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Using the WordPress Blog Functionality

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Now that you have seen how to configure WordPress to be like a traditional website let’s talk about using the WordPress blog functionality. Again, remember that WordPress was originally developed as a blogging application and your home page displayed a list of your latest blog posts with the latest blog post on the top.

In that setup if you scroll down the page you get progressively later blog posts because they’re always organized on that home page with the latest blog post at the top. This blog configuration has an inherent organization that is different from the organization that I showed you here.

As we just saw the traditional site is organized with parent pages and child pages whereas the blog organization is around blog posts. We’re calling them articles here because this is in the context of a professional services site. Our professional services site doesn’t have a blog but it does have articles that are written periodically about topics and we use the blog functionality to do that.

Ways to Organize the Blog

The typical organization for the blog can include a number of things. The following are ways to organize it.

  • Categories
  • Tags
  • Date
  • Authors

If you’ve got a blog that has lots of different authors then you can organize that blog by authors. WordPress automatically creates a page for every author and if you click on that author’s page it automatically brings up all the posts by that author.

As far as categories go, you create a category, assign it to a post and WordPress automatically creates a category page for that category. That page will automatically display all of the posts that have that category. The same thing is true with tags. WordPress automatically creates a tagged page once you’ve created a tag and added it to a post and then WordPress will display all the posts with that tag.

Displaying and Organizing Blog Example

Let’s come over to the blog page on my example site which is news and this is a list of the latest posts. I don’t want to slow the site down so I’m only showing 10 posts and I’m only showing excerpts here rather than the whole post. If I want to see older post I click on the previous posts and now I’ve got another list and each of these posts shows with the newest one on top of the oldest ones.

I can take a look at these posts by category. For example, this is in the leverage category. If I click on the beverages category now I’ve got every post that is categorized as beverage with the latest post up at the top. The same thing is true with like salads. This one is posted in salads, this has every post that is categorized as salads. Laura is the author so if I click on the Laura’s name this is every post Laura has written.

Author, Category, Tag Pages Automatically Created

So, every time you create an author, this author page is automatically created. When you create a category, the category pages automatically created. I’m not using tags here but if I were using tags then the tag page would be automatically created. All of this behavior is automatic. All you have to do is create a category itself, assign that category to a post and all the rest of the stuff happens without you needing to do anything.

Categories

Let’s talk about those specific organizational tools. We’re going to start off with categories.

SEO and Navigation

Categories should be reserved for the use of SEO and navigation. The main reason you have categories is because you are providing a structured URL to Google. That allows Google to tell what the page is about.

Let’s take a look at the URL on this Side Salad with Avocado post. It’s the name of the website /menu/salads/side-salad-avocado and that is a structured URL. With a URL like this – barkingchihuahuacafe.com/menu/salads/side-salad-with-avocado everybody knows what this URL is pointing to. If it was the barkingchihuahuacafe.com/side-salad-with-avocado no one would know whether or not that was a menu item or a recipe or something else.

If you were trying to show a recipe here you’d want the URL to be barkingchihuahuacafe.com/recipe/side-salad-with-avocado. As you can see these categories are meaningful. They provide the structure for the URL and because of that every post should only have one category.

Limit One Category per Post

If you add more than one category to a post, you are creating what Google considers to be redundant content because now you have created two paths to the same content and Google doesn’t like that. Google doesn’t want redundant content. Google wants one path to every piece of content which is why you should never use more than one category per post.

If you use 10 categories per post, every post potentially has 10 different URLs or could be gotten to via 10 different URLs. You’ve heard people talk about duplicate content and having multiple URLs point to the same content is a perfect way to run afoul of Google’s different content rule. So only one category per post.

How to Create a Category

Creating a category is really simple. Come over to posts and go to the categories here. This “automatically get an uncategorised tag” you can’t delete that. You could rename it but you can’t delete it. Here’s where you would create a category name. For example, we’ll say menu and add the new category and now you’ve got a menu category created.

Parent-Child Relationships in Categories

Notice that you have this choice of parent here. Let’s say we add sandwiches as a category then we choose parent as menu. Add a new category. Let’s just add a new post real quickly. We’ll call it Reuben Sandwich. Now when we come down to our categories we can choose sandwiches as the category. Publish it and now you can see what the URL looks like. It says the website name/menu/sandwiches/reuben now you have a properly structured URL.

So all of your sandwich types would end up with the sandwiches category. All of your food types like sandwiches, salads, beverages, all of those categories would be child categories of menu. That way you end up with the structure.

Let’s come back over to the categories. Even if you don’t have a post for the category yet you can still say salads and add it to the menu. Add new category, you could say beverages. Add it to the menu, entrees and menu and so now you’ve got a category structure that has a very clear hierarchy. It also clearly describes the content of the post and that’s what categories are for, that’s what your URL is for. And that’s what Google wants to see and anybody who tells you otherwise is mistaken.

There are WordPress people out there who say you can use categories for different ways of displaying a post. So you could use a blue category and then give all the posts in that category a blue background. Yes, you can do that but it’s horrible practice. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and it’s recommended by people who don’t really care about SEO. They don’t care whether or not their posts are found by Google and get delivered to people when people search for that.

How Many Levels of Subcategories Should You Use?

I call these parent-child categories. You can also think of them as categories and subcategories. You can have many levels of subcategories. For example, you could have dinner entrees and lunch entrees under this. You can keep on going sub, sub, sub. There’s no limit to how deep these things can go although there is a practical limit, again, from an SEO standpoint as to how deep your architecture should go.

This all depends on how complicated your site is. For very simple sites you don’t need a lot of categories and you don’t need a lot of depth but on very large and complex sites you’re going to need lots of categories and you need lots of depth. So it just depends on the kind of site that you’re developing. There’s no right answer to how many categories or how many subcategories or what the right level of subcategories are.

If somebody says that blogs should never have more than four or five categories. I’d ask them “so if you have 500 posts and you’ve got five categories how are people going to use categories to differentiate between your posts?”. In that case each category has a hundred posts under it. All of a sudden that’s not particularly meaningful or descriptive, right? A category is not useful if that category contains all or much of your content. The category is only useful if it serves to break your content down to the smaller groups of content.

Names You Should Not Use

Let’s talk about names that you should not use for categories. You should not use category names that are the same as page names and you should not use category names that are the same as reserved names. For example, you shouldn’t have a category named the blog. You shouldn’t have a category named page or one named post or category or tag or archive or taxonomy.

The category name should be descriptive of the content of the post and should not be used for anything other than that. The problem is that if you use one of those names in a category name, WordPress gets confused when it’s trying to resolve the URL and it makes 404 errors or it may give you unwanted results. So it makes no sense at all to use those kinds of terms for category names.

Use category names that are descriptive. Good naming convention is to use short category names and to make them descriptive of what’s being said in them.

Viewing Category Pages

You can view a category page. Let’s come over here to sandwiches. You can view the category page by clicking on view category up here and now you see the category sandwiches. The Reuben sandwich we just created is under it. Notice how this is showing byobrick? Well, this is one where I didn’t change my user settings to display publicly as Rick Anderson.

I certainly did change those. Well, that’s really disappointing because that’s not how it should work. Display publicly really means that the author name isn’t his login name, the author name is the name that supposed to be displayed publicly.

The other way you can view category pages is the way I showed you at first. If your theme shows category names along with a post or if you’ve got a widget that shows category names, then you can click on the name and go to the category page. There are a variety of different ways you can get to the category page, often from the post itself or from category widgets on the side and always from the category itself.

Category Structure Example

Let’s look at this demonstration site I’ve built so you can see my category structure. I’ve got local artists. I’ve got my menu and I’ve got those things into that menu. That’s my category structure and inside of that I have 43 posts categorized by 10 categories.

Tags

Tags on the other hand are different. Tags are another way of organizing your content. I don’t actually have any tags on this site and I don’t use tags too often. I will sometimes suggest that if people have a blog and they’ve got regular posts and video blog posts they use tags. So if they want to show people all of their video posts they can use a tag called video and then add that tag to a post.

Use for Navigation

Tags can be just about anything you want them to be and you can have as many tags as you want. They have no SEO impact whatsoever. You’re not using tags because you’re trying to improve keywords or trying to improve SEO. There’s no SEO benefit to tags. Tags are just a navigation system.

They Have No Hierarchy

Let’s take a look at my website and let’s come over to topics. Topics are like tags. This is actually a custom taxonomy but there’s no hierarchy. Every tag is on the same level, there’s no parent tag and child tag. There’s no tag and subtag. There is no hierarchy whatsoever.

When you click on a tag you come to all the posts, in this case all the lessons, that speak to this topic of background color or whatever it happens to be.

Difference Between Tags and Categories

So the difference between tags and categories is that one is hierarchical and the other is not. Tags are all on an equal level and they are unrelated to one another whereas categories can be hierarchical and as such they can be related.

WordPress typically uses tags for browsing navigation, that’s what I use it for instead of searching navigation. People can come over here to topics and kind of can browse this list. That’s what tags are for. Categories are primarily for SEO but they can also be used for browsing navigation by going to their archive pages.

You can have as many tags as you want. At some point in this process we’ll show you the tag widget which gives you a tag cloud. I’m sure you’ve seen that before.

Charlie asks, “so tags are just a way to search categories and don’t influence URL?”. Tags are a way to browse your content, non-hierarchically. If every post you have has the same tag then it’s useless. I added the tag thesis to all of my earlier posts. Well, that was useless because it’s way too general a topic. The reason you use tags to help people distinguish amongst the content. Say, I want to read more about Thesis 2 but if half of the content on the site is about that then using a Thesis 2 tag is meaningless. You want to use tags that are meaningful that help somebody browse the content of your site.

Another use for tags are tag-like taxonomy. Let’s go back to that in thesisskindevelopment. I’ve created all of these different ways of indexing the content that’s on this site so that students can use it as a reference and go find topics that they’re looking for. So that’s another way in which you can use tags or tag-like taxonomies.

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