Blog SEO: add categories to your blog!

Blog SEO: add categories to your blog!

September 08th, 2015 – 27 Comments

If you write an amazing blog post, you’d like it to help in the ranking of your site, right? If you create awesome content, you’d like people to read it now and be able to find it and read it later. Also, you want new visitors on your site to read some of your older blog posts, right? You want to convert them to loyal readers of your blog. Why are older posts on blogs almost always hidden away in some kind of archive?

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Your content is created with much effort and care. It doesn’t have to be thrown away after just one read from your audience. It should stay alive at your site, be read by new visitors and re-read by your most loyal visitors. At the same time, it should help your blog rank in Google. In this post, I will tell you about the importance of categories on your blog for both usability reasons and SEO.

No categories

Most blogging sites seem to be creating content and then putting it away, making it hard or nearly impossible for new visitors to find your content. Posts seem to be written just to be read only once. There are no categories, no tags, no linking from one post to the other. For a new visitor on such a site, who wants to browse a bit, it is only possible to scroll through the archives.

We are currently doing research for a new eBook called SEO for WordPress. For that purpose, I looked at a lot of blogs last week. Mom blogs, food blogs, blogs about blogging. And they all seem to make the same mistake. A quick check with my colleagues from the site review team confirmed my ideas: lots of blogs don’t have any categories of the topics they blog about.

I found a few mom blogs I really liked. One of the blogging moms had a child with special needs. Some of her posts were about this kid, others were not. The only way I could find the posts about that special child was to scroll through the archives and guess (based on the title of the post) whether or not it was a post I was interested in. It annoyed me quite a bit. Why wasn’t there any structure?

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO Info

Of course, every blog should create new content on a very regular basis. That’s a given. But that doesn’t mean your old(er) content is worthless. This very post will be read by our audience now, but will be just as useful for new audiences. Also, people might remember this post and talk about it with their friends. Therefore people should be able to find older posts on your blog rather quickly.

Blog categories because of usability

Make sure people can easily navigate through your blog. You need clear, easy to find category pages of the topics you blog about most. New audiences will instantly grasp what your blog is about and will be able to find posts on a specific topic easily. Your own audience will be able to re-read older content if they would like to do so. Take a look at the way Sugarrae has made blog categories. That’s the way to do it!

Blog categories because of SEO

Adding categories and structure to your blog also benefits SEO. If you are blogging, you are probably addressing similar topics in different posts. Perhaps you are optimizing (unknowingly) for the same keywords. This means you’re actually competing with your own content for the ranking in Google. That’s not good! If you create category pages and link your posts on similar topics to that category, it will allow that category page to rank higher in Google. Read about it in one of our older posts about the importance of category pages for SEO, or in our eBook about Content SEO.

Make your blog content last!

If you write amazing content, make sure it lasts. Add categories to your blog posts. And make sure these blog categories are easy to find on your site. Add tags for smaller topics. Link to related posts and give your audience suggestions where on your blog they can read more about a specific topic. All these things make your blog much more usable for your audience. And, on top of that, all these things make your blog rank higher in search engines.

Read more: make people stay and read your post! »


27 Responses to Blog SEO: add categories to your blog!

  1. Blue Synergy Media
    By Blue Synergy Media on 22 September, 2015

    Even though it’s 100% true, it’s hard to believe people don’t add categories to their blogs. Doing it makes your blog easier to use in every sense.

  2. Guillermo Bas
    By Guillermo Bas on 16 September, 2015

    Hi There,

    Thanks for the info. I have bought your books but it is always interesting reading your posts. However, I believe that your examples are too much oriented to service providers (pure bloggers) and not to food providers like myself so some examples look difficult to implement into my business (fresh oranges).

    Thanks a lot,

  3. Blogger Templates addict
    By Blogger Templates addict on 14 September, 2015

    Hey Marieke, Using categorize is useful. It also helps our readers to find some specific kind of articles which are categorized into a relevant category. Moreover, it helps search engines to specify that which article is related to which keyword. Thanks for the post.

  4. Chris
    By Chris on 12 September, 2015

    How should blog posts be handled if they are simply announcing a current special, sale or something else that will expire and not be relevant the next month. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Sareeka Gupta
    By Sareeka Gupta on 11 September, 2015

    I always use categories and i used only one category for a post. Whats your opinion on tags. Should we use tags and if yes then how many tags should we use for a post and should we submit tags sitemap to search engines.

  6. rahul
    By rahul on 10 September, 2015

    well i always post articles with categories…..

  7. Sergey Steklov
    By Sergey Steklov on 10 September, 2015

    Joost de Valkon, Yoast plug-in SEO can add an option to remove (delete) the prefix/tag/for tags (labels). Very necessary! For the categories function in the plugin SEO Yoast and for labels (tags) its not.

  8. Jasa Seo
    By Jasa Seo on 10 September, 2015

    agree with this discussion because by giving the category will feature some of the group so it will be easy for visitors

  9. SMMTIPS
    By SMMTIPS on 10 September, 2015

    Marieke, I really this post and I usually try to maximize the effectiveness of my site categories.

    However, would you mind share some insight about “tags,” like what can be effective way to use both of them together in a post.

    And do you guys ever aim to rank for a keyword using category page? I did some experiment and i think that rank a keyword using post is much more effective?

  10. David Straus
    By David Straus on 10 September, 2015

    I like to use tags and categories but not both at the same time unless I do a nofollow on them with your WordPress SEO plugin. Good post though, good luck on your new Blog SEO book, will be really helpful a lot of aspiring bloggers.

  11. Suzanne
    By Suzanne on 9 September, 2015

    SO Helpful! Thanks for posting!

  12. Robert Giacomelli
    By Robert Giacomelli on 9 September, 2015

    Great piece of information i would say. Would surely follow your mentioned points. I mostly use categories for the blog and it is quite useful.

  13. Mark King
    By Mark King on 9 September, 2015

    I’m not convinced Yoast handles categories in its templating system correctly. There seems to be a lot of issues reported with anything other than the default settings forcing the titles to be too long for Google. Shame as categories make useful title inserts.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 9 September, 2015

      This is not a post about our plugin, if you have something to say about our plugin, it might be wise to use a channel that’s more appropriate where we can actually deal with it, like its GitHub issues page.

  14. Aaron Olson
    By Aaron Olson on 9 September, 2015

    It appears that you’re using tags, not categories for this post, right?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 9 September, 2015

      We use both, you can see the tags underneath the content, the category is only in the breadcrumb. One of the goals of our upcoming redesign is to make them more clear and accessible. We’re actually doing some cleaning in the actual categorizing and tagging ourselves at the moment too as this is something that, especially on blogs that are older, tends to become… An issue.

      • Dan
        By Dan on 11 September, 2015

        For the breadcrumb, what if the post belongs to two categories? You could pass the category in the post url but for yoast that would mean changing the permalink structure.

        Probably not a good idea?

  15. Matt
    By Matt on 8 September, 2015

    This is about as contradictory as you could get compared to your other wordpress seo advice… Not too many categories, keep them generic so they don’t compete with your “pages” and hardly any tags (plus noindex).

    You have post after post that touts publishing your top tier content on pages, and all related posts for that topic, link to the relevant page you want to rank.

    Now you’re saying to add categories so they rank as well? I don’t get it… that’s no different than having tag pages all along, that you’ve been recommending NOT TO USE for years.

    Furthermore, in your seo book I bought, it’s made very clear that you recommend using pages without comments instead of posts or categories, so that, A) the keyword density doesn’t change, and B) the content stays mostly static except for updates… mostly for the same reason.

    Please do explain further, because this doesn’t make any sense compared to previous advice.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 9 September, 2015

      Hey Matt,

      I think you misunderstood what we said here. We’re not saying you should have tons of categories. We also didn’t say you should “hardly” use tags, we said you should make sure your tags make sense. If you have thousands of posts, having a couple hundred tags might make sense.

      There are several lines of thinking you can have for structuring content, if you’re on a blog, using categories and tags makes the most sense. The issue Marieke is addressing here is that when you don’t want to read in a reverse chronological order, lots of blogs make it very hard for you to find content that is related because either they categorize and tag poorly, and/or they hide those taxonomies from sight.

      Regarding your remark on pages without comments and keyword density: that thinking is still true, but not every post deserves all that work. This is much about people wanting to browse your content and making that easy as it is about SEO.

      • Matt
        By Matt on 9 September, 2015

        Okay, still trying to wrap my head around the details here. I reread my first comment and my attitude could handle some adjusting as well… Sorry, just looking to clarify, not attack you guys. (I love your plugins, just want to be sure I’m using them correctly, and not giving other people bad advice!)

        I should’ve posted an example site structure or something, to make sure we’re talking about the same things. I apologize for not doing that to begin with.

        Lets say we have a pet blog about dogs. (totally fictional)

        Our brand name (url) is happypaws.com, and we want to cover common ailments, training, canine health, and so on. We want to sell a dog training ebook we create, and recommend affiliate supplements that we use ourselves in blog posts.

        Focus keywords for top tier content to sell our books (“pages”):
        – Dog Training Tips ( The Top 3 Daily Habits To Having An Obedient Dog In 2 Months Or Less)
        – Puppy Training ( Potty Train Your Puppy Without A Crate – – Even Works In Apartment Buildings!)

        Now of course we’re going to have a lot of posts covering the ins and outs of dog training and potty training, but following the normal recommended on-site advice, we do not want to have categories named Dog Training Tips and Puppy Training. (if I understand the point correctly, we want to reserve these keyword permalinks for pages not categories, otherwise these would then be fighting for positioning with our “pages” where we have the most control over things like static content, keyword density, and so on)

        An idea to use tags to segregate content based on tips that apply only to different dog owners based on training type, housing, training style would be:

        – Apartment Dog Training
        – Crate Training
        – Leash Training
        – Video Training

        Content Categories:
        – Canine Health
        – Common Ailments
        – Dog Food
        – Dog Supplements
        – Dog Toys
        – Exercise
        – Flea Control
        – Grooming

        So what would be the best way to go about labeling these subsequent categories and tags for no future interference?

        And how do you make sure your posts about topics relevant to your target money keywords (your pages with optimized urls for that keyword also) don’t dilute the areas for your focal keyword, or compete with them so to speak?

        Thanks for taking the time to reply earlier, much appreciated!

    • Jason
      By Jason on 9 September, 2015

      I agree. More details please.

  16. Hazekraze
    By Hazekraze on 8 September, 2015

    An yes I also wanted to highlight the issue as @Brown said… Does this effect the SEO being duplicate content if we have same article in different categories ? I face the issue of duplicate content from even tags of posts and archives. It creates so many duplicate links. How can I resolve the issue ? Any tips ?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 8 September, 2015

      As said above, doesn’t have to be a problem. If two archives have all the same posts though, it does become problematic.

  17. Hazekraze
    By Hazekraze on 8 September, 2015

    A very informative article yoast. Surely adding categories to your blog will lead you to good SEO results. Also it lets the user remember the post in case s/he forgets to bookmark it for later read. If you remember the category, you can find the topic easily.

  18. Norm Brown
    By Norm Brown on 8 September, 2015

    Love the article. We often find ourselves with multiple categories for a single article. How problematic is that?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 8 September, 2015

      Multiple categories doesn’t have to be a problem at all. It only becomes problematic if you have 10-20 blog posts in a row, where you chose the same combination of categories. At that point you have to wonder: why have all these categories?

      • Stephen Rosenberg
        By Stephen Rosenberg on 8 September, 2015

        Awesome post, thank you. Categories are great, and some folks go overboard with tons of categories and/or tags. This does seem to trigger duplicate content flags, however, and suggestions to non-index categories.

        In other words, if something is in a category feed, it is also in the main blog feed. The same content indexed in different places. Joost (big fan, btw), is that not something we should worry about?

        Thanks, and keep up the great work, Team Yoast!

        Stephen


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