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By Diane Gilleland
The longer you blog, the more your blog will subtly change. And this is a good thing. After all, you’re always evolving as a person, so why wouldn’t this be reflected in your blog?
But, as your blog changes and grows, you’ll want to make sure your new readers can easily find your older content. And so, while we’re early in the new year, let’s take a look at how your blog is organized and give it a few tweaks.


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One Way to Organize: A Category System
In most blogging platforms, you can create a system of categories for your posts, and many bloggers use this system.
So, for example, if you’re a sewing blogger, you might start your blog with a set of categories that makes sense to you: Fabric, Patterns, Finished Projects, Tools, etc. Your categories would be based on the subjects you plan to blog about most regularly.
A category set is a kind of “top-down” way to organize your blog content.
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Pros of a category system
What’s nice about a category system is, people visiting your blog for the first time can use these categories to quickly filter your blog content. Someone who’s most interested in fabrics can click right to your Fabric category.
Cons of a category system
The main downside of a category system is that it sometimes resists the natural evolution of your blog. After all, there are always those rogue posts that don’t fit cleanly into any of your categories. (Maybe, as a sewing blogger, you did a one-time post about leather-working.)
How do we deal with those “square peg” posts: create a new category that may never have more than one post in it, or squish it into an existing category? (More on this in a moment.)
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Another Way to Organize: A Tag System
If a category set is a “top-down” way to organize your content, then a tag system is a “bottom-up” method.
Tags are small labels you assign to each blog post as you post it. Instead of creating a set of categories and fitting all your posts into it, you can give each post any tag in the world that seems appropriate at the time.
So, for example, if I wrote a post about a new embroidery ebook, then I might assign these tags to it: ebook, embroidery, indie publishing, needlecraft. And you might assign totally different tags that are meaningful to you: crafts, stitchery, good reads, digital.
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Pros of a tag system
With tags, your blog’s organization grows and evolves as your content grows and evolves. You can add new tags anytime. You can even display your tags in a “tag cloud” (like the one above). The cloud makes it clear which tags have more content by displaying them larger.
And, if you’re tagging well, then as you can see, your readers can really hone in on specific parts of your content.
Cons of a tag system
The main problem with tags is, over time, your list of tags can get big and rather unwieldy, and it can take up a great deal of space in your blog’s sidebar.
And most readers, when confronted with a long, long list or a great big cloud of tags, may just glaze over from too much information.
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So which system is better?
Frankly, I think either one can work, with proper stewardship. And I think the system to use is the one that feels most comfortable to you. Some of us think top-down, and others think bottom-up.
(I should add here: Blogger.com uses something called Labels, which can basically work like either Categories or Tags, depending on how you choose to display them on your blog.)
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Stewarding a Category System
As we mentioned a earlier, over time, you’ll probably find new categories emerging in your content as your interests grow and change. So you may be faced occasionally with re-visiting and re-categorizing older posts.
Here’s an example: my blog started out being mostly about crafts. Over time, though, I evolved into writing more about independent crafty publishing. I use a category system, so at first, I was trying to fit these odd publishing posts into that system. My “General Crafty” category seemed like the closest fit.
Well, over time, I ended up blogging about crafty publishing a lot. So eventually I decided these posts deserved their own category: “Indie Publishing.” And then I went back and looked at those older posts, and changed their category.
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Stewarding a Tag System

If your list of tags has grown too huge to be useful, then you’ll eventually need to re-visit it. It’s a good idea to start by looking at all those tags that have only one or two posts assigned to them. Do you really need these tags to display on your blog? If these few posts aren’t really of lasting value, and your readers aren’t likely to need to refer back to them, then you can delete these tags. That leaves those few posts un-tagged, but it shouldn’t be a problem.
However, let’s say you have one of these one-post tags, and the one post that’s attached to it really is something your readers will want to get back to in future. Maybe it’s that one-time-only tutorial you did on leather-working, and you’re still getting plenty of web traffic from it. You have it tagged with “leather,” but it’s the only post in the history of your blog to use that tag.
Well, in that case, you might want to go back in and re-tag this post. Look through your existing tags, find another tag that would fit with this post (Like, for example, “Tutorial”.) Then you can re-tag the post and delete the “leather” tag.
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(Image by Image by jek-a-go-go, via Flickr)
So either way, as your content grows, you’ll want to keep tidying things up so new readers can find the old stuff. In general, it’s wise to give your blog’s organization a once-over at least once a year.
And remember, any time one of your readers reports not being able to find something on your blog, or you can’t find something yourself, it’s a sure sign that your organization scheme needs some attention!
About the Author:
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Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod.com, a blog that geeks out on crafting and also helps crafters use the web more effectively to promote their businesses.


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Comments

  1. Tara - Scoutie Girl says:

    Great post, Diane!
    The way I’ve explained it to people in the past is that Categories are like a Table of Contents – a broad overview of your content. And, just as you said, perfect for those who are new to the site or wanting to browse general topics.
    Tags create something like an index. Much more specific & helpful for those who know what they’re looking for.
    Both are equally important but are definitely useful for different reasons!

  2. Steve Hoefer says:

    It’s definitely a good thing to go back and groom your entries every once and while. Make sure you categorize and tag as someone looking for the article, not the author.
    Regularly checking your analytics and blog search logs can really help figure out what people are searching for, what they’re finding and what they’re not. That can help improve your tagging or categorizing efforts.
    When I do something that could be considered part of a series or is like something before I try to add links to the other articles to help people find what they’re interested in. When I remember I go back and link the old article to the new one too. (There are automated ways to do this but they’re often inaccurate.)
    I’ve also added a “Featured project” section for the stuff that I know (again, from analytics) lots visitors are interested in. I manually add a thumbnail photo, title and description and rotate them through a sidebar to help get visitors to where they want to be without searching too hard.

  3. futuregirlcraft says:

    I was just looking at that on my blog last night. I think I’m going to go with a combo approach. I’m going to list my main categories/labels/tags (crochet, knitting, felt …) in the nav and have a link to “all categories” under that. That way, I can use specific keywords in the posts themselves (which are displayed after the post) and people can click them if they are interested in more about that topic. Because you are absolutely right, having a list of 50 categories in a column isn’t helping anyone find anything.
    Your tutorial on Google Analytics overlays actually helped me figure out which of my categories were actually getting clicked on … which is how I picked the main ones. :)

  4. refashionedgoods.com says:

    Thank you so much.
    I am just beginning my first craft blog after weeks of listening to the archives of your podcast.
    This article helps me exactly where I am at: wanting to start with a good system.
    For this and all the podcast, thank you.
    Looking into purchasing one of your ebooks soon.
    Mad Love,
    rave.n

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