By Tony Burke –

One of the most discussed topics I see when attending Digital Media events is ‘Tags vs Categories”.

But what a lot of people don’t seem to understand fully, is the difference between them.

tags vs catagories how to use them

Before we get overwhelmed by a long list of categories and tags to be attached to an article, we need to understand what they are. Once we understand them, we are able to apply them correctly.

To start with, you don’t need to use both.

With Categories, you are structuring information into a hierarchy; this means that categories work like a table of contents for your blog.

You do need to list categories, and also to list as many options as possible when writing about different topics frequently, as you want to make it easier for your readers to find what they are looking for. In theory, you could list every post into the same category, but that wouldn’t be useful at all. Categories are there to help identify what your blog is really about and to assist people finding the right type of content on your site.

With Tags, you are organizing posts on a much more specific level and creating relationships across categories. Tags are actually not required at all, and only offer benefit if used sparsely and correctly.

The abusive use of tags actually makes them ‘useless’, and it’s a turn off to your blog visitors, not to mention that Google does not respond to it positively. Tags are not SEO keywords, but far too many people treat them like they are.

In actual fact, you are even more likely to have duplicate content by using more than 2 or 3 tags per blog post. 2 or 3 tags are enough, and well acceptable. By using more than 6 or 7 tags, you will confuse your reader about the blog content, and to use more than that, may give your readers the idea that you are unskilled in the art of blogging, not to mention that it looks too busy and messy!

It is important to consider that even if tags were keywords, why would you ‘keyword stuff’, when you know that search engines will give you negative marks for this? This method is completely outdated and adds no value to your blog, as Google no longer gives good rankings to pages employing this technique.

To finalize, Categories should be large groups of your posts – the subjects that you post about most often. If most of your posts can be in more than one top-level category, your categories are not effectively grouping your content.

Our tip is that you focus on creating a useful category list, and only use tags if you want to link a post from one category to another. Nice and simple!