What’s the Difference Between Tags and Categories?

When I first started blogging, I used to be confused by the difference between a blog’s “tags” and “categories.”

What did those words even mean? How would I use them? Couldn’t I just leave them blank?

So, let’s talk about what they are and ways we  can use them.

Post Tags

What they are – the Dick-and-Jane version

Imagine the World Wide Web (the WWW in a website’s URL), as a library.

You write your “book” (er, blog post.) Then, you list what all it’s about so library patrons who can’t think of the title will know how to find it.

Those words in the list go into that form down in the box that says “Post Tags.”

That’s how people will find your article with their web browsers.

Why WordPress doesn’t call Tags “keywords,” I’ll never know. Because that’s what they are. Keywords.

How I use “post tags”

As you can imagine, the “library” that’s the World Wide Web has a staggering  of blog posts with at least one post tag, aka tag, of “how to blog.”

Additional words in those tags drill down through the info. Scroll around and see what tags I used.

For one thing, I try to think like someone looking for the information. Some people do web searches by typing questions, so I try to think, “If I were looking for this, how might I ask?” In it goes as a Post Tag.

If I hit Publish, then think of more? I can come back to “Edit” the post and add more tags. I try not to use more than ten.

Kinda like “keywords.”

Categories

What They Are – Dick-and-Jane Return

Now, your blog is a book with organizer tabs. What you’d write on those organizer tabs dividing sections of your book (er, blog) are the Categories.

Key way to remember:

Tags are index words for outsiders and web browsers. They’re also keywords.
Categories are like file folder tabs, internal to your blog.

How I use Categories

Here’s a tip No One Ever Tells You about Categories on your blog. In theory, you can use as many as you want.

What really happens, though, is that your number of categories is limited by the blog theme/skin/layout you choose.

A prime example is the theme/layout I chose for The Horsey Set Net.

The free WordPress theme I found and used is called Amazing Grace. I chose it because I liked rotating images on the banner. I also liked the colors, the green and the orange.

So, I didn’t realize that by using Amazing Grace, I’d limited myself to four Categories because of the space allotted for them in the banner across the top.

In other words, I had only four headings (file folders) under which to file my blog posts.

I found out you can edit your Categories, thank goodness. I ditched the Welcome category. The welcome felt implied anyway. Plus, how many Welcomes would does a blogger write anyway? See what I mean.

So, my About page became what amounted to my Welcome page. I knew I’d be writing travel pieces, informative articles, some reviews and some editorials.

And, because that little display window for all those Categories is short, I needed short words for the Category names.

I came up with Articles, News, Travel and Opinion. Umbrella words that give me lots of flexibility.

As I first wrote this post in October 2011, the theme/layout/skin for this blog is a Woo Theme called Papercut, which has a lot more space for Categories. Yet, I learned my lesson, even though I wanted clever names for them.

My take-home lesson learned?

Short category names work best. Besides, with a blog platform driving the site? We can edit and fine tune as we go. Even better.

Photo by tome 221 of stock.xchng

Any questions? Comments? Better yet, something you’d like to add? How have you used Tags and Categories? Please feel free to chime in below in the Reply section.

 

 

 

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