People often ask if they should optimize taxonomies or not, and I always tell them “YES” OR “NO” depending on the type of website they own/manage. YES, to some websites, Optimizing Categories and tags are extremely important, but to others, it’s a waste of time! but that doesn’t mean they are no more important.
Categories and tags are very important in SEO, but they don’t usually get the attention they deserve.
So many people refuse to index them because they believe it causes ‘duplicate content’ while others continue to abuse them, adding a countless number of taxonomies to their website, and getting negative results.
When it comes to site structure, taxonomies play a very important role. They do not only organize your blog posts by topic, but they also help search engines to better understand the structure of your blog.
In this post, I will show you the difference between ‘Category’ and ‘tag’ and what to consider while optimizing your website for SEO.
Category and Tag pages, what are they?
In WordPress, both tags and categories are known as taxonomies. Other platforms may have a different name for it, Blogger, for example, calls it ‘labels’. Their main purpose is to sort your content to ensure user-friendliness.
Without tags and categories, your website users will not be able to browse through your website by topics.
Taxonomies are as important as individual pages of your website, irrespective of the kind of website, it is therefore important that you treat them nicely.
When categories and tags are used properly, it makes navigation easy, that should remind you of what Google said about clear navigation.
You may be wondering why taxonomies should be hyped to this importance, but here is the truth; it’s all about user intent and find-ability.
They act as a guide pointing Google searchers in a very specific direction. According to yoast, Having a clear site structure leads to a better understanding of your site by Google.
Categories vs Tags: what’s the difference?
According to WordPress, the major difference between both category and tag is as follow:
- Categories allowed for broad grouping of posts by topics
- Tags are used to describe your posts in more details
Here is an example :
If you are running a blog where you write about sports, you can define your categories as thus:
- Hockey etc.
Now, when what you want to write is related to ‘football’ you can add them to the ‘soccer’ category. To make it more understandable, you could use tags like ‘premier league’ or even ‘World cup’ depending on what perfectly describes your post.
To me, I can say the difference between tags and categories is that you Must categorize your post but tags are completely optional.
How Taxonomies can affect SEO
They can negatively or positively affect SEO, depending on how they are being used. Properly organized Taxonomies can enable search engines to be able to tell what a blog/website is all about. In other words, poorly organized taxonomies will keep confusing search engines, and then negatively affect SEO.
If you blog on a topic, take ‘Finance’ for example.
You may have posts that fall under ‘Budgeting’, ‘smart money’ etc. If later you want to rank for a keyword like ‘save while in school’, Google will be like: why is he trying to rank for such keyword when he’s a blog is primarily for finance?
But if you have included a category like ‘savings in school’ and have a couple of posts within it, Google will understand and judge accordingly.
What about duplicate content? How do you handle them? Ask any webmaster, Duplicate content is a serious problem in SEO. And the bad news? Taxonomies failed.
Categories and tags which show the except for a number of posts do not have any unique content as long as all the contents are already available in the individual post pages.
For that reason, it becomes a bit more challenging when trying to rank them in SERP. The only time Google is likely to show taxonomies over posts is when a website has a lot of pages related to each other, and the SEO structure of that website is such that it helps Google choose a taxonomy over a post.
That shouldn’t kill your morale yet!
If you have a travel blog showing hotels for a lodge in different parts of the world, and you categorized your posts as thus: “Hotels in Lagos Nigeria”, “Hotels in Capetown SA” etc. Meanwhile, you have individual posts like “cheap hotels for a lodge in Lagos”.
If a search is conducted, with the keyword “hotels in Lagos”, don’t you think the Category page will perform better than individual pages? Of course, it will.
Because Google understands, the category to contain so many hotels in Lagos.
How to properly optimize taxonomies
Optimizing your taxonomies for SEO should focus on making sure that when a user lands on your page, he/she doesn’t bounce. They should want to read more…
In that case, you should pay attention to:
Category & Tag meta Description
On every archive page, you should be able to write at least one sentence to perfectly describe what your page is talking about. This is the description that will appear on the search result page.
There are no ranking benefits for meta Descriptions though, but they are there to generate click-through from search engines.
You should add some original content to your category page if you really want to improve in your SEO. WordPress provides us a way in which we can add shot descriptions on the taxonomy page.
The best practice is to describe your category and tag in more details
Title and Slug
Like every other page, category and tag should have a title and slug. Make sure you use very simple and descriptive words that will simply break down the description of your category.
The best practice is to use your keywords on both title and slug.
Though not all kinds of blogs need taxonomy indexing. if you think that taxonomies can negatively affect your website SEO, it’s better you blog it from being indexed.