WordPress Categories vs. Tags

WordPress is a website platform used by many businesses and bloggers. The diversity that this platform provides is one that can be applied to almost any need. WordPress is a platform were many contributors come together to  collaborate on different themes, plugins and widgets for other users, some of these are at no cost and others are not. Depending on the WordPress platform used your site will be hosted by WordPress or it can be hosted by another site. What makes this platform ideal for all level of users is that it provides the flexibility that web developers look for via the WordPress.org version and the simpleness that the beginners need with WordPress.com. Although the site does not provide a helpline to call, they do provide a web support community that is extensive enough to answer almost any questions that you might have. There have also been many great videos created for beginners to be able to at least learn the basics.

Once you have created a site the next step is optimizing your site to obtain the desired results/traffic. Many find that the best way to do this is by being strategic with Category and Tag usage. Categories are used to broadly describe the content in your site and they can have Sub Categories. Some define the different levels of categories as parent, children, and grandchildren categories. Tags are used to define your site content, these are meant to be specific. Unlike categories, tags are encouraged to have multiple words to help with defining the content.

There are so many analogies used when trying to  explain the difference between Categories and Tags and the role they play on your site. Some describe them as your website as being a Book where Categories are the Chapters in the Table of Content allowing the user a quick reference as to what information the book will contain. Tags would be considered the Index were the user can look for a specific topic. Being a food lover, I like to describe them as the menu in a restaurant. Much like trying to find the most useful sites, many times it all about trial and error. You go to many restaurants trying to find the one that has that perfect menu and the best food all in one location. By using your categories and tags correctly you help your site be identified as that site containing the perfect mix of information.


The Restaurant – We are surrounded by so many options of sites to visit all demanding our time and attention.  Much like restaurants you might visit the site once but unless you enjoyed your experience and found what you were looking for you might not return. It is not enough to have an appealing website if your site visitor is unable to find the content that they are looking for they may not return to your site.


The first thing that you are served besides water and chips is that wonderful menu were you hope to find something satisfying. The menu has categories to help direct you to the information you are looking for. Are you there for happy hour; you might be looking for appetizers and drinks. Are you more of a brunch contesuer, then the breakfast, lunch and drink might be what you are looking for. Or maybe this is a special occasion you are going all out for dinner, you might be looking for appetizers, dinner, drinks and dessert. The Sub Categories will sort that section further, drinks for example tend to be broken out between soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails. Dinner also tends to be broken down into sections such as beef, pork, chicken, vegetarian. These categories help your eyes quickly find the information you are looking for, much like the categories on your site will help the visitor quickly find a list of possible articles/items they are looking for.


The categories have helped you locate the section of the menu were you are likely to find that perfect item. The Tags will define that section further, in the drinks section you will find the names of the different cocktails available and in the dinner section under salad you will find a verity of different salads.

Standing Menu with a cup and plant infront of it.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do make a website business plan or structure plan prior to adding Categories and Tags. This will help your site visitors understand the type of content they will find on your site.

Do make sure that all Post have at lease one linked Category. WordPress requires a Category to be assigned to each Post, so might as well make it count.

Do limit the amount of Categories linked to a single Post. Your Categories should be broad enough that a Post would not need more then one or two Categories.

Do consider using Sub-Categories or Parent Categories to further organize your Post.

Do make Tags descriptive. Define what you are talking about.

Don’t make the Categories and tag the same names. Your Categories should be broad and your Tags should define the content.

Don’t make tag or categories for singular and plurals of each word. No need for tool and tools or car and cars.

Don’t create tags that will only be used one time.

Don’t / avoid applying multiple categories to a post, instead use subcategories and then tags to further define your post.

How to add categories and tags in WordPress

Go to the admin view of your WordPress site “Your URL“/wp-admin

On the left panel select Post and then Add Post

The Category and Tags section will be on the right panel

WordPress Post Screen

Adding or editing Categories and Tags to Post that have already been published or that are in draft mode, select Post and then All Post. This will allow you to see all of your current and pending post with the current corresponding Categories and Tags. Open the Post you would like to edit, on the right side panel you will find the section labeled Categories and Tags. Follow the instructions below.


Categories can be viewed as All Categories listed and the you can check the corresponding categories or you can view as Most Used and it will show only the top five used categories. Select all categories that apply. If the Category you are looking for is not listed you can add an additional category by selecting the + Add New Category link at the bottom of the Categories section.

Categories Section of a Post


Tags can be added in the text box and then clicking the Add button or your can select the Choose from the most used tags link at the bottom of the Tags section. This option provides the most used links in various sizes, the larger the word the more it has been used as a tag on your site. You are free to add all of the applicable Tags you would like.

Tags section of a Post


Once all Categories and Tags have been added you can Preview your changes by clicking the Save Draft button and then the Preview button or you can Publish your changes by selecting the Publish button.