Tags and Categories are powerful core features of WordPress.
Confusing for newbies and veterans alike, Tags and Categories add complexity to your site affecting Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s important to be aware of potential duplicate content issues when deploying them on a website, but their SEO power far outweighs the potential negatives of duplicate content.
1. Site Organization
Categories and/or Tags can be menu items. Categories are better suited for this purpose, being of a “headline”- type character. WordPress allows them in “Posts,” but not “Pages” by default. To maximize the SEO of a particular item of content, create it as a “Post.” It’s possible to add Page Categories and Tags with a Plugin, but a good rule of thumb is: less is more when it comes to plugins. Try to avoid using them if there’s a more direct way to do it. If you want to tag and categorize, create a Post.
- WordPress automatically creates ‘Archive’ pages that display the WordPress ‘Loop’ (collection of posts) from a particular ‘Taxonomy.’
- A “taxonomy” is a named identifier, such as Category or Tag, but could also be an Author, Date, or Product, Portfolio item, Media item, or other “custom” item.
- WordPress creates sub-blogs for each of these Taxonomies, all co-existing within your site, each with its own URL and title.
Go into Dashboard/Posts/Categories/Edit or /Tags/Edit and write useful titles and descriptions for each Category and Tag!
With titles and descriptions in place, taxonomy archive pages have all the features of other pages (except featured images, which can be added via the Taxonomy Images plugin. These add value, creating more informative snippets across search and social media. which all together will make a coherent presentation when shared on Social Media or appearing in search.
Categories and Tags can identify related content for aggregation in Archive pages. They can also be used to display content in Widgets on the site’s front page (or wherever you define), bringing new content of a particular kind to its optimal place on the site automatically when the post is created.
Again, Categories are best used as headline divisions, while Tags are best used as additional descriptors adding color and meaning to the content. Studies show that using two or three tags produces higher engagement results across social media; more tags result in less engagement and start to look spammy.
- Archive pages can be a useful resource to your site visitors.
- Linking to them from your page content will make your site easier to navigate.
- Good internal linking is good for SEO.
2. Increase Traffic
Categories and Tags increase discoverability of your content by enabling it to show up for each particular term in search. Without Categories and Tags, the best opportunity your content has for discovery comes from the page or post title, headings, and URL. When it’s tagged and categorized, your content is presented in multiple keyword contexts without the need for creating a post for each keyword.
Let’s consider a hypothetical post –
myfoodblog.com/peanut-butter-muffins/ with the title “Making Peanut Butter Muffins from Scratch” can be in the “Baking” category, and tagged with “Comfort Food” and “Muffins.”
After tagging and categorizing, the same post’s link and excerpt will also appear in a list on additional, automatically created site pages under the URLs and titles below (assuming you’ve set the titles for your tag and category archive pages):
URL|Taxonomy Archive title
myfoodblog.com/category/baking/ | “Baking Recipes”
myfoodblog.com/tag/comfort-food/ | “Comfort Food Recipes”
myfoodblog.com/tag/muffins/ | “Favorite Muffin Recipes ”
Categories and Tags can draw hits from searchers-by-subject who haven’t typed your title into Google, Bing or Yahoo.
3. Categories and Tags can be used to create #hashtags in broadcasting to social media.
External media such as Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and Tumblr support #hashtags (keyword preceded by a “#” with no space: #hashtag). All are experiencing extensive and rapidly growing use of #hashtags. Facebook has hashtag support, although they aren’t widely accepted by their users. (Facebook users tend to be somewhat more technologically challenged than users of other networks. More advanced Social Media users are migrating to other platforms, particularly to Google+ for its organization by content, or Pinterest for its visually-rich organization by topic. Linkedin tried and abandoned hashtags, unable to achieve successful implementation. Hashtags get heavy use on Tumblr, and are automatically derived from content in Google+ and assigned to posts.
The WordPress plugin Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP) (www.nextscripts.com) can push post content out with hashtags pulled from each post’s tags and categories. SNAP broadcasts directly from your WordPress site. The premium level of SNAP includes access to the Google+ and Pinterest APIs. Other Social Media Management tools include Bufferapp.com and Hootsuite.com, which do not support the broadcasting of categories and tags as hashtags, and broadcast your content from their site rather than from your own.
Hashtags included in page titles are recognized on Twitter as hashtags in tweets, and hashtags in Alt tags and anchor text go out to Pinterest pin descriptions.
4. Underscore your main points
In external shares, hashtags can provide support and enhancement for the post excerpt. Let’s take your (hypothetical) post “Making Peanut Butter Muffins from Scratch” as an example.
The post should have a description.
Always include a description! Use Yoast SEO plugin, fill in the Meta Description, and it will automatically go under the post title on a Facebook “share,” and may appear in the Google snippet for the post. The way Descriptions appear on other media, and on your own site’s Archive pages, depends on whether you’ve activated excerpts in Posts and are using them, and whether you’ve chosen to display post content (with a limit) or excerpts in Archive pages. If you’ve used the “read more” tag in the WordPress editor, that offers another possible breakpoint for the creation of content summaries or preview snippets.
Description (for the hypothetical post):
“We use fresh organic peanut butter, whole wheat flour, cage-free eggs and pasture butter to make this delightful recipe”
On Tumblr, with hashtags, it will look like this (underneath your beautiful Featured Image, 16:9 aspect ratio, that you included with the post! Do “Image” posts on Tumblr!)
Making Peanut Butter Muffins from Scratch
We use fresh organic peanut butter, whole wheat flour, cage-free eggs and pasture butter to make this delightful favorite.
Clicking on those hashtags will bring up all content on Tumblr containing that hashtag. Conversely, if someone else on Tumblr clicks that hashtag or searches it, your post will come up in the results. Neat, huh? If you search any hashtag on Google, a Tumblr hashtag archive including your post will appear high in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
5. Create identification and aggregation with related content across the internet
Hashtags are searchable in Google as well as particular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and Tumblr. (Bing hasn’t woken up to the value of hashtags yet.) After your posts have been broadcast from the center of your universe, your house on the internet – your website! – your content will show up in hashtag search along with content with which you have no other connection or affiliation, found by people you’ve never met, who are only interested in finding the thing you’ve given to them with your content. Then you’ve got a connection, and possibly a new lead!