Organize your categories: 5 practical tips

By Daniel Scocco

Getting your blog categories organized should be a straight forward task, but too many people seem to get confused when structuring their categories, hence why I decided to expand the topic. Below you will find 5 practical tips for organizing and making your categories more efficient:

1. Category names must be descriptive: your categories should orient even first time visitors across your blog. An old time reader will certainly know that under the category “Uncle John” there will be all your posts containing Windows XP tips coming from your uncle John Smith who works at Microsoft, but I will not! The categories tell a lot about your blog, and when readers can not figure what is going on around them it is very likely that they will just skip the blog altogether.

2. Limit the total number of categories: there is a reason why this is called “categoriy” and not “every single post that was written on this blog”, meaning that you should not create a new category for every other post that you are writing. Every blog should have a defined structure and a set of categories to support the topics of the posts, once you have that basic structure in place just fill the posts inside the existing categories, creating a new category should be done rarely and only when it is really necessary.

3. Make sure they fit in 1 screen: if you ask me how many categories your blog need the answer would probably be: it depends (no shit). Some blogs will work well with few categories, others will need 10 or even 20, just make sure that all the categories fit in one screen. Why? Because it is damn annoying to have to scroll down to see the complete list. Imagine I am trying to figure where a specific post was placed, once I get at the bottom of your categories I will probably have already forgotten what was on the top…

4. Try to put posts inside one category only: as a rule of thumb every time I write a post I try to place it inside one category only. I am opposed to monthly archives and to calendars (because the time when the content was written is not relevant) so the only way my reader has to find posts is through the categories. Guess what, if I placed posts inside multiple categories the reader would find the same posts over and over again, which is not cool, to say the least. Exceptions can be made when a certain post really touches more than one category, but those situations are more rare than what most people seem to think.

5. Display the number of posts inside each category: if your blog platform allows you to display the total number of posts inside each category do it. This feature will make sure that the reader knows what to expect when he clicks a certain category, and it also gives a general orientation about the most discussed topics on your blog.




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52 Responses to “Organize your categories: 5 practical tips”

  • Madhur Kapoor

    Nice article Daniel ..Well written ..btw is there any plugin available for displaying total no of posts inside a category .

  • Daniel

    Madhur, I just checked your blog and it is already displaying the number of posts on each category! Are you asking for people that is not using wordpress?

  • Ashish Mohta

    This u said right.A post should be one category .I will take care of it next time.

    @Madhur: Technoblue theme has this thing already available Do you want it on sidebars?

  • Madhur Kapoor

    i was looking for something which can display the no of posts when you move the mouse over a category .

  • Daniel

    That would be something cool, but I am pretty sure you should be able to that with wordpress and some PHP coding, like using the .hover parameter on the category div.

  • Jennifer Curtiss

    An excellent set of guidelines. However, I wholly disagree with “Try to put posts inside one category only”. I agree that we should be judicious in the number of categories, but only one is often insufficient for some blogs. For example, sometimes I write about programming. If I’m writing about how to use ColdFusion to read in an XML document and then use an XSLT to manipulate the display of data, putting it into a “Programming” category would be terribly insufficient. I would require “XSLT”, “XML”, and “ColdFusion” in addition to “Programming”.

    In addition, I post a lot about photography and Flickr. Every photo I post from flickr I tag or categorize “flickr”. Sometimes I post a photo that is not from flickr, so I need “Photography”. Sometimes I post a photo from flickr that I am posting for its content rather than its photographic merit, so I tag “flickr” but not “Photography”. Some are both “Photography” and “flickr”. Get my drift?

    The tip would prove universally applicable if you alter it to the principle of concise category selection.

  • Mark Alves

    It sounds like Jennifer may be approaching categories along the lines of tagging or an index in the back of a book, while Daniel is using categories as main navigation or book chapters that are mutually exclusive. Sounds to me like the key is to pick one approach and stick with it–which means I need to go back and clean up my own categories that have been a hybrid of both approaches. I think categories as chapters will be the way I go.

  • Aaron Bobrink

    When I was first introduced to blogs I attempted to use the categories to navigate through a bloggers posts. I figured that each post would be in one category. But much to my surprise most blogs put a post under multiple categories.

    I have since grown used to the categories-as-tags thing, but I wonder if it really should be that way? I personally would like to keep each post under one category, and perhaps use a “relevant links” section at the bottom of each post.

    But then again, Jennifer makes a good point about multi-themed posts.

  • Daniel

    Jennifer, I agree with your point, in fact I wrote “Try to put posts inside one category only” and “Exceptions can be made when a certain post really touches more than one category”.

    I am just opposed to the idea of placing every single post inside 3 or 4 categories, sometimes with the purpose of “inflating” the number of posts inside those categories.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • ors

    some basic facts explained in a nice way, which will help
    in managing posts. after reading this i reduced no of categories from 14 to 8. thanks

  • Not-So-Stinky Pete

    Good tip about putting posts in multiple categories. I’ll be changing that from now on. Thanks a billion!

  • Adam Pieniazek

    Good advice..I’ve begun removing some of my categories which are duplicated (lots of work left to do since I was using categories as tags) but it does make sense.

    What’s your opinion on sub-categories and sub-sub-categories? Good idea or too confusing for a regular user?

  • Ratko

    I like your logic… #4 especially, since it also lends itself to preventing duplicate content, which we know makes Google cry.

  • Robin Sampson

    Thanks the great list. Trackback

  • Ann Levine

    Thank you! I’m new to blogging and was wondering how to do this. I’m definitely hoping I’m following your advice.

  • dan s.

    A big ‘Bravo’! 🙂 Even Darren Rowse, with his problogger tips has 7 times more rss readers than you, dailyblogtips is two times better and nicer.

  • betty muy

    An extra tip – keep your categories list lean. Somewhere between 10 and 15 is a good number for most sites. If you get too many you risk your users not being able to find what they are looking for. If you have too many now

  • Crotrepyl

    Aloha folks!
    Have a nice day!

  • Mark

    I am currently cleaning up my category so this was a terrific find. I have to agree with you on keeping things direct and clear. It is a tough decision to limit one category per post when it covers multiple topics.

    BTW, you mispelled category in #2.

  • djhassoo

    Please tell me how i can display number of posts with that category

    here is my very new blog http://www.smsdad.com

    and here is another blog he is using same templete and there is displaying number of posts with category.

    waiting for your useful reply

    Thank You DJHassoo

  • çiçek

    Thank You DJHassoo

  • Richard

    Daniel, thanks for this post. I am searching for a better way to optimize my categories and this post provides come very good do’s and don’t’s. Thanks again, Richard

  • SEO Genius

    Another great article i have added a couple of catergories since i started however i am trying to keep the number under 10.

  • yogesh

    I am disagreed with your point #5, because you are telling that we should display the number of post in each category, even you did not made it. Just have a look at your categories.

    Thanks
    Yogesh

  • Bang Kritikus

    For point #5 I agree with you if your posting more than 100 for a category

  • medyum

    Thanks the great list. Trackback

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  • Tilen Hrovatic

    Try to put posts inside one category only. This is nice point and I will try it. I usually categorize my posts with two or more categories but it makes sense that the structure is better if the post is only in one category. and it also looks nicer and more organized 🙂

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