to try to group your posts into 7 ± 2 categories – the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory.


Blog Category Examples

Examples help. Here are examples of how some successful blogs have very effectively grouped and categorized their content:

  • Danny Brown writes the #1 marketing blog in the world according to Hubspot, a leading inbound marketing software provider. He groups his content into five categories: insights, social media, marketing, influence, and guest posts.
  • Sprout Social, a social media blog for business, uses seven: advertising, analytics, community management, customer care, mobile, product updates, and sprout engineering.
  • Kikolani writes extensively about blog marketing for personal, professional and business bloggers. She uses six categories: blogging, blog marketing, business, fetching Friday (her summation of the best posts of the week), SEO and social media.
  • Hubspot uses nested categories. There are only four at the highest level: marketing, sales, insiders, and opinion.
  • B-SeenOnTop groups content into five categories including, in alphabetical order, content marketing, organic SEO, local SEO, search engines and social media.


How To Pick Blog Tags

Tags (ingredients) are a more specific way of grouping and linking blog posts. Think of them as being like an index for your blog or ingredient list for your menu.

Tags, like categories, should make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. They should be short (one to three words) and unique.

There is no magic number of tags you should try to keep within, but the smaller the number you can keep it down to the better. It makes it much easier to ensure you’re not creating redundant or overlapping tags that could potentially confuse your readers.


Blog Tag Examples

I use a couple of dozen different tags on my posts. They are words that represent a mix of topics including goals (authority building, link bait and stickiness), tasks (video optimization and blog promotion), tools, templates and deliverables (keyword research and SEO audit). They are all short, unique and self-explanatory.

One of the best places to get ideas about which tags to use for your blog, is by reviewing popular blogs in your industry. (Search for “top industry blogs” replacing the word “industry” with a commonly used word or phrase from your industry.) Not everyone uses categories and tags. Not every one uses them effectively. It’s common to see people using too few, too many, or fuzzy, overlapping tags.

Survey popular blogs. Learn from their mistakes. Make your blog better.

Take your time when picking categories and tags. It’s a lot of work to reorganize them if you decide to take a different approach later. Err on the side of using too few rather than too many. It’ll help streamline any clean-up efforts down the road.


A Word About Style

Categories and tags are Titles and tags are case sensitive. Snapshot shows different case options with the title one selected. case sensitive. That means if you create a tag with the unique identifier “garlic” and then another one labeled “Garlic” (with a capital “G”), they’ll be considered separate and distinct, two non-identical tags.

It’s easy to see how this might confuse visitors. If you use “garlic” on some posts and “Garlic” on others, all of the related posts won’t be linked together. Visitors will have to view two tag pages or conduct two searches to see both sets of posts. There’s also a good chance that your visitors won’t notice the discrepancy and you’ll have missed the chance to expose them to more of your content.

Pick a single style for your tags and it consistently. I recommend using title case (shown above right) where you capitalize the first letter of each word.


The SEO Connection

By now, you might be wondering “what does any of this have to do with SEO”. It’s a good question.

To rank highly in search results, your content has to be deemed relevant and popular by search engines. Popularity is measured, in part, by repeat visitors and the number of pages and amount of time they spend on your site.

Using categories and tags increases site stickiness – the number of pages and amount of time visitors spend on your site. It does so by making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. If they land on a post that talks about the health benefits of garlic, for example, and see that you have a category or tag that groups a bunch of articles on the same topic, they might just want to stick around a bit longer and peruse those as well.

Blog content is typically organized by publication date, categories and tags. When you’re thinking about how to pick categories and tags for your blog, think strategically and plan ahead to achieve the best possible outcome – repeat, long staying visitors and high rankings for your blog.
Author: Donna Duncan