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The Proper Use of Tags in Your Blog (post)

Tags. Categories. Tag Clouds. Nested Categories. Yikes!

Making your latest brain dropping (article) searchable and findable is really the name of the game in some ways is it not? Whether that means findable within your website/blog itself, or on the internet as a whole, most blogging platforms offer you (the author) various tools that will hopefully guide me (the reader) to find exactly what it is I might be looking for. Now, the scope of your article being found on the entire world wide web versus that same article being found within the context of your own site are vastly different! I hope that much at least is obvious! But even if it wasn’t, now you know!

So where does the idea of using tags come into play? Well, it’s really a challenge to talk about tags and using tags without briefly touching upon categories too – if for no other reason than to make a few distinctions. This is because practically ALL blogging tools from WordPress to Blogger allow the author to make use of at least these two structures.

Tags & Categories

Both categories and tags are ways to hep both people and search engines (and some combination of both) to more easily find what they are looking for. That is basically where the similarities end because the way in which they accomplish their task is pretty different.

A useful way to make the distinction in your mind might be to use an example along with a visual.

Pretend for a moment that you are considering starting a Health and Wellness Blog. The overall topic of the blog is (obviously) health and wellness – but you probably want to structure the types of articles you’ll be writing and fit them together somehow, right? Welcome Categories. Categories are exactly what they sound like in any other context – breaking an umbrella topic up into several subtopics. Nothing complicated to see here.

For the sake of staying with our same example perhaps the following are the categories you chose for our fictitious blog:

  • Diet
  • Macros
  • Weight Training
  • Flexibility

So far so good?

Now maybe after you’ve written a few articles within each of the categories, you realize that maybe broccoli is a recurring theme! Maybe there’s an article in the Weight Training category about the recovery qualities of broccoli; one in the macros category explaing how and where broccoli can easily fit in to your plan etc.

Now, since this isn’t a blog site that’s dedicated specifically to food or green vegetables you probably wouldn’t create a whole broccoli category! But, since the concept/idea/topic of broccoli has shown up in several places within several of the articles you’ve written you may want to create at least a broccoli tag. This is especially true if you are starting to get a nice following to your blog site and there’s a chance that dedicated readers may want the ability to find your articles in more than just one way. For example, perhaps they visited last month and they remember reading a really cool article about broccoli but have no idea what the name of the article was nor which category they should use to find the article again! Creating tags for your readers could be extremely helpful to your readers and even more helpful if you provide them with a tag cloud.

Tags & Categories. Categories and Tags.

Two final distinctions worth noting concerning tags and, by default, categories!

FIRST

Along with thinking of Categories in terms of very broad topics – a good place to start, categories can also have a hierarchy structure too; tags cannot. In other words, if you’d like, you can have a main category and one or several subcategories within that category. Tags do not work that way. You can assign as many tags as you like to an article but they work in more of a “flat” rather than a “stacked” structure.

SECOND

Across almost all blogging platforms – especially the biggies, Tags are optional but Categories are a MUST! In other words, any article you write HAS to fall into a category – even if it’s the uncategorized Category. So even if you don’t see any recurring ideas, words topics etc within your new blog yet, don’t worry. Tags aren’t a necessary tool – just one that can provide a touch of extra help should you require it!

In Closing

I’ve given a rather brief, but what I hope is a pretty thorough overview of what tags are and how they differ from their counterpart categories

Did it all make sense? Was it useful? I hope so! If you know anyone else or any group of people that could benefit from the information in this article, feel free to spread the love using the social icons below. Also, if you have any comments or anything (constructive) that you’d like to add, feel free to utilize the comment box below.

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Marc is a Dad, a Web Designer, a Creator of Branding and an occasional blogger . (and probably in that order!) with some affiliate marketing thrown in for good measure.

He owns Thirsty Fish Graphic Design, A one-man web design biz., based in Corning, NY which is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY.

He enjoys physical fitness and healthy eating to an annoying degree, playing guitar, playing piano, sketching and most of all hanging with his daughter doing just about anything!

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