Tags vs categories

Reducing tags and creating consistent category pages
Way too often I hear clients saying “Nobody told us about this.” 

So let’s get straight to the best practices and how to fix category problems that are impacting the quality of your website:

1. Categories are preferred over tags.

Tags were traditionally used to describe what a blog post was about. This tempted bloggers into adding hundreds of tags (often similar), a habit that unfortunately still thrives.

What happens when you have a lot of small tag pages is that none will provide real value to users. After all, they’re just a bunch of links.


A better approach to tags is to ditch them completely and actually use the keywords within your post.
On the other hand, categories describe broader topics that are representative of your business. Ideally, you’ll want to limit their number to 5-6, depending on the terms and concepts you can attribute to your brand. 

Keep in mind that highly specialized or tech websites could have more tags, each for a different topic like with this web development blog.

More importantly, you can use categories to target big keywords you want visitors (and Google!) to associate with your company, products, services, and even its people.

This takes me to…

2. Create solid category pages.

The blog, for instance, has six categories, each one of them tending to a different business need:
  • Product - for their product updates
  • Remote - providing content for teams working remotely as their tool helps with this and many of their clients are currently working from home
  • Teamwork - the tool is a work/project management software with strong collaboration capabilities so they sure have a lot to say on teamwork from a thought leadership POV
  • Productivity - another clear term they can associate with their product
  • Project - perfect section for those project management tips
  • Marketing - the majority of teams using are marketing agencies and studios so it’s natural for them to have a separate blog category for this
Along with strategically naming the categories comes what you place on that category page.

So who’s getting them category pages right?

Exhibit A - Dovetail

Dovetail has two separate distinctions on their blog: categories and collections. Their collection pages are bold, fun, and animated. What distinguishes them further is the collection description at the start, complete with the reading time. Scroll down and you’ll bump into a CTA for their newsletter as well as a list of recommended further reading. Problem is they have too many categories per article, but we’ll get to that in the next tip.

Exhibit B - Upwork

Every category page comes with an extra section on Upwork news as well as two CTAs for their primary customer persona.

Exhibit C - InVision

InVision’s category pages are a perfect example of knowing when to showcase your content and when it’s right to add in your product. Their Inspiration section does lead to Muzli [one of their products], but they do it by leading to creations their users have created instead of a plain banner.

3. Attribute only one category per article.

Even more common than poor categories is having a bunch of tags/categories for one article.

This is done because blog managers assume it will make content discoverable.

Not true when you look at your Analytics stats and realize few people actually go on the category page. [Unless you have a bomb category page that actually ranks for a couple of keywords and is bringing in traffic.]

What often happens when you have multiple tags for a single article is that the article’s snippet is copied on all of those tag/category pages:

Technically, this is an instance of duplicate content. In reality, no website has been penalized for this but it’s always best to stick to the best practices and avoid duplicating content whether that’s entire web pages, short text snippets, or blog titles.

Big brands still make this mistake but most of them have gotten rid of the article preview snippet:

If you enjoyed this edition, don't forget to send it to a friend! In two weeks, we're going over the future of keyword optimization in a context where more blogs are straying away from SEO.

Until next time,
Alexandra Cote
Here's some further resources to have a look at in the meantime:

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