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What Every Blogger Needs to Know About Categories

sexy nurse illustration

Because of the way they are misused all over the Web, categories have grown to become something that we regard in a purely user-centric light. We think of them as navigational tools and guides for users, but in reality, categories are a powerful tool that bloggers can use to exercise precise control over content in a dynamic environment.

Unfortunately, the true power of categorized content has been masked by the one size fits all implementation you see everywhere on the Web—the proverbial long, ugly list of category links now appearing on a blog near you.

As luck would have it, that awful category list also turns out to be a very poor presentational strategy for your site…but why?

Why Your Category List Isn’t Doing You Any Favors

By giving users a list of categories to browse on your site, you are creating a psychological conundrum that usually leaves them with a severe case of analysis paralysis. This is a condition where users, when presented with too many options, end up selecting nothing at all.

Being presented with more choices, even good ones, can hinder effective action. In one study, doctors couldn’t make a decision when a second promising drug showed up.

Fast Company, November 2007

Counter-intuitive? Maybe. Human nature? Absolutely.

Whether you’re selling products, writing copy, or designing interfaces, you can benefit from playing into basic human psychology. And interestingly, with Website categories, accommodating natural human behavior also turns out to be an excellent SEO strategy!

Automated SEO and Content Management with Categories

At first glance, it seems convenient that WordPress automatically creates category pages, tag pages, and just about every other type of page you can imagine1. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that this form of page bloat is a remarkably poor site-building practice—it’s a condition that should be avoided whenever possible.

As far as blogs are concerned, categories are the single biggest contributor to both page bloat and link dilution, two of the most abominable SEO sins. Ironically, when used properly, these same categories hold the key to efficient, automated site optimization and content management…

The difference, of course, is all in how you use them. Armed with a bit of knowledge and a few lines of code, you’ll be able to use categories to:

  • display content however you like, wherever you like
  • link directly to interior pages—not to interstitial “bloat” pages like monthly archives or category archives
  • provide your users with a smarter, more intuitive way to browse content that may be of interest to them

WordPress Example: “Popular” Articles

Turn your attention to the sidebar of this site, where you’ll find lists of posts underneath subheadings like “Must Reads,” “Improve Your Blog,” and “Worth a Look.” As you might have guessed, I use categories to control the content of each list, and now we’re going to examine how you can do the same. For the sake of this example, let’s focus on the “Must Reads,” which are controlled by the “Popular” category.

The first step is to categorize each applicable post in an identical and meaningful way—in this case, “Popular.” Keep in mind that it makes no difference how many posts you lump under one category, simply because you’ll establish all display control through your code (which you are about to write).

Once you’ve categorized your articles, the second step is to determine what you want to display and where you want to display it. In this example, the goal is to display a list of popular posts over in the sidebar, so in order to do that, you should open the sidebar.php template file for editing.

Now that you’ve opened the appropriate theme file, it’s time to move on to the third step, which is the coding portion of our show. Here’s the code I used in sidebar.php to generate a list (<ul>, <li>) of popular articles: 2

<?php
   query_posts('category_name=Popular&showposts=5');
   while (have_posts()) :
      the_post();
?>
   <li><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark"><?php the_title(); ?> <?php comments_number('0', '1', '%'); ?></a></li> 
<?php
   endwhile; 
?>

Take a look at the following snippet from the above code:

query_posts('category_name=Popular&showposts=5');

This line tells WordPress to look through its database and fetch the 5 most recent posts from the “Popular” category. Once you’ve acquired the appropriate posts, all you need to do is loop through them, displaying only the information you want. Here’s the code from our example:

<li><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark"><?php the_title(); ?> <?php comments_number('0', '1', '%'); ?></a></li>

In this case, I chose to display direct links to the posts, and I also embellished a bit to include the number of comments on each. The most important thing to take away from this is the fact that I could have displayed any piece of information associated with the resulting posts—I just tailored the output to my exact needs.

The Bottom Line

Categories are like a site’s DNA—they literally form the organizational framework that houses all of a site’s information. Like DNA, category structures are unique, and therefore, a one size fits all solution for handling them doesn’t make any sense.

The good news, however, is that you can help your users, improve your SEO, and gain absolute control over your content by implementing your own WordPress category solution!

1 Other CMS platforms do this as well, but for this article, I chose to focus primarily on WordPress.

2 For the sake of brevity, I have chosen to show only the code that loops through the individual list elements (<li>).

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319 comments… read them below or add one

david February 26, 2008

Really useful article, Chris. Thanks for it.

I still think it’s amazing that every time I begin to wonder if Pearsonified is dead, an update pops up soon after. It’s spooky really.

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Mario Vellandi February 26, 2008

So true. I thought about my list of categories a few months back and thought “this is too many. how is this usable for my readers?” so I drastically cut back the numbers, and recategorized many posts. It feels so much cleaner now.

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creativegirl February 26, 2008

The same thing just happened to me. I posted a comment on another post here thinking, well – it’s been a while since he updated, maybe he’s gone and then poof! Here was a new post! Really great information, I’m going to try it.

I was wondering though, do you have a custom 404 error page for the Neoclassical theme? That was my other post, just wondering???

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CP February 26, 2008

A very helpful post. I’m certainly glad I subscribed to your RSS feed. Thanks.

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Bruce Keener February 26, 2008

Another classic post, Chris. Thank you.

I’ve been at for about a year now with a WordPress, have about 400 posts, with 30 categories, and about 45 tags on top of that, with most posts being assigned anywhere from 2-4 categories and 2-4 tags.

Thinking about it makes me dizzy, as I really just don’t know what to do about it. I hard-coded my popular list (selected the links from Google Analytics) so I have the popular list without having a Popular tag, but I like the Popular tag concept.

I guess I could reduce my category list size, but I’d have to spend a while doing some 301 redirects, and don’t know if it would be worth the effort.

You sure have given me something to think about, though. What would you do in my shoes?

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Chris P. February 26, 2008

creative girl — A custom 404 page comes with the Neoclassical theme—it’s called 404.php.

Bruce — Regarding your popular list, you may want to give this dynamic solution a try, simply because it allows for much more flexibility and forward-compatibility.

As far as your categories are concerned, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many you have assigned to a particular post. Remember, your categories are tools, and it may only be necessary to use one of them to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to do.

With that in mind, I think you probably ought to organize all your content under a few new categories that you create, and then you can simply use these new categories moving forward.

If you’re worrying about your category links… don’t! Not only are they draining your pages of valuable link equity, but they are also distributing your site’s precious link juice to interstitial bloat pages (category and monthly archives pages).

Finally, if you really think about this practice of eliminating category links, you can see how it is essentially an exercise in “cutting the fat” from your site. To put it another way, rearranging your categories in the manner I’ve suggested forces you to adopt a linking strategy that gets straight to the point—something that the digital masses just love.

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Maurice January 22, 2011

Great stuff, I recently cleaned the **** out of our blog. I’ve started using tag’s the way engadget do (which is to use as many tags as you need per blog), but cleaning up the categories made a big difference to the aesthetics of the website.

I’d be curious to know what you think about tags.

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Bruce Keener February 26, 2008

Thank you, Chris! Again, another very, very useful and well-done post.

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Cameron Schaefer February 26, 2008

Chris,
Awesome post! I had never even thought of getting rid of categories, but it makes sense that it helps readers for you to get right to the point. As a brand new blogger I’ve really enjoyed learning from your posts and using your Neoclassical Theme (kept 3 of the header photos and replaced 2…trying to find some other good images). Keep the education coming!

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Sumesh February 26, 2008

I’ve always wondered why (idiotic) self-proclaimed SEO experts praise WordPress for its ‘inherent’ SEO advantages. Between the category links, archives, meta, comment links on post loop, category link on the post loop etc., a lot of valuable juice is lost.

I hacked core files to nofollow the comments link and ‘read-more’ link. I had been thinking along similar lines, Chris, and took the normal category list and nofollowed them. Not the best approach, but it prevents drain of link juice. Besides, I don’t use multiple categories, so calling posts by category wouldn’t work.

Speaking of which, when are you going to redesign Pearsonified? :D I’d love to see what you do with the newer SEO techniques.

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Manas February 26, 2008

Great article.. Now the next step, I just got to implement these on my blog.

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Adrian February 26, 2008

Glad to see you back at the helm Chris, with long waited for quality content!

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Adrian February 26, 2008

ie. last post was in November… :-(

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Michael February 27, 2008

I can see the advantages of using this strategy but one big question keeps popping to mind — how do users find other related articles within the same category? My first thought would be a prominently displayed Search box but, ironically, you don’t have one.

I’m thinking this technique might be better suited for blogs covering time sensitive information like this one. Whereas information from two years ago may not really be relevant today.

I, like Bruce, have a site with 400+ posts over 46 categories. My site covers BMW restoration tips so almost all posts are timely and relevant. The category links do promote bloat, but at least it makes it easier for users to focus on a specific topic.

Perhaps a solution could be to include a Search function that allows users to select a category to search within – like over at Behanced ?

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kristarella February 27, 2008

I was thinking about how to present content and archive pages and all the rest. We even had a bit of a discussion about it I think.

I haven’t entirely decided on the topic, but I do like popular post lists. I like the way you’ve used the query posts code – it’s really useful. I’ve used it for creating a sort of portal front page for a website I currently manage.

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David Airey February 27, 2008

Michael asks a good question about how there’s no search box here on pearsonified.com. I’m interested to know why too.

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Chris P. February 27, 2008

Michael — There is a lot more to the search issue than meets the eye. I don’t have a search box on this site because, quite literally, everything worth reading is linked in the sidebar. On top of that, tons of useful content exists in the comments to my more popular posts, and the default WordPress search function doesn’t include those.

In my own experience, I’ve had the most success from linking posts under a common category and then billing them as a series. A great example of this is my SEO for Everybody series, which I advertise on my home page and also at the end of each post in the series.

Although it takes a bit of forethought and organization to pull a series of posts together, the end results are well worth the trouble. When posts are linked together in this manner, they drive traffic in a meaningful, useful way. Additionally, content that is presented as a series appears more authoritative, and in my experience, this leads to links, links, links!

Finally, I have been giving thought to search functionality on this site, and I have all but decided that a Google Custom Search is the answer. I manage quite a few Web properties, so it makes sense to use a search function that can tie all of that information together in a convenient, usable way.

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David Airey February 27, 2008

Good call on the Google Custom Search. I use it on both my blogs, and have found the results to be much more accurate than the defaul WordPress option.

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Michael February 27, 2008

Chris — In my own experience, I’ve had the most success from linking posts under a common category and then billing them as a series.

Other than having more control by manually adding links to a series or singular posts, how does this differ from inclusion of using “Related Posts” plugin?

GCS — tried it — hated it. Granted, it is easy to install and can show results across multiple sites but I think its greatest downfall is that it only shows pages that Google has indexed. If a page isn’t indexed, it doesn’t get shown. Maybe this is more of an issue with static sites (where I was initially using the function) but still a deal breaker.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think if you’re going to pay for their search service, they should at least index your entire site — if not only for displaying results on your own sites.

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Chris P. February 27, 2008

Michael — The difference is all about control. By using the Related Posts Plugin, you are sacrificing absolute control over the links that get shown to your visitors.

In reality, the Related Posts Plugin is a form of passive interlinking and navigation, and users know this. I’ve found that I am able to drive traffic more effectively by instituting an active interlinking and navigation strategy, and I think categories are the most efficient, most sensible way to achieve this.

As far as the GCSE is concerned, I pretty much agree, and that’s likely why you haven’t seen a GCSE on this site yet.

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spostareduro February 27, 2008

Schweet one..thanks for the tips..I think maybe I have been the cause of quite a bit of analysis paralysis. ooops. *-)

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Shane February 27, 2008

Chris,

It appears to me that there would be a huge market for someone such as yourself to create a wordpress plugin that functions as follows:

A person designates categories on their site.
Those categories display somewhere on their site as a result.
When visiters mouse over the category headings a hidden CSS layer pops up (and is scrollable) with ALL of the posts for the particular category, each link pointing to the perm page. When the user leaves the layer, it hides itself again.

The only alternative I see is to simply use your idea for each category and tell the database to display all posts (tell us how) for each category and place all this in the footer area where it would be less intrusive. Sure it would scroll forever, but does that matter really?

Rock on
Shane

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Shane February 27, 2008

In other words, people get to display their categories, but users don’t have to click to go to a page to see all the stories under this category when the database should be able to populate a layer with this data instead. SEO is happy, bloggers are happy, visitors are happy.

Also, the footer idea I had earlier mimics the functionality of a site map, thus removing yet another interstitial page (Do you agree with this?).

Shane

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kristarella February 27, 2008

Shane – I think part of the idea is not just removing redundant pages, but removing the unnecessary links. Putting all those links on the homepage would dilute link juice a lot.

Anyway, I’m no expert and I’m kind of leaning towards including a tag cloud, which would probably have a similar effect… just a thought.

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Shane Arthur February 27, 2008

krista,

“unnecessary” is the key word. Depends on who your trying to please – SEO or visitors. Chris is saying have categories as it’s easier to manipulate the data but don’t have category pages as it dilutes the link juice of the actual pages. I understand this, yet people leaving comments want visitors to be able to see all of the pages.

Having all page links in the footer, however, would not decrease link juice as they would be the actual page links, not category links which link to those specific pages.

Tough call all the way around.

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kristarella February 27, 2008

Ok, I see what your saying. Yes, that would be like a sitemap in your footer.
Could be a little bit scary for readers looking at all those links. I guess you could use something like javascript accordians to only show one category at a time. Deziner folio used to use this in their sidebar, it looked good.

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Sam Stevens February 27, 2008

Thank you, Chris! Man, bloggers have really started to frustrate me with their insanely long list of categories. Obviously, not too many IA specialists out there. But it shouldn’t take an IA expert to know that usability is severely hindered when you provide too much choice. Repeat after me: Categories are not tags! As for link juice and SEO: satisfy users first, and the engines will follow.

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Bruce Keener February 27, 2008

This motivated me to go ahead and get off my butt to reduce my categories by about 10 and cut my tags in half, with possibly more to follow. I also took out the category and tag links off individual posts. They are still accessible through my archives, but that is the only spot.

Thanks for convincing me to do something I should have done a long while back, Chris.

BTW, I wish WordPress had never come out with tags … categories are okay, properly used, and maybe tags, too, but the tags were just a huge distraction to me and probably did not help my readers one little bit (and did nothing but get the search engines tangled up in multiple pathways).

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Chris P. February 27, 2008

Shane, kristarella — Those ideas all have merit, but I think I left out some important SEO constraints that we need to consider.

Google recommends that you keep the number of followed links on a Web page under 100. Personally, I think you should try to aim for the 30–60 range, and further, I think each of those links ought to be to the most valuable content your site has to offer.

Think of it this way—do you really have 60 individual pages of valuable, compelling content that is also completely relevant right now?

At any given time, the answer to that question is probably going to be “no,” but then again, that’s nothing to be ashamed of! I think you’d have to be incredibly prolific to be 60-articles-relevant at any one moment.

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Chris P. February 27, 2008

Bruce — Don’t even get me started on tags :-D

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kristarella February 27, 2008

Aw, go on. Start on tags :P

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vijayendra February 28, 2008

Thanks tons and tons. May your family prosper and may you live to see your grandchildren graduate.

I had been racking my head over my obscenely long category list for months now. Thanks to you, I (code-illiterate) have managed to replace the list with specific lists of my choice.

Thank you so much for writing this.

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Keith Johnson February 28, 2008

Great article! Yes, we must use the categories aspect of Wordpress to enhance the visual-organization aspect of our blog. As we clearly identify the categories, we let the reader know that we are organized and have successfully aligned our blog-content with these topics. Kudos & Best Wishes, Keith Johnson, Webmaster “Freemathrescue.com”

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Michael February 28, 2008

Okay, feeling convinced — but with the inclusion of a prominent Search box and link to the sitemap that already links to all categories.

Given my sites subject matter, I don’t think consolidating the categories is an option. It’s important for readers to quickly find the information they need. I, for one, would rather go straight to “fuel and exhaust” rather than sift through a larger “engine” category. So here’s the million dollar question.

What code would I use to display popular posts based on page views? Or is this just a pie-in-the-sky impossibility?

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Chris P. February 28, 2008

Michael — The solution you’re after would require a fair amount of JavaScript, and it goes well beyond the scope of what I can handle here in the comments.

Regarding categories, I’ve found that they tend to be the least-visited links on every site I’ve ever run. Of course, the subject matter certainly plays a role in that, and I think your site is an example of one where categories could be more useful (if used properly).

For best results, you should always make user interface decisions on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, this means that some information – this article, for instance – is not going to be applicable in every situation.

Either way, the mere fact that you are really thinking about your category structure is a good thing, simply because nothing on your site will improve without good thinking and solid execution!

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Karmadude February 28, 2008

How do you decide if a post is popular? Using categories to select popular posts might work for user selected popular posts, but when you get into hundreds of posts, this approach might not be very accurate. For something like this, Alex King’s, popularity contest plugin is a better approach.

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Slade Roberson February 28, 2008

Chris, man, this is an absolutely excellent, practical, useful post. The way you not only share your code but walk through it — I actually learn useful WordPress code I can apply in a variety of ways. More please!

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Anthea February 28, 2008

Chris,
What a great way to organise content. A few days ago I removed the “Archives” option from my sidebar and added a Sitemap instead – quite an oversite on my part. My site isn’t quite a year old and I initially added the “Archives” option to the sidebar as a way to populate it. But, I have never followed the “Archives” option on any site I have ever visited! Your idea on using the categories on the sidebar in this way is excellent and I’m going to take a closer look at my categories (currently in the form of a tag cloud). Funnily enough, along with viewing my site stats, I think it will also give me greater insight into the real direction my site is heading, rather than the way I think it is heading.
Thanks for a great post!

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Rudy February 29, 2008

My mantra has always been “The less # of categories, the better.” But, as ideas pop up, the “general” category just doesn’t cut it and has to be expanded. Sometimes people just decide to run another blog site to talk about that particular (popular) category. That’s another problem in itself.

Also, it is kinda creepy (and astonishing) that Chris P. keeps ignoring the hints to tell us what happened between Nov 2007 and Feb 2008. ;-)

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Geld Lenen February 29, 2008

I always use categories in another way, that is, with pages. In my pages, I list my category posts, with a nice description.

I think this is the way that users (like myself) love to see categories!

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Jason February 29, 2008

Great site!
I love the template you’re currently using on here. Will that be available to use for the masses?

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Adam Kayce February 29, 2008

Great article, Chris, thank you… you had made similar points and hints in the Neoclassical discussions, and I was just about to start piecing together this strategy for my new site; you just saved me hours of fiddling.

I’d love to see your thoughts on tags spelled out the way you did here with categories… after seeing what you wrote before, I’m tempted to just not even bother tagging anything at all.

A thought just entered my head, on behalf of those who aren’t up to the coding… I wonder if the Top Posts By Category plugin could do the heavy lifting for the less code-fluent? I haven’t looked at it in a while, but it may be worth a gander.

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Paul Burani, Clicksharp Marketing March 2, 2008

Something for newbies to take note of if they’re using Wordpress — you have to enable Permalinks on the Options panel, if you want the categories’ resulting URLs to come out looking legible and SEO friendly. (Not sure if the recent upgrade takes care of this, but in past versions it was not a default…)

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Edwin Joseph March 3, 2008

Hey..this is a true eye opener for every blogger..Many have misinterpreted the use of categories. A lot of people thought that creating so many categories would impress its viewers, but the truth is that is simply creates confusion for them…

Thanks for this post, this may truly help me!
Its good to drop by in your blog!

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Richard Butler March 3, 2008

That is very true! Before i use to create numerous categories hoping that my readers would be impressed. Unfortunately, it makes them decide not to click because of confusion. They don’t what to click best thats why they just leave the website easily!

This was a good tip!

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Jenny March 3, 2008

thanks for the tips. this was really helpful. i’ll have to go over and relook my categories.

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NiklasK March 4, 2008

I’m not really native to php so I wasn’t really sure where in the sidebar.php file I was supposed to put the code.

I tried it in a variety of different places but the df-marine theme I’m using right now won’t display anything in the sidebar. Could someone specifically point out where I should be putting that code.

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Chris P. March 4, 2008

NiklasK — I left out the surrounding code for brevity’s sake, but all you have to do is create a new sidebar widget by copying the markup structure from your recent posts widget. Get rid of everything between the <ul> tags, and then place the code from this post in that spot.

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NiklasK March 4, 2008

Sad to say that df-marine although looking really nice doesn’t support widgets.

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Buddy March 4, 2008

How do I reach Chris Pearson directly?

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Chris P. March 4, 2008

NiklasK — Pardon my confusing terminology. I did not mean actual WordPress widgets; instead, I just meant the collection of <ul> and <li> elements in your sidebar.php file.

Buddy — Due to the impossibly high volume of specific requests, I cannot accept direct inquiries from people. Sorry!

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kristarella March 4, 2008

NiklasK – your site looks like it supports widgets – if you look at the source code it shows the categories within a list with the classes “widget” and “widget_categories”. That code is either generated by a widget or in sidebar.php.
Normally the code would go in sidebar.php, If you can find the code that generates the category list you can copy that then remove the category part and add the code from this post (as Chris said), but if the category code is from a widget you might need the ExecPHP widget.

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NiklasK March 4, 2008

Alright well I changed the header.php file since that is where the Related Post function was previously declared and listed at the top.

Here’s what I had in the section related to it:

Recent Posts
get_results("SELECT ID, post_title FROM $wpdb->posts WHERE post_status = 'publish' AND post_date_gmt

post_title == '') $post->post_title = sprintf(__('Post #%s'), $post->ID);
echo "ID)."'>"; the_title(); echo ''; }?>

the code I replaced it with is:

Most Popular

<a href="" rel="bookmark">

However now when I go to my homepage the Most Popular box at the top works and lists my most popular posts which I have put in that category, however it won’t display my most recent posts in the main window, instead it just displays the posts I listed as most popular.

Any idea how to change that?

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Chris P. March 4, 2008

NiklasK — That theme’s code is a mess. I’m afraid it’s not worth my time to investigate further; instead, I can just direct you to my Neoclassical Theme, which is much more user-friendly.

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NiklasK March 4, 2008

Sorry about that your comments don’t allow the code tag and your site just swallowed half of the tags and stuff. I uploaded my comment onto a text file.

http://www.blog-tutor.com/images/Code.txt

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Chris P. March 4, 2008

NiklasK — I realize that the code did not come through in your previous comment, but the mere fact that your theme has weird functions defined in header.php makes me want to pull my hair out. Seriously, just check out Neoclassical to see the difference in the code.

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NiklasK March 4, 2008

Yea I tried fiddling around with the header file a bit more. I could get rid of every line of code except the query post and as soon as that happened it would get 1 of the most popular but the entire page would revert to that category.

Going to try and contact the designer and if that doesn’t work out I guess I’ll start theme hunting again starting with yours.

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Julie March 5, 2008

Great article…..now I just have to implement it;-)

Julie

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Rico March 6, 2008

Would you be able to implement the list-making code on your 404 page? Showing a list of popular posts would be a great complement to just showing the “return home” link and search form.

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Katie Loncke March 6, 2008

Hi Chris,

I’m a college student and recovering technophobe who just switched to Cutline for my group political blog. Needless to say, it’s vastly superior to the free WordPress theme I was using previously. However, I’m dying to find a handsome, functional, dark theme that will work at WordPress.com (as I have no access to a free, stable server). Most of the ones out there are bug-ridden, gaudy, or both.

Any chance you’ll put those amazing graphic skillz to use on a classy black/gray/aubergine theme one of these days? :)

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cheryl March 7, 2008

Hi Chris!

Interesting that your article comes out a couple weeks after I completed a heat map analysis of what visitors do on my site once they get there.

And it mirrors what you are saying.

I tested 2 separate things: what visitors do when they come through the front door of the site and what visitors do when I send them to a specific page on the site.

Well…the ones that came through the front of the site rarely clicked on the Archives list and much less than 1% of all visitors clicked on the Categories list. I ran this test on about 5300 visitors.

Of all the clicks that occurred on that page, 3.4% went to the Categories and 1% went to the Achives. But if you just total the number of visitors by the clicks in those 2 sections, combined, did not tally 1%.

The numbers were a little different to an internal page. On that test, 6% clicked on the Categories and, get this, the same 1% clicked on the Archive.

However if I looked at the percentage of ALL visitors that clicked on the Category links on the targeted page, it was less that 1/2%. The results were worse for the Archives – essentially nil. My visitors spent their time with internal links, repositioned pages and related links.

And with telling their friends about the post.

So…

If I ever had any qualms about removing those 2 sections, I don’t now. I found that people who wanted to check out what else was in the site clicked the Archive and Site Map links at the top.
:o/
cj

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Michael March 7, 2008

Cheryl’s stats are interesting but I think it should be premised with the fact that those stats are specific to her site and shouldn’t be accepted as a global truth for all sites (even though they are pretty close but lower than one of my sites). Meaning, the positions of those two sections on the page and how they’re titled have a huge impact on click-through rate.

For example, imagine a blog design that mimics Portfolio.com whereas the navigation under their logo (without the drop downs) represented your categories. This is a highly desirable location which, I’m sure, would increase click percentage as opposed to the majority of sites whose category section is placed far down the right column. Not to mention the Archives section which is usually displayed so far down the page that the majority of users never even see it.

I do agree with Chris that the misuse of categories drains link juice from your pages and I have already removed them from one of my sites to test the results. But I have to wonder how the scenario would play if your categories (limited to 4-5) were placed as main Nav links at the top of your page (e.g. Portfolio.com) and then implemented Chris’ idea of a top 5 or 10 on each of those category pages — instead of the page just listing articles as they were posted.

The secondary benefit of the above is that it would free up your right column on interior page for other uses — perhaps even display top posts for other categories or for monetization.

Do I think it would be as efficient in directing traffic and juice as Chris’ method – No. But I do think that if your site really needs to use categories, then this would be a good blending between the two.

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Dianne March 9, 2008

Dear Chris,
Thank you for this suggestion. I am using your beautiful Neoclassical theme, with widgets in the sidebar. Thus, I put the new code into sidebar.php, but it didn’t show up on the site. I like the idea of copying the new code into the Recent Posts widget, but, alas, I don’t know where to find the code for that widget. Can you help, please?
Thanks very much again.

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Butler March 10, 2008

Chris, great article are usually. I think you can help SEO efforts with some well thought out category terms for certain types of websites. Again different solutions for different folks.

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anil bisht March 13, 2008

I’m a non-technical person can you elaborate a bit, as i find it hard to use this code. I’ll be greatful

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Wanna March 13, 2008

Google Blogger does little smarter job by choosing “label” :o)

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Michael March 13, 2008

Chris-

I haven’t been able to find contact info. Do you consult or are you booked? My company is building a multi-user blog on WordpressMU and having a tough time finding Wordpress Gurus with capacity…

thanks,

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Chris P. March 13, 2008

Michael — Unfortunately, I’m completely booked, but you never know… I may pull a crazy client recruitment stunt at any minute :-D

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GamerEdie March 13, 2008

Chris,

First, I want to say that I’ve enjoyed your blog very much. Not only is it well designed, it’s a great read.

I do have one question for you: I’m having quite a bit of problems using one of your themes, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of documentation on how to set it up.

That’s how I’ve found your site.

Is there a more comprehensive site for how to set up PressRow (comments and next/previous posts just not working) other than what you have on FindCreditCards.org?

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Hning March 15, 2008

Ouww….
Longtime not ‘seeing’ you chris… :)

Anw, thanks for giving a clear explanation about categories. I haven’t expected before about this. Let me check what i’ve done so far with this one.

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Mary March 17, 2008

I’ve just boookmarked your site. It is very helpful. Also, I’m using one of your templates for my blog. Thank you for that, too, especially since I’m a neophyte. This may not be the right forum for this call for help, but I’ll give it a try anyway. Maybe someone will see it and respond. My template has two columns. But, yesterday, the column on the right disappeared! Well, not really. It is now at the bottom of the column on the left. How do I fix this? Merci beaucoup. Mary

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Hning March 17, 2008

Chris, this could be a little Out Of Topic. I’d like to know, how to seperate article using a ‘tag’ to show a Feature Article. I saw alot of WP Magazine theme use it, but it’s duplicated in ‘Categories or Recent Post’.

Related with your topic above, it can be solved, but it means the Feature Article only cover 1 Category, more or specific.

Straight forward, i’d like to use a Feature Article which comes from all Category in my site.

Thanks before Chris :)

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Dave March 19, 2008

Chris, wondering what you think about this one little Google thing about your site (right now).
Your site description starts with-sexy nurse illustration- which is for the image with this article. If you no followed the image would it not show the description?

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/sms ;-) March 19, 2008

sweet picture…
red cross? – white cross = switzerland
greez from *.ch

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Lee Cameron March 21, 2008

With reference to the 404 page in neoclassical do I have to do something to get them to work?

Also, I am adding pages to my site and navigation using manage pages in WP but these don’t show or work. Again, do I have to do something to enable them?

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Trish March 23, 2008

Brilliant article. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Bahadir eryigit March 26, 2008

Very good article. Thanks so much for sharing!

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varun March 28, 2008

The results for me have been far more astonishing using this.Well it really helped me.Sure you need an applause.
I need to thoroughly revise your blog Pearson.And one more thing.You are the only one hanging with PR7 without updating your blog.You need to be genius to do that.

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Rob March 28, 2008

“analysis paralysis. This is a condition where users, when presented with too many options, end up selecting nothing at all.”

And this differs from your column on the right which has THIRTY ONE posts broken down into different sections?

…I’m just sayin’

:)

By the way, I completely agree with you. It all comes down to the reality that less is more. Clutter is a killer. Insert sloganistic reasons to trim down here. Regardless of the reason, it’s the right thing to do, and it applies to much more than categories.

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Alana March 29, 2008

Space above the fold is precious and specificity is king to getting readers to stay at your site. Thanks for the tip – I’m already seeing the benefits of targeting my through traffic with this technique.

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Murphy Mac March 29, 2008

I’m planning the first overhaul of my site – thanks for this post, great information and it gives me some ideas.
I’d love to implement some of the look and feel of this site. It’s very pleasing to the eye. Thanks again.
- Murphy

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Amanda March 30, 2008

Hey, I went to your blog because I’m using your wordpress theme for my site. Anyway, good article. It took me awhile to figure out just how want to use and organize the categories. But I think I’ve got it down and it should work. Thanks for the tips on this article.

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Cheryl March 31, 2008

This is the best advice – the librarian in me loves it and wonders why I didn’t think of it myself. Now that I have chosen a handful of categories for my ButWhatNow blog, I am more focused on what I will choose to write about.

That alone is worth its weight in gold.

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Norswap April 5, 2008

Diminishing the clutter in the sidebar is sure a great thing to do, but deleting categories is a bit extreme, so basically I clearly disagree with you.

I wrote about it here.

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Ralph April 9, 2008

Thank you for this article to help me to improve my own blog-concept in next time ;)

Ralph

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Ted April 16, 2008

With Brian and Aaron moving to the premium content model do you have any plans to bring Pearsonified or DIYThemes down that route?

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Manny J April 16, 2008

First of, thanks for your free WP template. I am playing with it right now and incidentally, in the middle of deciding how to setup the Permalink Structure properly for my new blog. I am quite new with this so I am learning much about your ideas here.

Anyway, I just want you to know that I bookmarked your site just to get a quick look at your ideas from time to time.

Thanks for this meaty post. Sure will help a lot of people.

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ClarkeW April 17, 2008

Thanks for the tip. I’m getting ready to implement this on one of my blogs to clean things up a bit.

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Dan April 18, 2008

I’ve taken a long hard look at my categories lately, and am about to pair them down for the second time in the life of my site.

Originally I had a very high number, but migrated them across to tags (as they were really only supplying “meta” data, and not providing any structure). The problem is, even if you assign each post to a category, you’re still giving your readers a “river” of posts.

My upcoming redesign takes my new category structure (which consists of 4 categories) and arranges the front page of my site in such a way that posts in these categories are grouped together.

In my mind, for a blog that has no single topic, this is a better structure than floods of unrelated content.

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lizzie April 21, 2008

Chris
Your article on categories was very interesting and many of the points you make seem extremely valid.

However, being new to your blog, I found myself roaming around trying to establish the relationship between articles listed under “Must Read”, “Improve Your Blog” and “Worth A Look”.

Where did I start? What was the sequence? Perhaps in this case, there is no sequence and that is the answer. Every article is of equal interest. In which case, the headings are attractive but meaningless.

There is a case for categories and archives as basically our minds like order, however boring it might seem. We store information using patterns, and the more familiar those patterns are, the more likely we are able to retrieve that information again.

I would really like my blog to end up as attractive as yours, but will probably go for the familiar.

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Anthony April 21, 2008

I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered this place. :) So a great place to learn. As for this post, well, it’s a brilliant article. It’s definitely got me thinking about my categories . Luckily for me a have 3 blogs so I can go and do some experimenting :)

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Law Firm Marketing May 3, 2008

Chris:

I’ve just recently completed a total overhaul of my site and am currently implementing your Neoclassical Theme.

My clients are all lawyers, over analytical and TIME PRESSED.

These posts are right on.

People don’t have time to just wander around a site anymore.

You need to provide direction through “Most Recent Posts”, “Worth a Look” etc.

I’m implementing what I’ve read here right now as my visitor stats confirm what you are saying.

Keep up the great work and thanks for the GREAT theme.

P.S. I’m just implementing Thesis on another site of mine and think DIY Themes is a great idea…about time you started making some money from all of this.

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Charles May 14, 2008

Excellent arguement. I think you are right. Surfers aren’t the most patient people, so you have a very limited time window to grab them before they leave. Streamlining your blog makes sense not only for the visitor, but you’ll reap seo benefits too.

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TheYoungGuy May 20, 2008

Chris, First let me tell you I love this idea. It is exactly what I have been looking for. However, with the theme I am using (and don’t want to lose) I can’t seem to get it to work. Maybe I don’t understand just how to get it to work right. I posted the code in the (in mycase) lsidebar.php file directly under and I can see the the post listing (followed by number???) but it doesn’t match the font of the page and its really an eyesore. So take a look and tell me how I can get it to look the way the rest of my page does. If I can get this right, I will be killing the other items in my sidebar. But please help me out.
Site address – http://www.theyoungguy.com
-TheYoungGuy

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David Cooley May 20, 2008

Excellent article, most blogs need to work on Categories and Tags.

I have taken 1 or 2 more steps on my site.

I renamed the Category to Tips, so that the url now includes the word Tips instead of Category. I then assign only one Category to each post, and use Tags to break it down. I think of it like a Music Store, each category is like a genre, then the Tags are the real descriptors.

Using this method I have Blogging Tips, Programming Tips etc and I show the last 7 from each Category, giving me 28 previous posts in the sidebar.

Another benefit is that the Tags are giving me a lot of double listings in the SERPS this way.

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Bruce Keener May 20, 2008

David,

A heads-up: if you haven’t already, you probably need to modify your .htaccess file so that it contains something like the following

Redirect 301 /category/ http://www.yoursitename.com/tag/

Otherwise, for all of your pages that have been indexed by Goolge, Yahoo, MSN, and who knows who else, those indexed pages are going to generate 404 errors. Unless you fix it, this could end up hurting your ranking and will drive your search traffic to way down.

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Chris P. May 20, 2008

TheYoungGuy — In order to get your new sidebar items to display in a manner that is consistent with the rest of your sidebar, you simply need to mimic the existing markup structure when you insert your new items. Here’s the exact code you’ll need to add for your template:

<li class="widget">
   <ul>
<?php
   query_posts('category_name=Popular&showposts=5');
   while (have_posts()) :
      the_post();
?>
      <li><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark"><?php the_title(); ?> <?php comments_number('0', '1', '%'); ?></a></li>
<?php
   endwhile;
?>
   </ul>
</li>

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Bruce Keener May 20, 2008

BTW, David, if you want to see what 404 errors are being generated, you may want to install Alex King’s 404 WordPress Plugin. It works nicely for that. You’ll see a lot of meaningless stuff (such as hack attempts, where someone tries to use a GET to access your information), but you will see where there are genuine problems, too.

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Chris P. May 20, 2008

David — I love the music store analogy. Sometimes it helps to have some real-world metaphors to get you thinking and organizing things in a sensible way.

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David Cooley May 20, 2008

@Bruce, I took care of the redirects initially. I have no “Category” pages indexed, and my Tag pages rank very well. As it is, I probably monitor my site to much, lol. Thanks for the Tip on the plugin.

My 404 page retrieves my Tags which has helped immensely keeping visitors on my site even when they hit a 404.

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David Cooley May 20, 2008

@Chris, Thanks, I love analogies, they really help me learn. I even rank for the term “analogy examples”, lol.

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Chris P. May 20, 2008

David — Ha, that’s great! I’d say that’s definitely your bag.

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TheYoungGuy May 20, 2008

Chris P. – Well I posted the code you gave me and its still not working correctly. I don’t need to wipe the rest of the code for the lsidebar.php do I? I don’t think I should. When I posted the new code, it spaced out the post titles. Thats it!!!

Check it out again… Tell me where I need to be posting this code.
http://www.theyoungguy.com
-TheYoungGuy

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TheYoungGuy May 20, 2008

Ok so… I got the format of the links to show correctly but how do I add the header for each section. And, Im sorry… Im an idiot when it comes to php.

There is still a “0” after each link too… Why?

-TheYoungGuy

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kristarella May 20, 2008

TheYoungGuy — The 0 is the comment count. If you don’t want comment numbers remove:

<?php comments_number('0', '1', '%'); ?>

As for headings, have a look at your source code (right click on website and ‘view source code’). You can see how the widget headings come out: <h2 class="widgettitle">Popular Posts</h2> before <ul>. Should do.

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TheYoungGuy May 21, 2008

Kristarella – Thank you!!! You are a life saver. Collectively I thank you all….
This blog is fantastic and I will continue to return. Also I will add a link to my site for this one.
Once again, Thank you Kristarella and Chris P.

-TheYoungGuy-

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Toure June 2, 2008

Who you fooling? Your links don’t work!

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Chris P. June 4, 2008

Toure — Sorry about the problem with the links! Murphy’s Law dictates that I am eternally screwed, and in keeping with that trend, the DIYthemes server crashed while I was traveling across the country in a U-Haul.

You’ll be happy to know that everything is fine now, though :-D

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PocketBlogger June 4, 2008

Hi, I just wanted to let you know we are going to use your theme for our mobile weblog! It’s a easy design thanks!

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Pinay Jade June 4, 2008

Very useful article. Thank you for writing this…I badly need to re organize my blog, I will definitely come back and make good use of your tips.

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Tony Kenoi June 17, 2008

This is a really good use of categories.

My thinking is that in order to control “bloat” it is good practice to opt for either tags or categories but not both.

What do you think?

cheers
Tony

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Chris Pearson June 17, 2008

Tony — If categories and tags are using sparingly, there are very few semantic differences between the two. In most cases, I would opt for categories, simply because they are set up more like a filing system, especially on the WordPress dashboard. The categorical hierarchy can be useful for serving up very specific types of information in different areas of the site, so on that basis, I think categories may also be slightly more useful.

Either way, though—you’ll be controlling link bloat, and that’s a great move for the future of your site!

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Brisbane web designer June 19, 2008

I really like the idea of a “must read” category. I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the tip.

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Matt O'Toole June 20, 2008

Chris,

I’m using this inside a text widget but it’s not working. Here’s my code — I changed the category name to Featured, and nixed the comment count:

<a href=”” rel=”bookmark”>

BTW I’m changing to your Thesis theme shortly.

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Matt O'Toole June 20, 2008

Oops, I guess I can’t post code to your comments!

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Chris Pearson June 20, 2008

Matt — Have you tried inserting code directly into, say, sidebar.php instead of inserting it through a text widget? I’ve noticed that WordPress tends to spit out a lot of unnecessary HTML in text widgets, and more than likely, you’ll be able to eliminate these problems by doing it yourself. Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.

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Kher Cheng Guan June 21, 2008

Yeah, that’s why when I look at your “WORTH A LOOK”, I suffer a severe case of analysis paralysis. Anything more than ten is “busy” or “hazy”.

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Chris Pearson June 21, 2008

Kher — I completely agree. I think I’ll whip up a bit of code to randomize and display 5 posts from that category. Thanks for the tip!

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Erik July 2, 2008

Great post, and I’m working to restructure about 60 posts on my site. My question is whether it is best to implement siloing with posts, pages, or both. I’ve read many articles (some linked to here) that highly recommend using static pages for key articles and posts to expand and link to the pages.

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Chris Pearson July 6, 2008

Erik — Unless your URL structure differs between pages and posts, it really makes no difference which you use for your major articles. From a search engine’s standpoint, there’s no difference between pages and posts—at that point, it’s all just HTML.

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Matt Wilson July 17, 2008

This could of not been more clear. On my website I had a total of 4 categories and under each category I had about 2 to 3 different internal links. I had an avg. of 59% rate read through the first 30 seconds on my page. In other words 59% or so of all traffic stayed longer than 30 seconds on my site, this of coarse includes spiders and such. I thought that by adding more options and more categories to choose from, I would bring in a wider span of the traffic, I was wrong. My bounce off rate increased to 73%. I found that 73% off the traffic were just leaving the page within the first 30 seconds. Too much choices, not enough time.

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Aaron Queen July 21, 2008

Chris.. I have been debating removing the category list from my sidebar and instead putting popular posts in its place. What are your thoughts on this. I was also going to remove the category list from the home page but possibly leave it on for individual posts or the other way around. I would love to know what you would do.

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app July 22, 2008

I started using Wordpress as a CMS to make my life easier, converting a directory of book links from a single hand coded static page of over 400 links to something much easier to manage and much more useful to my visitors.

The categories list is important to my site, and without it on my sidebar, I might as well have kept the old crappy static page, with the category list in a table at the top and anchor links to jump to that part of the page, and entries repeated multiple times on the page. (it became a lot of work to add new links and remove dead ones!).

In the partcular case of my very specialized book directory, the longer my category list is, the better my site is (or at least it is perceived that way by my visitors), and visitors can tell at a glance if I could possibly have what they are looking for.

I probably have the best use of the default style of displaying the categories list that you have seen. The list was pretty much planned before I made my first post.

Those category pages are the most viewed pages on my site.

If you take a look, you will probably agree that in a case like this, the long list is the best way to do it, otherwise I would have to do what you suggested for every category and the sidebar would be many miles long, because ALL of the posts on my blog are “valuable, compelling content that is also completely relevant right now”.

http://appsapps.com/ebooks/

(I really could use a 3rd column, though. Need to mess around and add one when I am not feeling particularly lazy)

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Rexibit July 22, 2008

Another great article. Using categories to manage your blog into smaller chunks is a necessity. The trick is to divide it enough to be organized, but not enough to be empty.

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Brock July 23, 2008

Hi Chris – This is the first article that I’ve read on your site, but I’m sure it isn’t the last! Thanks.

In thinking about how I might apply this to my site, it occurred to me that I could have posts that fall into more than one category (to use your system as an example, a “Must Read” article that is about how to “Improve Your Blog”). But I don’t see any duplicates in your sidebar. Do you only apply one category to each post? Would it be a bad idea to have the same post appear in different parts of the sidebar?

Also, what is your basis for categorizing articles as “Worth A Look”?

Thanks again. Great site.

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Chris Pearson July 23, 2008

Brock — My sidebar links are more about visibility and SEO than any meaningful type of categorization. If an article is a “Must Read,” then I do not place it in the “Improve Your Blog” category, even if it makes sense to do so. Basically, I just want one link to the article from every page on my site, primarily because that is most efficient setup for optimization.

Oh, and “Worth a Look” is simply a catch-all for articles that I wanted to be visible but really didn’t know how to categorize. I’ve written about a variety of topics over the years, and categorizing them all appropriately would have resulted in too much junk in the sidebar.

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James Joyner July 24, 2008

My main site’s got 21,000 plus posts and counting so I’m not sure how I’d use this sort of system. I use use Similar Posts and Recent Posts but I also display categories and tags, which have their own archive pages.

I seem to do quite well in search rankings and get a significant number of referrals coming in to monthly archive and tag and category pages because of the cross-pollination of keywords.

I also own a celebrity gossip site with a ridiculous number of categories, most of which I’ve deprecated to tags since moving to 2.5. I display those links and get an inordinate amount of my traffic as a result of having all those keywords showing up.

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James Joyner July 24, 2008

Should have noted above: I think that most of the “How To Blog” blogs are written based on the experiences of “How to Blog” bloggers, which is a unique subset. If you’re writing a how-to guide in serial fashion, there’s much less utility in traditional categorization than if you’re writing a news site.

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John Haydon July 29, 2008

Chris,

I tried to implement this code, but realize that it’s actually cut off in your posting. Where can I get the full code?

Thanks,

John

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Chris Pearson July 29, 2008

John — Unless you’re using IE6, you should be able to scroll the code boxes and see everything. I just checked the source, and it’s definitely not cut off.

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John Haydon July 29, 2008

You were right. Damn… IE is really a piece of crap….

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ClarkeW August 5, 2008

Hey Chris,

Thanks for this tip. I seem to have run into a weird problem with this when I implement it on my sidebar. Currently I’m running to the All-In-One-SEO plugin to customize by post titles and description tags. Everytime that I implement custom categories with this code in my sidebar it seems to mess up the way the plugin displays my titles and descriptions. I’ve analyzed it and I cannot come up with why it would be doing this.

Have you seen anything like this before?

Thanks,
Clarke

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mithun August 7, 2008

thanks for the post. i just subscribed ur Rss. and now onwards i will be a regular visit to ur blog. thanks

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Mel August 22, 2008

I was getting soooo confused and freaky over categories, tags et al. THANK YOU for making sense of them. Now to do something about it…
btw – Love your work … shame you’re not for hire ;)

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Ride it like you stole it August 25, 2008

Is there a Blogger Widget available for most popular posts?

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Bill Bennett August 31, 2008

Is there a way of using this concept in a Wordpress.com blog?

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John Haydon September 1, 2008

Hi all,

Since I implemented this category/tag approach in my blog I have doubled my traffic and newsletter subscribers.

Great job!

John Haydon
http://www.corporatedollar.org

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cesty September 2, 2008

Chris,

I would really like to do something like this with the Thesis theme, except I would like to do it with pages rather than posts.

Would you explain to me how I could accomplish this?

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Chris Pearson September 4, 2008

Bill — I don’t think WordPress.com allows you to add custom PHP, so you won’t be able to create easy-to-use sidebar widgets to help with your category links. However, if you simply “prune your category tree,” so to speak, you can still achieve similar results. Internal linking is more of a strategy than a coding challenge, and if you give this issue some thought, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with a solution that will help boost your site.

cesty — WordPress allows you to work with both posts and pages, and because of this, you’ll be able to build your site however you want. Thesis doesn’t care whether you’re using posts or pages, so you should have no real trouble building a page-based site with Thesis as your underlying framework. The only issues I can foresee would involve linking up some of your pages in the sidebar, but you’ll definitely be able to get the job done using default tools provided to you by both WordPress and Thesis.

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Bill Bennett September 4, 2008

Hi Chris, that’s pretty much what I did. I’ve dropped from about 18 to 12 categories. I think it can drop further as they are only for internal navigation and not tags used externally.

This is yet another reason to consider switching to self-hosted Wordpress. But to be honest, at this stage I’m not getting enough traffic for it to be worth the effort.

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cesty September 4, 2008

Thanks for the response Chris.

Actually, if you go to my site now you will get an idea of what I want to do, as I made a major update to it.

Notice where it says, Inspiration, Subscribe Here, and Bible Study…

I wanted my ‘parent’ pages to be set up like that rather than to have them as subpages to the Title sections.

If you have a solution for this that would be great. However, I can live with the way it looks now as it doesn’t look bad.

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Dave Dragon September 9, 2008

Anyone know of a Blogger hack for doing this?

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Rapid Blogger September 11, 2008

I strongly agree with this post. The more organized your categories are, the better for the blog. When I look back, I realized that I have not harness this powerful linking tool to my advantage. I think it has worsen my other sites SEO position.

Thanks for providing this info. Very informative.

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Bryan Thompson September 12, 2008

I tried implementing this with my Thesis Theme. I tried embedding the code in a Text Widget. That didn’t work. Maybe I’m too new to this, but I thought if you start using widgets and modifying sidebar.php were mutually exclusive.
Also, I was laboring under the assumption that with Thesis, I might be able to stay out of the sidebar.php altogether.
Chris, what do you mean in your post to Cesty ‘using the default tools provided by Wordpress and Thesis.
Thanks for any clarification.

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legacy daily September 14, 2008

I appreciate your article here and have implemented what you propose on my site. However, my greatest challenge is finding meaningful categories. Any advice? Ideas?

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Chris Pearson September 16, 2008

Bryan — Typically, if a technical or WordPress-related article appears here, you can bank on the fact that I’ve incorporated it into Thesis in some way. In this case, you should use a built-in Thesis function (thesis_widget_recent_posts()) to generate category links.

For the sake of example, let’s say that you want to display 6 posts from the “popular” category, and you want your sidebar widget to have a heading that says “Popular Posts.” Here’s the code you’d need to add to your sidebar.php file (this assumes you’re running version 1.1):

thesis_widget_recent_posts('popular', 'Popular Posts', 6);

I’d offer this code in a widget that you can access from the WP dashboard, but the problem is that doing so would not allow you to call multiple versions of this widget. For instance, you may wish to loop through posts from 3 or 4 categories in your sidebar, and with a WordPress widget, you’d only be able to specify one category (and then you wouldn’t be able to use that widget again).

I’m working on a workaround, but for now, this is what you’ve got to do if you want to loop through categories dynamically.

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Laura July 11, 2010

Hi chris, I’m using thesis 1.8 and I’m trying to figure out where to place this code because there’s no sidebar.php file? Can you give a bit of a more detailed walk through for you loyal thesis followers please?! Thanks!

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Chris Pearson July 13, 2010

Laura, as a Thesis user, none of the technical stuff in this article applies to you because it’s all baked into Thesis already. The theoretical stuff holds true, but you can achieve the technical aspects of this post simply by using the Killer Recent Entries Widget (on the Widgets page of the WordPress administration panel).

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John McGehee September 27, 2008

Do you have any comment on Link Categories. In my limited experience, they are all set to “blogroll”.

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Bryan Thompson September 27, 2008

John, Blogroll is the default link category. You can create addtional link categories Then when you add other Links, you can assign them to a specific Link Category(other than Blogroll). It is similar to Posts which will go to the Uncategorized Category until you create more Categories and then assign posts to those categories.

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Bryan October 2, 2008

Chris, I posted a question on the DiyThemes about styling widgets and got no replies. I’m not asking for a direct how-to do this, but if you could point me in the right direction or how to ask the question, I would sure appreciate it. Here’s the question.

How does one customize the Catalog comments as you did here on Pearsonified and over at Copyblogger? I don’t want to grab the exact layout, but I would to have some more control over font, color and the ability to stick some sort of image in there as you do.
ps. I am willing to pay for this kind of information (or someone who knows how to do it)

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Chris Pearson October 2, 2008

Bryan — Each sidebar widget is labeled with a unique class (in the HTML) that you can use to apply custom styles through your custom stylesheet. This allows you to target and customize the elements you like without affecting the rest of the layout.

The only real downside here, though, is that it requires you to understand (and be able to use) both CSS and HTML. If that doesn’t seem like something that’s going to be reasonable for you, then I recommend asking for some customization help over in the forums. There are quite a few users roaming around who are quite competent and would probably love to help you out for some small fee.

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Doug C. October 9, 2008

That’s why I just made myself a “Best of” content box and update it regularly with links to articles that get the most visitors.

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Grace October 12, 2008

Hey Chris,

I saw this great post on categories from a link on ProBlogger, and I’ve linked to THIS site in my post on 25 ways to make a post stickier.

Hope that’s OK?

And yes, I DO use DIY themes. They rock!

Great writing!

Grace

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John Haydon October 12, 2008

Chris,

I love how your category links are formatted here. Mine are bunched together on my blog (see “popular”, “how to”, “latest”). I have my categories based on this sidebar 2 php code I’m using:

<a href="" rel="bookmark"></a>

Any tips on how I can get my category linked formatted better?

Thanks,

John

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Ron October 25, 2008

hoo hoo, nothing like a little linguistic porn to spice up a site. (I’m going to go look for that widget right now! >(:?D

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johan November 22, 2008

The code worked great for me, until I moved it from my footer to my sidebar. When it is placed before my posts and the loop it effects the rest of the page so now only the the posts in the popular category are displayed on the page.

Does anyone know what the problem is?

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kristarella November 22, 2008

johan, yes the query_posts will interrupt the loop.

One solution is to get a semantically written theme. In my opinion it is poor form to put the sidebar before the content. It’s not necessary for styling and your most important stuff should come first in the code, load first etc.

Apart from that the WordPress docs say you should use WP_Query for extra loops. I didn’t really figure this extra query stuff out, but I know Chris knows how to do it now, maybe he can help out.

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johan November 22, 2008

kristarella, thank you for the reply. It’s true that the code might not be semantically correct. I’m still developing the site and change stuff all the time. Originally I had not planned to use a sidebar, so added one the easiest possible way, by using float: right. It’s simple, valid and doesn’t need hacks to work in i6.

Multiple loops are documentet here but my php skills are really limited. I would be great if someone knew what to do.

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kristarella November 22, 2008

Ok, thanks for that link. Very helpful.

In that case, using the last example in this post, you might be able to do something like:
<?php
$my_query = new WP_Query(‘category_name=Popular&showposts=5′);
while $my_query->have_posts()) :
the_post();
?>
<li><a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>” rel=”bookmark”><?php the_title(); ?> <?php comments_number(’0′, ’1′, ‘%’); ?></a></li>

<?php
endwhile;
?>

Haven’t tested that. If it still interferes with the loop you might need to unset the query:
<?php
$my_query = new WP_Query(‘category_name=Popular&showposts=5′);
while $my_query->have_posts()) :
the_post();
?>
<li><a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>” rel=”bookmark”><?php the_title(); ?> <?php comments_number(’0′, ’1′, ‘%’); ?></a></li>

<?php
endwhile;
unset($my_query);
wp_reset_query();
?>

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kristarella November 22, 2008

Hmm, if you copy the above code you will probably need to replace those quotation marks with plain ones.

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johan November 22, 2008

Thank you for the effort. I got syntax error even after replacing the quotations, but with your code and the wp codex I think I can get it right if I only spend som more time with it.

But maybe rewriting the css is the best thing to do after all… Anyway, it’s getting really late here so it has to wait until tomorrow. Thank you so much for the help

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Royal Dragon November 24, 2008

Thanks for this very useful post!

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Martin Czernik December 15, 2008

What if I want to use the Categories to make content for separate pages?

I have only two main Categories, News and Blog.
I would like to divid these entries to two separate pages.

I have the links, but how do I make them work together with Pages?

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lenen nl December 16, 2008

I like to have 2 categories. One for permanent knowledge and 1 for news etc.

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kunstacademie December 17, 2008

Thanx for this great article! I liked it a lot!

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Dotty December 31, 2008

Hi Chris
Could you elaborate on the correct way to use tags? Also is Technorati Tags the same as Tags? How does a Tag cloud effect linking as far as SEO is concerned?

When I started my blog I was told to use 1 Category per post and no more than 3 tags per post. I have no idea how this effects search rankings.

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Ken January 4, 2009

I have wondered for sometime now, how I could create a better structure for my posts, since I never like the default categories system in WP, that much.

Thanks to your post, I have started to think out of the box, for how I should do this on my own blog.

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Maddy January 21, 2009

Amazing post, very useful. Thanks!

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Live voetbal kijken January 21, 2009

Nice post! Definitely time to take a critical look at my own categories, it’s quite a mess indeed.

Thanks!

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Blog Shot January 25, 2009

I love the nurse graphic. She’s hot ! I’d like to see a similar discussion about tags.

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Holland Blinds January 27, 2009

Yes, tags are a bit of a mystery to me. Won’t tags create duplicate content on the blog with a page for every tag?

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Will January 28, 2009

Hi, I inserted the catergorizing code in sidebar.php, and it worked great. I was able to add a couple h2 headings and slap the code under each– just what I was after. The only problem is that, for some reason, when I add the code my meta group disapears from the sidebar. What am I doing wrong?

Thanks!

Will

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Temple Web Design February 1, 2009

Thanks, this brought me to look at your own categorization and see what you did right. I think it’s hard to find examples of blogs that are both well laid-out and make sense as far as usability.

I’m having trouble categorizing my blog because I’m not sure what its focus is right now. Should I use subcategories? General categories like “Email” and “Web Design”? How much do I really have to say about Blogging?It’s tough when you haven’t written all that much, and you’re not sure what you have to say and what readers want to see.

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Leyton Jay February 4, 2009

Awesome take on the use of catergories, genius.

And I’ll definately be using your WordPress themes in the not-too-distant future.

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Weer Amsterdam February 21, 2009

I’ve got a wordpress website as well and have incorporated the theme immediately. I rank higher now!

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Helena Denley March 22, 2009

I came across this post last night – very impressed with the idea, so went through my personal blog (which I am completely re-doing) & installed the Thesis theme, got rid of all the old categories, came up with a few new ones that I want to sit in the sidebar – like you have on this site & then discover that when I jump into the theme editor in the Wordpress dashboard, there is no “sidebar.php” file there to edit as you list instructions above.
I’m used to customising Studiopress templates & Thesis is very different in it’s layout.
So my question now is, how do I implement your suggestions above into the Thesis layout?
Help

Helena

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Joanne of Open Mind Required March 31, 2009

I would also like to know the answer to Helena’s question. My blog is a mess and I’m going to be getting the Thesis template.

I SO needed to read this article and all the comments. I’m so excited about upcoming changes to my hidious blog. And you’ve really clarified the purpose of categories for me.

It would also be great if you could comment on the questions regarding the purpose of tags, because I’m equally confused about that. (I’ve just now learned about link juice!)

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Chris Pearson March 31, 2009

Joanne — Personally, I would recommend that you avoid the use of tags entirely. With Thesis, you’ll be able to use tags in a way that doesn’t affect your SEO, but unless you have a very specific, compelling reason to use them, I think you simply ought to avoid them.

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Rich Cook February 11, 2010

I **think** I accidentally started doing what you recommend with categories – I have 4 or 5 cats that I apply to a post (thinking now is only 1 per post but …) so that I can keep the posts separated by type/category. Each post will be either a “Daily Log”, “Destination Report” or “Feature” (or 1 or 2 other cats). That is how I managed to get all the Daily Log, etc. posts on their own page(s).

I’ve been using tags to mark key terms in my posts (like in a post about traveling to Dubai, I put in a “Dubai” tag along with tags for other key terms). Am I missing the boat on how to use tags?

My reasoning was that if someone wanted to read everything I’ve written about Dubai, they’d search that term and it would find all the posts tagged with that keyword.

Got another question about whether my method of categories and category pages is contributing to page bloat or the right way but I’ll save that for another time.

Thanks!

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Joanne of Open Mind Required April 2, 2009

Thanks, Chris.

This theme rocks!

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Jade Barbee | EFT April 21, 2009

I’m glad someone is finally talking about this! I’m just learning the fine art of organizing categories to accept and display my content. My buddy Jason (http://www.jasonwhipple.com) is creating my new site to take even better advantage of using categories — He’s making a magazine layout for my site where, as I assign a category, my data can fly to the pages where I need it.

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sjefen May 12, 2009

Hmm.. Another thing i must control. Weird that i never has read this another place, but, i know when i play with the big dogs. :P

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Sarah B May 22, 2009

Very useful information. I love the categories you use and the way they are presented with interesting and appeling graphics.

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Craigs May 28, 2009

Not sure if the iron is still hot here…but here goes.

ChrisP you mentioned liking real life examples. I have
spent the whole week trying to get my head around
this one….maybe this will grab you.

I am building a web property that will present
helpful information about Homeopathic Remedies.
It is being compiled from a synthesis of multiple
medical textbooks.

Using the fantabulous Thesis :)

I am wondering if I can use Categories and Tags
together in a creative way to make the content
highly searchable later.

Each REMEDY could be a POST (probably end up with 2-300)

The nature of homeopathic remedies though is that
a single cure can deal with multiple ailments.

In real life, I understand that searchers tend to come at
research with the physical ailment….and probably not
look for or even know the
name of the specific name of a remedy solution (product.)

By placing all the POSTS (remedies) inside a single category REMEDIES….this then gives the ability to list them all in various ways
in a side bar and also in a dedicated page. (correct?)

But how to I deal with the multiple to one relationship of the symptoms.
Can I deal with this using TAGs….would this allow me
to also create a sidebar list alphabetically listing the symptoms.
(show all TAG’s in alphabetical order from Category REMEDIES)

The usefulness, would further extend if I could find a search plugin that would allow me to search the Remedy category to show POSTS (Actual Remedies) that are combination of multiple SYMPTOMS (TAGS) together.

If so, would re-naming the TAG function to SYMPTOMS be appropriate…or am I flogging a dead horse here?

Another line of thinking led to me dealing with the SYMPTOMS not
as TAGs, but as PARENT & MULTIPLE CHILD categories
Parent Cat= Symptoms
Child Cat1= Headache
Child Cat2= Anxious
Child Cat3= Fearful
Child Cat4= Hypertense
…I guess a sidebar could show just child categories of Parent Category Symptoms, but could a search querie pull up results for multiple child cat’s together? (i.e. show me all products if you have Headache
& Fearful & Hypertense symptoms together…

In this last example, I would end up with Just two parent categories
REMEDIES & SYMPTOMS…the latter would have maybe upto 30
child categories for specific Symptoms.

Since I use Wordpress for everything else including regular sites, I would like to have a crack at this using it as CMS, but am unsure if there are flaws in my thinking.

Thanks for any replies with ideas of suggestions. :)
PS I’m pretty good at getting in and hacking.

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patrick June 8, 2009

terrific post. i see your criteria for “must read” is that the post is popular (i suppose), hence the category name. how do you decide the post is popular, in the beginning? or am i missing the “aha” moment?

what is the criteria for the “worth a look category?” what other category examples can you give us, besides the ones you use?

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Chris Pearson June 15, 2009

Patrick — My popularity criteria are a mix of both subjective and objective evidence. For example, most of my “must read” articles are not only articles that I like and believe are still relevant, but they are also proven winners in the search engines (which means that these topics are things people are actually showing interest in).

For the record, I control my “must read” articles manually, and I absolutely do not use things like comment count to determine whether or not something is worth reading. Ultimately, I envision the “must read” section as a consolidated resource for the most beneficial, useful articles on my site.

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Craigs June 15, 2009

Found a serious answer to my previous request for guidance on the homeopathy multiple parent & child categories… By creating multiple taxonomies.

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Farnoosh Brock August 10, 2009

I love Thesis, I really do. You are authentic, Chris. And oh yes, good post on categories too!
THANK YOU for Thesis!!!

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Hollie August 11, 2009

I tried doing this tonight, but the only “sidebar.php” is in the Admin folder. I’m using the latest version of Thesis. I found a “sidebars.php”, but when I modified that, my whole blog disappeared and all that remains is: Parse error: syntax error, blah blah blah.

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Chris Pearson August 12, 2009

Hollie — There’s no need to edit any files with Thesis. Instead, simply visit your Widgets panel, and check out the Killer Recent Entries Widget. It serves the same purpose as the code in this post!

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Chris Pearson August 12, 2009

Farnoosh — Haha, that’s very kind! Thank you!

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Jason August 23, 2009

So, with the idea of categories in this capacity (which sounds good, don’t get me wrong) – how do you go about sifting through a history of 500 previous posts that weren’t categorized correctly?

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Kelly September 4, 2009

Moving to my own domain. Totally new to WP. Your “category” solution is great. I love your viewpoint.

I have not been able to make it work yet. For the step 1, do I need any particular category plugin? I just tried an existing category by the default gadget. I did not crash it; I just don’t see any changes.

Also, I can’t understand this: ” all you need to do is loop through them, ” Can you tell me what to do?

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mitch September 19, 2009

Helpful article. Thanks! I came looking for php code discussion and examples for wordpress and got seo advice to boot.

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sharon September 20, 2009

I just got Thesis, so wanted to set up the blog according to your suggestions, but i don’t have “sidebar.php” options in Appearance>Editor>Thesis. I do have (no_sidebars.php) and there is a ‘sidebar_php” in the default theme. Is that the one I use? Also Paul says “you have to enable Permalinks on the Options panel…” I looked for this in Thesis Options and Design Options, but don’t see it. Can you give me an idea of where I might find it. thanks

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Kelly September 26, 2009

Eureka. Just have to report back. I am so happy with the method. & I am not even finished yet…

After countless hours of research, I found what the missing part is that needs to go around the code. It is just ul tags. guess li would also work. Chris had said to use some similar tags / code in my php (such as for a recent comments widget), but I did not have any like that anywhere. So, I had to search. Anyway, ul tags work great.

Warning: another reason it did not work for me at first: make sure that the slug you assigned to the category is the same as what you put into the code and THAT creates the loop. YEAH!!

QUESTION: I would like to let the items displayed on the list to rotate. Does anybody know how to make it do that?

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Aery October 12, 2009

Hi,

Excellent. Precisely what I was looking for.

Can I have a tag – “popular” and show it in the same way you have used for categories. Then what would be code like?

Regards,
Aery

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J. Burnich October 26, 2009

Finally a useful article on using WP categories. This one is going in my bookmarks.

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Kelly October 28, 2009

Just in case someone else want to make them rotate randomly, here is the code I found to make it work. Just add this code directly after the number you choose for the amount of post on the list: &orderby=rand

You can see it working on my site: rawarrior.com

Now to make it look as cool as ChrisP’…

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Aery October 28, 2009

That’s really cool to use random method.
By the way, the ideal way to do this is using WP_Querry and not Querry_Posts so that pagination and other looks doesn’t get affected.

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Doug C. October 28, 2009

You know, this was probably a very valuable article, but since I know nothing of PHP or the purpose of categories it was totally lost on me.

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Pete Accini October 29, 2009

Great article and I love the organisation of categories as shown on this page. Has anyone else got some examples of good use of categories?

Cheers

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Alanna November 11, 2009

question about the Developer Option for Thesis — what does Client Site Option mean, and $40/site for clients… if you buy the Developer Option, do you have to pay anything extra per client installation? is there a sales email address I should write to? thanks! Alanna

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Chris Pearson November 12, 2009

Alanna — The Developer’s Option grants you the right to use Thesis on an unlimited number of sites that you own. Each time you wish to deploy Thesis on a client’s site, you’ll need to purchase a $40 Client Site Option.

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Alanna November 12, 2009

Chris, gotcha! well that’s fair… you should incorporate that cost into your charges to your clients. That’s what I thought, just wasn’t sure. Thanks for clearing it up for me. ;-)

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Nick November 26, 2009

when you are editing the sidebar.php file to set up which categories come up, are you editing the .php in the /wp-admin folder, or does it need to be from the /themes/thesis folder? I only see a no-sidebar.php in the Thesis folder. And when I edit the one in the /wp-admin folder, no changes occur.

Thanks

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Chris Pearson November 30, 2009

Nick — You should never edit any core Thesis files. Instead, in this case, you should use the Killer Recent Entries widget in your Widgets panel, and then choose the category that you’d like to show.

This can all be done from within the WordPress dashboard.

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Evergreen real estate December 9, 2009

Hi Chris,

Thesis is great. I love it and have been gradually getting better and better at customizing it.

I’ve been using a category on my nav menu– which is a really cool function that Thesis allows and I would like add the excerpts on the category page.

Could you take a look at my site and click the “Evergreen Subdivisions” tab and let me know how to show the excerpts there?

-Bob

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Chris Pearson December 14, 2009

Bob — Under your Thesis Options, check out the Display Options section, and then look for Archives. From there, simply select to show “post excerpts,” and you’ll be good to go! Also, for quick, accurate answers for all your Thesis-related questions, please visit the DIYthemes forums.

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Bacteria Buster December 16, 2009

Hi Chris,

Wanted to thank you for developing Thesis. I have just purchased it am currently re-doing my not so professional website. Hopefully when finished it will be much better than what I have at the moment.

Can we use google maps with Thesis? I have asked quite a few people and have not gotten any responses. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks

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Evergreen Real Estate December 16, 2009

Chris,
Thanks for that answer. I should have been able to find that one on my own…

I appreciate it!

-Bob

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Krystal December 27, 2009

Hi, since I am just implementing my Thesis Theme 1.6 (and I am really new to this stuff) should I repopulate my blog post by post to use this category strategy? Thanks!

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Russell February 2, 2010

Chris, an interesting approach to categories. In short they are a means of providing links on the home page to a series of related interesting posts.

Using Tags Instead of Categories?
I have done something similar but using tags instead of categories. I would be interested in some feedback on this alternative tag-based approach. Am I missing something here?

Grouping Posts into a Series Using Tags
The site in question is an artist’s website, http://www.ronaldrae.co.uk.
There is a post about each artwork. The works are grouped into series(exhibitions) using slideshows (the d13 slideshow plugin) where the slideshow groups the artwork according to its tag. Examples of tags are ‘Falkirk Wheel Exhibition’, ‘Holyrood Park Exhibition’, ‘Sculptures For Sale’,’Sculptures In Private Collections’ etc. This approach makes it really easy for the site administrator to update the site when an artwork is moved or sold, as all she has to do is remove one tag and add another.

Using A Single Category Per Post
On the site, categories are used as a fixed designation so each post about an artwork is classified with only one category: ‘sculptures’, ‘drawings’, ‘bibles’, ‘mixed media’, ‘poetry’, I also have added ‘exhibitions’ as a category (‘Exhibition’ posts are the ones that display the slideshows).

Using Fixed Categories For SEO
I have included the category in the permalink structure for SEO reasons, as the category of a post will never change, and the low volume of posts means that Wordpress’s inefficient URL rewriting will not be a performance issue.

Custom Menu In the Sidebar
In the sidebar we have a custom menu that display links to a few of the featured exhibition slideshow posts and a couple of categories. The visitor is therefore not overwhelmed by too many links.

Tagging
Other that these few ‘special exhibition tags’ that are used exclusively for slideshows, tags are used normally on the site

My Questions
Am I losing anything by using tags instead of categories?

What does using categories give you over just tagging posts with ‘Must Reads’, ‘Worth A Look’, ‘Improve Your Site’ ?

All you would need to do is tweak the code in the sidebar menu to read

<a href="” rel=”bookmark”>

PS. An apology.
If you do visit the artists website then some of the more recent slideshows are running a bit slow as the site administrator is currently loading pictures directly from her new camera and not resizing them properly for the web. There are also too many posts(pictures) in some of the slideshows. Apologies for this. I am due to give her a training lesson next week on this. I plan to add lightbox to the site so we can use 640 by 480 in the slideshow but have full size (1024 by 768 px) pictures available on a clickthrough. All pictures are hosted on Amazon S3 for reasons of performance.

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Russell February 2, 2010

The PHP code I included above bombed

It should have read:

query_posts(‘tag=Popular&showposts=5′);

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Kathleen McCabe February 6, 2010

Lots of interesting information above – alot to consider. Thanks

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Side Mareresort February 6, 2010

Excellent post, what a treasure of information. Sometimes you think you know a lot, but reading these information sources puts me right back on earth. Great comments also! Will use a lot of this.

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Richard February 23, 2010

I control my all the must read articles myself, so manually. In my opinion comment count does not work to determine whether or not something is worth reading.

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Turquoise Side February 24, 2010

Has the question on how you go through a history of 500 previous posts that weren’t categorized correctly? This ofcourse should be noticed earlier, but just wondering. Good post, thanks

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Dziner Fusion February 27, 2010

Thanks for this guide, although I am confused about adding a new category? Do we put your code in the sidebar widget?

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Valentijn March 2, 2010

Very useful information. I am also very afraid of page bloat and link dilution on my blog. Using categories is something that is a challenge, the categories you use are very interesting and help me.

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Wynne March 8, 2010

Wow, it looks like purchasing Thesis was the best thing I could ever have done. And then stumbling onto this article. I feel like I learnt a massive piece of knowledge here.

Looks like there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers who have the wrong end of the stick with SEO in regards to categories and tags.

Thanks again Chris.

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Crystal March 8, 2010

There are a lot of great points in the article! More specifically the organization of categories. Can more examples be shared that show a good use of categories?

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Jo March 18, 2010

This was very educational article. I will have to look at how we are implementing our categories. We have started to create a few Word Press blogs. Has anyone ever tried Thesis? We were looking at it and seems pretty straight forward. Just curious if anyone has used Thesis.

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Vincent March 20, 2010

Amazing article. Never thought that is would be so cool to use random method. I found a great way to do this is by using WP_Query and not query_posts. This was pagination and other looks don’t get affected. Great work and keep it coming!

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Schiphol March 29, 2010

Useful, I am going to purchase it and I will use it for my website. It is far from good, but hopefully when I use all this material it will be much better. it would be great to use Maps with thesis.

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Dhar April 4, 2010

Wow very valuable SEO .. Incidentally I also use wordpress and I’ve created categories for each article that I made, but I just learned from this website if the category on a wordpress blog it is very important. Thank you, I will always use categories for each of my articles.

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mariah b April 29, 2010

OMG thank you so much for this tutorial. I just did it on my new site. I haven’t gone public with it yet because I want to make sure my house is in order before I have friends over lol. Your tips are great. I’m a new fan! Keep up the excellent work. P.S. the video rant about people who try to be more than they are was awesome!

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Richard Cummings May 14, 2010

You echo many of my thoughts. WordPress Categories are overlooked as the gems that they really are. Everybody should take these steps to customize and promote their WordPress pages.

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Stephanie May 31, 2010

Hi there…

I found this site randomly and BOY am I in love! Your posts make perfect sense as I am trying to figure out my content for a future blog. I’m a designer/art director by day and a fitness/foodie by night. I am in the midst of developing a holistic nutrition coaching practice as the corporate gig no longer aligns with my insides;)

With that, I have a question re: categories.
> In the blog portion of the site (vs. the about/services portion), I want to create posts around food and fitness tips. As an overly detailed person, I was going to categorize food via meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), main ingredient (poultry, veggies, beef, etc.), diet (low cal, low fat, gluten-free, etc.). Now that I read this post, is that a bad idea? Should I just post it under a “recipe” category and use tags for the rest? I’m a little confused. PLUS, I’m also going to post other types of content (i.e. – fitness tips, interviews with others, etc.) – which means my categories can get out of control.

Let me know if I need to explain further. Looking forward to your insight…or anyone elses.

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Chris Pearson June 1, 2010

Stephanie, even though I am generally against the use of tags, I think your case might be a good example of a reasonable exception. Obviously, there are a zillion different topics floating around about food—gluten-free, vegan, raw, hormone-free, grass-fed, etc. You may find some benefit from using tags to handle all these societal “labels.”

If I were you, I’d try to simplify my categories as much as possible, and then be strict about your use of tags. In other words, keep it reasonable—a couple hundred tags is too confusing for you or anyone else to organize or comprehend easily.

Some example categories for your site might be: recipes, nutrition tips, fitness tips, and exercises. For best results, you should make your categories clear, simple, and most of all, actionable. Strive to give your visitors an immediate payoff when they click on something on your site, and you’ll be off to a great start.

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Larry June 9, 2010

Hi Chris,
The topic(s) of categories, posts, pages and tags have so much information out there, and many of it contradicting, and seemingly inaccurate.

On one of my sites as an example, I have several hundred Music Artists with posts that I add to my site regularly related to each artist. Right now I DO NOT have each Artist as a separate Category, but am wondering (and always have wondered), if I should make each Artist a separate category. (I have no problem changing things, so that is not an issue with me).

Right now I have each post tagged with the Artist so the posts can be found via a search.

I guess my question is: “Do you see a problem with having potentially 500 or more individual Categories for each artist in my case?

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mark June 13, 2010

Larry, I have the same question as you. I am setting up a financial website which will cover more than 130 companies. I would like to post the latest articles from a category in a company profile page. Can I do that with tags, or should I use categories.

Chris, what do you recommend ?

cheers
Mark.

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Jon Whitbeck June 9, 2010

Hi Chris,

I’m working on a site for an author & would like to create a category list very similar to yours. Currently, I am just using widgets to add a blog listing.

Unfortunately, I’m having some difficulty with the categories. Under posts, the categories show for published pieces (drafts are uncategorized). When I view the categories, however, they’re listed but it shows none of the posts being categorized. Not really sure how to address this.
http://www.julieluongo.com/

Kind thanks,

Jon

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Jon Whitbeck June 10, 2010

Hi Chris (& all),

Just wanted to follow up on my question above.

I solved the category problem by using Chrome to update one post in a category. Once I did that, Wp recognized all posts that were in that category (whereas no posts were being identified).

Weird fix, but it worked. Other browsers didn’t seem to do the trick for whatever reason.

By the way, I heart Thesis! :)

Best,

Jon

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Shawn June 29, 2010

I found this post to be very helpful. The killer recents widget works great for this idea.

Thanks

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cid July 4, 2010

thanks for posting this articles.. i’m still confusing to manage categories in my website. i will try this.

cheers, cid

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Elaine July 8, 2010

I have never even considered categories an important part of my blogging. This definitely is food for though for me and for any one I always run my blogs in one category considering categories just a waste of time and I can see I am actually wasting a powerful tool.

Thanks for your in-depth article.

Elaine

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Lee Hughes July 10, 2010

Hi Chris,

Do you still advise against the use of tags even with thesis 1.8 having new tag features, or is that just to give people the option of tagging?

Would the category hierarchy feature be of better use than tags?

Cheers :)

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Chris Pearson July 13, 2010

Lee, my primary motivation behind eliminating the use of tags is rooted in overall simplification. As I stated in the article, WordPress generates bloat pages whenever you use categories or tags, so in my opinion, you need a damn good reason to add these things.

However, I should also note that much has changed since I published this piece, especially on the Thesis side of things.

At this point, it really is possible to use both categories and tags effectively, simply because Thesis gives you complete SEO control over both. You’re not at the mercy of WordPress anymore, and you can actually go through each category and tag and ensure that Google only indexes the pages that you want (by way of the noindex robots meta tag).

Lastly, regarding your question about the category hierarchy, please note that the only reason to institute a hierarchy is if it helps to describe the data that you’re trying to organize. In other words, if the data calls for some kind of natural hierarchical relationship, then category hierarchies would be a natural fit.

In any other scenario, you’re just trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole :D

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Lee Hughes July 13, 2010

Thanks for that.

I have worked out how to use them effectively without conflict so I look forward to using it on 1.8 ;)

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Vanessa August 2, 2010

Nice, thanks for this guide, although I am confused about adding a new category? Do we put your code in the sidebar widget? Is an answer on this earlier question posted yet?

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Adriana August 15, 2010

Great post. Also you can work in each category individually. I am going to follow this instructions to rank my blog. Thanks!

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J Allen August 28, 2010

all i can say is WHAT A CUTE DOG!!!

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V. Klaren September 13, 2010

Interesting information. Currently trying this. I am still confused on how to manage categories in my website.

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Senith @ MBA tutor September 20, 2010

Chris,

I am trying to redesign my blog and using categories was confusing me! This post is very helpful. I am not a techie! Is there a plugin that I can use to do this?

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stephen October 21, 2010

Wonderful post. I’m new at wordpress and find your topics great!

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Vanessa October 25, 2010

Nice and interesting information. There are a lot of nice insights in this article! Like the organization of categories part, this always is challenging for me.

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Samir October 25, 2010

I am having a blog hostingpackagesare.com when i checked it in google most pages indexed are archive pages coming on the top. I am a little worried about it, I want post pages in the top. Can you suggest me anything.. I will be thankful to you..

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Valentijn November 5, 2010

A while now, we don’t use of tags anymore. Thesis, helps limit the effect on SEO. Thanks for the insights.

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David November 14, 2010

@Samir: Have you submitted the sitemap of your blog to Google’s webmasters?

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Samir November 15, 2010

I have not, i don’t know how to create a sitemap of a wordpress blog.

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Ty November 20, 2010

I too have had made the mistake of having too many categories distracting my readers from clicking at all. Thanks for the help on utilizing categories to our advantage.

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Kathy November 23, 2010

Hi Chris,
What I’m concerned about as a blogging newbie AND Wordpress Newbie rolled into one is that I thought all I had to do to make “Categories” was to type in an actual word heading – such as in your example: “Must Read,” or the like (without needing to insert HTML code).

I did read your response to Stephanie (above, this past June 2010), whose situation is similar to mine, and it made a TON of sense. And I know that I can do all this… BUT…

I fear that trying to figure out the “code” may be beyond what I can understand right now, and that worries me. Looking at the HTML examples you used in your post made me dizzy since I just don’t “get it.”

I have just begun a blog that is going to be related to personal development – and I don’t want to confuse people with too many categories – but the “code” part is just seeming so complicated.

I definitely want to get the content correctly organized and off on the right foot.

All I know for sure now is that I can do as you mentioned to Stephanie – not overloading tags, keeping the categories simple. It is just the idea of trying to do the “code” thing within categories that is scaring me.

Can you suggest something that might help someone like me? I know you’re busy – and I know I have enough info so far to at least focus my articles more tightly.

:) In the meantime, I’ll keep looking through your site in case I see something.

Thanks!
Kath :)

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Stone Cladding Guy November 23, 2010

I know i’ve made the same type of mistake of having too many categories distracting my readers from clicking on links. This has been a very useful post, and much of it I can apply to my own websites. Thanks heaps for the post, and the useful comments from the readers. Cheers.

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ron December 1, 2010

Do you know of a way to dynamically assign categories to posts by matching keywords within a post? We have a site that aggregates posts via RSS feeds. We would like these posts to be assigned to one of the existing categories. I thought someone may have created a plugin to do this but have not found one.

thanks

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Janko December 4, 2010

Wanted to say that I like the way your category links are formatted. I have some experiments running with this. Like an earlier user I use sidebar 2 php code. It remains a challenge, but I can get my category linked formatted better after some time. For now I still use yours.

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Anke December 6, 2010

Now experimenting with categories. This is a great guide, but where do we put your code? Will this be placed in the sidebar widget? I will try to add some categories on my site.

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Fitz January 7, 2011

Well, I like your post (this and other), yeah sure I’m still newbie… and I like your theme. I need to ask you, how to set my blog like yours…
(eg: I’ve 3 category and I want @ the sidebar 1st row for 1st cat, 2nd for 2nd cat, etc) like yours: must reads, improve your site, and worth a look. I’ve design a template with photoshop by now, but not done yet… and I set like yours… but sure I don’t quite understand about html/php/css code. So maybe you can help me… any suggestion thanks.

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solar power guy January 7, 2011

Too many catagories can confuse the reader. Studies recently done in the US which have studied metrics and internal click trends have found that a site which has to many categories has a much higher abandonment rates than those with a simple cat structure. it had something to do our ability to scan/paraphrase and eliminate “surplus” info as junk and time wasting. All in the sub-conscious apparently

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Nicolas January 10, 2011

Very helpful article, that we can use during our off-site. We are working with PHP and Wordpress a lot for some of the websites. Categories are always challenging, especially when building the site or when it becomes very big. Will keep following your articles.

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steff January 23, 2011

thanks for sharing this but what if i want to post only the categories for a single post? how can i do that? i know how to post the tags but can’t figure out how to show the categories for each article…

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rabbi January 29, 2011

Before i was having 30 categories and after reading your blog post i think that having too many category is not good for the visitor, i will now only use the main category. Thanks for this gr8 post.

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Els February 7, 2011

Think that the right categories also have a positive influence on the search engines!

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Rodney Ash February 15, 2011

Thank you Chris for the awesome information on Categories. You’ve made me completely rethink the way I was approaching a new site I was designing. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

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Robert February 27, 2011

I totally agree here. Too many categories on a web site just make it look terrible. I know I’d be much more likely to bounce. It lowers the usability of the website. It seems that some bloggers literally have tons of categories serving no true organizational purpose.

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Rudy Pohl March 17, 2011

Hi Chris:

I still pretty much a newbie to using WordPress as a CMS. We’ve used our own proprietary CMS for 11 years and it’s been a big change. I am so impressed with WP. I just found this article while search the web for good tutorials on deploying categories. Excellent material. Thanks so much!

Rudy

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Peggy March 19, 2011

What do yo mean when you say categories are abused? I look at categories as a way to keep my pages grouped that all have a common theme. What are the SEO advantages of categories other than organizing your posts logically by topic?

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David Leonard March 31, 2011

Great. I’m fairly new to blogging and had avoided using categories because I wasn’t really sure how to use them and didn’t want to confuse site visitors. Glad I waited, because your post has got my mind working on a useful – rather than confusing – way to use them.

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imke April 15, 2011

This was helpful thanks a lot!

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C. Dog April 15, 2011

I was always worried that the search engines would see post in categories as duplicate content. You have the single post page, the same content on the category page, and also on the tag and/or archive pages. What keeps this from being dup content?

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Mehfooz May 9, 2011

I have successful blog but now I want to switch to WordPress as it has a lot more great options which are available in blogger. Is my switch from blogger to WordPress is going to be the biggest mistake in regards it will decrease my traffic and other stuff.

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Alex June 10, 2011

Thanks for the post — hadn’t really thought too much about utilizing categories before.

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Frenzi Media June 11, 2011

Hi Chris, I’m really interested in psychology and SEO which you touched on in this post. I wish there was more stuff on this subject out there.

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Keith Jhonson June 19, 2011

Great article! Yes, we must use the categories aspect of Wordpress to enhance the visual-organization aspect of our blog. As we clearly identify the categories, we let the reader know that we are organized and have successfully aligned our blog-content with these topics.

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Nur June 24, 2011

I agree, by giving users a list of categories to browse on your site, you are creating a psychological conundrum. You should really keep the site simple and clear. Too much cluter is not good

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Ellen Melis July 31, 2011

Great post.
This is the first time I have more clarity re categories. I love that you simplify AND control them. Thanks also for your generosity n helping others! It is greatly appreciated!

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Anonymous August 7, 2011

Sad that I was completely unaware of The Power of ‘Category’ till I read this article. I’d like to ask one thing…there are widgets to show popular posts in the sidebar…do they offer the same thing as coding to find popular posts in categories?

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RichardStep August 9, 2011

Eeep… I have started seeing the usefulness of leaning toward categories but you just blew my mind on two things:
– get rid of the stupid bloat archives pages
– use categories to handle my “popular posts” box… which is currently hard-coded. (*shame on me!*)

I love learning new things – especially when it makes life easier! Thank you, sir!

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Howard August 11, 2011

I have about 75 WordPress sites and I love using Thesis more than anything but I am clueless when it comes to all the settings, index, noindex, follow, nofollow I have looked for a clear cut post that shows you exactly how to configure the settings but I have yet to find one.

I have tried to match the settings with other SEO Plugin settings such as WordPress SEO by Yoost and Platinum Plus but there is no clear match for each setting. If I could learn how to configure the back end for maximum results I would love to transfer some of my better sites.

Any help?
Thanks!
Howard

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Chris Pearson August 11, 2011

Howard, this is one of those things that you don’t even have to think about because Thesis’ noindex and nofollow settings are optimal right out of the box.

Here’s an article that sheds more light on how and when to use noindex and nofollow tags on your site.

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Campbell September 25, 2011

Hi Chris,

First of all, I truly love your blog man, especially the way you have styled and formatted your sidebar with your Categories and Posts!

I am actually a Thesis Owner although I have not gotten the opportunity or chance to build with your framework directly other than installing it, I am really looking forward to it when the time does come.

WordPress is relatively new to me. For the Past 2 1/2 years I have been working exclusively with Joomla and have just a couple of months ago started developing and learning how to build sites with WordPress. My primary Focus so far has been with the Genesis Framework which is very nice but their support forums are lacking.
From my observation, Thesis Community Seems much stronger as far as involvement user participation goes (as an observation) .

Back to your blog, whats to say man? I really love your writing style as well as your design aesthetics and I love the way that you have formatted your sidebar through functionality.

I am not much of a coder compared to most but I am learning its a process and quite involved. Any way Chris, I would love your opinion on my site if you could find the time to pop in and take a look. I know that your a man of character and that I can get a honest opinion on it from you.

BTW, I heard the whole Matt Mullenweg deal with you on the NET and all I can say is Good For Your for standing up for yourself and what you believe in!

Campbell

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Campbell McArthur September 27, 2011

@Chris P.
Hi, Chris
Is there a way to institute this code on a site that runs on the Genesis Framework? I am sure that there is but with Genesis we no longer have the Widget Sidebar.php everything is controlled through the Child Theme functions.php. I just started getting into the coding side of web mastering so there are many questions that I have and many scenarios that I see that I am unsure of due to the way Genesis is structured.
This would be one of those scenarios! I am sure that I would like to institute this on my blog as it is still in development even though it is in the final throws and will soon be completed I think that this would be one of the finest additions that I could make to it and it would allow me to get things finalized design wise.

Any input would be appreciated Chris :)

Thank man

Campbell

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Chris Pearson September 27, 2011

Campbell, unfortunately, I don’t know how Genesis works, so I can’t give you reliable advice on that front.

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Campbell McArthur September 27, 2011

It’s cool brother…lol…I can understand without spoken words.

I love, love your blog Chris, and like I said I am a Thesis Dev Owner I just have not gotten the chance to BLAZE it out yet Bro. But I am truly looking forward to it when I do though. I read you and Dereks articles quite frequently and always look forward to them and enjoy them immensely when they hit the in box.

Campbell

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Mark September 29, 2011

Thank you for helping to clear up the subject of categories. I must admit that I’ve been using a combination of categories and tags without much thought. I think simplification is now in order!

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Doctor B September 30, 2011

I use tags to classify articles related to a particular topic.

Is there a php code that can
1) fetch the tag of the current post
2) display all other posts with the fethced tag ?

I could locate plugins like ‘related post’ doing similar work..but could this be put in two sweet lines of code..as you did above.

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Sanjin Kunovac October 20, 2011

Chris, how many categories should I have per page? I want to make sure that my blog page has many categories…. Thanks

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SeanE November 5, 2011

Have been searching and inquiring on forums regarding categories and teasers. I would like teasers to only show for a select category on the home page. Everything so far either kills the teaser functionality in thesis (essentially showing teasers instead as featured post formatting) OR duplicates the thesis generated teasers (while the thesis generated ones do not adhere to category settings and the duplicate does).

Figured I would ask the man behind the curtain.

Thank you.

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Michelle Minch December 12, 2011

Chris: When adding internal linking, does it make any sense to link to a category (for example) as opposed to an individual page or post? Is there any SEO benefit?

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Chris Pearson December 14, 2011

Michelle, like many things in SEO, the answer is, “It depends.”

In this case, it depends on what you’re trying to rank for. I’ll use an example to help explain what I mean here:

Let’s say, for instance, that I’d like to try and rank for “SEO for everybody” here on this site. Since I have multiple articles on SEO as well as an established category page on the topic, it makes sense to link to the category page as opposed to an individual article about SEO.

A direct link to the category page yields 2 distinct benefits:

  1. The SEO of the category page gets stronger (because of the direct link).
  2. Because the category page’s SEO is boosted, all links from that page will also receive a boost because they’ll have more “link juice” flowing their direction.

In other words, by linking to a high quality category page, you can increase the SEO of many pages at once rather than just one page at a time.

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Bob Dickinson December 20, 2011

Very interesting, is this how Google determines which sites it will give sub heading to? I have tried everything to get Google to show my site with subheadings and thought that categories was the answer?

Thanks for the info,

Bob D

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Chris Pearson December 20, 2011

Bob, you’re talking about Google Sitelinks, which I never mentioned here.

You can control those (but not whether or not Google displays them) inside Google Webmaster Tools.

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varun December 21, 2011

This post was amazing.It was more like SEO with Categories.
I didn’t bother to check the date as its more like useful in any year of this blogging world.
Thanks Mr Pearson :)

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Botox Doc December 25, 2011

Hey Chris,
I’ve been using thesis recently, really enjoying it.

I notice that this post is a bit old, and I’m sure you’ve made some changes to thesis since then regarding category SEO. I’m currently trying to improve my category page and was wondering if you have a new article related to it? If not, I’m sure lots of people would be interested in the info and would be worth updating this post.

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Chris Pearson December 25, 2011

Botox Doc, check out this article on WordPress category page SEO. It’s got more specific, actionable information that you can combine with this article to get the maximum out of your category pages.

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Anita Clark February 1, 2012

I have tried to keep my list of categories very short (12 at the moment) with over 600 posts. It seems to be working and users don’t get the paralysis you talk about…too many choices might as well be none at all. Good readt, enjoyed it!

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Jan de Wit March 7, 2012

Hi,
Reading the incredible amount of information makes me feel a bit dizzy :). I have following question: when I go to the blog site I only want to see one category at a time. How can I separate the categories so they do not show all together?.

Thanks for any answer. Jan

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Evita Andrianni March 25, 2012

Finally some great and easy to understand information about categories. Does this php code work in Thesis Theme?

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Chris Pearson March 26, 2012

Evita, the code in this article will work with Thesis, but there’s an easier way to generate category links with Thesis, too.

Simply visit your Widgets page, and check out the Killer Recent Entries widget that comes packaged with Thesis. You can select any category from your site along with the number of posts to show, and voila!

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Zoe April 6, 2012

I am having some php difficulties, and I would LOVE for this to work for my client’s blog (http://playfightrepeat.com). I’ve reduced her categories from 25 to 5 or so. I get an error message exactly where I insert this code, so ONE questions is WHERE EXACTLY in my sidebar.php do I put this (I have 2 sidebars, lets assume I want it in my first sidebar).
Here is what I have, a copy paste from your site with my category name changed, an excerpt from my entire sidebar.php file:

function thesis_sidebar_1() {
thesis_hook_before_sidebar_1(); #hook
thesis_default_widget();
thesis_hook_after_sidebar_1(); #hook

<a href="” rel=”bookmark”>

}

Where ever I insert this code, at that first cancels out the function for my sidebar2 which follows (cause that text is all one color in my CODA preview) . I think this is a php know-how issue, and any help you can provide is appreciated!

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Zoe April 6, 2012

My full code excerpt did not appear in my questions above. How do I get my full code excerpt to appear? thanks!

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Peter May 24, 2012

Thanks for the article. It’s very nicely organized. I do, however, wish you had included examples of “link categories” for those of us who aren’t sure just what they are.

I found your article (and your site) by google-ing “What are link categories?” Alas, I still don’t know.

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Korting June 1, 2012

Is there a way to create different groups of categories on the frontpage that list the last 3 postst in each category? I can’t find any widgets or plugins that can create such a list.

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cindy June 1, 2012

i dont know how to manage the categories of my post..help me pleaseeee

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Geoffrey Hale July 27, 2012

Thanks for the definitive guide! ;)

Time to start putting this to work revamping my blogs. =)

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Someone in California August 21, 2012

Good call! Our site needs an overhaul with fewer categories. Thanks!

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Paul September 10, 2012

I think Categories are bad for indexing in google.

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Bill Ray September 15, 2012

Really good article, I will have a look at our categories!

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Kylie O'Brien September 19, 2012

Fantastic information,
I’ve just started my own website for my counselling business and I am not the most technical person around.
Your writing style is clear and your instructions are really well explained .
Thank you for helping :)

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Andy October 10, 2012

Thanks for the great post! I have been trying to figure out all of this WordPress Jargon…

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Aussie November 7, 2012

I have had massive problems with categories and wordpress before. This should help. cheers

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Tolga November 9, 2012

Without a doubt, one of the best information as far as user experience is concerned, thank you for sharing. Since most SEO’s get this part wrong since (logical navigation structure, means, great user experience), if only most seo’s simply read this post as well, then their efforts could bring better results.

I have already tweeted this page (@rankyacomau ) as it is simply; useful information for creating better site architecture.

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Carson December 4, 2012

Brilliant post! I really like the idea of having category selections that appeal to egos. Yes, and that will make the selection process quite controlled, so no confusion for the reader.

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Maria February 7, 2013

Hi everyone!
I have a question about “categories”. If I put a post into more categories (for instance 2 categories) will I have a duplicate content? What is the best practice for SEO?
Thanks a lot

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The Webinstitute May 13, 2013

There is always a dilemma about where to use categories and where to use tags and how many categories to use for a post.
Well, we have categories listed out on the home page. I guess I will go and remove them from there.

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radable June 4, 2013

I’ve seen maddening structures built from categories and pages, typically someone armed with their free cms+theme (look no hands! ) ending up creating a monster resembling a library index.

to be fair, the CMSs are trying to make this intuitive- which in return only makes things worse, as users stick to whatever works first.

you can’t really blame them.

but you can direct then toward help.

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Akila July 17, 2013

Thanks for this article. But I just wonder whether a page can be used in two categories.

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umer January 3, 2014

Nice article ,will implement it right now… thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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Hoot and/or Holler

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