How to Pick Blog Categories (Without Making a Mess of the Blog Archives)

A common problem when bloggers pick blog categories is the lack of oversight. It’s having to rework blog category archives, as the blog grows, because the categories don’t match the topics. Or, they were creating new blog categories each time they went to publish.

The blog became a jumbled mess.

Good user experience and site navigation is the purpose of blog categories. This article will help you understand their purpose and how to pick categories that’ll best match your site (and intentions).


Why It Matters when You Pick Blog Categories

Pick Blog Categories

Blog categories play an important role in user experience and navigation. They allow visitors simple access to curated content based on keywords and topics. It gives users a way to find older posts.

Blogs use a different structure to websites which rely on top, side, and/or bottom navigation. It’s become common practice to collect internal navigation in the sidebar with blogs via categories.

Category pages are archives.

They have two purposes:

  1. Give search engines a base point for frequent crawling
  2. Give users the ability to explore related content

Think of them as landing pages.

A new visitor landing on your blog, reading a great post, will likely want to explore other, related posts on that topic. They turn to the sidebar to find these features. The category page displays recent (or best) content through snippets which lets them pick-and-choose.

You will generally see categories displayed as such with a WordPress blog:

  • .com/category/keyword
  • .com/keyword

This is changed in the permalink structure when setting up a WordPress blog. The latter of the two is your better option to avoid cannibalizing the keyword by repeating it twice. Google is pretty good at recognizing your pages, so this isn’t a biggie – but it’s a quick change so why not do it?

Overall, it’s just all around good practice to include archives so visitors can find your old stuff. It will send them on a journey, deeper and deeper into the site. It provides multiple entry-points for people finding you through search engines. It also gives you an all-encompassing page to show value.


Two Sides of Blog Categories: Keyword vs. Plain Speak

Two Sides

Will you play it straight?


Will you have some fun?

Categories are meant to improve website usability. Keywords are about as blunt as you can be with the content contained on your site. Though, plain speak could reach your community better. Then, you’re thinking about the other aspects — like SEO… let’s compare the two sides and see what they offer.


Using Keywords for Your Blog Categories


Most blogs you find (or will build) lean toward keywords as categories. These keywords represent the content contained on category pages; they make for easy browsing. You could generate a list of keywords based on your initial idea for the blog – else, add to them later.

However, keywords have this odd characteristic of cornering bloggers. Whether that’s because the blogger feels they need to stay within those categories. Or, they become a mess because they’re not quite attuned to the content that’s produced.

Here’s what you should know about them:

Benefits of Using Category Keywords

  • Easy to understand. There’s no second-guessing what blogs are about when they’re labeled for their main topic via keywords.
  • User exploration. A visitor pleased with your coverage of a topic will likely explore related posts; this will improve site time and your chances of converting visitors into customers.
  • Manageable. You know topics you’ll cover which will stop you from labeling pieces on a whim; less you’ll manage equals more time focusing on content creation.

Drawbacks of Categories as Keywords

  • Pivoting. Changing categories, after dozens (or hundreds) of blogs have been published, is time-consuming and could tank search rankings for their associated pages.
  • Cannibalization. You may want to use main keywords for blog posts or pages; keyword categories could detract the SEO “weight” you desire for those pieces.
  • Dumping ground. Don’t know where that post will go? You’ll try to match it to the best of your understanding, but this may turn the category into a dumping ground for miscellaneous posts.


Using Plain Speak as Your Blog Categories


Plain speak categories are a fun, intuitive way to add direction to your site. These categories become less rigid; they invoke an emotion rather than come across as direct. It’s a clever way to funnel people further into the site without disrupting the tone and style of your blog.

However, plain speak categories aren’t all fun and games if you’re attracting a certain type of community. It’s never really a good thing to make assumptions about your community; plain wording tends to lean this way if you’re too off-the-cuff.

Here’s what you should know about them:

Benefits of Using Plain Speak Categories

  • Attention-getting. You could use engaging copy to entice readers to explore your blog; this could also set a visitor intent depending on your choice of wording.
  • No pigeon-holing. Don’t have to worry about if the category becomes a mish-mash of topics; it’ll convey a general idea but doesn’t hardline it to a specific set.
  • Personalization. Casual speak is personal which adds to your brand image; it’s a subtle way to mention something interesting without it sounding like corporate speak.

Drawbacks of Categories as Plain Speak

  • Confusion. You may know what topics are included… the audience may not; plain speak categories lack set-in-stone content types.
  • Missing SEO opportunity. The category pages could have been a great silo page for a main or secondary keyword.
  • Unfitting. Casual talk may not suit your blog if it’s in a professional space; it’ll appear amateur and may detract visitors from exploring.


The Consensus about the Two


It comes down to answering yes to one of these:

  • Is your blog personal?
  • Is your blog professional?

Personal sites, like mommy blogs, can get away with plain speak blog categories because they’re fun and creativity – same for DIY, music, fashion, and really anything falling under ‘art’. Professional sites, think e-commerce or business, is best directed to use keywords as categories since it’s direct.


Who are we to say what you can and cannot do with your blog? Maybe you could shake up a professional industry by going plain speak. Or, put a straight-edge on a creative market by using keyword-rich categories.

What we will say is this…


How to Pick Blog Categories that Represents You (and Your Blog)

Book Chapters

Think of this when you’re picking blog categories:

The categories are the tables of contents for your blog.

Imagine your blog is a book where each chapter is a category you’ve selected. What story will you tell if someone were to jump to that chapter? Does it have a catchy or descriptive title that warrants this?

Here are the steps for picking blog categories:

  1. Start with an outline of your planned content

Go back to your original blogging plans and look through your content ideas to find topic patterns. Get the big picture of where it’s starting and going. Create a note about the main topic of discussion.

  1. Determine the long-term direction for content development

Think years in advance of where you intend to direct the content. Will you expand into new niches? Are there up-coming, industry developments you’ll want to explore? Keep a note of these topics.

  1. Look at what the competition is doing and copy it

It’s an interesting approach to break industry traditions. But, if you’re noticing the majority using a set collection of categories then it’s probably best to follow suit. This way you’re not confusing visitors already exposed and accustomed to the industry standard.

  1. Mash it all together – but don’t go too overboard

Take what you’ve found from your planned content and industry standards to mash it together to form a list of 10-12 blog categories. Only a few may end up being used (for now) but you’ll have a good idea how it’s all organized as the blog grows.

Try to avoid going too overboard with the blog categories. Do the categories overlap? Merge the two.


Or… With Going the Plain Speak Route


Using plain speak as the blog categories will follow the same process as above. Except, you’ll swap keywords with snippets.

For example:

  • Graphic Design becomes Creating Cool Artsy Stuff
  • Parenting Tips becomes Being a Better Parent
  • Automotive Guides becomes Know Your Vehicle

You form these the same way you do storytelling.

You could easily describe an object by explaining its shape, color, size, etc. Or, you could attach it to an activity, emotion, or memory. Let your mind wander – get creative with how you’re describing it.


At the End of It All… It’s About Usability and User Experience

The point of picking blog categories is to improve the usability of a blog.

Blogging has come a long way since it’s early days of journaling – back when it was a day-to-day thing and there wasn’t much need to categorize everything. Now, blogs are behemoths. They’ve become all kinds of sites… there was a need to organize it better.

Look at your blog through the eyes of your visitor.

How would you begin exploring the blog if you just landed? What would entice you to look through the archives? What frustrations do you have when digging around? Answer those questions and make the appropriate changes to improve usability and the user experience.


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