How to Choose Categories for Your Blog
What are Blog Categories?
Blog Categories are used to sort and group content into different topics sections. A blog publishing content on a variety of topics can divide their website into sections using Category categories.
The blog categories you choose will be part of your blog’s road map to success. Choosing the right categories will determine the direction and success of your content. Luckily, you can change them as you grow, so there is no harm done if you need to rethink your blog’s categories.
Select Your Blog Categories Strategically
It’s important to do some planning before you decide on your blog categories. You want to stay broad, yet relevant. You don’t want to end up with one or two posts in a category. If that happens, you have a category that doesn’t represent what your blog is all about.
Examine Your Own Blog
Before you start reading this, take a quick look at something very important. Your own blog. What do you see when you glance at the Categories list? If you’re anything like most bloggers, it will include categories which:
- You used a couple of years ago but don’t use any more
- Have only one or two posts in
- Have names that aren’t self-explanatory
- Seemed like a good idea at the time, when you added them for one specific post
There’s plenty of blogging advice about how to craft posts, how to gain readers, and how to start your first blog. However there is surprisingly little written about how to choose your categories.
How to Choose and Name Your Blog Categories
How Many Blog Categories Should You Have?
The number of categories you ought to have varies, but the fewer the better both for you and the reader. I like to keep it under eight, and though that is merely a preference of mine, once you start heading past ten categories, your blog will get unwieldy for you and your readers.
How do you choose categories for your blog?
Ask Questions About Your Blog
What does your theme allow?
Some themes use categories to organize your content visually. Some themes have limited space should you want to include a list of your categories. What will your theme allow?
Are Sub Categories Required for Popular Subjects?
Let’s say your answer to that question is writing. If you have a writing blog, a category of “writing” is a terrible idea. You’d want to break it down into, maybe, “blogging” and “fiction”, subsets of writing. But if you have a blog about marketing techniques, perhaps “writing” isn’t too broad in the scheme of things.
Is your blog a niche blog?
If so, you will have very specific categories, tightly clustered around your niche topic. If your niche blog is on shoes, you will not have a category called “shoes.” You might have a category of “stilettos.”
Your goal? To understand what your blog is about, in as few words as possible. In a way, your blog categories are like your blog’s elevator speech. There is no time for excess.
Ask Google About Your Blog
Check Your Google Analytics
What kinds of posts are getting the most traffic? Could you organize your categories around the search terms and posts that are bringing people to your site? But, don’t leave it all up to Google.
Check With Your Readers
How about your readers? Which posts get the most comments? Which posts receive the most shares? These are obviously the topics that interest people. Maybe it’s time you gave them their own category so that you wrote more about what your readers are interested in.
Use the Overlap Rule to Narrow Your Choices
It’s not really a rule, the idea is that if you’re struggling to come up with categories, you can use this kind of method to help you. It might look like this:
What are the top three or four topics you cover?
Don’t be too specific, and don’t choose more than four. For example, you might choose writing, content marketing, news, and social media as your main categories.
Are there “sub” topics that deserve their own category?
These are the blog posts that you write about often, though not as much as the three you created in step 1. They are also posts that could fit into two categories from step 1, as if they overlapped. In our example, the overlapped categories are blogging, features, and case studies.
The first step is thinking in broad terms. The second step allows you those few “exceptions.” Stop there. Don’t create any more categories.
What Topics Have You Written About?
If you’ve been blogging for a few years, you’re probably like me when it comes to blog categories. You have:
- Categories with just a few posts in them. You have a few posts that don’t belong on your blog, or you have a category you don’t like writing for.
- Categories with names that readers won’t understand. You created categories for your organizational benefit, not for your readers to find content they are interested in.
- Categories with 90% of your posts. You created a category that was far too broad, and you ended up dumping everything in it because your other categories were poorly thought out.
- Categories specific to a subset of posts. In other words, every time you wrote a blog series, you made a category for it instead of linking within the body copy to the other posts in the series and using a current category.
Perform Category Hygiene
Get rid of the categories that don’t have many posts. Also remove the categories that your readers won’t understand. Get rid of the categories meant specifically for a series. Get rid of categories you made just for one post that you “had” to write. Put those posts in other categories, or remove the posts.
And in that giant category that has become a dumping ground? You have the hard work of going through and recategorizing those posts and ultimately removing that category as well.
Use an Editorial Calendar
In theory, your blog posts should be well-balanced across all categories. When you use an editorial calendar, your blog categories play a major role in your workflow and how you plan your content.
How to Choose Your Blog Category Names
The name of the each of your categories must be clear to both you and your readers.
Pick category names people will understand.
Cute is for kittens. You might be tempted to name your category “Web Wizardry” but your readers will understand “Web Design” much, much better.
Choose categories that are keywords.
Using keywords makes your category page have a keyword slug. Even if you are using a WordPress plugin that is set to “noindex, follow” your categories, it doesn’t hurt to think in terms of the keywords people are using to find topical information.
Be consistent in how you write them.
Use title case, lower case or upper case, use what you’d like, but keep it consistent across the board. Category listings are a train wreck visually when they are not the same.
It’s hard to reign in the desire to be clever or wordy. But you must.
Vague blog category names aren’t helpful to your reader, and they end up being dumping grounds for your posts. If you have a category titled “Best Ever”, what were you thinking when you made that choice?
Approach Blog Categories Differently
I write several blogs, and they are each quite different from the others. I struggled trying to find the best categories for these blogs, because I approached them all the same.
Categories May Evolve
Are categories something you set and forget? It’d be nice to say you’ll get them perfect, but you should revisit them. You’ll quickly notice a category that gets most of your posts, or one that doesn’t, and you’ll have to start the process all over again.
Nothing about your blog is set-it-and-forget-it, and this includes your blog categories. Stay on top of them.