How to ensure your blog taxonomies are SEO and user friendly
When it comes to search engine optimization, having an active blog with useful content is one of the best strategies you can employ—but the way you organize that content matters. Used correctly, blog categories and tags can boost your search engine traffic, bringing in new visitors interested in the different topics you cover. But your blog taxonomies can also create SEO and user experience problems if you don’t keep a few best practices in mind.
Here are a few guidelines we like to follow when organizing a blog. (Skip to the end for a link to our free downloadable checklist for blog post optimization.)
1) Use categories for broad groupings and tags for specifics.
Categories and tags may seem interchangeable, but not making distinctions between them can create disorder pretty quickly. In most content management systems, every post you create needs to have a category. Categories are typically larger, more general topics that your brand or organization often writes about—they represent your areas of expertise. A category should be added to regularly over time.
Tags, on the other hand, are like the index at the back of a book. They indicate common themes, subjects, or people that appear in your posts but usually aren’t the main topics of conversation.
A few examples:
A category on a fashion blog might be “Styling Advice.” Tags might include “spring jackets,” “2019 trends,” or “great deals.”
Similarly, a category on an association’s website may be “Conferences.” Related tags might be “2019 conference,” “2018 conference,” “conference registration,” and “conference takeaways.”
To keep things organized and avoid some of the technical issues we’ll discuss next, we recommend that you…
- Make sure each post has only one category. Multiple categories don’t negatively impact your SEO, necessarily, but they can lead to extraneous URLs and very similar category pages.
- Make sure each tag has at least three posts. This ensures tags are useful and that tag URLs are a valuable consolidation of content.
2) Develop a set list of categories and tags and communicate it to all of your writers.
You can use categories and tags in different ways depending on your organization’s goals, but whatever you do, you’ll want to make sure you’re consistent. Here’s a scenario we often see with our clients: One writer uploads a post and tags it “2019 Conference.” The next week, another writer uploads a post tagged “Conference 2019.” Now you have content about your conference split between two tags, making it harder for readers to find what they need—and the user experience on your blog becomes a bit messier.
In a similar scenario, one person might put a post in a “Digital Marketing” category, while another puts a similar post in “Online Marketing.” Do you really need both of those categories, or does having both just clutter up your user experience?
Having a standard list of categories and tags helps define the user experience of your site. It means every person who adds a post to the blog knows how to classify and organize content, and it keeps everything organized, clean, and simple. This helps both readers and Google know which content is important, and it also avoids duplicate and unnecessary URLs—which leads us to our next piece of advice.
3) Be conservative when it comes to creating new categories and tags.
It can be tempting to add a variety of new tags and categories to your post. The more ways to find and organize the content, the better, right? Not always!
Many content platforms (like WordPress) create new URLs for each tag and category, which can end up causing technical problems and weak content. Say you add a new post about a special event and tag it with the speaker’s name. Now in addition to your new post, you have a new URL that looks something like this:
The only content on that URL is a link to the post you just created, making it light on unique content and not very valuable to readers. If you were going to have this speaker back often and write multiple posts over time about her, then it might make sense to create a tag for her name. But if this is a one-time thing, that tag isn’t very useful. Plus, from an SEO perspective, having lots of weak URLs on your site can cause Google to think your site is less valuable overall.
You also can run into duplicate content problems if you have similar tags and categories. For example, adding both a tag and category for “2019 conference” would create two URLs that are almost entirely identical:
For these reasons, it’s best to be thoughtful and cautious when adding new categories and tags to your standard list.
4) Add unique content to tag and category URLs to earn search traffic.
Finally, the best tags and categories are those that can help bring in new visitors. If one of your categories is “marketing strategies,” it makes sense for the resulting category URL—yoursite.com/category/marketing-strategies/—to rank in Google for searches like “effective marketing strategies,” “ideas for marketing your website,” and “marketing tactics.”
To do this, you’ll want to increase the category page’s unique content and keyword optimization. Give each category and tag landing page a unique paragraph with relevant keywords explaining what readers will find here. Make sure each URL has its own title tag, meta description, and primary headline (labeled as an H1 in the HTML), and use your desired keywords as fits the content. Taking these steps helps ensure your category and tag pages are valuable pages in their own right, not just “extra” pages created as an afterthought.
When done right, categories and tags help make the most of the content you’re creating and bring in new visitors. To help you keep it all straight, we’ve made a printable checklist that includes SEO best practices for both blog posts and your categories and tags.