WordPress Tags or Categories?

I have been pondering the “Tag vs. Category” question for days now. Is one ‘better’ than the other, when should I use a tag instead of a category? Are categories / tags better at certain things than other things?

My current thinking is:

  • Categories should be created in advance and change little, they are the broad concepts/buckets that group our posts. Though WP supports nested categories without limit, in practice I’m thinking that there should be at most 2 levels. Categories are like the top-level navigation of the content.
  • Tags are content specific, they are more granular than categories. Tags also provide benefits to tag search aggregation. Tags include the hidden rel=”tag” microformat in the HTML source which tells Technorati, et. al. that the author thinks this post should is related to this/these phrases.

Though one could come up with a consistent set of tags before writing any posts, a tag set will emerge naturally based on frequency of re-use.

So, the question shouldn’t be tags vs. categories—use both. Categories are the hierarchical, managed, taxonomies; tags are the Bazaar.

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3 thoughts on “WordPress Tags or Categories?

  1. I was wondering that (including going through the effort of adding a hook that made sure tags and categories were synced up on post/edit), but now I’m thinking no, not a 1:1 duplication but maybe some blending.

    For my purposes @smr we have some more traditional big topics like: “Management of Technology”, “Strategy”, “Innovation”, “Operations”, “Service & Quality”, these look like good candidates for Categories. Some overlap is expected in the categories but not too much.

    Now for the tags I expect that they will provide ways to enable more content-focused relationships amongst the categories. An article like “How Offshore Outsourcing Affects Customer Satisfaction”, might have a primary category of “Customer Service”, but since it also might be related to other things that don’t fall into our categories, it could be tagged in a variety of ways, perhaps with tags that have a relatively short life span.

    We’ll be experimenting a bit here and I anticipate making mistakes (Is “innovation” a tag, category, both, to general to be any use?). But my starting point is: categories should be “evergreen”, tags can be more specific, temporal, heck even witty.

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