Users often wonder how categories and tags in WordPress affect a site’s SEO performance.

Are you not 100% sure you fully understand the difference between categories and tags in WordPress? Too bad, because this knowledge is extremely important!

Categories and tags in WordPress are what you often see in the right sidebar when writing or editing a post. But it’s all there for a reason. Categories and tags are much more important when it comes to organizing content on your site as well as SEO.

Categories and tags in WordPress are the two main ways to group content on a WordPress site. Simply put, categories are a general method of grouping and tags are more specific (describe your posts in more detail).

What are categories in WordPress?

In brief, Categories in WordPress are a generalized method of grouping content on your WordPress site. Categories sort of headline all the entries that belong to them.

Sometimes your blog post may belong to more than one heading at a time. However, it’s not a good idea to assign more than 2-3 categories to a single entry. The point is to keep your content neatly organized in a way that makes it easier for the reader to access, right?

For example, if we create a blog post reporting on the latest news, we’ll put it in the “News” column. If we write a guide on how to secure your site on WordPress, we’ll add it to the “Security” section. But if we come across news that deals with security, we can add our post to both the “News” and “Security” categories.

To add a category to your site, go to PostsCategories:

Categories in WordPress

Suppose you have an online magazine (a news site). The only true option in this case is to create columns for each independent column (like in newspapers) that you keep. For example, politics, sports, society, art, etc. Each column should have:

  • Name – title of the column, e.g. “News”
  • Slug – which is how the topic will appear in the URL, something like a permalink
  • Parent – whether it is a parent or not, categories, unlike tags, can have a hierarchy, remember?
  • Description – most topics show this field on that category archive page.

In addition to creating a category with this method, you can also assign them when you write or edit a blog post.

What are tags in WordPress?

Tags in WordPress are a great mechanism if you want to identify a piece of content by specific keywords. Simply choose a few words that best describe the post in question.

The main difference between tags and categories is the way they are used. In a sense, categories are meant to indicate the genre of the post, so to speak. Tags, on the other hand, are much more in-depth and point to the individual things the post is about. Consequently, you can – or even must – use multiple tags for each post on your blog.

For example, if we write a post about how Ovechkin scored another puck, we can add the following tags: Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, Sydney, Olympics. And the list could go on and on. Usually, when read together, the tags should somewhat summarize the idea of the post.

To edit tags, go to PostsTags:

Tags in WordPress

Although you don’t need to visit this section often, it’s helpful to look through it from time to time to see which tags you use most often.

More importantly, as with categories, you can also assign tags when editing a blog post.

How do you optimize categories and tags in WordPress for search engines?

That’s a good question, isn’t it? Usually optimizers advise you to add "noindex" to categories and tags in WordPress, but in reality the answer is much more profound than it seems at first glance.

It depends a lot on the site itself, the WordPress theme you use, your content strategy, and how you’re already doing your search engine optimization.

There is no universal method!

Every site is unique in its own way!

For example, when your WordPress theme displays not whole posts on pages of categories or tags, but just snippets or teasers (if your theme has an option to set a unique short description for each post – be sure to use it), then you should show them to search robots, as well as the records themselves naturally. Problems with duplicate content in this case will not be, but your site will have additional entry points.

On the other hand, if you have pages of columns and tags, aimed at the same keywords as the individual entries, and in addition, these posts are already well ranked by search engines, then do not include them (categories and tags) in the search index. Your own sticks in the wheels crammed.

About categories separately – We advise them to keep them in the index, since they often allow you to rank for more general keywords. Try to look at it as an asset rather than a pain point – you can add unique content to a category page and thereby describe it and turn it into a kind of “hub”. But tags in WordPress – we advise to prohibit indexing.

Bottom line: As categories may be good for users, categories and tags in WordPress can sometimes have a negative impact on the search engine optimization of your site, if you do not change the way they are processed by default. Either way, make content for people and the robots will love you too.

You can manage the index of mats and categories in WordPress using most SEO plugins, for example – Yoast SEO.

After installing the plugin, go to its section in the toolbar menu (labeled “SEO”). Then go to the “Display in search results” window and go to the “Taxonomies” tab. There, it is recommended that you set the “Show in search results” option to “Off”:

Categories in WordPress plugin Yoast SEO

Conclusion

As a final note, we have to say that categories and tags in WordPress are extremely important when it comes to organizing your site content and ensuring that it’s easy for the reader to follow everything. That’s why we really advise you to take 5-10 minutes of your free time to create a proper category and tag structure on your site.

How do you manage your categories and tags in WordPress?

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