Lee Odden

The difference between tags and categories.

Lee Odden     Blogging Strategy

Tags & CategoriesWith the release of WordPress 2.3, tags are now a standard part of all WordPress bogs. However, many new bloggers don’t know the difference between tags and categories so I thought I’d elaborate.

Categories are the different areas of your blog. They are the sections that you want to break your blog into. Categories will continue to gain more and more posts over time as you post on them often. Think of them like the main services or main product categories on a website.

If you have a site all about sports, your categories may be: Football, Baseball, Golf, Basketball and Hockey.

Tags are words or phrases that are specific to individual posts. They are items that will give the post additional exposure. Tags differ from categories as they are words or phrases that are less often used.

Example tags for the sports site, on a golf post about the Tiger Woods video game, may be: Tiger Woods, EA Sports, Playstation 3, PGA Tour, XBOX, Wii, Video Game.

Tags and categories are very similar in nature, however categories are meant to be the high level, overarching areas of your blog. Each category will contain many posts on one topic. Tags are assigned on a per-post basis and are words or phrases specific to that post and that may only be once in the entire blog.

Whether you use tags or categories, you can’t really go wrong. Both are organizational features and both will gain additional exposure in search engines. What’s important is that you are using them to organize your posts and increase the usability of your blog.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Hi, I’ve been researching this issue and came across your fine blog in the process.

    I use, on a self-hosted WordPress blog, the ‘All in One SEO Pack’ which I find funky as it lets me ‘Meta Tag’ a post as if it was a web page.

    But should I still be using UTW – in fact can these 2 plugins be used in tandem?

    I’m starting a new blog and want to give it the best chance of success by having the best plugins.

    Would really appreciate feedback on this from you or you visitors.

  2. Most plugins can be used in tandem. UTW isn’t needed unless you want tagging functionality that WordPress 2.3 doesn’t offer. As for All in One SEO Pack, I can’t say that I’ve used it, but it looks quite interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. I think you are rigth in your notion that categories and tags should be supporting features. I problem I often try to figure out is the wether to use the category name as a tag too – on one hand it seems odd tp o leave out the most important tag from the tag set, but on the other hand, your category and your tag archive for that category name will be identical.

    what do you think?

  4. oh, haven’t used ‘All in One’ either. I’m using HeadSpace 2 and Redirection both from UrbanGiraffe – seems like they do sort of the same.

  5. One of the main benefits of the ‘All In One SEO’ pluging is that you can avoid Archives and Categories being search engine indexed which might, albeit innocently, be perceived as spammy/duplicate content.

  6. Paul – Categories don’t need to be repeated in the tags area. Categories will function in tag based search engines just as tags do as long as the category link has rel=”tag” in it.

    Paul – HeadSpace 2 is cool, but not as easy to setup the headers as All in One SEO. The redirection plugin I haven’t tried though. Nice tip.

    Clive – You’re on the right track, but every blog is setup the same. Just because you let an engine crawl all your posts, categories, tags and archives, it’s not going to be seen as spammy. But there ways to optimize it a bit. I should actually write a post on that. 😉

  7. Thanks for writing this post and clarifying the distinction. I haven’t been using tags because I feel like they make my blog look kind of cluttered and I guess that I’ve always thought that a lot of readers don’t actually use them.

    I’m not sure how much of a “no-duh” question this is, but will tags help the search function on my WP blog perform better?

  8. thanx for that great articel

  9. Categories, tags! Trying to sewparate the two has been very confusing.
    Your definition is brilliant, short and easy to understand.
    The sports example you give is a great way to remember which is which.

    Interesting to note that both are picked up by search engines… worth knowing that.

  10. Avatar Amanda Ollier says

    that’s a really concise and easy to understand explanation, thank you very much I understand the difference now between tags and categories. Off to impress my colleagues now! Thank you 🙂


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