WordPress Categories vs Tags: What’s the Difference?

WordPress is the most popular content management system on the internet, but it wasn’t always that way. Back when it was first created, WordPress was just a blogging platform rather than a fully-fledged CMS. Blogging is still at the heart of WordPress; any Posts created in WordPress are by default displayed in chronological order in your site’s blog feed. But keep blogging long enough, and soon your main blog feed will get unruly, and your readers may have to dig through pages and pages of posts before finding the article they’re looking for. How do you organize a blog with hundreds of posts?

That’s where Taxonomies come in. Taxonomies let you organize your blog posts into smaller groups of related posts. By default, WordPress includes two different taxonomies that can be applied to posts: Categories and Tags. But what’s the difference between the two? Should you use just one, or both? You’re not the first person with these questions, and we’ve got the answers for you below.

WordPress Categories

Categories are the primary taxonomy used to group your blog posts. They are hierarchical, meaning that you can have parent and child categories. A blog about local food and drinks may have a category called “Coffee.” That same “Coffee” category may have two child categories called “Dark Roast” and “Light Roast.” Categories allow you to group your Posts as generally or specifically as you would like.

WordPress Tags

As you add and categorize more Posts, you may find that some of your articles don’t fall under just one category. You may also find themes in several of your Posts that span multiple different categories. This is a perfect time to use Tags. Tags are a taxonomy like Categories, but they are not hierarchical and cannot have parent-child relationships. They are useful as a secondary method of grouping posts.

Our fictional blog from the previous example may have some Posts under the “Coffee” category that talk about the coffee at Starbucks, but Starbucks doesn’t just serve coffee! There may be other articles on the blog about the tea or pastries at Starbucks, but don’t necessarily fall under the coffee category. This is the perfect time to create a “Starbucks” tag, allowing your readers to easily find all Posts that talk about Starbucks, regardless of their different categories.

Which to Use?

Knowing this, you can now decide whether or not to use Categories, Tags, or both to organize your blog. It’s worth noting that Categories and Tags can only be applied to Posts, not to Pages.

When you create a new Category or Tag, WordPress will automatically create a separate feed just for posts tagged with that Taxonomy. That way, users can find all the posts about a particular topic in one place, rather than having to dig through pages and pages of your main blog feed to find them individually.

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