20130817-200826.jpg The use of categories and tags on blogs is ripe for confusion for new bloggers — and veteran bloggers. Some of the blogs on the LexBlog Network make nice of use of categories and tags while others are abysmal in their approach, often over using both.

Rarely is there as good an article on the best ways to use blog categories and tags as the one this week in The Nonprofit Times.

Citing John Haydon (@johnhaydon), a sales and marketing professional for non-profits,

Categories are like aisles in a grocery store and tags are like ingredients in the various different foods. Tags (ingredients) link together all of your posts (food items) across your categories (aisles).

Haydon’s best practices for tags with a little commentary from me:

  • Put your readers before anything else — if the reader clicks on the tag, will she find what she’s looking for? Do not look at tags to improve search performance, doing so can even hurt search. You’ll end up with too many tags, look foolish, and make it hard for your readers to use tags as a guide to content they’re looking for.
  • Use existing tags first — make use of the auto-complete feature when entering tags. You are not looking for new tags on every post, something you’ll do if you don’t use the suggested tags that will display on WordPress as you key in a tag.
  • Make a regular habit of deleting tags that are redundant or too general –pare down your tags until you have a handful of highly-specific, often used tags. Lawyers are notorious for using too many tags on each post and all together on their blog. When you see a tag used only once or twice, delete it.

His best practices for categories, again with my commentary:

  • Make them clear — while tags should be specific, categories can be a bit broader. Better to have fewer categories by being broad. Most readers are going to read individual posts as opposed to browse categories anyway, especially when there are two many categories.
  • Consolidate categories — regular reviews will show you what categories don’t have many posts. Go for six or eight categories, maybe less. Having too many categories makes your categories worthless for your readers. It looks like you and your lawyers are afraid to make a decision, In the case of multiple lawyer blogs, it looks you’re just trying to satisfy everyone and have no editor.
  • Clean your slugs, the URL associated with each category, of articles and prepositions — this will help with search engine optimization. This is easy to do with WordPress.
  • Start another blog if some of your categories are too divergent from others. Maybe that’s too harsh, but you’ll dilute the quality of your blog if you’re trying to cover too much. Readers are less likely to subscribe to a blog that lacks clear focus. A wide focus makes it near impossible to attain a ‘go-to’ reputation as a lawyer.

Bottom line, think readers over all else. What makes it easy for your readers to follow your blog? What makes it easy for those finding your blog on search to further navigate your blog for information and insight that may be helpful.

And when in doubt, less is more when it comes to categories and tags

. Image courtesy of Flickr by Mike Sansone.