How important are categories when it comes to blogging? For example, popular blog platform Blogger doesn’t even offer them, something I think is a flaw in their design.
In my opinion, categories are very important and for a number of reasons. First of all, they’re useful to the reader. Categories serve as the means of navigation on a blog.
Secondly, they are important from a search engine standpoint. Technorati.com uses a folksonomy called “tags” for organizing the way it returns search queries. The site looks at blog categories as tags. Without categories, you’ll have to use a special piece of HTML code – which you may wish to use anyway – for tagging purposes. Here are a couple of tips to consider when developing your categories:
Determine the categories you wish to cover at the outset of the development of your blog. When I first started blogging, I would create categories on the fly as I needed them. (You can do that with most blog platforms, at least the ones with which I am familiar.) I ended up with over 30 categories as a result. That’s way too many. It overwhelms the reader.
On top of that, you’re stuck with the dilemma of deciding whether to keep all of them – after all you do have posts assigned to them – or delete some, edit others, and live with the fact some posts may become orphan. Or else, you take the time to reassign posts to the new categories.
I recommend coming up with eight or ten categories broad enough in scope to cover a wide range of topics, but narrowly defined enough to be relevant to the content being assigned to it. If you use a blog platform like Movable Type or Word Press, you can create sub-categories to organize your content even further.
Make categories titles functional. I worked with one client who used rather esoteric terms for his categories. That would have been fine for a personal blog, but this one was for business. I instructed him to think in terms of what the reader might be looking for and target his creative bent toward coming up with category labels that made sense to them.
This has a secondary application as well. Not only should you consider what words or phrases would make sense to readers, think in terms of what keywords they might do searches on. Remember what I said about Technorati. If you’re categories serve as tags, then you need to work to ensure they are ones users will search for.
Categories are important for both usability and search engine purposes. Getting readers and keeping them. Not only is it about good writing, but good organization as well.