What Is Taxonomy, and Why Does It Matter?

Whether you’re a veteran WordPress.com user or you’re diving into how-tos for the first time, you’ve probably stumbled upon the term “taxonomies” and wondered, “What is taxonomy?”

By definition, a taxonomy is a way of classifying things based on similar properties. While the term sounds complex, it’s surprisingly simple. In fact, you’re probably using taxonomies without realizing it.

How does taxonomy work?

For the purposes of WordPress.com, taxonomy refers to the way that you sort content. By default, your blog or website includes two types of taxonomies: categories and tags. You’ll find these on the right-hand side of the post or page editor.

Categories are used to broadly group similar types of content, whereas tags are more narrow and are specific to the post in question.

For example, if you run a lifestyle blog, your categories might include: “beauty,” “fashion,” “travel,” or “home decor.” Tags might include “New York Fashion Week” or “New Year’s Eve style.” A tag will list any topic that appears prominently within an article, but is still too narrow to be its own category.

Generally, each blog post has one category and many tags. However, this isn’t always a steadfast rule. For example, if you write a blog post about street style in Paris, you could categorize it as both “Travel” and “Fashion,” and you might tag it with terms like “Paris,” “street style,” and “European fashion.”

How can taxonomy help my site?

By now, you’re probably wondering, “What is taxonomy going to do for my blog or website?”

The short answer is that taxonomy helps visitors navigate your content. By sorting your blog posts or other content into meaningful groups, you make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for. This helps them discover additional related content.

Imagine that you have a sports blog that covers several different professional sports, but one of your visitors is only interested in basketball. If you set up categories and category pages, your visitor can click “basketball” to filter out any posts about hockey, golf, or other sports that aren’t basketball.

Now, let’s say that your basketball-loving visitor is especially interested in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Creating separate categories for every team would be a lot of work (and you might not even write about every team in the NBA), but you could tag specific teams whenever they appear in your posts. Your visitor can click the Cavaliers tag and will then see every one of your posts that mentions this team and uses this tag.

The proper use of taxonomies provides a better experience for everyone. Once you understand the purpose of taxonomies, you can apply categories and tags to make your site easier for readers to navigate and enjoy.


Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is an old school, gumshoe journalist trapped in a modern content marketer's body. She specializes in writing for the marketing, technology and healthcare industries, and loves helping bloggers and small business owners grow their presence online. Carrie resides in the "Silicon Hills" of Austin, TX with her husband and two adorable cats.

More by Carrie Dagenhard

%d bloggers like this: