WordPress BootCamp: Categories vs Tags


This is the second post of Mitch Canter’s “WordPress BootCamp” seriesit showcases the ins and outs of WordPress to new users, and highlights some of the more popular (and some overlooked) features that make WordPress fantastic.  You can catch all of the posts here.

I get a lot of questions on this: “What’s the difference between a category and a tag?” “How many categories should I use?” “Are tags the same as keywords? Are they meta keywords?” So I want to give you guys the 4-1-1 on what this is all about.

First of all, both categories and tags are what we refer to as a Taxonomy, which is just a fancy way of saying “This is how we sort stuff”.  The term taxonomy is important to WordPress because (aside from categories and tags) you can create other taxonomies through WordPress.  They’re there to serve one purpose – to sort your content into topics or by keyword.

Which brings me to the main differences between them:


Think of categories as general topics.  If you categorize your posts into meals you’ve eaten, places you’ve seen, and your favorite songs, it would be “Food”, “Travel”, and “Music”, respectively. You don’t want to have too many topics per blog post, but typically 2-4 is a good number.


Tags are your specific keywords.  To the aforementioned posts above, your meals could be tagged with “pepperoni pizza” and “pasta alfredo”, your travel split into “Rome, Italy” and “Paris, France”, and your music sorted by “Relient K” and “Switchfoot”.  Basically you sort the topics down into it’s least common denominators.  Once again, pick out the top 5-7 keywords in your post and use those as tags – you should be get the point across pretty easily of your post simply by looking at the tags.

On Subcategories

It’s true that you can sub-categorize your posts, but do that only if the topic is so broad that it requies a bit of funneling down.  I use “Conferences” as a category on my own blog, but I also have it broken down to specific types of conferences (WordCamps, BarCamps, BlogWorld, etc) for ease of finding later

Categories and Tags are NOT Permanent

You can change them – very easily, in fact.  By simply going to the Tags and Categories section of the Posts sub-menu in WordPress, you can log in and change all of the details, even down to the permalink that is displayed when people are looking at the archives.

Reformatting your posts into new categories and posts is easy as well – you can do it individually by editing the post, or you can check and “Bulk Edit” the posts in the All Posts sub-section and categorize as you need to.