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Categories and tags for blogs

I ask myself often how should I use categories and tags for blog posts. Let’s find the characteristics and differences between them.

Categories and tags sort the content

Categories are few, tags are many. Categories are somehow more important than tags. Tags can contain few posts whereas categories have big groups of them.

One way to think about categories is they are generic, whereas the tags are specific. For tech blogs, it can be technologies such as React, Svelte or Vue for UI frameworks all under a programming or UI category.

Tags are more versatile and flexible than categories. They change more often. Categories can be use to provide “guidelines” for the blogs, where tags deep dive into the category. A category is somewhat vertical, whereas tags are horizontal. A post fit in a category, but a post is related to one or many tags.

I’m starting to go round in circles with the examples. It’s time to look at other possibilities.

Linking content in multiple ways

From the post perspective, a post has always one category and 0 to many tags. The last phrase is definitely a db relationship one. A tag can precise a post inside a category, or it can links many posts of different categories. For example, WeblogPoMo links posts across categories.

Tags are not related specifically to the main content. The WeblogPoMo tag aim to group posts together that… can have indeed unrelated content. This one tag links the three A list of companies I would work for, A first minimal project in Rust or After collecting 276 anti-waste baskets together. Their content does not relates to each other though.

With this reasoning, the category helps you discover similar content, unlike the tag, which links completely arbitrary posts together.

Different audiences

Categories are a way to target specific audiences. A “company” category will only drive interest of a specific audience. So a category can be intended for a part of the readers. Tags, on the other hand, can be intended for everyone. Both tech and wood hobbyist can share the same interest of a 3D sculpture in wood and a such a blog post can have both tags “wood” and “3D printing”. The “interested in wood” would not go for the “digital” category though and the tech savvy does not search after the “nature” category one. Both have different interests.

If we take the examples that spring to mind, the relationship between categories and tags is complementary. When a category does one thing, the tags complete it. When a tag does something else, the category completes it. That’s what’s on my mind today.