Blogkeeping // Clean up your categories

Blogkeeping // Categories vs tags // Elembee.com

I keep a running list of things I want to do for my blog “at some point,” which actually means “on the 5th of never.” You know, those little things that improve your site but aren’t pressing enough to take care of right this minute. Things that will probably only take you 30 minutes, and once you finish, you wonder why you didn’t do them sooner. I actually started this series last summer for that very reason. I needed to do a little housekeeping — ahem, “blogkeeping” — so I tackled one thing each week and posted about it. Well, friends, the list is piling up again, so this month, let’s do a little (very late) spring cleaning for our blogs!

This week, let’s talk about categories and tags (or labels, if you’re on Blogger). Categories and tags tell readers what your blog is about and help them navigate to related content. But if you’ve been blogging for any length of time, and haven’t gone through your categories and tags in a while, you may not be pointing readers to the content that best represents your blog right now. For example, I had Style and Home listed as categories on my blog for a long time, but I rarely post about those topics any more. I also had a few columns listed as regular features that, again, I rarely post any more. Why would I want to point readers to a topic I’m no longer posting about?

Categories versus Tags

Personally, I’ve always used categories for broader subjects, then tags for columns. But I really like this approach from WPBeginner: Think of your blog as a book, and the categories are your table of contents, while tags are terms in your index. These are tools to help people find information, so don’t go tag-crazy — it’s better to use one tag consistently than create several that say the same thing. Remember, you’re helping people find related content, so don’t create tags for something you only mention once on your site. For your categories, think of what you tell people when they ask what you blog about — those should be your categories! Consider putting your categories in a prominent place, or even using them in your main navigation so people know what your site is about when they first visit.

A note for Blogger users

Treat your labels as you would categories and tags — make sure you have labels for your broader subjects, and create additional labels as needed to help people find related content. I’ve seen a number of Blogger to WordPress migrations where the blogger had to go back and categorize posts because they didn’t add consistent, broader subject labels to their posts. If you are consistent with your labels in Blogger, it’s easy to convert the broader subjects to categories in WordPress.

How to organize your posts

Look at the big picture

Write down everything you’ve talked about in the last 2-3 months. If you’re on WordPress, I highly recommend the Editorial Calendar plugin — not only will it help you schedule future posts in a calendar format, it will also show you past posts on the day they appeared. Do the categories displayed on your site match up with the categories you’ve been talking about lately? Do you need to add new categories, or combine old ones? What do you tell people your blog is about — are those topics represented in your categories?

Sort through your tags

Remember that the goal here is to help people find related information, in a manner that’s a bit more specific than your broader categories. Don’t be so specific that only one post will fit under that tag. Take a look at your analytics — what are people searching for, and what types of posts are most popular? Make it easy for people to find more of those posts.

Organize your most recent posts

Blogs grow and evolve over time — don’t feel like you have to fit all of your old posts into your new categories and tags. The point is to help people find the content you want to be known for, that best represents where you are now. You can always recategorize your older posts later if you think readers would still be interested in those, but focus on organizing your most recent content first.

How do you organize your posts?

24 Comments

  1. Niki wrote:

    I definitely need to get more organized with my tags. I’m not very consistent – sometimes I leave them broad, sometimes specific. I think it’s time for me to do some spring (er… summer) cleaning.

    Posted 6.5.13
  2. I totally agree with you — I started out being very haphazard with my tagging and have since honed it a log, but never got around to backtracking and adjusting my older posts, that WP article is a great guide though..

    Posted 6.5.13
  3. Amy wrote:

    Very helpful, as always. Just last week, I went through my list of labels, because it was getting unwieldy. It is frustrating to go to a blog that has a list of hundreds of labels!

    Posted 6.5.13
  4. Allyssa wrote:

    It seems like every other month I’m redoing my categories and tags. I’ve realized that less is more in terms of categories. I have an “everything else” category for things that don’t fall into my other categories. Every so often I’ll glance through it and if I see a lot of posts on a certain topic, I’ll create a new category for it. Now if only I can get my tags as organized!

    Posted 6.5.13
    • I have an “everything else” category, too! I call it “Etc” I also recategorize old posts to Etc when they no longer reflect me at all, even if they fit in another existing category. That way people can still find them if they want, but they aren’t on display as my best work.

      I totally agree that less is more. I had separate categories for beauty, style, and home and not a lot of posts in each compared to my other categories, so I just rolled them into one “Pretty Things” category and converted the others to tags instead.

      Posted 6.5.13
      • Daria wrote:

        I thought I was the only one that constantly changed my blog categories…lol Glad to see it not just me and that Lisa’s post really hit home with many fellow bloggers!

        Posted 2.19.14
  5. Cindy wrote:

    It has been on my to do list for weeks to update my categories and tags. I keep putting it off. I will certainly try to make it a bigger priority now. Thank you for sharing this!

    Posted 6.5.13
  6. Ashley wrote:

    This is really helpful and relevant right now. I literally just searched the difference between categories and tags, yesterday. WordPress says their the same and since my move from Blogger (and all of my labels went into the “categories” box) I’ve ONLY used categories. Do you think I SHOULD use tags? Because according to WordPress, it doesn’t make a difference.

    xo Ashley
    thetiniestfirecracker.com

    Posted 6.5.13
    • You don’t have to use tags, it just depends on how you want to organize information. If your posts always fall under a certain topic, and there’s no need to further organize things (say, if you have a particular series within that topic that people might want to view archives for), then you may not need tags.

      For example, I used to blog consistently about home and style, so I had separate categories for each of those. Since those categories weren’t being updated regularly, I chose to combine them into one category called Pretty Things, and I converted the Home and Style categories to tags so people could still read all related posts if they want. But they aren’t featured in my categories list in my sidebar anymore, so people don’t expect regular posts on those topics.

      Under Tools, there’s a Categories and Tags Converter that will convert existing categories to tags and vice versa!

      Posted 6.5.13
  7. Anne wrote:

    Thanks! I’m a newbie blogger and I’ve been wondering how I’m supposed to go about my blog labels. This is really helpful. I’ve had loads of tags/labels before and they looked messy! THANKS.

    annescribblesanddoodles.blogspot.com

    Posted 6.5.13
  8. I’m so happy I read the comments, too. This is very helpful. In general, I think my site navigation could use more organization (on my to-do list) and it’s so nice to have learned about categories and tags before I begin this project!

    Posted 6.5.13
  9. I’m not entiiiiiiiiirely sure I agree with you on this. I don’t care if you no longer live in Louisiana and all of the Louisiana posts are outdated; I still want a way to find them if I want to read them. And while I agree that tags aren’t really super-useful if there’s only one post about the particular topic, it’s a lot easier to tag every post as you go than to later say, “Hey, didn’t I post about this once before? Let me go back and find that post and tag it now.” No?

    Posted 6.5.13
    • Good point! I wouldn’t delete, say, my Maui 2012 tag just because I’m not using it anymore, because I do want to be able to go back and read those posts. But I do have a number of tags that are basically the same thing that need to be combined into one.

      And yes, totally agree that it’s much easier to tag posts now rather than finding them later! I don’t think you have to get crazy with it and add a million tags, but if it’s something that could have related posts later, you should save yourself the trouble and tag it now.

      Posted 6.11.13
  10. I was just thinking tonight that I need to do this SO BADLY. Excellent post!

    Posted 6.5.13
  11. UGH thank you for this post. I did a huge clean-up of all of my labels when I had my blog redesigned 9 months ago and it really helped streamline my posts from thereon out – if it couldn’t fit into a “real” label and had to go into “just for fun” I made myself think long and hard about whether or not it belonged on my blog.

    Now that I’m updating the design and moving to a new address and, when that all happens, will start to monetize a little bit, I’m going through the same process again to keep myself on track. It really helps!

    Posted 6.7.13
  12. I definitely need to go through and clean up my categories and tags. Great guide!

    Posted 6.18.13
  13. Daria wrote:

    Great post! I have reorganized my categories so many times as I struggle with the theme and tone of my blog. I’ve actually created 404 errors because I’ve changed categories of previous posts. Your post definitely left me feeling much more empowered with a plan of action to define my blog content in a better way.

    Posted 2.19.14
  14. Kobus wrote:

    Thank you for these tips… I found your blog while googling: cleaning blogger tags.
    It was just the information I needed.

    Posted 11.11.15

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