[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]
One of the best things that you can do for your content before you even begin to write spend some time building some strategy around your categories.
You see, great blogs and great blog content have focused (and organized) categories!
Now, I’ve already spoken a few times on categories so you’ll want to review these posts as well:
- The reason I use categories and not tags.
- Two WordPress Plugins to help with category-related SEO and use in the backend.
- Just start writing! Categories come later. Although, I’m going to provide an alternative approach to this strategy via this post in just a moment.
- Blog categories focus your content. You already knew that but I’m going to expand this idea in just a second, especially with the previous blog post about Focus.
And after reading this pre-material I’d love to give you even more meat to how to develop some strategy for your great content that has already been written or that will be written! Ready?
Your Blog-Ready Categories Should Reflect Your Focus:
Then, you should read this follow-up post and outline your core passions, expertise, and value. Do your categories that exist currently today adequately (and accurately) reflect this list? If not then something’s missing (or wrong)!
The point here is that your categories (the ones that you’ve vetted as “blog ready”) should entirely reflect your area of passion, expertise, and unique value propositions. If they do not then you already are diluted in your attempts to focus your content and are experiencing content creep!
In addition you’ll find that it’ll be harder to sustain a rich content experience consistently without drilling down into these very particular categories!
Start with 5-8 Categories:
A question that I get a lot goes something like this:
How many categories should I have on my blog to maintain my focus?
Where I’ve landed is between 5 and 8 categories. Why? Here are a few thoughts that should convince you thoroughly:
- Momentum – Most of the blogs that I’ve created and coached to success had a very small amount of categories, especially in the beginning. A fine-tuned focus, especially at launch, helps create the momentum forward to gain enough steam to grow at a worthwhile pace.
- Sustainability – The more scattered and un-focused your categories are the harder it’ll be to sustain a pace that creates amazing content. You might think that having a broad swath of categories gives you the “flexibility” to blog about anything you’d like thus giving you an infinite amount of things to write about, and you can do this if you’d like! But, if you want your blog to grow to a place where monetization is a possibility then you have to focus.
- Interest – To go along with #2 you may simply drop out of the race altogether at some point without a focused set of categories. What was once a killer idea has now been diluted with pictures of your kids at the mall – and that’s not going to grow a blog! Your interest, a long with your readers, will be at risk.
- SEO – The more concentrated your efforts in a smaller set of content the deeper and larger potential to get ranked higher on search engine returns. If you blog about everything then your ranking will be mediocre across the board. But, if you blog day-in and day-out about gluten-free cooking then you can bet that you’ll find a faster foothold in search engines than just cooking in general! Although nothing is completely guaranteed the chances go up considerably.
- Content Creation – With a smaller set of blog categories you can actually create content more effectively and efficiently. Why? Because these categories reflect your passion, expertise, and unique values! They don’t reflect passing fancies or whimsical interests!
- Mental Curation – I could probably spend a blog post on this all by itself but what you’ll begin to do automatically when you think about your content and your blog is that you’ll auto-curate your posts – that is, you’ll discover that you’ll pass up topics that are interesting simply because they do not fit in one of your 5 to 8 categories. As you begin to develop this skill you’ll find that you’re simply developing a curation model to filter out blog material that simply doesn’t have a home on your blog. Efficiency and effectiveness just went through the roof!
- Marketability – Ultimately a focused blog has a easier chance of being monetized and has a bigger chance of making some significant capital. There are a lot of reasons for this but one of the biggest is simply from potential advertising partners who will want a focused content strategy for their advertisements. Just think about it for a second: Why would a advertiser who’s selling gluten-free recipes spend money on a blog that sometimes blogs about gluten-free cooking? They would instead head to a blog that is dedicated to covering the topic for a higher rate of return on their investment! Duh!
- Profitability – One thing that you may consider at some point is selling your blog to another owner or even to a larger business. The historical fact is that a property that is someone’s name (like John Smith) is much less attractive for purchase than a topical-based blog – even more so for a very focused topical-based blog. Your blog’s value in the marketplace is higher due to your consistent and focused categorization of content. Do it for you and your future!
- Deeper Brand – The more focused your categories the deeper your content focus, the more attractive the blog becomes in its entirety, which results in a more effective development of your blog’s brand. As a result, becoming more marketable, more profitable, and more memorable, not only in your reader’s minds but also the search engines “mind”, becomes the result.
- Growth – Eventually as you grow you’ll be able to expand your categories into other sectors as you gain interest, traffic, and perhaps more time as you become more profitable (so you can leave your cube farm!). It’s much easier to grow and add categories than it is to reduce. Start small and grow from there! No need to waste time refactoring later down the line which could cause tons of problems with traffic, broken links, etc.
Of course, you are free to do whatever you’d like and go category crazy but my general suggestion, especially for a new blogger, is to focus!
Too Many Already?
Many of you are probably wishing you had read this advice months (0r years) ago when you had first started. Well, there’s still hope for you, especially if you’re using a WordPress-powered blog!
Here are some tips to begin to trim down your number of categories so your blog becomes more focused and effective:
- Most importantly look at your list of passion, value, and expertise and make note of any blog categories that don’t seem to adequately express them. Perhaps these types of posts need to make a swift exit from your blog?
- Take a look at the number of blog posts in some of your categories. If some of the categories have only 1 or 2 posts in them then it’s probably a very unused category and isn’t worth a dedicated category.
- Look for patterns in your categories. Is there any overlap? Is there an opportunity to combine categories into a more appropriate parent category?
- What categories are easy to identify as extraneous and unnecessary? Mark them down for deletion.
- Are your category names too long? I suggest that categories, if you can help it, just be one word long. If you can’t simplify it to that level then perhaps you’ve gotten the categorization wrong.
The point is to be exceptionally harsh on your categorization for the sake of your blog’s sustained growth!
Now, if you’re using WordPress then you can safely delete categories wholesale and have them land in the “Uncategorized” bucket:
From here you can simply head to the ‘Uncategorized’ bucket in your post section and then change them to a new category.
It might take some time but it’s well worth your effort in the long-run!
After you fix all of your categories then you’ll feel much better, trust me!
I Can’t Get to 8 Categories! Help!
There are some of you that are going to significantly struggle with re-categorizing your blog posts and getting down to that very small and focused amount. Here are some thoughts and possibilities of why you’re struggling so much:
- You might simply be struggling with this idea of refocusing and refactoring your blog. You’ve hit an emotional wall with your blog that can’t be (currently) overcome. This is fine. Give it a break! There’s no pressure here!
- You’ve have too many posts among too many focused categories already. Perhaps you’re ready to “split” your blog and perhaps start another one? For some this is a more attractive option as they’ve realized that they have 2 blogs here instead of just one. This can be a very exciting potential and perhaps something I’ll speak on more since I’ve done it before.
- You’re lazy and don’t feel like doing it. That’s fine and certainly very justifiable (kind of). Too bad.
Finally, you honestly might just not want to do it. That’s fine too! There are enough successful blogs out there that do not have focused categorization.
In fact, there are some blogs (and some blog experts) that don’t use categories at all!
You can do whatever you’d like at the end of the day since it’s your blog!
One Final Tip: Pick One Category Per Post!
Almost forgot but this is a critical suggestion and challenge for you and your blog posts: Try to choose only 1 category per post. This will help not only in your focus but also in SEO results and your reader’s experience.
Trust me on this. There are definitely times to break this rule but more often than not I strongly suggest sticking to using one category per post.
Whew. It could be a full week for you as your re-focus your blog via your categories. Are you up for the challenge? How many categories do you have right now? How much work needs to be done?
Love to hear it in the comments!
[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]