A big topic of conversation between bloggers is the difference between using tags and categories on your blog.
For me, the difference between categories and tags is fairly simple but on my blog, I treat them the same.
General topics, they should be broad, not focused. Categories need to be created to include only general headlines from your posts.
Specific topics, used as sub-headings for your categories to narrow down topics within a single post.
This topic is really one that boils down to a matter of personal preference for each blogger. And there are pros and cons for everyone and what they should display, where, and when.
These are simply my thoughts… you may decide to do something completely different than me once you have weighed out the options and how they can work to be applied to your blog.
For a lot of new bloggers, the use of categories and tags are often confused. And categories are created for more topics than they should be. This pushes the blogger to reach an unheard of amount of categories because they’ve made them so specific.
My categories are very general: Blogging, Marketing, SEO, Make Money Online, Internet, just to name a few. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to create a new category because I have made each category general enough to my specific blogging niche. Everything I discuss can be placed into at least one or more of my categories.
However, every single post I make also includes specific tags that go with the post. These may not be related to my niche exactly but they are specific topics within a post.
By including tags with my posts, I’m giving readers the option to check out what I have written on similar topics. Tags, in essence, are then used as a way to “quick search” the site to find similar keywords used.
Take my post, Legit Ways To Increase AdSense Earnings for example. One of the tags used on this post is AdSense. If after reading the post you wanted to see more of what I have written about on AdSense you could simply click on that tag at the bottom of the post. Something you could not do with just the use of categories (because I don’t have an AdSense category).
It’s faster and more convenient than locating a search bar, typing in the words, and digging through what could be hundreds of posts.
A lot of bloggers can be found using a plug-in that displays “related posts” at the bottom of every post they make. Instead, I display tags to help my readers narrow down their interest on my blog. It’s also more accurate because I have hand-picked the tags.
Now, at the beginning of my post, I said that I treated categories and tags the same. Let me show you how…
At the end of every post, you may notice this box:
This box while it reads tags displays both the categories and tags I have used on this post.
The first 3 tags that are displayed are all categories on my blog. The rest are tags.
Tags are also helpful for your blog posts on Technorati. And wanting to create the most visibility, those who search for posts on Technorati using a tag I have used will find my post. Because of this, chances are this is better-targeted traffic from Technorati because I have been very specific about the words I’ve used for tags and the searcher knows exactly what they’re looking for.
Choosing How to Display Tags & Categories
Every blog uses a different method to display their tags and categories. There’s no right or wrong way to display them but there is certainly personal preferences.
Categories can get long and unsightly on a sidebar. And there’s really no need to display these things over and over again. If your visitor is looking for something on your site, they’ll find it without it being in the sidebar. For me, my Archives page serves as my categories page displaying archives by both date and subject (categories).
A popular display method for tags is a tag cloud.
A tag cloud is nothing more than a series of words (tags) clustered together. As more tags are used on a blog, the font size of the tag in the tag cloud increase in size. So the more you talk about one subject, the larger that subject tag becomes. I think it’s messy, hard to follow, and difficult to use to search the blog. This is especially true when more than just a few tags.
For me, tags are displayed at the bottom of my post using a line of code displayed in my theme template:
< ?php if(function_exists(“the_tags”)) the_tags(‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ”); ?>
This code is placed just after the call for the categories on my single page, displaying my tags only when a full post is viewed.
It’s my opinion that this method is clean, organized, easier to understand, and more effective for use by visitors.
In the end, I would say that best practice is to use both tags and categories on your blog providing that you have the means and space to display them in a way that works best for you. And truthfully, you should do what also works best for your visitors.
By understanding what your visitors are looking for when they visit your blog, you’ll understand where you should place anything on your blog…including tags and categories.
So now it’s your turn. Do you use tags? What method are you using to display your tags and categories and do you feel that the use of tags is worthwhile for your visitors?