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How Should You Select Categories for Your Business Blog?

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Blog Categories Are the Heart of Your Content, So Handle Them with Care

Too Many Categories Spoils the Blog

Too Many Categories Spoil the Blog

Setting up your blog categories merits plenty of time and attention. Categories are one of the few content elements on a blog that are problematic to change and tweak after the fact. You can always add new categories, but changing the wording of existing categories or reassigning posts to new categories breaks internal and inbound links. Thus, people will not be able to find your posts and search engine optimization will suffer.

Why is this? Because you should configure your blog to make category labels part of your blog post’s URL (permalink). If your category labels are keyword rich, displaying keywords in the URL will enhance SEO.

Consider these points when setting up your business blog categories. Remember – these are not hard and fast rules, only guidelines.

  1. Think big picture. Blog categories should represent your high level buckets of content. More specific content segregation can be accomplished with tags.
  2. Think 5 to 10. Categories give readers a thumbnail sketch of your blog. Too many categories and readers won’t pay attention. Too few, and they won’t understand your focus.
  3. Avoid subcategories. They result in extremely long URLs, which make link sharing awkward (despite the many URL shortening services) and perplex or annoy readers.
  4. Research keyword phrases before settling on category terms. Example – do people search more frequently for “copy writing”, “copywriting”, “copywriter”, or “copywriters”? Keyword analysis should not dictate category label selection, but it’s foolish not to factor it in.
  5. Don’t repeat the same keyword phrase in category after category. From an SEO perspective, using keywords too frequently is as bad as using them too infrequently. From the perspective of human readers, keyword packing makes your blog look spammy.
  6. Keep category labels to 1, 2, or 3 words. If you need more than that, perhaps you aren’t thinking big picture enough.
  7. Use a consistent style. This should go without saying, but you’ll often see a list of categories where labels are a random mixture of lower case, upper/lower case, abbreviations, and spelled out words. Such a category layout hardly screams, quality content!
  8. Don’t get cute. One of my pet peeves is bloggers who use categories to show off their wit. Business blog readers want information first and foremost. They are busy and seldom have time to decode your puns, double entendres, and other assorted wordplay. Make your category labels clear and descriptive.
  9. Assign one category per post. Again, it’s better to use tags to unite posts that fall in overlapping or multiple categories.

Observant readers may notice that my own blog violates a few of my own guidelines. When I started blogging in 2005, most of us were learning as we went along … so I hope you can learn from my mistakes. As a partial excuse, I should mention that in those days tags were neither well understood nor commonly used to identify posts.

Bottom line – Business blog categories should be compact, clear, straightforward, and relevant descriptors of your high level content focus. Less is more.

Over to You

What are your views on business blog categories? Please share your experiences and ideas. And – if you have suggestions for future posts in this series, just let me know.

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15 Responses to How Should You Select Categories for Your Business Blog?

  1. Hi Dave, It would be nice to go back in time, wouldn’t it? :) Fortunately, blogs have many other ways to search and browse – tags, internal search, archives, etc. – that readers can still find old content. But a good category structure makes life so much easier.

  2. LOL Brad! With each sentence I read here, I kept thinking, wish I had read something like this when I first began to blog. And then I read your “Observant readers may notice…”

    I love the advice to limit the category count. I think it brings power and clarity to one’s Web site.

  3. Brad, excellent points! Categories seem to be the one thing that can easily get out of hand and is the hardest for new bloggers to grasp. I fell prey to out of control categories when I was a new blogger too, oh how I wish I could undo my folly. I have to explain this to clients often and use the analogy of a filing cabinet. Categories are the not the labeled folders inside the drawers (those are tags) but the labels on the outside that are much broader. It has helped newbies to wrap their head around the concept and keep it simple and easy for readers to find what they need.

  4. Hi Karen, Good analogy – always good to keep it simple. Categories can always be made more complex, but as we know, making them simpler is very difficult indeed.

  5. Brad, this makes so much sense – but most of us are guilty of totally flopping the smell test in our first year or so (unless you happen to be one of the, uh, .0000087% who actually PLANNED their blog from the get-go!)

    Now, the thought of going back and fixing the categories on nearly 1,000 posts gives me a headache!

  6. Robert, You’d have to have a pretty good reason to go back and re-categorize. One reason I started doing “best of” posts was to group important posts … some folks do what is known as a “squeeze page,” – a similar concept that Darren Rowse sometimes blogs about.

    Fred, I think your tag cloud is a good browsing feature, especially if you start focusing on perhaps a dozen or so common search terms. A tag cloud is often a good solution to a murky category scheme … unfortunately I messed up my tagging early on, so that doesn’t work so well for me, either. :)

  7. Uh Oh. I hit you with a pet peeve square in the face. ‘Ribbiting Relationships’ not a highly searched term? Been thinking about this as my thoughts about what I am doing have been becoming more focused over the past year. Thanks for pointing out the problems of simply editing towards something more staid and true – I see work ahead….

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  10. Ricardo, Thanks for adding your wisdom to the comments: all this advice is sure to help new bloggers. It’s all far more tricky than meets the eye.

  11. I think that you’ve outlined some excellent rules for setting categories and I most certainly agree that the earlier on you set them, the better! And changing them at a later date is most certainly problematic!

    In my opinion, don’t have more than 7-10 categories. The fewer the better because if you have too many, well, it’s just plain cluttered and that’s never a good thing.

    I think it’s ok to assign things to multiple categories but obviously I have a preference for avoiding this if possible.

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