In the past several weeks I have found myself in situations where I have had to explain a few blog terms to people and I thought I would use today’s post to provide that information. If you are already familiar with these terms check back next week for a new edition of Social Media Sunday.
Categories vs. Tags
These are both methods used for cataloging blog posts. They are supplemental forms of navigation and are used to help readers find other posts in the same “bucket.” Categories are structured while tags are unstructured.
Think of categories as file folders in which you place your posts. You usually see them as a drop down menu. Ideally your blog covers a specific niche (remember that tree analogy I like to use) so the categories are the subtopics related to that niche. They should be fairly generic and be of a limited number. Ideally the maximum amount of categories you should have is twenty. I currently have 18 but with the new blog design I am working on I am moving to four!
Best practices for categories are to also limit the amount of categories that a single post is assigned to, that way all your posts aren’t in the same category and while I understand where this approach comes from, I think that is also where tags come in.
Have you ever had those sticky tags that you stick on pages in a book? Tags are like those little guys. They are keywords related to your post and they help users find your content inside and outside your blog (good for SEO). They are usually at the bottom of your post, although sometimes people place them at the top under the title.
I’ll illustrate the terms in relation to my blog. Let’s take my post from this past Monday on visiting White Pocket. The post was assigned to the Travel and Photography categories, so if you wanted to see other posts in those categories you could click on either of those at the bottom of the post and you would be presented with a list of posts.
If you were curious about the other categories I write about, you could look at the list in the drop down and you can see the number of posts assigned to each topic.
Going back to the White Pocket post, you will then see that I have tagged the post with: Arizona, Dreamland Safari Tours, Southwest Road Trip 2012, Utah and White Pocket. These tags allow you to see other posts specific to that subtopic, for instance, if you said to yourself, “I want to see what other spots in Utah Andi has written about…” by clicking on Utah you can get a list of posts that will tell you exactly that.
Presto! That is categories and tags in a nutshell.
RSS vs. Email
RSS and email are both mechanism for subscription management. With RSS (or real-simple-syndication) people add your blog into their RSS readers (like Google) using a feed tool like Feedburner. There are many different varieties of both readers and feed tools.
My Google Reader feed looks like this:
There is NO need to provide an email address to subscribe to a feed and the owner of the blog does not see who has subscribed, only the amount of people have subscribed as a total number. To illustrate this, here is my Feedburner admin screen that shows that I have 1638 subscribers to Misadventures with Andi.
Now, of those 1638 subscribers, 346 people have subscribed via email. So instead of receiving every post in their feeder, they will get it in their email box.
For those 346 people I can see their email addresses:
The discrepancy between 377 and 346 is that some email addresses are inactive. In any case, this is a little bit of subscriptions, probably too much detail, but I think it is good to map it out.
The choice is up to the blog reader – feed or email – and there is no reason someone would do both (unless they really, really want to!), it is personal preference as to how that person wants to receive the information.
One thing to note is that a lot of bloggers also have separate newsletter subscriptions with services like Constant Contact, ChimpMail, etc. These are not used for the delivery of posts, but for newsletters. The FTC has very clear guidelines on what you can use email addresses for.
People in internet marketing are aware of the terms “opt-in” and “opt-out.” When you subscribe to a blog via email, the feed service manages the distribution of your posts. You cannot send any communication to the people who subscribe via email because they have only opted-in to get posts. That is why bloggers have separate email lists for newsletters, by signing up, you are “opting-in” to get additional information sent to you from the blogger that is above and beyond posts. It is an important distinction.
That’s it for this week..I hope I didn’t bore you senseless!
How about you? Have any questions or comments about categories/tags or RSS vs. email subscriptions? How other blog related or social media questions?