Categories Versus Tags

Understanding the differences between categories and tags in WordPress is extremely important. The topic of categories vs tags often causes confusion for individuals that are new to WordPress. To get started, they are both used as a way to group content together. They also provide an easier way for visitors to navigate your site and find related posts. Now, let’s look at each one in more detail.

What is a Category?

My professor, Lorelle VanFossen, says it best, “categories are your site’s table of contents.” When creating categories, you should be thinking about how you can provide easy navigation for your visitors. Categories provide a broad grouping of post topics. A list of categories should give visitors a clear idea of what your blog is about. They should also provide readers with an easy way to find posts that are about related topics.

What is a Tag?

Once again, I’m going to have to quote Lorelle VanFossen in saying that “tags are your site’s index words.” Essentially, tags are your site’s micro-categorization. They are more specific than categories and they should give readers a clear idea of what a specific post is about. A single post will often have multiple tags, which provides insight on what specific topics are discussed in that post. Tags also make navigation easier. For example, if a visitor only wants to read about HTML, they could click on the “HTML” tag and view all posts that have been assigned an “HTML” tag. This is easier than searching through a category such as “Web Design” in order to find posts that deal with HTML.

Featuring Categories and Tags in Widgets

It is very easy and beneficial to feature your categories and tags through the use of widgets. The “Categories” widget allows you to feature your categories, while the “Tag Cloud” widget allows you to feature your tags. Here is a quick tutorial on how to implement each of these widgets.

Implementing the Categories Widget

The Categories widget will display all of your categories in a sidebar or footer area. It allows visitors to easily navigate between categories to find posts that have related topics. Here is how to implement the Categories widget.

First, hover your cursor over “Appearance” and then click on “Widgets”.

Getting to Widgets page

Now you will be able to see all of the available widgets and the different sidebars and footer areas that can hold widgets. On this page you will need to click on the “Categories” widget and drag it to the sidebar or footer area that you would like it to appear in.

Selecting Categories Widget

Now you can click on the gear symbol to view the available options for the Categories widget. There are a few options that change how the widget is displayed and there is a visibility button that you can click to modify the widget’s visibility settings.

View categories widget options

Once you are satisfied with your selected settings, click the “Save” button. Then the widget will be activated and it will appear on your blog.

Implementing the Tag Cloud Widget

The Tag Cloud widget displays a list of all the tags that you have assigned to your posts. It displays the most common tags in a larger font. Having this widget activated allows visitors to view all of your tags in a single spot and easily navigate to a specific topic that interests them. Here is how to implement the Tag Cloud widget.

First, you will need to take some of the same steps as with implementing the Categories widget. You’ll need to go to Appearance>Widgets. Then you will need to locate the “Tag Cloud” widget and drag it to the sidebar or footer area that you want it to appear in. Now you can click on the gear symbol to view its options.

Tag Cloud widget options

You have the ability to set the maximum number of tags that appear and you can choose to exclude certain tags. The Tag Cloud widget also has a visibility button for changing its visibility settings. Once you are satisfied with your selected settings, click the “Save” button. Now the widget will be activated and it will appear on your blog.

Featuring Categories and Tags in Menus

It is very easy to a feature categories and tags in a menu. First, you will need to hover your cursor over “Appearance” and then click on “Menus”.

Go to Appearance and click Menus

If you want to add categories to your menu, you will need to click on “Categories”. Then you can select which categories that you would like to add to your menu and click “Add to Menu”.

Add category to menu

If you want to add a tag to your menu, you will need to click on “Links”. Then you have to enter the URL of the specific tag that you want to link to and the text that you want to appear on the menu. After you have done this, click “Add to Menu”.

Add tag to menu

Now you have the ability to drag and drop menu items so that they appear in the order that you want them to. It is important to remember that you can have sub menus as well. In the example below, I have various policies that will show up as a dropdown menu when a user hovers over “Policies”.

Menu example

Once you are finished modifying your menu, click “Save Menu”. Now the menu will be updated on your blog.

Linking to an Individual Category or Tag

The URLs for categories and tags have similar structures. Here are examples of how each one looks. These are just meant as example links. They don’t actually link to anything.

Here is the basic structure for what a category URL looks like.
http://example.wordpress.com/category/category-name/

For example, if you want to link to a category called “WordPress Tutorials”, the URL would look like this.
http://example.wordpress.com/category/wordpress-tutorials/

Here is the basic structure for what a tag URL looks like.
http://example.wordpress.com/tag/tag-name/

For example, if you want to link to a tag called “photography”, the URL would look like this.
http://example.wordpress.com/tag/photography/

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