For Bloggers

Organizing Your Blog | How To Use Categories Effectively

How To Use Blog Categories Effectively To Engage Your Reader

OK, So this week… we’re gonna talk about doing something that could be a little drastic. We’re going to re-do our blog categories and make them work effectively. And yes I mean WE. If you didn’t see it, I posted a notice yesterday that my blog was being reorganized. I’m doing my organization AS I write, and still research and make decisions on, How To Use Categories Effectively.

I’m going to go in-depth with a walk-through first, because I know a lot of people that read my series posts like to follow along, but I’ll follow up with a checklist at the end of this post if you prefer just hitting the highlights.

If possible, I recommend doing one or more of the following things:

  • Do your updates at a time when your blog doesn’t get much viewers. Super late at night is accurate for most people, but you can check your stats. This way it causes the least disruption possible.
  • Put out a notice. This way people that come across your blog realize that something is going on, and don’t just think you’re really bad with links.
  • Do 90% of your planning WITHOUT touching or editing your blog. Open up a spreadsheet or document, or use a notebook, and brainstorm your organization that way first so that you have as little downtime as possible.

(Fake) bonus points if you take a screenshot or make a list of all of your categories before we start. I’d LOVE to know your before and afters – even just a count!

Did you know that you can rename Uncategorized?

If you haven’t ever accidentally left it marked with the default category… I can’t imagine you’ve been blogging very long. Or you’re even more meticulous and OCD than I am!

Even if you haven’t suffered the idiocy of leaving it default but also adding another category and looking like an idiot (“Oh, it’s categorized but also uncategorized? Gee ain’t she a genius”) your best bet is to rename this something that is a catch-all.

Knowing Your Blog Layout is the key to optimizing your blog organization

Mine is Updates. Both because if I write something like my little Site Reorganization Update, I want it there, and because if I forget to label something or forget to remove that label, it makes me look like I’m 90% less air-headed. That’s a plus, right?

I do not include this category in my navigation. It just looks a lot more thought out to not have it say “Uncategorized” – Plus you instantly look like you have everything together if you can say nothing is Uncategorized.

Now…

Here’s The #1 Blog Category Problem

I have 48 categories. Or I did before I started this. And I can tell you exactly why:

I was organizing for myself, NOT for my readers.

I’m very, VERY organized. My mother would disagree. But I’m OCD about things, and that also means I second guess myself and get overwhelmed with it and overthink it.

Ready for complete transparency? Here’s my categories before I started:

My Blog Categories

You can already tell. There’s stuff in there you guys would never need to click on. There’s things I thought I’d post about and don’t anymore. There’s even the X subcategory of Unboxings for things that I cancelled after one box, and no, you’re not imaging it. There’s a few categories I never even posted in. That’s besides categories with one post.

You can see how much these overlap, and you can see how much my blog has evolved.

I’m going to try to cut this down to under 10. Which is going to be a big change for me. Partially… because I have more beauty boxes than that. OK. This time I’m the one that needs a deep breath. Tell me there’s at least someone else having separation anxiety from their categories? No? Just me?

How To Choose What Categories Your Blog Needs

Instead of looking at my list of current categories. I’m making a spreadsheet. I’m going to go back through my most recent posts and see if I can categorize them into as few as possible, without sacrificing organization and letting people go to what they want to see.

How To Choose Your Blog Categories

Here’s my first draft. Let’s analyze it.

Obviously my Updates category is staying, it’s my default category and has some stuff that goes into it, but it won’t be in navigation. Besides that:

  • For Bloggers: I still really like this category, as I post often about tips for blogging. That’s how this post will be categorized too. It will encompass all posts about blogging or resources for bloggers.
  • Planning & Organization: The name is pending, but I think I can combine my Bullet Journal posts, along with Goals & Habits, and Blog Planning into this one catch-all, and that the content will be similar enough that if someone scrolls through it, they’ll find more articles that help them.
  • Deal Alert: This is pending. I do post about beauty box sales and every now and then I post about a freebie or giveaway. I have not decided at this point if it’s a useful category and something that would actually benefit my readers more than seeing the most recent posts on the main feed.
  • For Foodies: This is pending too. It might become a future category, or it might be a current category but stay out of navigation until I post more on it. It could also evolve.
  • Boxes: Unboxing may be renamed Boxes, as it would include spoilers, Battle of the Boxes, Birchbox vs Ipsy, and all subscription box posts in general. I’m leaning towards removing all of my box categories, actually, and instead using tags and a landing page to organize them and link to other posts about that box type. This would help keep my categories lower as some boxes I try once and cancel.
  • Beauty Tips & Tricks: I feel like people would click on this… but it looks like I’m having some posts that don’t quite fit into this but are rather similar.
  • Awards: I still think this category is more for me than for you guys. Does anyone ever click on the Awards category unless they’re trying to figure out if someone has an award already and whether or not to nominate them? The search bar works for that.
  • UNSURE: Obviously not a category. But this is the list of posts so far that don’t fit into my initial on-the-spot made up outline for my new categories.

So there’s a million blogs with a Reviews category. And if you do them often, and you GENUINELY think someone will click and want to see ALL of your reviews, go ahead and keep it. I… don’t think I need one. Because I’m going to make myself, and you all, a vow, right now:

I vow to NEVER write a review.

Now what does that mean? That means there will ALWAYS be added benefit to it. I did a mask ‘review’ that included mask tips. I did a product feature showing how a serum I received to review took away my acne when that wasn’t even a benefit they listed. But I will never, EVER, write a “Review”. It’s just not me, it’s not my writing style, and you can find them on any other blog. I have around 6 upcoming posts I need to ‘review’ and I will make sure absolutely none of them need to fit into that category.

When In Doubt… Check Everything

My Blog Categories Revamp 2

This is Round 2, I listed out ALL of my past posts. Yes. Every single one. I started out with around ~200 posts.

You can see I changed a few things. Deal Alert was changed to Cheap & Free, Beauty Tips & Tricks was changed to All Things Beauty, and I removed For Foodies. I’m not happy with some of these changes, but they reflect what types of things I want in each category.

At this stage, I actually did what you aren’t supposed to do, but because of the type of blogger I am, and my desire to be consistent… I actually did TWO things you shouldn’t do.

  1. I deleted a few past posts. Mostly the giveaways that were reposted from someone else’s blog. These long expired and honestly it really bugs me having other peoples images in my Media uploads on WordPress. Like REALLY bugs me. Especially if I think it’s a crappy design or just not my style.
  2. I renamed old files and broke some links. I did this for consistency and better search engine optimization, but you shouldn’t do this because anywhere in your blog that you linked to this? Yeah it just broke. And it also broke on Google. I feel like I’m JUST in the ‘new enough’ stage that this won’t kill me. IF you choose to rename old things, rename the Title, not your Slug/URL, because that won’t break the link.

Nailing The Perfect Category Names

Get it, get it? Nailing? Except I’ve never once posted about nails. Oh well.

Now… I called in the boyfriend for help, and I really recommend you do the same. Whether it’s your significant other, your best friend, a group of friends, your mom. You need a reader when you’re thinking about what a reader is going to find interesting.

Why? Because of the goal:

Every category on your blog should make a reader want to click it.

After about 2 hours of him listening to my ideas… here’s my final organization and listing:

How To Organize Your Blog By Choosing The Perfect Categories

You can see that Beauty got changed. Deal Alert was renamed back to it’s original overarching category, and For Foodies is back. Let me tell you the process of changing just the Beauty category. I also got rid of all of my Unsure… and I’ll explain the SPONSORED tag in a minute, because it’s NOT necessary.

You can see a “Beauty” category on just about every beauty blogger site ever. “All Things Beauty” is pretty-much the same, and it has the same issue: for all you know it’s just me rambling about my monthly favorites, or my new lipstick haul. Still interesting, but is there any urgency? Does it demonstrate the value that’s hidden behind that mouse click?

…No. Not really.

Make your value as a blogger obvious.

My “Beauty” category is all about providing useful information that provide something new to everyone from the barest beginner, to an expert, and every single girl in between. I genuinely believe you’d be hard pressed to read one of those posts and not at least be reminded of something you should be doing and haven’t, if not learning something new or seeing it in a new light. That might sound cocky, but it’s been my goal, my mantra, this whole blogging journey. I want to add value.

Beauty Tips & Tricks didn’t work. It gave the reader a reason to click it, but there’s more than JUST that in there. Beauty was too vague, as we already decided. So it became Lessons in Beauty. When I suggested that, the text I got back was “That’s it!”

Lessons in Beauty tells you there’s something many things you can learn in one click.

Too Few Categories is Just as Bad as Too Many

Typically, you shouldn’t use categories for something you don’t post about often, or is less than 5% of your total posts. Here’s the (debatable) exception: Specialized Categories.

For Foodies… is a small category. It’s that category I really want to post more in, but there’s just never time. So I decided to make it into something useful. Instead of having a Recipes category. This is now all things foodie. Because a large percent of my posts are about boxes, specifically beauty boxes, separating out foodie boxes that aren’t blogged about by as many people helps keep them from getting buried. Boosting them and combining them with my recipes re-positions For Foodies as a resource for people, and gives me room for growth in that category.

Why Your Series Shouldn’t Be A Category

This one… this one was hard. I really had trouble deleting my Beauties On Fire category. I don’t even know why. But… if you’re looking for Beauties On Fire, not having it in navigation does a few things:

  1. If you scroll through the feed to find it, you might see something else new that you would be interested in. I find it hard to believe that anyone interested in one of the posts on my blog wouldn’t have at least one other thing they’re interested in. Everything is pretty related and integrated.
  2. If you search for it, there’s a really handy search bar RIGHT there. All you have to do is scroll past my most popular posts (or my navigation, depending on what’s up), so you’re being exposed to what I want to show you. And you’re also essentially scrolling down my feed. Win/Win.
  3. If you go to the category it’s in, Lessons in Beauty… you’ll find *gasp* more similar content with other Lessons in Beauty! Do you see the benefits here?

Never deliberately hide a category, and certainly don’t make them hard to find, but there’s benefits to not having everything half a click away. You should categorize a series the same way as you do all other posts: by topic. Then identify the series with tags.

For example this post is under For Bloggers, and the series tag is Better Blogger Challenge.

Think Like A Blog Virgin

Go visit your blog right now. I’ll do a whole post on this sometime in the future, but look at where your categories show. Are they in a menu automatically? Did you manually make one? Do they show up above your blog title on your main feed like mine? At the bottom?

There’s actually a job title for this User Experience (UX) Expert/Designer. Their job, on websites, apps, etc, is to do all the ‘front-end’ work – making it easy for the user to navigate. Think of it as idiot-proofing. Or sleepy-brain proofing, to soften it.

Readers are lazy. There’s other blogs we can get content on. Yep. Harsh truth. If your navigation is confusing, even if your content is mind-blowing, you instantly lose out on a ton of reader interaction with every post, and if it’s bad enough, they won’t come back.

Make it easy to find more content.

Now that you know your placement, this brings me into the final topic…

Utilize Your Category Placement

How To Disclose A Sponsored Post On Your Blog

I love having my categories right by the title. Why? I can use it for disclosure.

Let’s talk about the Sponsored category I mentioned. When I do write a post that’s written in exchange for a free product (I do not currently do PAID posts), I tag it with Sponsored.

What Having a Sponsored Category Does

  1. It discloses clearly – before you even click on it. Now, I’d probably do a review anyway if I loved something, and I’m extremely picky with my products, so my reviews are always going to give my honest opinion, even besides that being my legal and ethical duty.This does not legally protect you. You also need to include something along the lines of “I got this at a discount in exchange for my honest review”. I prefer to be a little more fluid and express that “I’m so glad that x company sent this to me to let me test it and share my review with you guys!” By the way… a disclosure page, or even in your sidebar or footer? Does nothing for you legally. Just so you know. It’s clutter. This is another topic we’ll go into soon.
  2. It gives companies a way to see how I write sponsored posts. This is waaaaaayyyy more effective than putting up a fad badge that says PR Friendly. I swear to you there’s a post in this series already planned out that says “Why PR Friendly is BS and What To Do Instead” (title pending, it’s going to say BS though), so you can get more fake bonus points by removing this useless piece of clutter sooner rather than later. I’m telling you that both as a blogger, and as someone that studied advertising and marketing. It doesn’t do a single thing for you… except make you look like a newbie.But back on topic, we discussed how I don’t do “reviews” so this shows any company that same thing. That I can create natural feeling, organic marketing that flows with the rest of my content – and that I can add benefit to their brand, even not being one of the BIG bloggers.Side note. Small to mid-range bloggers are often chosen for campaigns because the weight of our words holds more standing to readers. There’s a perception of not being a sell-out until you hit the ‘big blogger’ range.

Final Tips

  • Do all of these updates in one go. Both for your readers sanity and for yours. Once you stop halfway, you start second guessing yourself and end up starting all over.
  • Run a Broken Link Check. There’s many out there, brokenlinkcheck.com is an OK one. I’ve yet to find a great one that works with wordpress.com sites.
  • Set up your navigation (menu) for your readers. One click catch-all categories.
  • Add tags as necessary. Sub-categories should, in most cases, be delegated to tags. The exception is if you’re a very large site and creating a resource library.

and my promised checklist for those of you that weren’t up for a whole walk-through!

How To Use Blog Categories Effectively - a comprehensive checklist of tips and steps to organizing and reorganizing your blog into useful categories

If you liked this week’s Better Blogger Challenge, Pin or Share to help your blogging buddies!

Make sure to follow the blog so you don’t miss next week when we talk about:
How To Use Blog Tags

in the meantime, make sure you’re caught up with the rest of the Better Blogger Challenge

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10 thoughts on “Organizing Your Blog | How To Use Categories Effectively

  1. I don’t have a lot of categories and my default is beauty. I’ve been wanting to add menus along the top but still haven’t due to the daunting task. Ugh.

    Like

  2. I’m a newbie and my categories are a disaster…. I have read through 90% of this, I’m going to print it and get my house in order! lol. A really informative and detailed post. Thanks so much ❤

    Like

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