Using Categories and Tags Effectively – more isn’t always better!
Proper Use of Categories
- The number of categories should be small. Resist the temptation to add new categories because a long list of them will not be read or browsed by anyone and so, is of no use.
- Each post goes into one category – maybe two. The categories are a way of giving a post permanent storage, just as the drawers do. You cannot put one piece of paper into two drawers, and in the same way, a single post should go into a single category.
- Categories are navigation elements. Categories are not simply a way of labelling posts, they are a core element of your navigation. Your categories should be factored into your site’s architecture and navigation, and displayed appropriately.
- Categories in URLs. A category represents the traditional folder system of a blog. Using permalinks with category names included is a good way of displaying the tiered architecture of a blog site. Consider this URL – http://domain.com/category/post-name/ – If I want to return to the post’s category (i.e. go “up a level” in the architecture), I simply slash the post-name off the URL.
Complement Your Categories With Tags
The most common problem with tagging is that it is used for the same purposes that categories are. Your tags aren’t categories. They are complements to your categories.
Think of tags as the colorful little page markers you might use to flick back to your favorite pages in a book. The tags don’t describe the book as a whole, instead they describe individual sections of the book.
- Use the same tags over and over again. The tagging system is useless when the tags you use vary. For instance, if you have a series of posts on writing articles, you could tag them as “journalism,” “writing,” “copywriting,” or a hundred other variations. The important thing is that you choose one of them, and then reuse it on every post you ever write on the topic.
- Tags do not need to be displayed in the sidebar. Tagging is not a part of your navigational structure, and so it does not necessarily have to be displayed in the sidebar. Why not simply list a post’s tags at the end of the post? The contextualisation will make them much more valuable to readers, and could even be used to replace “Related Posts,” plugins and such.
- The tag cloud is easy to scan. If you do end up using your tags in your sidebar, then use the tag cloud. A list of categories is very easily recognized because it is in a list. A list of tags will be clearly recognised as such if it is in a cloud. The cloud works because it fits a lot of information into a small space, and is easy to scan over.
Your post tags have a lot of potential. To a certain extent, they could be used to replace searching if done well.