Pages, Categories, Tags, and Menus

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This post was written for the students of the Columbia College Chicago class Blogging: Beyond the Basics in the Fall semester of 2014. It likely refers to specific software or settings that may quickly be out of date and may not apply to your situation, even in a future semester of the same class.

There seemed to be a little bit of confusion between Pages and Categories, so it seemed like something we should go over.

A Page in WordPress looks a lot like a Post—it has a title and a body section and when it’s published it usually (depending on your Theme) gets all of the same surrounding menus, widgets, etc. But it sits apart from the main flow of your blog posts and readers can only find it if you specifically link to it or include it on a Menu. Pages are usually used for information that you want to be always accessible to your readers, no matter how long ago wrote it: your About Me, how to contact you, legal disclaimers, a glossary of technical terms, etc. Pages can have a parent-child organizational structure and you can, in fact, use them to use WordPress to make static websites, like a “brochure site”.

Categories are an organizational  classification that gets applied to a Post. Categories can have many Posts assigned to them, and  Post can be assigned to multiple Categories. Categories can be a great tool for your users to find similar posts on a topic they like your writing on, and can be a useful organizational tool for you as a writer. As a general rule, you’ll probably want to have a few broad categories, with maybe a few levels of child-parent nesting. If you get too specific with categories, it’ll take longer for you to manage the categories and it’s more work for your readers to use them to find posts. You can also add Categories right from within the Add New Post window, so it’s something you can manage as you continue your blog.

Tags are another organizational scheme, but are designed to be even more granular. If your blog is informational, they can add a powerful mechanism for your readers to find posts on specific topics. They have also factored in some SEO efforts, so you’ll see blogs where people have gone a little crazy with the Tags.

As an example of the difference between the two concepts, let’s think about a blog about candy. You’d probably want some categories like Chocolate Bars, Hard Candy, and Gum. Over time, you might find that your readers really care about whether chocolate bars have nuts or not, so you could add With Nuts and Without Nuts as child categories of Chocolate Bars. Tags, on the other hand, could be used to include information about specific ingredients of the bar being reviewed (“cashews”, etc.), or to indicate information about the availability of a bar (“British” or “seasonal”), or even to include a rating (“1-star”, “2-stars”, etc).

Pages and Categories are often made available to your readers with a theme widget on the sidebar or footer of the blog, but to really highlight them, you’ll probably want to make a Menu. Menus can be created and managed under the Appearance section of the administration sidebar. You have to make a Menu before you can edit it—if you’ll only going to have one, just call it something like “Main”—and then you can drag items from Pages, Categories, and Links over to your Menu and re-arrange them by dragging them around inside the list. The Manage Location tab shows you where your theme will let you place the Menu.