wordpress: getting started

Categories and Tags

There are two main ways to organize content on a WordPress site - by "Category" or by "Tag." In most cases, you'll want to do both.

Categories

Think of Categories like the "beats" in a newspaper - you have the Sports section, the Health section, the Science section, the Politics section, etc. Those big "topic" buckets become the main taxonomy of your site. Typically, your site's list of categories will appear in the main navigation menu. Therefore, it's best to not create too many of them - keep your list of categories relatively confined.

Categ5

On this site's navigation system, the menu is built from a combination of Pages and Categories (the Categories are in the red box).

You can place a post in more than one category. A story about socialized medicine might appear in both the Health and Politics sections of the site.

By default, all stories will appear on the homepage. But they'll also show up on any relevant category pages, as well as any "date index" pages, if your site uses them (e.g. in a listing of all posts from March 2011). Not all themes use the default WordPress behavior, however.

To place stories in categories, simply check the boxes for all relevant categories in the Post editor:

Category picker

If you have administrative permissions on the site, you can also create additional categories at any time, either from the "Add new category" link you see here, or by clicking the Categories link in the left sidebar of the Dashboard.

Categories 2

That interface lets you create, edit, or delete categories. It also lets you "nest" categories within categories, which is useful for special purposes not covered in this tutorial.

Tags

On the surface, Tags work similarly to Categories - they let you group related content together. But Tags are meant to be used in a more "ad-hoc" fashion, and can be much more granular than categories. An author might put a story in the Health category but give it the tags "Nutrition," "Diet," and "Exercise."

Tags can be added to a Post by typing them directly into the Tags field while editing a Post. If you don't see the Tags field, enable it from the Screen Options tool at the top of the page.

Categs3

You can manage your site's entire collection of tags by clicking "Post Tags" in the Dashboard sidebar, within the Posts section.

Because tags are much more granular than categories, you generally won't be putting them in your navigation menu. Instead, you might use them to show a list of "Related Stories" at the end of every story, where "related" is defined as "other stories sharing one or more of the same tags."

Another popular use is to build a "tag cloud," which is a list of all tags used on the site, with their font sizes automatically changed to reflect how commonly they're used, like this:

Categs4

However, most usability experts now agree that tag clouds are of questionable value to readers. Your best bet is to use tags for tracking related content.