[WP 101] Categories, Tags, Taxonomies: Organizing Content

Courtney Jones

A tidy website is a tidy mind… or something like that. Here’s how to stay organized with WordPress categories and more.

[WP 101] Categories, Tags, Taxonomies: Organizing Content

WordPress is currently the most popular content management system available on the Internet, and, as much it includes many useful plugins, widgets, pages, images, files, video, and more. All of this content is super important for websites to include and use, and categories and tags are a big part of the organizational structure in WordPress.

Categories and tags are a simple and incredibly effective way for content on a WordPress website to be easily organized. The use of categories and tags also greatly improves the SEO (search engine optimization) or each page, piece of content, and overall website.

Categories and tags are the two primary ways to group and label content on a WordPress website. Categories place content in a more general organization while adding tags makes the content much more specific. This is why you will always see categories and tags in the sidebar when you edit or write a new post in WordPress.

Although categories and tags are important ways to group and organize content in WordPress, they do so in very different ways. Categories are for broad groupings of topics, while tags are for specific content which can help link to related content on a WordPress website.

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What Is a Category?

What Is a Category? - [WP 101] Categories, Tags, Taxonomies: Organizing Content

A category is a broad way to group content together, that is a topic or group of topics that are similar in some way, on your WordPress website. Categories are also hierarchical, so you can create a main category and then create subcategories underneath it, as a way to further the group organization by topic.

In WordPress, categories are one of the pre-defined taxonomies available. All posts in WordPress need to be assigned to a least one category before they can be posted, and it’s ideal that content is placed in at least two categories so it is more visible, but not more than three categories.

However, WordPress includes an uncategorized category by default, and if a category is not specified by the writer of the post then it will be posted under the uncategorized category. The uncategorized category can also be renamed to something else you can use.

Categories tend to be subjects like news, security, entertainment, food and more. Also, categories tend to be very visible on WordPress pages, like a table of contents or a group of tabs across the screen so users can easily find them. Categories can also be grouped as drop-down menus or fully searchable using a search bar.

What Is a Tag?

What Is a Tag - [WP 101] Categories, Tags, Taxonomies: Organizing Content

Tags exist to describe specific details of each individual post, and they are also used to associate related content across your WordPress website. Tags are not hierarchical, but they can serve as an index of words on your website. Also, tags are completely optional for you to use, and are not required to post content.

Tags and categories are different, but they can work together to fully organize your content on your website and make it more user-friendly. If you have a category for food on your website, some of the tags could be things like pizza, sandwiches, soups, etc.

Another great thing about tags is that if a user is looking at a piece of content on your WordPress website, and they want to see similar posts, they only have to click on the tag they want to view related content instead of having to search for it.


The use of categories is a hierarchical structure, but using tags isn’t. That hierarchical structure includes creating parent categories as the main categories and child categories as the subcategories underneath them. The admin can create and use as many parent and child categories as you want on your WordPress website.

On the front-end, all categories will have their own page and a template for content. In the backend, the admin can choose which categories are shown on the front-end and on which pages they appear. Categories without any content posted to them will not appear.

What Is a Customized Taxonomy?

What Is a Customized Taxonomy - [WP 101] Categories, Tags, Taxonomies: Organizing Content

A taxonomy is another word for a way to group something together, so a customized taxonomy is a fully customized way to group something together. Content that can be customized and grouped includes posts, links, images, videos, custom post types and more.

Both categories and tags are default taxonomies that WordPress provides for users to use and they do not have to be created. However, WordPress also added a way to create custom taxonomies for your WordPress website which is a helpful feature.

When you create a custom taxonomy, WordPress creates a new meta box when you are editing or writing a post which includes the new taxonomy. The newly created meta box looks similar to the tags box and will let you add tags to those posts.


Both categories and tags are essential parts of WordPress websites. They both serve to organize content, but do so in different ways, and can work together to achieve organization. Categories and tags also make front end usage of a website incredibly user-friendly.

In addition to choosing which categories and tags are used on the front-end, it’s important to use parenting to accurately show main categories and sub-categories on your WordPress site, which makes navigating pages for users easier. Parenting also helps overall SEO and page design.

Custom taxonomies are a good way to fully customize your content into groups, although it is for more advanced users of WordPress. All three of these organizational tools help make your WordPress website more SEO friendly and link related content together more seamlessly.

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