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Categories vs Tags – SEO Best Practices for Sorting Your Content

Readers often ask us what is better for SEO: categories or tags?

You might not be sure what WordPress categories and tags actually are and how they are different. Knowing this can help you use them correctly.

In this article, we will explain the differences between categories vs tags for organizing your content and how they can impact SEO rankings.

Using categories and tags for sorting content in WordPress

Here’s what we will cover in this tutorial. You can use the links below to jump to the section you are interested in:

What’s the Difference Between Categories and Tags?

Categories and tags are both WordPress taxonomies. They are used to group your posts together in different ways.

Categories are meant to broadly group your posts. Think of these as general topics or the table of contents for your WordPress site. Categories are hierarchical, which means you can create subcategories.

On the other hand, tags are meant to describe specific details of your posts. Think of these as your site’s index words. They let you micro-categorize your content. Tags are not hierarchical.

For example, this blog post on WPBeginner is in our category ‘Beginners Guide’. You can see all the posts in this category by going to Blog » Beginners Guide in our navigation menu.

This post also has the following tags: categories, categories vs tags, custom taxonomy, SEO, SEO best practices, sorting your content, and tags.

You won’t see these tags displayed anywhere in the article. However, they do help users find this article in relevant searches on our blog.

One of the biggest differences between tags and categories is that all WordPress posts must be filed under a category, but they don’t need to have tags.

If you don’t give your post a category, then WordPress will automatically assign it to the default category. This is called ‘Uncategorized’, but it’s often helpful to rename the Uncategorized category to something like ‘Other’ or ‘Miscellaneous’.

Note: By default, only blog posts have categories and tags in WordPress. However, you can add categories and tags to your WordPress pages using a plugin.

How Can You Add Categories and Tags in WordPress?

You can add categories and tags in WordPress when creating or editing a post. You will find them on the right-hand side under the ‘Post settings.

Adding categories and tags when creating a post

You can also go to Posts » Categories and Posts » Tags to add new categories and tags.

For more about the process of adding categories and tags, check out our explanations of What is a category? and What is a tag? for help and guidance.

How Many WordPress Categories Should You Have?

There’s no specific number of categories that you should have. In most cases, you will want somewhere between 5 and 10 in order to properly categorize your posts and make your site easy to browse.

Categories are meant to encompass a large group of posts. You can use subcategories and tags to split your posts into smaller groups.

If you are just starting a blog, then don’t worry about trying to come up with a perfect list of categories. Just choose 3-5 broad categories and add more as time goes by.

Do You Have to Use Subcategories in WordPress?

You don’t have to use subcategories, and many large blogs (including WPBeginner) don’t. However, subcategories are helpful if you have a large category with a lot of posts that could be grouped into smaller sections.

For example, you might have a ‘Recipes’ category that contains a growing number of gluten-free recipes.

Posts in the category 'Recipes'

You can put these posts into their own subcategory so that it’s easy for readers to find them. You create a new child category for ‘Recipes’ called ‘Gluten-Free’ and move these posts into that category.

Using Categories in Your Post URLs

Some sites use the category name in permalinks (post URLs), which you can set up under Settings » Permalinks.

Including your posts' categories in your URLs

If that’s the case on your site, then your post will initially have a URL something like this:

After moving the post to a child category, it will have a new URL:

Normally, WordPress will try to redirect the old URL to the new one. It’s definitely worth checking that your links are still working. If necessary, you can create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one.

Another option is to keep the post in the parent category and also assign it to the child category, but this can have drawbacks.

Although the WPBeginner website has categories in the URL, we always recommend users use a shorter URL structure that only contains ‘Post name’. This will give you maximum flexibility to reorganize content without worrying about setting up redirects.

All of our new websites use the modern ‘Post name’ URL structure. WPBeginner is over 10 years old, so it has a legacy URL structure. Changing the URL structure is not recommended for SEO, which is why we have stuck with it.

Can I Assign One Post to Multiple Categories?

WordPress lets you put a post into multiple categories. This could be several parent categories or a parent category plus a subcategory or subcategories.

Having multiple categories won’t benefit your SEO. You should only assign posts to multiple categories if it makes the most sense for your readers.

It’s possible that having your post in multiple categories could cause some SEO issues due to duplicate content.

If you do use multiple categories, then try to avoid putting one post into two or more main (parent) categories. Each post should fit within one main category.

Is There a Limit to How Many Tags a Post Can Have?

WordPress itself doesn’t have any limit on the number of tags you can have on each post. You could potentially assign 1,000 or more tags to a post!

However, we definitely don’t recommend that.

The purpose of tags is to help link related posts together. Think of them as an index section in a book. Each tag is like a keyword in the index.

Tags are helpful for users searching your site. Some plugins that display related posts use tags to help them figure out which posts’ topics are related.

We suggest that you normally stick to 10 tags maximum per post.

Categories vs Tags: What’s Better for SEO?

Are there any WordPress SEO advantages of using categories over tags or vice versa?

The short answer is No.

Categories and tags both have different purposes. You have to use categories, but you don’t have to use tags if you don’t want to. However, we recommend using both appropriately to help readers navigate your site.

Ultimately, you should design your site with users in mind. All search engines want to show users the content that’ll be the most useful to them.

This means that organizing your content for the best usability will also help you get better SEO rankings.

Can You Control How Categories and Tags Look in Search Results?

You can customize the way your categories and tags appear on search engine results pages by using All in One SEO (AIOSEO), the best WordPress SEO plugin on the market.

First, install and activate either the All in One SEO Premium or AIOSEO free plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you must navigate to All in One SEO » Search Appearance and click the ‘Taxonomies’ tab to configure the search appearance for categories and tags.

All in One SEO Taxonomies Settings

The default settings will work for most websites, but you can customize them in many ways.

For example, some users prefer to stop search engines from indexing their category and tag archive listings. This can help prevent duplicate content issues and encourages search engines to prioritize your actual posts and pages.

In the Categories section, simply switch the ‘Show in Search’ option to ‘No’.

AIOSEO Search Appearance for Categories

Next, you should scroll down to the Tags section and do the same thing.

Make sure you click the ‘Save Changes’ button at the top or bottom of the page to store your settings. Search engines will no longer index your category and tag archive pages.

AIOSEO Search Appearance for Tags

We hope that this article helped you understand categories vs tags and the SEO best practices for sorting your content. You may also like our guide on how to track WordPress category and tag analytics and our expert picks for the best keyword research tools for SEO.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. See how WPBeginner is funded, why it matters, and how you can support us.

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Reader Interactions

339 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Excellent article! I love how you explained these two abstract terms in simple languages along with relatable examples.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. I have a parent category “Jewellery”, which has a sub category “Earrings”. Many of my products are earrings, so they are listed in the Earrings Category. I have tagged them all with “earrings”. Is this OK, or should I avoid doing that? I have optimised the Earrings Category in SEO, but not sure what to do with the orphaned tags for “earrings”, “blue”, “crystal”, “sapphire”, etc.

  3. What I’m curious about is if a URL has the parent category/subcategory/post structure if the parent has no content in it, but it simply used to create a primary category is BAD for SEO? I’m setting up a bunch of tutorials but want all sub cats to be under “Documents” as the parent, then all sub cats will have the posts.

  4. I have 2 queries on SEO impact

    1. if i have one post under 2 categories , is that duplicate content?
    2. can one use many tags in one post and use the same tags on another post?

    Kind Regards

    • If you have a post under two categories, it would normally be better to look at if you can make the post fit under a single category or reorganize your categories if it is a consistent issue.

      The same tags can be used on different posts.


  5. So if I understand it correctly I can delete any category and redirect those categories to other categories, right?

  6. Hi, what should I do, if I have too many categories that I don’t use? What should I do? Should I delete and redirect them to other categories?

    • If you are not using categories and have no plans to it would normally be best to create those redirects and remove your unused categories. If you have not added any posts to those categories then there likely isn’t any post that needs to be redirected.


  7. HI,
    In a single post, only one category, is that right?

    Because I do use more than one category in each of my post. What would be the problem with this?

    • It is not bad in general but if you are only adding a post to categories trying to improve SEO, then it would be bad for your SEO.


  8. But do I HAVE to use categories or can I just use pages? For example, I want to create a dessert website. If I have the button Recipes in my menu and then under that I have Basic recipes for example, can this just be a page and from there I link to different posts? or does it have to be a category from which I link to the different recipe posts?

    • You would not need the category in the short term but the more recipes you add, the harder it would be to keep all of them in your menu. By adding the posts to a category, you can add the category to your menu for WordPress to create the list of posts for you.


  9. Hi, I noticed that each category and tag automatically gets it’s own page. Most independent SEO tools/audits tell me these pages are not optimized well because of low word count, etc. – but is this really an issue? From a user perspective, I don’t want random text cluttering up my site just to meet a word count. How do search engines take this into account? Is it fine not to include any tag/category description? Would it be bad to ask search engines not to index my tag pages? I don’t really understand these pages, as it seems like user experience and SEO are at odds on this issue…

    • Those tools normally see all pages as content pages, you shouldn’t need to worry about the category and tag pages even if the tools don’t read them properly.


  10. Hi,

    Your articles and videos have always been of immense help.

    One question…

    You recommended 5 – 10 max categories in your expert opinion.

    Is there also a recommended limit for subcategories or as much as is necessary?

    • Glad our articles have been helpful, we would recommend limiting subcategories as well unless you are sending out a massive amount of content.


    • It is not necessary and can sometimes be helpful for SEO should a user find the tag in a search result for your site.


  11. Hello,

    Great Post, I have one question.

    Can I Post Same article on 2 Category.

    Thank you.

    • If you wanted to you certainly could but if that becomes common you may want to think about restructuring your categories.


  12. I have a question. In my word press “add new post” page there is no category table. What to do?

    • You would want to check in the screen options in the top-right of the page to ensure that section was not hidden. For the block editor, you would want to ensure you are looking at the document settings


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