Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video What's the difference between a category and a tag?, part of WordPress: Ask the Instructor.
- When you build a WordPress site and you plan on publishing a lot of content, it's very important to set up a proper organizational structure for that content so people can see which pieces are related to other pieces and are able to sift through your content to find what they're looking for. That's why we have the two taxonomies, categories and tags. Categories are the main organizational tools for WordPress. Every WordPress post must belong to at least one category and can belong to as many categories as you like, and old posts can have tags associated with them. Which begs the question, what is the difference between a category and a tag? And in WordPress Essential Training, I explained it using clothing. I say that if you look at your closet of clothes, you'll see that you already use categories. You stack your t-shirts in one location and your regular shirts in another location. You make a difference between pants and skirts. You make a difference between socks and underwear, and you organize all your clothes in a very specific way so that the same type of item belongs in the same place and they're easy to find. And you'll see this throughout your entire house. If you go to your kitchen, you'll see that you stack your big plates with the other big plates and the small plates with the small plates. In your cutlery drawer, the knives are in one place and the forks are in another place and your chopsticks are in another place. Humans beings organize everything in categories all the time, without even thinking about it. If I asked you to come to my house and I said, hey, go find a spoon, you would immediately know to go into the kitchen and start opening drawers until you find where I have all my cutlery, and then you would be able to find a spoon right away unless I decided to do something really unusual with how I organize my kitchen. But when I explain this, people say I understand the principle here but I don't fully understand how I'm going to to do this for my personal content. So let me give you a completely different example. I used to write a blog about music, and I had to figure out how to organize my reviews of different types of music. And in that process I then had to think, how do I make it easier for people to find reviews for the music they're looking for, if they don't look for the band name or the album name? And I went to record stores, you know, those things that used to exist where you would go and buy albums? And I looked at how they organized their content. And in a record store, you would have organization based on music genre first, and then based on alphabetical order. So if you're looking for rock music, you go the rock section. And there might even be subsections within the rock section, of specific types of rock music, like classic rock or metal, or glam rock, or whatever. And then under those sections you would have alphabetically ordered albums based on the band names, and then within those band names you might even have chronologically ordered albums based on when they were released. So those are organizational types and that's how I ended up organizing my stuff. I would have a set of categories that started with the overall genres and then have sub-genres under there and then I would have a separate set of categories that were the actual band names, so that we could refer them to each other. That's one way of doing it. Another way would be to create categories for the musical types, and then use the band names as tags, because the band names lose their association. And you can even take it a step further and say because there's a good chance that some musicians from bands also end up releasing solo albums, or may release albums with other bands, so you would have a musician that is a member of two or three or four famous bands, and you can use the musician names as individual tags for each album. So that you can say, if you're looking for a specific musician, you may find music from another band that that musician has somehow been involved in. What I'm trying to show you here is that when you start creating organization with categories and tags on a WordPress site, it's not enough to just say, what are categories and what are tags? You have to actually think through how the user will use these tools to find content, and then try to structure your categories and tags in the logical way for the specific type of content you're publishing. If you're publishing about clothing, it would be easier to organize them based on t-shirts and jackets and pants and skirts, and then say that's the categories, and the tags are the tags on the back of the jacket. So you would see here, it says wash that a certain temperature, cannot or cannot be bleached, and so on. And those will be the loosely-relational items which are relevant when you're washing the clothes, but you would never organized based on them. If it was music you were writing about, you would organize based on genres or types of music, and then band name, and then something else. But it could also be a different organizational structure if what you're writing about warrants that. It's all about understanding your topic and then creating organizational systems that help people find what they're looking for.