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Perhaps you stumbled upon the long list of the top blog categories according to Google, and realized with horror that you were using all of them on your blog.
You have too many categories.
You ended up with a lot of blog categories because you didn’t put much thought into them before you started, or you created them on the fly as you wrote. You ended up with category bloat, and your niche blog went off track. You turned to tags as a way to bring order to a runaway blog.
Readers use categories to find more of your writing on the same topic. Plus, some WordPress themes use categories to determine the placement of posts and the layout of your blog. If you’re going to use categories, you should use them well.
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 readers and writers.
How do you choose categories for your blog?
The best way to understand your blog is to ask questions about it.
The goal? 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. No, really.
Check your 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?
Don’t leave it all up to Google. How about your readers? Which posts get the most comments? Trackbacks? Shares? These are topics that interest people. Maybe it’s time you gave them their own category so that you wrote more to fill it.
It’s not actually a rule, but 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:
The first step is thinking in broad terms. The second step allows you those few “exceptions.” Stop there. Don’t create any more categories.
If you’ve been blogging for a few years, you’re probably like me when it comes to blog categories. You have:
Get rid of the categories that don’t have many posts. Get rid of 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 get rid of 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. 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.
The name of the category must breathe clarity to both you and the reader.
It’s hard to reign in the desire to be clever or wordy. But you gotta.
I have several blogs, and they are each quite different from each other. Some are niche, some are personal, some are about attitude, some are about a characters I’ve created. I struggled trying to find the best categories for these blogs, because I approached them all the same.
And then I got to thinking that categories are more than just “noun”-type categories. That led me to have categories for the different blogs based on:
There are other approaches, I’m sure. These are a few I hit upon for my own use. The key to it is that your approach should be consistent, and relevant to the blog and how readers are approaching it. I shouldn’t have categories based on “emotion”, for example, and also a category called “cats.”
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.
January 27, 2014
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