The Right Way to Use Categories and Tags in WordPress to Boost SEO

The Right Way to Use Categories and Tags in WordPress to Boost SEO

Categories and tags offer up opportunities for increased engagement and traffic that most bloggers waste.

There are many benefits to creating and maintaining a well thought out category and tagging system when blogging. For one, the user experience can be vastly improved by well-constructed navigational elements. But secondly, categories and tags offer an opportunity to increase traffic to your site via search engines.

One client of mine runs a large blog that attracts around 250,000 unique visitors per month. Around 5% of those visitors are referred by tag pages listed in search engines. And those visitors are far more engaged than the average, with higher time on site and page views, and a lower bounce rate. That’s an extra 10,000 engaged visitors per month, and this is for a site which is poorly optimized for tagging.

So, if you’re interested in improving the user experience and boosting traffic to your site, read on to find out how you should optimize your categories and tags in WordPress.

What About Duplicate Content Penalties?

Before we start, let’s push this little issue to one side.

Google (and other major search engines) will never penalize a WordPress site for having archive pages that publish and point to the same content. They confirmed this way back in 2008. When Google comes across duplicate content, their algorithm will adjudge which version is the original, and place that above the alternative options.

There is in reality just one valid reason why you might choose to noindex taxonomy/archive pages — when the pages are of no use to searchers (e.g. date based archives). If a page is of potential use to a searcher, it should be included within the index.

I would recommend that you keep your post’s content to excerpt length when published on taxonomy and archive pages. Not only will this resolve any duplicate content/devaluation issues, it will make for more easily browseable pages.

How to Categorize and Tag

If you are in any doubt as to the difference between categories and tags, read Everything You Need to Know About WordPress Tags. But in a nutshell, if categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index. And as you will know if you have ever read a book with an index, it can really come in handy.

The key to categorizing and tagging your content is rooted in the old contradictory axiom, “Less is more”. You must strike a good balance between offering as few options as possible, whilst giving the reader a choice that they will be satisfied with. Furthermore, you must always remember that each and every page on your site should have a useful purpose. You shouldn’t tag a page for the sake of tagging a page — you should do so because grouping posts by that particular tag could be of use to a reader.

An easier way to think about it is this — all categories and tags should represent a keyword that a reader would potentially search for. For example, if I’m looking for a chicken recipe, I might search Google for “chicken recipe”. In that example, “Recipes” could be a category, and “Chicken” could be a tag. Both are useful and functional taxonomies.

Don’t go overboard when categorizing your content. A post should typically be in no more than one or two categories, and tagging should be limited only to the most relevant topics covered in the post. Furthermore, if you find no obvious way in which you can tag a specific post, don’t tag it. Not every post needs tagging.

Finally, I recommend that you use title case when creating your categories and tags. Just bear this in mind for the time being — I’ll explain why later.

Utilizing Categories and Tags on Your Blog

First of all, let’s address something that is so uncommon in the blogosphere, that I almost feel it must be a taboo of some kind — linking to categories and tags from within your pages and posts.

Not only do I consider this okay to do, I actively encourage it. Remember — you are creating categories and tags that are of use to the reader, so why not link to them? Say I’m on a health and fitness blog, and I’m reading a post on running. Half way through the post I encounter this text:

If you’re into running, we recommend that you check out our running section here on the blog.

I might open that up in a background tab (which will of course reveal the “Running” category on the blog). Now let’s say I’m particularly into marathon running, and I come across this text later on in the post:

Some say that marathon training is more difficult than the marathon itself.

The above could be a contextual link that points to the tag archives for “Marathon Training”.

Both links above are great examples of how you can interlink to both category and tag pages in a way that benefits the reader. Generally speaking, the more you interlink on your blog, the more engaged your readers will be, so take every opportunity to keep them on your site.

One side-effect of linking to categories and tags repeatedly (by interlinking and/or navigational links) is that link juice will be passed to those archive pages, which means that they will have a chance of ranking in Google. Because you are focusing on producing a limited number of highly relevant and useful categories and tags, each page has a chance of establishing itself for keyword terms.

Optimizing Categories and Tags for SEO

Now let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the matter — optimizing your taxonomy pages so that link juice flows in the right areas, and editing onsite SEO so that each taxonomy page looks useful to the reader.

You need to get your hands on the free SEO by Yoast plugin. If you don’t already use it, say hello to the best SEO plugin for WordPress, hands down. Whilst there are an awful lot of beneficial things you can do with this plugin, in this article we are going to focus solely on optimizing your taxonomy and archive pages.

First of all, navigate to the “Titles & Metas” settings page:

SEO by Yoast

On the first tab of that screen, under “Sitewide meta settings”, check the “Noindex subpages of archives” checkbox:

SEO by Yoast

Our aim is to rank one page for any given taxonomy, not several. If Google indexes taxonomy subpages, it will probably not do a great deal of harm, but could potentially take away from the strength of other pages. Given that there is no benefit in these pages being indexed, you may as well ensure that they are not.

Next, navigate to the “Taxonomies” tab. Here you will be able to set title templates for each taxonomy type and choose whether or not they should be indexed and/or followed by search engines. The way in which you present the title of each taxonomy page is important in making it clear to a search engine user that the page is of use to them. Here are the settings I use:

SEO by Yoast

As you can see, the “noindex, follow” boxes are unchecked, which means that the search engines will both follow these pages and include them within their index (which is exactly what we want). Furthermore, I have created a title template that, trusting you have named your categories and tags well, will be readable and informative to the searcher.

Based upon the above template, a title for a tag on an imaginary blog could read as follows:

Michael Crichton | The Best Sci-Fi Books Blog

If you’re interested in Michael Crichton (and sci-fi), a title tag such as that showing up in your search engine results page (SERP) would be quite compelling. This is why I previously advised you to use title case when naming categories and tags — a lowercase tag would look far less presentable in the SERPs:

michael crichton | The Best Sci-Fi Books Blog

Whilst I don’t typically advise that you include your blog’s name in title tags for posts and pages, it is perfect for providing context (and additional relevant keywords) for what might otherwise be a mysterious category or tag.

If you’re having trouble in creating title templates, click on the “Help” tab to see a list of variables that you can include (such as &&term_title%% and %%sitename%%).

Once you’re done setting your title templates for categories and tags, click onto the “Other” tab. You will see options relating to author and date archives. If you’re running a single author blog, you should disable author archives. And personally I always think that you should disable date archives, unless the date of a post is in some way pivotal to how people might search for your content.

Wrapping Up

If you take the time to create and maintain a limited set of highly relevant categories and tags, you will see benefits in time. For instance, I launched a new blog just a couple of weeks ago, and although Google has only crawled it once (ten days ago) and I have only received a handful of visitors, I have already received a couple of search referrals via taxonomy pages.

Forget about “tag stuffing”, or creating a vast list of unhelpful categories. Focus on usability and ease of navigation, and you will reap the rewards.

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Join The Discussion


  1. Farah Elise says:

    Hi All this was very infomrative. I am wondering if anyone uses the site to blog. (not to be confused with blogger).

  2. Serhat Dmar says:

    Tom, hi. Thanks for all. I applied the changes you mentioned in your article. My website looks and feels better than before.

  3. Craig says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for the post, I am building a sports website, and using categories is the only way (I know of) of allowing readers to quickly find their favourite league or team. But this creates 'duplicate' posts, for example if Arsenal play Chelsea and I do a match report I have to put it both teams category, they are both Barclay Premier League so I get and also is this ok? Or is there another way I should be doing things? Much appreciated.

  4. Rohit Singh says:

    Thanks I was not have good idea to have one or more tags for y post but thanks for clearing this up for me

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you, this is so very helpful!

  6. First of all thank for your valuable article.I searched a lot about this topic and there are lots of different views about tag.
    But as I know its helpful to improve your site rank in Bing but Google never consider these tags .try to use strong and few tags in post.

  7. Chris says:

    Awesome post on exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks.

  8. Serhat Damar says:

    Hi Tom. You informed us about the proper usage of categories and tags, thank you. I will check my site from this viewpoint
    and do the fixes on it.

  9. Malin says:

    Oh I used to use lots of tags even when I check my competitors posts I saw they are using tags exclusively so I'll keep using them.

  10. Tali Deals says:

    Very good to know. I always wanted to know if tags were going to cause penalties. I've been told yes, then I get told no and as you mentioned they do get indexed by google and can bring in more SEO traffic. So hopefully in my new blogs my tags aren't going to cost me some de-ranking penalty.

  11. Jessy says:

    Hi everyone,

    I would like to know if there is a limit of tags in a post. I mean, it is more relevant to have 5 or 6 well-targeted tags or it is better to have a large list of tags for a post ?

    Concerning the Alt Text for a picture, it is also the same thing ?

    Thank you very much for your help !!
    Have a great day,


  12. Doug says:

    I've had a WordPress-sponsored blog for over three years and in all that time I've been mystified about tags. I mean, I put them in, I have categories, but I am just not getting much interest. It must be me… I'm an old school html guy who did websites ten years ago with meta tags and keywords, etc. and I am totally confused on tag usage in WordPress. I understand the theory & concept.. (the "book/index" analogy, etc.) but I have no idea on application since there seems to be so many ways to do it. I put tags in my posts, assign categories, put I have no idea if it's correct usage or not. That cloud stuff just seems a bit "busy" and dorky to me and all those word and phrase links inside the post text just distracts me from the content. I ended up in here after doing a Google search asking what tags are. Ugh! Frustrating.

  13. Ben Jamir says:

    Thank you for such wonderful explanation. Categories and tags were always confusing to me..
    thanks for sharing.

  14. Thank you so much! I was using lots of categories and up to 15 tags in my posts. My friend turned round and told me this was completely wrong for SEO a couple of days ago. I googled this and you turned up and yep, turns out you're right and my friend is right too! Thank you!

  15. uju says:

    So basically you're saying the fewer the tags, the better it's SEO ranking.

  16. jokeDog says:

    Excellent, very insightful.
    Keep up the good work.

  17. jokeDog says:

    Excellent!, thanks a lot.
    Keep on the great work.

  18. Billy says:

    Fantastic article, I didnt quite understand tags until I read this, I knew it was there to kind of represent the topic and get you 'out there' more but didnt understand the formalities of it, very interesting read and will go over it again tomorrow. Thank you.

  19. Arjan says:

    Very good post. Everything I needed to know about this topic was in this article. Thanks.

  20. Christoffer says:

    Thank you for a great post.

    I have both categories and sub-categories on my WordPress page. Say for instance I'm writing an article about a computer program. I have the categories structure that is Computers > Software.

    Up until now I have been posting in both the Computer and Software category. Is this a good way to do it? I do have articles that are listed in more than two categories as well. Say that the example also has something to do with connecting your computer to a TV. Then the whole categorisation are.

    Computers > Software
    Sound & Picture > Connectivity

    That is four categories in total. Is that I stupid way to go by it?

    Thanks /Christoffer

  21. john b says:

    so if I understand you can have multiple pages in a category.

    Can you have multiple tags on a post?

    When I ran a semrush test it came back showing duplicate content. For example and show the same results and according to semrush it's considered duplicate content since the same info appears on each page.

    So should I only use 1 tag and 1 category per post?

    thanks in advance for your help.

    • Dan at TLFN says:

      Hi John B,

      I have been told by an expert that it is best practise to assign one tag per blogpost, so I am going to try it out now. Not sure if it is the best way to generate large traffic but it keeps everything clean and organised, so probably worth doing in the long run.

      Kind regards,


  22. Avenger says:

    Wow! I so admire you! Please let us know how it goes!.Thank you for posting

  23. Sam says:

    Still confused. does using silos based on categories with tags is good idea ? and what about breadcrumbs ?

  24. Sam says:

    Thanks for the article.
    Just started my new blog and wondering how to organize categories.

  25. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the article.
    I wasn't sure how best to handle categories and tags, but this article helped clarify it.
    This showed up high in the search results for SEO, so you must know what you're talking about.
    I also adjusted the templates in Yoast SEO based on your advice. That's something I wouldn't mess with otherwise!

  26. Iam

    This is the way i should use ? %%Noticias y Tecnología | Internet, Tecnología móvil y Noticias Social | Tecnología Geek%%

    or i shoud use the carapter? %%title%%

    just in case, when i use Noticias y Tecnología | Internet, Tecnología móvil y Noticias Social | Tecnología Geek on yoas SEO, i have to this on the wordpres general seting, wich them show the from page with a very long title, litle help to get this.. Thanks..

  27. Maria says:

    Hi Tom! Thank you for your great article! I have a doubt. When I write an article I always put it in 2 categories, one is Blog (which is common to all my articles) and the other depends on the article. Can I have penalties to act in this way?

  28. Deepak Kumar says:

    Is it Ok to add number of tags to a single post if your are using Adsense on your website. Is there any violation in Google Adsense Terms?

  29. Jen says:

    Thank you for the Yoast tips! I knew I needed to clean up my categories and tags but I didn't realize I could customize what showed up and how within Yoast.

  30. I'd be interested to know where it is possible to edit the information shown in browser tabs for category and tag pages…I have looked everywhere…

  31. Ayush Chandra says:

    I am little confused, i have a blog, using Yoast SEO Plugin. When i see results of my posts in Google then it shows the name of Category associated to that post instead of showing post url below title. What is it? and is it good or bad. How to fix it? I Hope you will tell me (no response on this around the Web :(

  32. Jonas says:

    Great post. Clearly explained.

  33. Zeeshan Raza says:

    Nicely described but I still have confusion like, a same post exit an a category and 6 to 7 tags… By using SEO by Yoast. Google ususally index my all categories and tags.. so is google or other search engines tak it as duplicate content??? Explain Plz..

    • Igor Kolosov says:

      Hi Zaechan!

      As Tom mentioned on the beginning of the post, Google is not penalising archive/tag pages. Also, it may not be a good practice to have 6 to 7 tags on one post. Tags are there to show the main few topics covered, maybe up to 3. So if you use this carefully, you shoudn't have problems with duplicated content all over the website

  34. Jane says:

    I am just getting this website, (Administrator edit: link removed) off the ground. It is not my first website, but the first one I've done entirely myself. This article is very helpful, though I don't understand all of it, i.e. taxonomies and meta tags, but hopefully I'm getting there. I noticed this article is over 2 years old. Anything new we should know? What about if using Divi from Elegant Themes. Anything specific to that? Thanks for all the info!!

  35. Neha Gajjar says:

    Good explanation and learn something new today,
    thank you author for sharing your knowledge. :)

  36. Umer says:

    I have a question about tags. I use to add 3 to 4 titles in tags which are related to my post title. They appear in searches and fetch a good traffic. The question is that is it in accordance with guidelines of Google? Or a tag should only be comprised of one or two word phrase. As I am using quite long tags having more than 5 words. Please reply.

  37. Luis Cabrera says:

    Hi… I have some questions here.

    My blog has all tags and categories empty right now.

    I have noticed when checking google seach results page that my competition blogs have hundreds of tags (I think they are all indexed) but no exact content in their blogs. Maybe just a little bit related. So thanks to that they get organic traffic.

    The reason I am here is I want to know if I should copy my competition´s strategy or do the oposite. I even don´t know what would happen if I tag all my posts (350) with the same tag (max two or three).

    Thank you in advanced

    • Nathan says:

      Hi Luis,

      Great question. I advise against tagging all of your posts with the same tag (or category) as that will create a number of pages that show the exact same result as your general blog page. So it won't provide a better experience to a human browsing your articles. Instead try and build collections of your articles around topics.

      In Tom's article he uses the example of a health & fitness website that has a number of articles on the topic of running. Other categories might include:


      Luis, using your example of 350 articles the health & fitness blog would have 350 articles in it's main blog. Then those articles would be split up across the categories. E.g.

      50 Running articles
      100 Food articles
      25 Swimming articles
      + articles across other categories. Some articles may even be in 2 or more categories.

      The categories (or tags) make it easier for a visitor browsing your website to find articles they're interested in.

      When it comes to SEO the key thing to remember and focus on is that the search engines are trying to make the web experience better for humans. So if you make your website experience better for humans then it'll also be better for the search engines.

      I hope that helps answer your question?

      Pen9 Creative

      P.S. What are the 3 categories you're thinking of using for your blog?

  38. I always wondered about how important tags were, and when I though Google Analytics saw the first visitors via keywords that lead to my tags, I knew I had to do something about it.
    Thanks for enlightening me, especially the guidance through the Yoast plugin helped me understand the taxonomies and get a grip on that part :)

  39. Thanks for the info – I really need to get my content better organised and this was really helpful, especially the tips for setting in the SEO plugin. Off to do some editing!

  40. I'm finding the catagories bit hard as I can't find a list anywhere of good broad catagories.

  41. Alix Tate says:

    Very nice information, now can you come to my website and tell me exactly which tags are best for me? haha, I know I must learn and work to participate in the power of the web. Thank you, for the hard work knowledgeable bloggers like you give to us noobie bloogers. Cheers!

  42. Shakeela says:

    Does it affect if we delete categories to SEO purposes?

  43. Hi there –

    I found this super helpful, especially the part on distinguishing categories and tags – thank you!! I feel like I have far too many tags and categories and I really want to clean them up. If I delete a category will it negatively affect post urls?

    Thanks in advance!!

  44. yotam says:

    Great article. I stumbled uppon it while searching how can I keep my tags and categories searched while still prioritizing the original content in search. My problem is that the original content is surprizingly prioritized after tags and categories, while the tags are extremly relevant in bringing quality traffic to the site…

  45. Anuj Sharma says:

    This article just came in search while I was looking for a second opinion on whether to create a new category or manage through tags. I would say worthwhile time spent reading the article. Thanks for the great write-up, Tom.

  46. Yes, I am agree with you TOM that categories and tags are both very important. But before I discover your blog, I already set to non-index of my categories and tags because I read some blog advise that it must be non-index to prevent violation to Google. After that, my traffic generated from search engine was gone. I am very disappointing for that. That is the reason why I challenge to search in the internet about that and I found your very informative blog that decide me to index again the categories and tags. I hope my search engine traffic will come again. Anyway, thank you for the useful blog you share… :=)

  47. Ram says:

    In Many forums I had read that Excessive use of tags or Categories will trigger Google Penalty.

    After reading your post & reference to Google Article, now I can assume that Google Penalty doesn't apply.

    Thank You TOM

  48. sherin says:

    Well this will change my style to optimize using category tags in wp..
    But until know i still confuse to choose the right keywodrs tags inside my post..

  49. Varun Chopra says:

    This is my wordpress site (Administrator edit: link removed). The site is based on sms & messages and m confused that how can i do optimization of this site. I have provided keywords and description and kywords in categories only not doing SEO of posts. Suggest me something after reviewing the site.

  50. Kathy says:

    On our website, we are categorizing and tagging blogs. When our site gets crawled, we are getting duplicate content warnings for this. Any suggestions?

  51. Krista says:

    Please forgive my newbie/no clue how to code question: You say towards the beginning of your post to link to categories in your posts. "you are creating categories and tags that are of use to the reader, so why not link to them? …

    If you’re into running, we recommend that you check out our running section here on the blog." That is exactly what I want to do, but can't figure out how. I am doing a weekly popsicle recipe posting this summer, and I would like to have a sentence on the bottom that says something like "see more popsicle recipes here" that can be linked to the popsicle category (which would hopefully show all the popsicle recipes as excerpts). But I can't figure out how to do this. I also would like to link to the category from an image in my sidebar. Is that possible? Here is a link to a popsicle post on my site: (Administrator edit: link removed) Thanks for any help you can give me, and thanks for the great article.

  52. Kacey says:

    Oh my word thank you! I'm seriously just scratching the surface of how to blog. This has been extremely helpful. I was under the impression that tags and categories were **pretty much?** the same thing. Not so much. :)

  53. indianchica says:

    Wow! One of the most helpful articles I've found on google, to explain the differences between tags and categories! I am a newbie in the blogging world, and still learning my way around. Just 5 posts old and so far I've been wondering if I really must use tags. I liked the hierarchial categories so much that I have only used categories on my posts so far. Your article makes a lot of sense. Now I know when I might like to add some tags too on my posts. Thanks for sharing this information in such a clear way.

  54. Earl says:

    Hi Tom,

    I've searched extensively and cannot find an answer to the following question. I feel that adding a list of categories in our sidebar helps the user find articles and navigate our blog. We currently have 26 categories. Will this practice hurt us from an SEO standpoint? Should we use the old drop down menu instead?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • ansateza says:

      You can use your categories and link to all 26 or even more. It may leak your home page link juice but will improve your category page SEO.

  55. debt debs says:

    Hi Tom

    Good information, I'm going to Pin this post for reference.

    I'd like to get clarification on a couple of things:
    – is this meant for sites as opposed to The reason I ask is because I don't have the “Titles & Metas” settings page in my blog dashboard.
    – regarding title case – do you think that my blog name, therefore header link 1, being in lower case is an issue? It's part of my brand because I thought it sort of looked cooler than with title case due to the juxtaposition of the d's and b's – i.e. debtdebs versus DebtDebs (Although my blog template has the title all in uppercase DEBT DEBS, but I don't think I can change that).

    I've changed my categories and tags as a result of this post. I hope it works well, I don't think I really knew what I was doing before.

    Thanks and cheers

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hi Debs,

      Yes – it is meant for sites.

      Brand always takes preference over spelling and grammar in my opinion 😉



  56. Sean says:

    Can you help me? So for this particular blog post I put nutrition as the category and for the tags I put protein, carbohydrates, post workout. Would you do the same?

    (Administrator edit: link removed)

    Thanks again this article is great! going to read it over a couple times.

  57. Dan says:

    Nice article. Would wonder what you comment might be on the use of SEO features for categories and tags that Yoast SEO affords and what you think it's effect is on SEO. Personally I give all my categories and all my tags SEO titles and descriptions and have noticed a positive impact on SEO.

    • Tom Ewer says:

      I certainly don't think it will do any harm, and a meta description for categories and tags is good for usability (i.e. people will be able to get a better idea, at a glance, how the page can best serve them).

  58. Robb says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for. (…you must have tagged this one just right.) 😉


  59. Kathleen says:

    Morning Tom!

    I think I understood.
    I'd like to progress and develop my blog.
    I am not a geek or a techie, we have to remember that the bulk of people writing blogs are chatting about their latest gourmet dining experience, new baby or knitting patterns.
    Please keep up the good work, but don't forget the poor folk who are not up to speed with geek speak!
    You lost me at 'optimizing taxonomy'!

    Kind regards, and thank you

    • Tom says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Kathleen. There definitely is a wide array of bloggers out there. If you have specific questions about this post I would be happy to answer them! Optimizing taxonomy refers to making a group of terms as functional and effective as possible.



  60. gypsychick says:

    Hello Tom! I've read and printed your terrific article. But I'm a new blogger and basically an idiot so if this question is too dumb, please ignore me. My blog covers a year after losing Mom. As it rolled along, it became fun, wacky and positive as opposed to sort of grief management. After three months I do want to use categories and tags in an effective way. In the simplest form, would my categories all be something like MOM and tags that are the basic subject of each post? Like "Holidays" "Funeral" "Gypsies"? Thank you and again, please ignore me if this is so basic that you're shaking your head.

  61. Good example with Chicken Recipe since we do have that tag to consider and thinking of reducing the amount of tags.

  62. Roy Moses says:

    Good stuff over here!

    I feel now like I have been using tags for no reason and every post has a different tags that just have a relation to what they are about… I am going to cut back on the tags and try to merge them a little bit, thanks!

  63. Roger says:

    I am confused with the "how to" use the categories and tags. But upon reading this post, the only thing that is on my mind now "is not to use tags" for every post that is not closely related to other post's topics.

  64. Kristian says:

    So what category is this article under? Maybe I'm blind.
    I see "You Might Like" but that's not the same as a full list of other articles in the same category as this one 😉

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Don't get me started on our categories and tagging 😉

      This is definitely a case of do as I say but not as I do! We're working on something big here at the blog that will change everything though…

      • Kristian says:

        Sorry, couldn't help my self!
        It's a very good site though and I've recommended it to a couple of friends.

  65. Alonso says:

    Great Post. Very informative. Now I have to go back to 500 post and included tags.fml.

  66. Paul says:

    Great article.. but there is one aspect thats still confusing for me. For example using Moz Analytics for my site..

    is flagged as duplicate for:


    so which should you do?

  67. Andy Saks says:

    Great article, very helpful. I'm still confused about one basic thing: how do I get the tags I have set up to appear on their associated blog pages? I use WordPress and have added tags to a bunch of recent posts, but the tags don't appear on the post pages after it's published.

    Do I have to program code into each individual blog page? Into the WP Editor? Check a box in the WP Admin? Where and how to activate tag visibility?

    I've looked far and wide online and no one explains this, I must be missing something obvious… all help appreciated. Thanks –

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hi Andy,

      That's a theme issue — i.e. your theme isn't set up to show tags. You can change your theme's files manually to include tags but it requires a little PHP fiddling. It's not really within the scope of this article I'm afraid, but if you ask on the forums I'm sure someone will help you out.



  68. Chitraparna says:

    Hi Tom,

    The article is immensely useful.

    My question: does it harm a blog's SEO if I delete any category? Let's I have some posts in A category and I want to shift them to B. Once I do and delete A, will it create any duplication problem, 404 errors or anything else unknown? Please guide.

    BTW, can you please update the screenshots? I see new additions by Yoast on the tabs specified here.

    Thanks a ton.

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Chitraparna,

      So long as all the links update appropriately, there shouldn't be an issue. Google we de-index the now non-existent pages and reindex accordingly.



  69. Anil Saini says:

    I'm new user of WP. Actually i started blogging with Google's blogger platform. And blogger have not such option of category. This really help me to understand deference b/w category and tags. Thank you so much Tom Ewer. :)

  70. John K says:

    Great post Tom. I have blocked tag,category and archive thru yoast seo plugin as i thought it will create duplicate contents in google's eyes. But you have shown the right way to use it.
    Also, the use of 'title template' in tags and category is excellent advice.
    Thank you.

  71. Great article, thank you! I have always used catagories pretty well, but this will certainly help me do an even better job. I needed a better understanding of how catageories and tags differ and now I have that. Thanks again.

  72. why my site is not come in search with diffrent tags…

  73. Danielle says:

    YAY!!! After all these years, A CLEAR, THOUGHT OUT, and WELL WRITTEN article about the importance of tags and categories!!! Plus you integrated the Yoast WordPress Plugin, and showed us how to properly set it up! Thanks, and Happy New Year!

  74. finally an explanation that I can understand. I have not been using tags because I really did not understand exactly what they where for. A lot of other pages I have read on this scare me away with the duplicate content issue. Now I see they can actually be beneficial for me especially with the type of site I have.

    Thank you so much for this article Tom

  75. Reddy Rk says:

    That a very Good Idea, very usefull.. thank's

  76. Daniel says:

    Its really easy to make and i like this configuration, due to help google to find you without over optimization

    Thanks a lot

  77. Lee Wilde says:

    Very useful information, thanks. I really wasn't sure what the difference was between categories and tags before I read this.

  78. Hi,

    I recently submitted a question to the support forum but seems nobody responded it. The original question was posted here:

    Basically I am finding some difficulties to configure the meta descriptions and title for the custom post type page displaying all the custom post type posts.

    I already configured the Titles & Meta -> Post Types -> Title template, Meta description template and Meta keywords template for the custom post type but this is not taking effect for the page (like the archive page (?)) listing all the custom post types.

    Any advice will be strongly appreciated. Thanks.

  79. I have a new WP website and am afraid to click on the Plugin updates? My fear is that something will drastically change my site. Is this a legitimate fear?

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Rossana,

      Not to say that anything won't definitely go wrong, but you shouldn't worry too much. What you *should* do is make sure that you have a backup before you update. That way, if anything does go wrong, you've got something to fall back on.



      • Hi Tom. I was using WordPress SEO By Yoast. I finally could find the way to troubleshoot the issue. Seems we need to fill the Custom Post Type Archives section (need to scroll down to the see this section on this page SEO -> Titles & Metas -> Post Types). I have updated the thread in the support forum.

  80. elvinson says:

    i lost my categories traffic , almost half.. how to gain it back …any tips

  81. Javed says:

    Thanks for the great article. I just set everything accordingly. Hope for more visitors now. Thanks again.

  82. Ooops, I got wrong way in tagging my posts. That's why my posts would not appear in Google SERP. Thanks for the tips, Mate.

  83. forex says:

    now i'm indexing categories and tags again

  84. amj says:

    i am new in this thing, but i have a question, is it important to use tags or keywords the same in my article ?
    tags or keywords should be in the article too ?

  85. Pijush Mitra says:

    You clear my doubts about categories and tags. Thanks 😉

  86. BBrian says:

    "if categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index" … great line, thanks!

  87. TVD says:

    Good article, but there is no mention either here or in the help tab of what any of the taxonomy variables do. What's the output? What's %%term_title%%, etc? I can't find that anywhere. Tons of Google searches, too.

  88. pavelsarker says:

    nice& really so helpful

  89. Joe says:

    This is good stuff, thanks. I got to this post because I just saw in Google Webmaster Tools that I have duplicate title tags for my blog roll. Hopefully I fixed this by clicking no index of subpages of archives. Now, I like what you say about optimizing Categories & Tags. How do I get these codes that you place in the title template? I have no idea what that stuff means, or where to find it, or how to write it.

  90. Skip says:

    Really great read and it gives me a lot of confidence that I'm roughly doing things right. I'm thinking about installing a plugin that auto-links words within a post to tag archives if the 2 are the same. The nature of my site means this may be useful because my tags are normally iPhone apps and so inappropriate linking is unlikely. This article gives me more confidence that this could be a good idea. Thank you!

  91. Great post! I will stop using too many tags LOL!

  92. BH says:

    You say that categories are like the table of content and tags are like the index. Does that mean you would advocate having identical keywords and tags.

    For example, if you had a marathon and a shoe category. Could you categorize a post in Marathon and then tag "shoe" as well because it's mainly about marathon but has a bit about shoes as well?

  93. info says:

    I'm currently using the SEOPressor plugin. Will adding the SEO By Yoast plugin effect anything? Thank you for this article

  94. Clear and easy to understand. Thanks for the helpful article!

  95. sureyea says:

    Hi Tom really great post. one question do i need to un-check meta robots box for category and tags in Yoast SEO.

    Usually i use two categories and several tags for a single post. If i don't check it looks like duplicate content within my websites is that true.

  96. Willem-Siebe says:

    Sorry, me again. Let's say I do have my:

    1) main blog page;
    2) single author archive page.

    Both identical content. You are right that this won't cause a penalty, the article you mention (from Google!) is telling us:

    they're talking about things like having multiple URLs on the same domain that point to the same content
    Having this type of duplicate content on your site can potentially affect your site's performance, but it doesn't cause penalties.

    But, on the page about 'duplicate content' (see it looks like they are telling a different story. The story that you won't get penalized stays the same, but they do list some options to prevent it: better prevent it than let Google decide right ;-).

    On this point I do have a question, because they mention:

    Understand your content management system: Make sure you're familiar with how content is displayed on your web site. Blogs, forums, and related systems often show the same content in multiple formats. For example, a blog entry may appear on the home page of a blog, in an archive page, and in a page of other entries with the same label.

    Do you understand this? We both know that a category page and a homepage of a blog are usefull for the user, and should be indexed by Google… so totally normal that an individual blogpost (excerpt or full) is available on those pages. So why do they mention this. Besides that, 'knowing how your CMS works' isn't really an advice they are giving how to handle the situation they are describing.

    I'm really curious what your answer is to this ;-).

    Kind regards,


  97. Willem-Siebe says:

    Hi, you say about duplicate content:

    There is in reality just one valid reason why you might choose to noindex taxonomy/archive pages — when the pages are of no use to searchers (e.g. date based archives). If a page is of potential use to a searcher, it should be included within the index.

    But if a page has no value of a user: with the noindex you only prevent that the page shows up in Google SERP's. The page still excist, people can view it and people can link to it…

    Let's take a one-author blog as an example, this has a link to the author archive, this is the same content as the main blog page.

    When I follow your advice to noindex this, this maybe solves the problem that it is not showing on Google SERP's, but people can still view this page of no value AND people can still link to it.

    That you mention noindex when discussing duplicate content, is not clear to me. A better choice to prevent duplicate issues would be a 301 redirect…

    Do you agree?

    Kind regards,


  98. BrandNewTip says:

    btw how many tags per post should I use on my website?
    Too many is not good for doing seo, is it?
    thanks for instruction with seo yoast

  99. jamoroki says:

    I am trying to open the zipped download of SEO by Yoast. Anyone know how?

  100. manu says:

    Thanks a lot for this tutorial. Is it ok If I am using the following logic?

    • manu says:

      Sorry, the code was stripped out. Here it is

      if(is_single() || is_page()) {
      [meta name="googlebot" content="index,noarchive,follow,noodp"]
      [meta name="robots" content="all,index,follow"]
      } else {
      [meta name="googlebot" content="index,noarchive,follow,noodp"]
      [meta name="robots" content="all,index,follow"]

  101. Yogesh says:

    Hello Tom
    I was totally confused between tags and categories but you article answer all my question.Its really a great article with lot of knowledge.Between i want to know how much tags should we use for a each post to index it well.
    ALso i have seen many website using more than 25+ tags for every post . . whats the reason behind that ??? Is it Black Head Technique !
    Thanxx in advance :)

  102. Hello and thanks for this great info.
    I am not understanding how to set title templates in the taxonomies.
    Do I just put in the title or do I put the words in between the %s?
    I am confused on this part completely. Thanks

  103. Alison says:

    Golden! You explained this topic exceptionally well and have truly clarified this topic for me. Thanks so much and I look forward to coming back!!


  104. Shahnawaz says:

    Dear Tom Ewer; I want to thank you very much, this great for me and my website, It is not best but too much batter way to increase traffic. tags and categories are the most important to getting more traffic.
    Thank you very much because I am finding to sol this problems from 2 months. Now I am feeling relax.

  105. Paul Sarwana says:

    Thank you for the post, Tom. This is by far the best web page that explains about how to use category and tag. Before reading this I thought category and tag are like keywords. You show me that that is not the case.

  106. serenamariani says:

    Hi Tom,
    thanks for this useful article- as a rookie, I was doing the haphazardly tagging thing (although not to the point of choco-goodness ;). My bad! I am doing a bit of an SEO cleanup and have been told to streamline my tags and get rid of the underused/silly ones. Problem is, if I simple delete them from the WP dashboard "Tags" menu, I am left with lots of 404s in my sitemap for links of the type

    Do you know of a way to avoid this and actually get rid of those pesky tags? Thanks a lot

  107. says:

    Okay, so I always pretty much used tags. And yes, when I look at my analytics it seems like there is indeed higher engagement.

    What I really wonder about, is about the tag cloud. Is it useful to put it somewhere on your page?

  108. Haku says:

    So, I want to try and be sure on this. If I am using this plugin (Simple Tags) to automatically link to a tag's page when I use it in my post, I won't be penalized for having, say, 15+ tags that get used in this manner? I'm talking about tags that refer to a Genre/Language etd, etc.

    For example:
    Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-fi
    Language: English

    And of course many more things could be used like that. I have an upcoming blog focusing on things like TV shows, books, and short stories (and more) so I don't want to hurt myself by auto linking.

    But this means that every post done in this manner will have quite a few links going back to tag pages (1 link per tag per post at most)

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Haku

      As long as you are tagging conscientiously it sounds to me that these links would provide value to the end user. I see no reason why Google would penalise you for that.



  109. Jack says:

    first i really appreciate your information, but i am really confused now, just built a site through wordpress, and do a lot of search online about whether it is good to index tag and category page, but got different answers, not a SEO guru ,so i kind of made a disicion just out of my feelings, got to say that it is tough when it comes to SEO, anyway i love ur blog, pretty sure i will come back on a regular basis. nice job

  110. Tim Brownson says:

    Hi Tom, only just found this site when searching for "should you use tags in wordpress or does google see it as duplicate content".

    My SEO guy has done an astounding job getting me back on the front page of Google for the term 'Life Coach' after my previous company had almost got me de-indexed for black hat tactics.

    He ran some SEO tool, the name of which escapes me now, and after a week pulled up a great long report basically saying I was knee deep in duplicate content.

    I didn't have any real duplicate content, i.e. intentionally and about 900 posts so I was confused. Anyway to cut a long story short it seemed that WordPress was generating a unique URL for every tag and ever time I published in more than one category.

    I spent a couple of days stripping them all out and after I did watched the site climb back up the rankings again. I can always tell when I hit the front page because it's like night and day in terms of cold inquires coming in.

    So anyway, I'm totally confused now. What you're saying makes sense and it never really made any to me that Google would slap me for using such a staple of blogging. On the flip side I trust my guy (he's done SEO for some huge corporations and helps me as a favor as much as anything) and since we did that a couple of months ago I have seen an improvement that I cannot put down to anything else because I haven't changed anything else.

    I know I'm late to the party here, but any feedback would be appreciated. Could it be my theme that is quirky and confusing Google, I use Atahualpa?

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Tim,

      The first thing I would say is that if something has worked for you, rely on your own personal experience!

      Having said that, I am adamant that using tags responsibly and having them indexed by Google should have no adverse impact on your rankings. There could be a thousands reasons why Google was unhappy with your site and correlation does of course not necessarily lead to causation.



  111. manik says:


    Do I need to display the tag under post? or if i will hide them from visitors by not displaying then will search engine find these tags link?

  112. Raj says:

    Excellent information about categories and tags,this useful info. clear my all confusion about how to use this two categories and tags perfectly in my wordpress blog.

  113. Great post! Thanks m8!

  114. Mark says:

    Thanks Tom,

    Excellent post. There's so much conflicting advice on this issue but I'm sure you're right.

    I was a chronic over tagger and I have recently no indexed and no followed all my tags one one of my sites.

    My rankings for my posts themselves do seem to have improved but my traffic levels have crashed as my tags were generating lots of traffic.

    I've also carried out a review of exactly which tags were generating the traffic and I'm going to 'switch those back on' but also just stick with a user focused tag set.

    I was wondering, if do index but no follow makes more sense in terms of retaining link juice to the main pages, or are you then just penalizing the tag pages instead of the posts?

    ALSO I REALLY like the theme on this site. Is it available anywhere?

    Thanks again.


  115. RB says:

    Tom – Very insightful! Opinions vary on tag/categ indexation but I agree with reasoning here.

    Do have a question. Currently, in Yoast, I have” title template” for tag + categ are populated with (%%term_title%% Archives %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%), while “meta description template” is (%%category_description%%) and (%%tag_description%%) respectively. I should point out that it’s a new blog with no real content just yet and my goal is to have elements set up correctly for smooth sailing. That said, as categories and tags get added, do I need to be filling out their descriptions so that yoast’s “description templates” pull thatt info? What is the benefit of naming categories? Lastly, if I don’t name and with my current set up, what would a search result end up looking like (what will meta be?)

    Thanks in advance!

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hi RB,

      Creating meta descriptions for your taxonomies certainly isn't necessary (I don't do it) but it won't do you any harm.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "naming categories."



      • RB says:

        Thanks Tom! I won't bother with meta descriptions for taxonomies then.

        What I meant by "naming categories" is entering a "Description" for them when created, otherwise (%%category_description%%) wouldn't pull any info.

        Would you know how the "meta description" in a search result of a category appear if no description is entered? I imagine it would pull the first blog entry associated with that category? Using your example:

        Running – Health & Fitness blog
        (Administrator edit: link removed)
        April 13, 1013 – ????????

        • Tom Ewer says:

          Hi RB,

          Google pulls what it deems to be relevant content from the site and displays it in the meta description. It won't necessarily just be the text at the top of the page.



  116. Lasse L says:

    Thanks Tom,

    A great article, which gave me some answers I've been searching for a long time! I'm using SEO by Yoast, but your explanation are the best i read untill now, thanks again!

    I use some tags on my site, but have been very confused regarding the question about duplicate content, but can understand there's no need to worry. The article from Google, which you are refering to, are dated in 2008. Does the recent Panda updates changed anything regarding this?

    BR from a SEO newbie. :-)

  117. Nathaniell says:

    Thanks for this post. I have always, and accidentally used way to many tags. With all these recent Google updates, I'm really trying to do as you said, "less is more" type blogging.

    BTW, for anyone who is doubting this strategy, it must be working because I constantly run into ManageWP's blog in Google looking for stuff. I'm also a member of the service, and think it's great that ManageWP practices what they preach.

    Thanks guys.

  118. Cam says:


    I was wondering why a post should be in no more than one or two categories?

  119. Joshua says:

    Thanks Tom! It's funny how long I've gone not really paying that close attention to the differentiation between tags and categories. Great article.

  120. Nick Graff says:

    Thank you Tom! That was more than I expected. I never thought of linking to my categories or tags. I will use that. Thanks!

  121. Ranvir Singh says:


    I have a newbie question here:

    Do categories and tag metas need to be visually displayed via blog posts for search engines to sniff out? I purposely hide my category metas on blog posts and only display tag metas to keep the posts nice and clean.

    Does this mean I have unlikely chance of search engine robots not picking up my content or can search engines still see the meta tags and categories behind the scene?

    I hope this question makes sense.

    Thanks in advance, this post was awesome.


  122. Nina says:

    I was tagging my posts but I didn't have much of a clue what these were actually for until I read this article. I really appreciate that you've given some real gems of information here: the Yoast settings and interlinking to the category and tag pages. This really makes a lot of sense. Thanks!!

  123. Deny says:

    I use All in one seo and i customized my tag name and slug for seo propose and i get excellent result!

  124. mahadzira says:

    Tq for the tips. Before this i was crazy on linking and tagging. Your advice on tagggin and yoast plugin sure help me much..tq admin

  125. Great post Tom. I used to probably over tag a bit, but I pulled back on that. I even find that many tags out rank the posts in search engines. ;P

  126. Joao Rostli says:

    "category pages with introductory text" and "resource pages" ?
    What about a post about this? Very interesting stuff.
    My website (Administrator edit: link removed) needs a lot of your tips.

  127. Keith Davis says:

    Enjoyed reading this one Tom – flowed very easilly.
    Categories and tags have always baffled me.
    I use categories, but have never used tags.

    Mike Schinkel in his comment above said:
    "I’ve been explaining these same ideas to people for years but I gotta say I’ve never heard it explained more clearly and concisely than this"

    And I have to agree with that.

    Thanks for posting this one.

  128. Scott says:

    Thanks for this post it will help a lot, my blog is almost 4 years old and my tags and categories are a complete mess

  129. I've been explaining these same ideas to people for years but I gotta say I've never heard it explained more clearly and concisely than this: "If categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index." Kudos!

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Mike,

      Thanks, but I can't take credit for that way of explaining it — I read it first over at Lorelle on WordPress :)



  130. Wow, i found this site because of an entry in facebook. Fantastic, i will try this.

  131. For a Small WordPress site it's good..but for a larger WordPress blog I recommend to keep categories and tags as noindex but dofollow and use resource pages rather.Which will have better conversion….
    An example link:

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Care to share the reasoning behind your opinion Harsh?

      P.S. That link is broken.

      • Tom
        For many reasons:

        1) When we try to tank categories and tags…. They keep changing…I mean pages.. So there will be Keyword dance depending upon Keyword density and other on Page factors..Even generating backlinks to categories and tags pages won't be that easy..

        2) When we have resource pages:
        We control the content and instead of showing all the content from a particular category…We can only link to best of content from particular tag/category…. We can also control the ON page SEO…And since it's a valuable resource page…It's more likable to get natural backlinks and even you can easily get backlinks for such pages by guest posting or pitching it to others….

        One easy way to make most out of:
        Create a resource list page.. For example, 101 ways to manage WordPress site..
        You can have ratio of 50:50 where first 50 links are from your site and rest 50 are the best of link from web… This way you will get benefit of outbound link SEO…

        Do let me know if you still see that link as broken.. What message you getting?
        404 not found or something else??

        • Tom Ewer says:

          Hi Harsh,

          You've made some great points. I also like resource pages, but I don't necessarily think it's an either/or situation. For instance, I quite like category pages with introductory text, which I suppose is a sort of hybrid of the two. Also, resource pages require ongoing upkeep, whilst category pages are updated automatically (with fresh content, which Google loves).

          The page is working now :)



        • Aniruddha says:

          Hie Harsh,

          I am really happy to see your comment and getting idea over resource list page. So you are using category and tag along with resouce list pages or just resource list pages ?

    • Vaidas says:

      Hello Harsh and Tom,
      can you please explain in more details what do you call the resource pages? Is it the page which is filtered by the category and tag together? Is it possible somehow to make google indexing such pages? Maybe there is a way to write meta titles, descriptions and keywords for such pages?

      Thanks in advance..!

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