When I started my blog, I got a lot of advice. Since I was new to blogging, I absorbed all of the information I could and took the word of those that were already successful. Except there are some misconceptions about a few things that I found out 250+ blog posts in. One of those, was categories and how to effectively use them.
What Are Categories For?
Categories are meant to help your reader find what they are looking for quickly. Most people don’t have hours to sift through your blog to find topics that interest them. They want to see the options, click on the option and see all of the blog posts you have within that topic.
5 Categories Max
To best explain why, I want you to compare categories to a restaurant menu. If you went into a restaurant and the menu was 25 pages long, without any headings and everything was just sort of listed in order of when they thought to add that particular dish to the menu, you’d be overwhelmed, right? Now, if a menu had clear headings like appetizers, main dishes, desserts and beverages, you would know exactly where to look to find what it is you are looking for
On that same note, you don’t want to read a menu that has 40 different sections of their menu. You want it to be able to quickly locate the section, and see the options for each.
You should do the same with your blog. Think about what you write about the most. If you already have blog posts written, you should be able to divide those into these five main categories. You should have at least 10 blog posts per category, so if you’ve only written about a subject once or twice, that doesn’t need its own category. Find another category that you can put those posts into. These 5 categories should be the main menu of your blog. It makes things easier for your readers to locate exactly what they are looking for.
One Category Per Post
This was the one that completely shocked me when I first read it. I was always told that you should put every blog post into as many categories as it fits into. WRONG! SO WRONG! I remember reading that article and turning into the human forehead slap emoji. Each of your blog posts should be put into the most relevant category. Even if it fits into more than one, you should be choosing the one that makes the most sense. Let’s say you posted about a restaurant that you visited while you traveled with your family… you had it under Food, Travel and Family. Choose one and uncheck the others.
Why Categories Matter for SEO Purposes
Believe it or not, your categories will determine whether or not people find you on google. While Google is always changing its rules and algorithm (sounds a lot like a certain social media channel we all know and love), right now, this is what you need to be doing to get organic traffic to your site, according to many SEO experts and blogger coaches.
Google looks at your site as a whole. So it wants to know that you are an expert in the field you’re talking about. Let’s say you just wrote a post on comfortable shoes and decided that FASHION was suddenly going to be one of your five main categories. But it’s the only post you’ve done. Google is going to look at your new category, scan your blog and notice that you have no other relevant information for that category. So, what happens? Google is going to put you to the bottom of the search results, because it doesn’t consider you an expert on that topic. So, you may want to put that post into one of your existing categories (hopefully it fits into one), or hold off until you write more on that topic.
Just like you want your readers to understand what your blog talks about, you also want google to know, so you have to follow their rules. Google recognizing your expertise is probably more important than anything else you can do. If people can find you when they search on google, then it will help bring more readers to you.
Add a Description to Your Category
So your categories might be on the broad side, but there is a section that can help with that. Many bloggers don’t even realize it’s there. I know I didn’t until I started researching categories. When you go to edit your category, there is a description box. Tell Google and your readers exactly what that category includes.
Want to take it a step further? Include links to your top 2-3 posts in that category, in your description. You want to provide the easiest path to those posts possible and get your reader to stick around for a bit.
Move Your Posts Into Their New Categories
Now comes the fun part. Ok, more like tedious, but necessary. Depending on how many blog posts you already have on your site, this could take a little while. But take your time and move each post into the category that best fits each post. On WordPress, you can either use quick edit or batch editing to make the process a bit easier.
Another thing you might want to consider is whether or not you need to do a redirect. For more info on redirects, I recommend this article from Yoast.
Remember, take your time. Don’t stress. Once you’ve fixed what’s already been done, you can move forward in the right direction with any future posts. Good luck!