Last week I wrote a post on blog categories and received enough questions offline about the difference between categories and tags that I thought I’d do a quick mini-post on tags. (Look for an upcoming more complete post).
If you think of categories as the table of contents for your blog, then think of tags as the index, a support system for your categories. Both categories and tags are methods that should help your readers find the information they need. A good description on blog tags I saw was on an older article on problogger and I’ve quoted it here:
Think of tags as the colorful little page markers you might use to flick back to your favorite pages in a book. The tags don’t describe the book as a whole, instead they describe individual sections of the book.
- Use the same tags over and over again. The tagging system is useless when the tags you use vary. For instance, if you have a series of posts on writing articles, you could tag them as “journalism,” “writing,” “copywriting,” or a hundred other variations. The important thing is that you choose one of them, and then reuse it on every post you ever write on the topic.
- Tags do not need to be displayed in the sidebar. Tagging is not a part of your navigational structure, and so it does not necessarily have to be displayed in the sidebar. Why not simply list a post’s tags at the end of the post? The contextualization will make them much more valuable to readers, and could even be used to replace “Related Posts,” plugins and such.
- The tag cloud is easy to scan. If you do use your tags in your sidebar, then use the tag cloud. A list of categories is very easily recognized because it is in a list. A list of tags will be clearly recognized as such if it is in a cloud. The cloud works because it fits a lot of information into a small space, and is easy to scan over.
Categories and tagging, and meta descriptions and tags can be confusing. I’m working on a series of articles to bring the basics out in easy tips. If you’re not already part of the zencopy tribe, please subscribe now to stay updated.