What is the difference between a Category and a Tag?

There are two different ways to organize your posts, a category and a tag. So what is the difference between a category and a tag?  Well the truth is there is not much difference between a category or a tag when it comes to use case. It’s highly dependent on how you use and structure your blog. We will go over best practices and recommendations so you can understand the minor differences.

First let’s discuss why we use a category or a tag. Categories and tags are used to help describe and organize a post. On a Beachbody site for example, we would want to organize all of the posts so visitors can find a “healthy recipe” or a “workout program” without having to dig through each post. A key point when organizing your content is to always think about your visitor and how organizing and defining your content will benefit them, not you.

How do I use Categories?

bodypress beachbody category screenshot
A category is usually used in a more general role. An example of a category for a Beachbody site would be My Updates, Recipes, Programs, etc. When using a category you have the ability to set up hierarchies or subcategories. Going back to our previous examples we can create a category called Recipes. However what if we have 200 recipes? We want to help our visitors easily find our recipes so we need to create a subcategory or a child category. An example would be to create new subcategories under “Recipes” called chicken, 30 min meals, etc.

When a category is created and is being used to organize your posts an actual category page on your website is created. This page will list your category description as well as all the posts that are organized under this category. This can be beneficial for your site’s Search Engine Optimization(SEO). When we look at our “Recipes” category, the page URL would look like this http://mysite.com/category/recipes/. If we added a subcategory to “Recipes” called Chicken, we would get a url that would look like this http://mysite.com/category/recipes/chicken/. Creating and managing your categories correctly can boost your site’s SEO, so be sure to think about your categories from your visitor’s point of view.

How do I use Tags?

bodypress beachbody tag screenshot
A tag is usually used in a more specific role. An example of a tag for a Beachbody site would be abs, weight loss, etc. Think of a tag as being universal. Let’s say we create a tag called “weight loss”. The weight loss tag can now be added to any post that refers to our weight loss term. When we are adding the tag, the post does not need to be in a specific category. We are only looking to help describe what the visitor can find under this tag term. Now you are probably saying well I can do that with a category and I would say that you are correct. However remember that we want to leave tags for more specific key terms that we can then use within multiple categories. We could use the tag “weight loss” on any post we felt related to weight loss. The results for our tag term would include any and all posts under our “Recipes” or “Programs” category. See how that works? A category, “Recipes”, would only include recipes but a tag, “weight loss”, could include any post in any category that we feel relates or even mentions weight loss.

Very much like categories, when a tag is created so is a page on your site. A rule of thumb is not to create a tag if a category has the same name and vice a versa. The same goes for plurals, if you add “Recipes” do not add “Recipe” Tag urls are different than category urls because they are not hierarchical and do not have subcategories. A tag page url would look like this http://mysite.com/tag/weight-loss/, again there are no sub tags so the url would always be http://mysite.com/tag/my-tag-term-here/.

Main Differences

While you can use categories and tags in similar ways, there are a few differences. Below are some of the key differences.

  • Categories are hierarchical and can have subcategories
  • The URL structures are different
    Category: http://mysite.com/category/recipes/
    Tag: http://mysite.com/tag/weight-loss/

Summarizing Categories and Tags

Remember that you can use a category or a tag however you would like, but it’s always best practice to remember the below points.

  • Use categories for hierarchical content or general terms
  • Use tags for more specific terms that can be used universally
  • When in doubt use categories
  • Always season to taste and apply what you have learned to your own Beachbody site.