It’s not the destination, but rather the experiences that we encounter…
A blog, or website is a location. It is one particular point on an ever expanding plane of information. How that information is navigated can be crucial. If the best and most powerful ideas are hidden in a maze of dead ends and false leads, or worse, trails of misinformation, will it ever be consumed and unpacked. It seems unlikely, after all the internet is not a rat maze leading to the juicy piece of cheese; most users get distracted on the way and start eating at the cardboard walls (we’ve all been sucked into the time vortex of YouTube). One way to solve the ever shrinking attention span of the user, is with the correct use of categories and tags.
If a blog is thought of as a destination, then categories are the cities, towns and villages, and tags are the experiences that may be found.
A blog in itself can be as broad or as narrow themed as possible, and you may need many categories, or only a few, but that is all up to the writer. However if a blog becomes to broad it may be worthwhile to separate the content into different blogs, or countries to maintain the map analogy.
Let’s assume you are writing a blog about film, the categories could be the genres, such as animation, fantasy, action, and so on. The blog could be set up in such a way that the reader could navigate to the category that most interests them. A reader may only have one particular interest, such as science fiction, then they don’t want to be burdened by scrolling through other posts to look for content. Instead they would most likely see nothing of interest on the front page and bypass the blog all together as not being for them. One of the great things about categories is that they can be nested and a page can be placed in more than one, but overall it should fit into the general theme.
Tags operate in a different but equally important manner, they are used to find key words and ideas. In the film blog example, the name of a director could be a tag when the post is not purposefully about them; if it were, then it should be prudent to place the post under a director category. Tags are important especially if a user was researching a particular topic, it can help link pages that otherwise may not appear to be related. They are a second stage of sorting out blog posts and ideas. In the director example a reader may want to discover other works that they have made, in order to discover something new.
Categories and tags can be added to posts at any time. If you have already started a blog and if it is not too big then it is possible to start again and lay the ground work so your reader can divulge the content in a more user friendly way. It provides a mapping network and helps the reader focus their efforts and feel less lost in an unfamiliar territory.
The use of categories and tags can also be beneficial for the writer, as you may want to reflect on an older post or link back to a post or check to see what you have written about a certain topic before. There cant be something much more embarrassing and hurtful to your credibility than contradicting yourself in two separate posts. While it is true that over time a writer grows and develop and opinions may change it is best to be consistent in your writing. Doing this could potentially create a new post if you are stuck for something to write about, how had something changed your opinion. What a better way to show that you can be a trusted source, a learning writer is much better than one stuck on a treadmill.
NOTE: I haven’t exactly been following my own advice, but then we are all learning as we go…