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Blog Exercises: Category Counting

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Think of categories and tags this way: Categories are your site’s table of contents. Tags are your index words.

In general, most sites should have 5-12 categories max. Each category should represent a “body of work,” a collection of posts related to a focused topic.

When you find a blog with dozens of categories, what do you assume?

I ask my students and clients this question. They describe such sites with “they can’t make up their minds,” “they cover too many topics,” “maybe a little ADHD” – all types of assumptions pop into their heads. I’m sure those and more occurred to you.

Look at your categories. Are they all over the map covering everything from hair dryers to WordPress? Category lists communicate with visitors. They tell them instantly what information is found here, identifying the relevancy of the site’s material and resources. Not relevant or clear, they are gone.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.In our first Blog Exercise the first week of January, we did “Blog Exercise: Category Brainstorming,” an exercise on evaluating your categories. It’s time to review that exercise (and complete the process), and review the topics you blog about the most.

How many do you have? One or Two? Then it might be time to expand.

Such a small number is rare. Most people have 15, 20 even 50 categories. It’s time to dig in and clean up those categories so they send a clear message about the topics you cover.

Remember, 5-12 is an ideal number for the average blogger.

If you blog about this, remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

10 Comments

  1. Posted February 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    I found this post to be very useful in understanding the real difference between categories and tags. TBH, there has been some confusion in my mind at times and this post is now bookmarked ‘in-case-of’ me forgetting or getting confused again. Thanks for all your posts – I always read them. You guys are two of my favourite bloggers :-)

    Keep ‘em coming please :-)

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome. I like the idea of categories as the table of contents and tags as the index words. That’s the best way to consider them, and the most useful to readers. Thanks!

  2. Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    very good explaination of categories and tags ;)

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome. I hope it clears up any confusion you may have over them.

  3. Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    This just made me look at my categories to see how many I have, and I have 13 (not including ‘uncategorized’ which I never use), one of which – I realised with shock – I’ve only used once and it was on a post of a type I’d intended to do once a month!

    I mostly categorize according to type of content and also I mention if the image in it is art or photo (I’m an artist, primarily).

    • Posted February 13, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Does categorization by content type work for your readers? Or for you? I think that’s a good question.

      Good for you identifying a useless category! Excellent. 5-12 is a good number. I’m working harder to minimize my own with thousands of articles spread across all of them, so you are not alone!

  4. Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Oh man, categories are my Achilles’ heel. :)

    I started my main blog, a self-hosted WordPress blog, in early 2006. I wasn’t too concerned about keeping categories in check back then. I ended up with several dozen.

    A couple of years ago, when I had maybe 40 categories, I decided that I really needed to clean things up. So I started whittling down my category list.

    Just the other day, I turned 19 categories into 18.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to squeeze all my posts into just 12 categories, but I’d like to. :) More realistically, I think 15 or 16 would be a good stopping point.

    • Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Good for you! It is hard work, isn’t it.

      I took a quick look at your site and here are a few quick tips.

      Your site is focused on baby names, how to choose, stories and history, and fads and trends in naming children.

      Why not consider subcategories, grouping like topics together, to help your readers find the information they need.

      “How to Choose a Name” could have “Picking a Baby Name” and “Need Baby Name Help” and “Name Studies” and “Name Predictions” under it. “Picking a Name” and “Need Help” sound the same to me so those might be combined as well. I’d really like to see a link in your top menu to these excellent “how to choose” articles as well rather than having them buried way down in the sidebar and footer. They are tremendous articles. Maybe a Page linking to all the articles as a reference web page?

      “Baby Name History” or some scientific word for the naming of people (I’m sure there is such a word, if not, there should be so make one up :D ) could have Baby Name Definitions, Stories, in the News, Pop Culture, Popular, Questions Mysteries Polls, etc.

      “Baby Names” could feature Boy, Girl, Names (in general), funny, nicknames, unique, unisex, and so on.

      By grouping the content within sub-categories, it might make it feel like you are treating your site professionally as it is more structured, educational if you will. It would also make the long list easier to read, and could help your SEO as the urls would have the parent category as well as the subcategory in them.

      You are doing amazing work on the subject of naming, but I didn’t discover that until I really dug into your site more. At first glance, it looks a little commercial and spammy, but you are really passionate about the naming game. Fantastic articles. Topical, creative, educational, and in many cases inspired. This isn’t a full site review but think about first impression over content reality. I’d really love to see you show your stuff better so you are really viewed as an expert in the subject. This is some brilliant stuff you do!

      Thanks.

  5. Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Oh wow, thank you so much for the thoughtful response, and the advice!

    I think sub-categories are a great idea. They’ll take a bit of planning/recategorizing to get going, but they could really help me clean things up.

    Thanks again!

  6. Renee
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    This really helped me understand the difference between categories and tags even more. I am constantly learning and enjoying the process. Thank you so much. Renee :)


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  1. [...] Blog Exercises: Category Counting: Lorelle offers up another piece of sage advice; this time regarding the number of categories your blog should have. [...]

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