A post that goes over blog category and tag best practices has been on my Kanban for a while now. The ALC Network website consists—primarily—as a network of member blogs publishing posts. Each post consists of a title, body (content), and metadata. Metadata is a fancy way of saying information about a post. We can add metadata to our posts with categories and tags to help us better sort, find, and display our posts. In this post I will further explain metadata, categories, and tags then tour @abram’s website to give you concrete examples of how tags and categories can be used.
More on Metadata
Here’s what a single post looks like in the database, displayed as a row:
From the right you can see the post’s title and then the post content. The post_content is, as it’s name suggests, the content of the post. The other data in our database associated with this post is it’s metadata. On the right you see that the post has an ID of 857, it has an author (represented by a number, which is associated with another row in another database with author details), it also has a post_date which is the day and time that the post was published.
Whenever you write a post it will automatically create metadata (date, time, author, etc.) which means that technically I can query (ask) the database for rows of data like the one above based on metadata. For instance all blogs have pages that request posts based on time. Let’s say we want to read all my posts from February 2015 we could simply navigate to drew.agilelearningcenters.org/2015/02/ by adding /2015/02 we are telling the website (WordPress) to ask the database for all posts that have a post_date in Feburary 2015. In other words we are requesting posts based on their post_date metadata.
That’s great, but what does this have to do with categories and tags?
Categories and Tags
You can add metadata to your posts by using categories and tags. The technical term for these two ideas is taxonomy, which is to say, you can add taxonomy metadata to your posts. You’ve probably see these two boxes on the right when you are writing blog posts.
Why are there two and what’s the difference? Well that’s a hard question to answer. Remember both of these are just metadata there isn’t a real technical difference only a functional one when working with WordPress. Mainly categories are displayed as checkboxes and tags are typed into a box (and will autocomplete). Tags can be rapidly added to posts and there can be quite a lot of tags without it cluttering up the interface while categories are slower to create but easier to check off.
Categories are typically broad and cover the subject areas that you write about. Think of them as a way to distinguish a series of posts, they represent the post on a whole. Tags, on the other hand, are little flags that point to information inside the post. For instance this post is a skill share but I also talk about blogging, tags, and categories. I also show off some of abram‘s work. The tags connect posts from multiple categories.
Don’t worry if it isn’t clear yet, let’s look at some real examples:
Case Study: Abe’s Blog
As far as I have seen Abe is the best user of tags and categories right now on the site. Open up Abe’s home page in a new window and follow along. I’m not going to go into details on how Abe has created the layout here (I’ll give you a hint though, he is using a static front page and the page builder template that comes with the ALC General Theme pictured right).
First thing you’ll notice is the featured posts at the top. Abe is doing this by displaying posts with the category “featured”. So when ever he wants a post to show up on the front page he simply ticks the “featured” checkbox under category.
Next we see that he is showing off a few of his blog series. Each of these collections of blogs are posts about a single subject, Mineful Minecraft for instance. By using the tag “mindful-minecrafting” on each post he can create a narrative that filters out all the posts in between when you are looking at the proper tag: abram.agilelearningcenters.org/tag/mindful-minecrafting/
After this we find a tag cloud, this is a widget that displays all the tags you’ve ever used and changes their size based on how many times you’ve used them.
Let’s see what he’s up to here. The first thing that jumps out at me are the names of people, this is a great idea for using tags. Now when I click on “Ryan” I’ll see all posts that have to do with Ryan (assuming Abe tagged them). Perhaps I want to know about what Abe did with ALC Everett in 2015, well I don’t have to go searching because he tagged all his posts from Everett!
As we move further down the page we find Abe’s reflective posts. These are in the category “reflections”.
Below that is a section with posts tagged “photo”. By tagging his posts Abe can display all the photo based posts for us.
Abe’s use of tags and categories gives him the ability to show off specific types of posts to his website’s visitors. If you are a student you could use the category “portfolio” on all posts that you want to show off in your portfolio and leave out all the reflective posts.
Let’s look to the future for a moment. Imagine a section of our site that talked about gameshifting boards. We could create a list of all posts that are tagged “gameshifting”. Anything like that is possible, we simply need to agree on tags to use and use them!
Try this, look through your posts a single category or tag to create that would tie them together. Perhaps you want to make a “featured” category or maybe you can “tag” all the posts that talk about self directed learning or some other topic you write about often.
If you have further questions or ideas for categories/tags leave them in the comments. Also if you know of other people who are using them please share. I wanted to acknowledge Nancy for being awesome at this too!