Do you read every post on a blog? If you’re like me, you visit websites for a reason – be it the New York Times crossword puzzle or the latest gear roundup from Outside. You know what you’re looking for when you click. Because of this, blog categories help readers navigate your website.
But which categories should you choose? What do you call them? And what is the difference between categories and tags?
Let’s reduce the confusion with blog category best practices that get readers to browse your content.
What is a blog category?
Blog categories organize your website and allow readers to find the information they want. They are high level topics that make it easy for users to understand what your blog is about and navigate to the content that interests them. Think of it like a table of contents. The categories structure your site by organizing individual posts and subtopics under several main topics.
For example, imagine you are running a food blog. They create recipes, write reviews for devices and give tips on photography. These main topics (recipes, reviews, photography) are your blog categories. But each topic has a handful of subtopics like bread and pastry recipes, small appliance and tool reviews, and tutorials on low-light photography and stop-motion photography.
When I visit your website for dinner inspiration, I should be able to quickly click your recipe category to see all of the delicious options that you have on offer.
Regardless of the type of blog you run, the content you create must fall under one of the categories you choose.
Why blog categories are important
You’ve put hours of work into every blog post and you don’t want it to disappear into the black hole of your archive. Without defined blog categories, your content will quickly no longer be displayed – just by endless scrolling. Preventing this from happening is just one benefit of categories.
1. Blog categories provide easy site navigation.
Having a visually appealing website is incredibly important to visitors. 90% of people left a website because of poor design. Blog categories group content under a handful of topics, so users can get where they want quickly. Some website themes limit the number of categories you can create. Take this into account before grouping your content.
2. Blog categories improve the website’s SEO.
Categories give you a head start in the blog SEO game by adding hierarchies to your pages. This helps search engines better understand what each page is about and rank accordingly.
For example, if you create a category page and keep adding and linking posts that are relevant to that category, it will become increasingly optimized. Search engines recognize this and increase the ranking, which makes it easier for users to find your website.
3. Blog categories make blog content strategy easier.
Planning an editorial calendar is no easy task. However, with well-defined blog categories, you have instructions on what to write about. Your strategy can touch each category to avoid stacking one with all of the content. This rounds out your blog and prevents you from getting into a mess with just one category.
If that’s not enough to influence you, you know that 65% of the most successful North American bloggers have a well-documented content marketing strategy. Among the least successful bloggers, 39% admit they have no strategy and 14% actually write down a strategy.
Examples of blog categories
Every blog is unique, but it is worth looking at others for inspiration. Here are some examples of how different websites sort their content into blog categories.
Since you’re already here, let’s take a look at how this blog is organized. The main categories are marketing, sales, service and website. For example, the Marketing category has subtopics such as social media, branding, SEO and digital marketing.
Outside of its product website, Patagonia runs a blog called The Cleanest Line. It is divided into the following categories: Stories, Movies, Books, and Activism. You can search deeper by clicking on subtopics organized by sports such as kitesurfing, climbing, and trail running.
3. The New Yorker
Personally, I go for the cartoons. But The New Yorker has a lot to offer, which is why they divide content into 10 categories: News, Books & Culture, Fiction & Poetry, Humor & Cartoons, Magazine, Crosswords, Video, Podcasts, Archive, Go on.
4. Joy the Baker
I could scroll through this page all day, but navigation is easy thanks to five categories: Recipes, Cookbooks, The BakeHouse, Drake on Cake and Workshops. Joy brings her personality to the names and at the same time makes it clear what she is about: delicious baked goods.
Blog categories vs. tags
Perhaps you’ve grouped all of your posts under one category and gone crazy to create some sort of structure. You are not the only one. The world of tags and categories can be confusing. But now is the time to learn the difference between the two so that you know when to use one against the other.
While categories and tags are helpful in organizing your website, you already know that categories are the high-level topics that will help readers get where they want to go. Categories usually form your navigation bar or are displayed in a sidebar for users to see. The fewer categories you have, the better. This is especially important if you have a niche blog as it helps you stand out from the rest of the sites in the space.
There’s no hard and fast rule for the correct number of categories, but most niche blogs have between three and five, while larger sites have around five to ten categories. The New York Times has 19 categories, but that’s definitely too many for most businesses. The bigger the number, the harder it is to stay organized.
On the other hand, a day is an indicator of what a particular post is about. There are one to three words that sort your contribution into a specific archive. It doesn’t usually appear on your website, but it does help search engines find your posts.
For example, this post falls under the Marketing category but is also tagged for blogging so you can easily navigate to other posts on the topic at the bottom of this post. With tags like these, our post will now show up when looking for information on how to name blog categories.
Choosing tags is easy – start with the keywords you already want to use on a post. If you use a column / cluster model like us, you can even name the tags after the column or cluster your parts are under.
Or just use existing words that may be entered into the search and relate to your post. Avoid tags with the same name as your categories to avoid overlapping. Aim for fewer than 10 tags per post. And don’t make up words unless it’s a strategic part of your blog or branding strategy.
Now that you have a better understanding of tags and categories, it’s time for some strategic fun: choosing category names.
Name your blog categories
1. Use analytics to name your blog categories.
Choosing names for your categories starts with one important factor: analysis. Really. Even if your website is quirky or completely unique, creating strong categories requires data.
Which articles get the most views, comments, likes or shares? Knowing what people love about your blog will give you a better idea of where to focus. It’s also helpful to check which topics aren’t resonating with your readers, especially if you’ve seen them as a priority in the past.
2. Narrow down the topics you cover.
It’s time to cut your issues down. There’s no ideal number, but between three and five categories will give you enough breadth without being too overwhelming to manage. Some bloggers prefer five to eight categories, while news sites can have around eight to ten. The number is yours. Just think about your content, your strategy, and your time. Blog categories are designed to make writing easier, not more complicated.
3. Familiarize yourself with your blog categories.
For some people, choosing names is easy. Of course, food blogs always have a recipe category. But this is the time to think about your unique brand and what you want to showcase to people.
For example, the food blog Kitchn has categories for Recipes, Holidays, Meal Planning, Learning, Shopping, and People. This page is primarily aimed at audiences who cook frequently, plan ahead, host holiday meals, invest in quality cooking utensils, and take inspiration from famous chefs. Know your readers and care about what they want. Just don’t get so creative that people have no idea what your content is about.
4. Be consistent in naming your blog category.
Be consistent in style and structure. Do you remember how bad design put off readers? Inconsistent categories play a role in the overall look and feel of your blog. So keep them as similar as possible. This includes capitalization and the use of nouns, verbs, or adjectives. Not every category has to be exactly the same, but you don’t want one question to be six words while another is one word.
If your blog has been around for a few years, you may need some serious organization to do. Blog categories are a great way to start sorting. Think about which categories your readers like best and remove them all with just a few posts. Collapsing categories is not always easy. But it’s definitely worth the effort for a website that is easy to navigate and has a strong content strategy.