Blog Improvement: Category Cleaning

My Old CategoriesI’m working on improving my blog and becoming more focused. I figure that the best place to start is by fixing my categories. Michael Martin published an article titled Using Categories and Tags Effectively on your Blog for ProBlogger this last week. It suggests limiting the number of categories and placing a post in a single category. It then recommends using ‘tags’ as a supplement for more detailed categorization.

If you take a look at my old category list, it just goes and goes. The picture shown here doesn’t even reach the bottom. I guess I have been using my categories as tags, as they used to be considered interchangeable. Recently, WordPress has decided that ‘tags’ and ‘categories’ are actually different things and they’ve added native tagging to the latest release (version 2.3). I’m anxiously waiting for this release to make it to my Fantastico application manager so that I can upgrade.

Before deciding to just chop away at my categories list, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see which categories are effective and which aren’t. I found some surprising results which I will list here.

I ran reports for the most viewed categories and time spent at category pages. I then compared that with the number of posts that I’ve listed under each category. Here are some of best and worst of the results:

Most Viewed

  • cakephp
  • ruby-on-rails
  • ajax
  • soap
  • flash
  • web-services

Least Viewed

  • technology
  • spam-fighting
  • soa
  • school
  • internet-explorer

Most Time

  • google
  • ajax
  • apriux
  • web-design
  • ruby
  • internet-marketing
  • blogging

Least Time

  • web
  • spam-fighting
  • soa
  • school
  • project-management
  • mysql
  • yahoo

Most Posts

  • technology – 71
  • business – 43
  • life – 34
  • web 2.0 – 32
  • php – 30
  • ideas – 18
  • google – 19

Conclusions

Here are some of the conclusions that I’ve drawn from my research. First of all, notice that ‘technology’ has by far the most number of posts, yet it is a definite loser category in that it is the top ‘least viewed’ category and is in the bottom half of time spent list. A category like ‘technology’ is just too broad and blasé. Most of my top posted categories fall in the lower tier of views.

Niche categories like ‘ruby-on-rails’ and ‘cakephp’ fell in the top viewed of categories. These categories didn’t have the most time spent though. I guess the interestingness of the actual posts needs to be improved.

The time spent report is probably the most helpful. It helps me identify categories that people have actually found interesting enough to read through. The categories might need some better naming to increase views, but the content in the categories must be interesting.

Learning From the Professionals

Two of my favorite professional blogs are ProBlogger and Freelance Switch. How do they do their categories?

From Freelance Switch

Freelance Switch Categories

From ProBlogger

ProBlogger Categories

One thing that stands out for me is that many of these categories label a particular series of posts. For example, Freelance Switch has The Lighter Side and The Business of Freelancing. ProBlogger has 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. I could see myself following one of those categories closely. With these types of categories, I know what to expect in future posts and look forward to new posts in the series.

Another observation is that categories that seem to offer me something valuable catch my attention more. Some of the categories that caught my interest the most were Finding Work, Freelancing Essentials, The Perils of Project Management, and The Working Day from Freelance Switch, and Blogging Tools and Services, Case Studies, and Other Income Streams from ProBlogger. These categories seem to contain something that I could take away to benefit my life.

Action Items

What do I do from here? I need to do some housecleaning and wipe out my ineffective categories. I need to come up with better naming of my categories. I need to come up with some categories that I think I could consistently blog for that will offer my readers value.

We’ll see how I do. Let me know what you think.

[Update: I’ve posted result stats to show how this has affected my blog.]

9 comments

  1. Jimmy'z says:

    Okay, so I’ve done what I said I’d do, that is wipe out all of my ineffective categories. I’ve renamed a few of my categories, and I’ve changed my posts to only be listed in one category.

    I changed my ‘Technology’ category to ‘Old Boring Posts’ and everything that didn’t fit one of my defined categories went there.

    This has already helped me to narrow the focus of what I’m going to blog about. If I have an idea for a new blog post that falls outside one of these predefined categories, it will need to pass through a lot of scrutiny to make it on the blog and perhaps launch a new category.

  2. Kory Hoopes says:

    This is an excellent post, I too have categories but rarely use them for the intended purpose. On the other hand though, there aren’t many blogs out there that I go to and search or browse a specific category to find what I’m looking for. If I look at my Google Analytics though, a surprising number of people come to my site on a category feed; specifically my music category. So, I suppose better utilizing categories, tags, and keywords will gain you better results in search engines.

  3. kristarella says:

    Well done! What a huge task! It would take me ages to do something like this (although I have kept my category numbers down). It’s worth it though – and you didn’t using categories in your permalinks so they’re not askew!

  4. Mark Wiseman says:

    Hi Jimmy
    That was very interesting. Tell me are you going to go all the way and upgrade to 2.3? It is a decision I am still toying with.
    By the way blue text on blue background is very visitor unfriendly. IMHO you could consider copying the colour schemes of one of your favourite blogs.
    Mark

  5. Jimmy'z says:

    I am going to go all the way with the upgrade of 2.3, but not until the 2.3 upgrade is available on Fantastico.

    I’m looking for a new color scheme/theme as we speak. Funny thing, I’ve never had anyone comment on that until an hour ago, and now I have 2 recommendations to change.

    Look forward to a new color scheme as soon as I find one that I like.

  6. Mark Wiseman says:

    Hi Jimmy
    Readability is improved 1,000% with new scheme, well done.
    I am new to wordpress and never thought of waiting for fantastico to upgrade. Thanks, will check out what my hosting service are saying.
    Mark

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