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Yes, Our WP Blogging Experts Agree – Your Site Needs Two Things

You Need Both a Search Box and Categories

I asked you all how you help yourself and others to find posts and pictures hidden inside the megabytes of storage WordPress keeps for you. They all agreed that the most helpful technologies on your blog are the search box and identifying categories for each post.

Marsha Ingrao and Kalev photo search -Oregon

Each contributor’s comments have been woven into this post. If you like what they say or want to take a look at their blog, I’ve included a link to one of their recent blog posts in their first comment so you can find them and ask questions or take a look to see how their site is organized.

Hugh Roberts spends hours helping people with his blog tip category. He had this to say about using categories.

Hi Marsha, I have a photography category on my blog, which has 5 sub-categories – Daily Squares, Lens Artist Photo challenge, Wordless Wednesday, Sunday Stills, and Thursday Doors. So if anybody wanted to look at my Daily Squares posts, they would choose that category to see a list of posts. Here’s a screenshot of the categories I mentioned. Hugh’s instructions for using categories.

Hugh Roberts
Want to know how Hugh did this? Read this post.

Yes, I have the search bar widget on my blog, so it shows on every page of my blog because it’s on the widget bar. I recommend that every blogger has a search bar on their blog for several reasons. I’ve written posts about it. Here are Hugh’s instructions to install a search bar widget.

And yes, categorising your blog posts is vital. I liken blogs not have categorised posts as walking into a library to look for a certain book and finding that none of the books has been put into categories. You have to search the whole library for that book on the six wives of Henry VIII, instead of just looking in the history section for it. How many people would bother?

When looking for photos for certain challenges, I use the search bar in the WordPress media library to look for suitable photos because I label my photos when I add them to the library. It seems to work well.

Hugh Roberts

Even if you think nobody can see your categories listed on your sidebar, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. They work invisibly with your search bar to help people find posts they want to read. The other item that works hard for you without showing is the information you add to your photos. We talked about that in our last post.

When Anne Leueen talks about WP Admin, she is talking about the internal working of a website or backside, that you can see and your readers cannot see.

I use categories but the idea of a search widget is new to me. I will have to look into that. To search my photos in media I click on My Site then select WP Admin then Media and put in the date. I usually have an idea of when I used the photos and it is much , much faster than scrolling down through years of photos!

Anne Leueen

I have a much better idea of time now that I have organized my photos on my computer.

Both Challenge Hosts, Becky B and Cee Neuner, Challenge Hostess of many challenges, have search widgets in their sidebar.

Search function is so useful, many themes seem to add it automatically for you in your menus or footers, but if not do look to add one if you have side-menus and footers. So useful! 

Becky B (Squares Hostess)
Sunset in Maui
I’m ready for Becky B’s April Squares – bright. Sunset in Hawaii

My friend Carol reminds me about a technique to help people outside of WordPress on social media to notice your post.

I always include the latest hashtag in the text and the tags  for Becky’s challenges.

The Eternal Traveller

Cee Neuner, famous in the blogging world for her many challenges like Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Cee’s Black and White Challenge, and Flower of the Day Challenge, to name just a few, agrees.

Categories help people find things on your site when they are visiting your site. You should use them. Tags are more important to help people find things when they are searching Google or Bing and are not on your site. You should add tags to each post. I always put my full name in the tag bar for every post. I also put my blog address and the name of my challenge. This helps search engines like Google and it also protects your content.

Cee Neuner
FOTD Cee Neuner, tulips, orange, red, purple
Ready to submit for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day Challenge – Tulips

Where Should You Put a Search Bar Widget?

For my readers, I have the Search tool right up front in the right margin near the top. As a travel blogger, mostly United States, it is easy to (categorize my posts) by state or country name. I also have some photography categories referenced since a geographic region may not be appropriate for the specific post topic. I also use tags for specific terms in the text when appropriate. Finally, I have a category called “But I Digress…” where I put everything else.

John Steiner

Lisa Coleman notes that you can move widgets anywhere on your sidebar and footers that you want them. Lisa explains why she moved her Search Bar Widget.

I just moved my search box to the top of my pages. It still appears at the bottom of my home page which I can’t change because of my theme. All other pages, including my blog page, the search is at the top of my sidebar. For instance, I sometimes want to put a link into a new post from a past post because something triggers a subject. I want to reference that past blog for any new followers who haven’t seen it (if they choose to click on the link).

I begin my search outside of WP via a new tab in Chrome. I go to my blog and search my own blog. It is easy to put the topic or keyword into search. It will bring up all posts from newest to oldest for that search. I can then go through until I find the post, click on the post and copy the URL, paste it into the link for the new post.

I now have an old post get new attention. 

Lisa Coleman
Australian pelican
My pelican photo for Lisa’s Bird Weekly Photo Challenge

Is the Search Bar Widget Just for Guests?

Categories help visitors quickly know what topics your website is about and allows them to navigate your site faster.

While these two technologies assist guests trying to find something on your blog, there are other uses.

I have a basic search box in my right sidebar. I probably use it more than anyone else…

Jim Borden

Our next expert, Sarah of Toonsarah, like Hugh, has categories and sub-categories. Sarah tells how she searches for posts on her blog.

When I want to find things myself I do it one of two ways. If I’m looking for a complete post I use my own menu as I usually know how I will have categorised it. However as I add more posts and each category has more within it, that will become cumbersome I guess. I may start to use my search box then!

Sarah Wilkies

Sarah is a travel blogger, so you might find her choices of category topics helpful.

I have a search box at the top of every page, next to the menu. I do use categories, which I sub-divide as follows:

Destinations (organised by continent / country / and sometimes broken down further)

Themes, including landscape, eco-tourism, food & drink, wildlife (again sometimes broken down further e.g. wildlife has a sub-category of birds)

Photography, with sub-divisions of different styles of gallery (by place or by theme) and all the photography challenges listed separately so fellow-bloggers can, I hope, find them

Sarah Wilkies

Sidebar or Not?

Sarah brought up a couple more issues that you may wonder about as well. The first is whether or not to use the sidebar. In addition to a search bar, sidebar widgets might include a tag cloud, a list of categories, your name and picture, and many other helpful items.

Whenever I create a new category I also add it to my menu, so I don’t also put them in my sidebar but I do have a tag cloud there. I did a very small and informal survey among Facebook friends who blog, as I was considering getting rid of the sidebar, but the feedback seemed to be that people do use them to navigate the site.

Sarah Wilkies

Many of you know Restless Jo. She adds to that issue, which is that the widgets you use can vary depending on the theme and type of WordPress site you have.

Oh help! You know I’m rubbish at this! I used to use Categories but when I changed to a paying site I lost my sidebar. Or should I say I coveted the space more and eliminated it, along with footers. I do have a search on the front page just under the Header but I doubt anyone uses it. Hopeless! Don’t take any tips from me. 

Restless Jo
Prescott Walk downtown
a picture from my post, Prescott Walks #2 Downtown Prescott

So there is the sidebar controversy. Do you use a side bar? On which side are you? Keep in mind that categories keep working behind closed doors as long as you enter that information and have a search bar in your sidebar.

How Many Categories Are Enough?

The second controversy Sarah brings up is about how many categories you should use in your blog. Sarah has probably been contacted by the same web developers that I have been promising to make my website function better if only I do… Where do you stand on this next topic?

As to the number of categories, the advice I read is that you shouldn’t have more than 15 categories and tags in total as WP tends associate large numbers of both with spammers and won’t include the post in Reader searches etc. I have no idea if that’s correct but for the present it’s advice I follow. 

Sarah Wilkies

You can add as many tags as you like to a post. However, the Reader will filter out posts using more than 15 tags and categories (combined) as an anti-spam measure.

Hugh Roberts

Ooh are they saying 15 in total for both tags and categories – yikes. I have way more than 15 because of the tags! I thought that only related to categories – off to research

Becky B. (Squares)

I have more than 15 categories I can choose from depending on the topic of the post. When a website designer salesperson told me I had too many categories, I eliminated some. Listening to Hugh, it sounds like the advice limiting both tags and categories is meant to apply to each post. That makes a lot more sense. I do not show all my categories in my sidebar, it’s too cumbersome.

Add Categories to Menu

Like posts, you might not want to add too many items to your Menu bar. In your menu setting, you can chose to add a category as either a parent or sub-topic as a menu item. Here again, most bloggers want you to opt for the simple. Fewer is better.

On a scale of 1-5 how helpful was this information?

Do you have any other questions or suggestions. Feel free to talk about it in the comment bar or contact me directly through my contact page.


Thanks for joining us today. Have a great week.

69 replies »

  1. I love this post as I always have difficulties with knowing how to use Categories and Tags. Hugh’s tips are always relevant and helpful too and I often use his search bar to find the help that I need as he explains things in layman’s terms.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliant synopsis of the discussions, thank you so much for putting this together.

    btw I came to the same conclusion on discussion about number of tags and categories, it is max 15 per post, which still seems a lot to me! It is sensible though not to have too many categories overall, with many guides advising to keep total amount for whole blog to around a dozen. So I have now reviewed mine, and cut out a few or converted them to tags instead

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have been reworking my categories for a couple of weeks now. Still need more work. I am happy to say I have always had a search box on the blog. Though I think I probably use it more than anyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You seem to’ve covered everything, Marsha. I was interested in Cee’s approach on tagging. Not sure that I will adopt different practises but it’s always good to know what works for other people. I did note Marilyn was very disgruntled. Worse than me! 🙂 🙂 Thanks for the mention and have a great week, hon!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I categorize and tag. I have contact boxes for ever writer and for the blog in general. But now what I need is support from the company I pay to BE my support. I need them to make editing and arranging graphics less of a chore. I need them to put back the spell checker. I need them to fix the million and a half glitches in this new “format” that I didn’t want, have learned to use — and STILL hate it. After 9 years and a million + hits, I’m thinking I won’t renew this year. They apparently want me gone and I feel inclined to oblige them. Sad for me, bad business for them, but they just can’t leave us alone. What would it cost them to just leave the classic editor for those who want it? I don’t get it and I can’t see any advantage in their forcing customers to do it their way when it really makes no difference to them.

    Yes, you can do all the right things — and then have your platform become a total mess.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Marilyn! Thanks for your response. BTW my WP blogging experts are bloggers just like us. I hear your anxt and I do get frustrated, less now than I used to. Do you love blogging? I’d hate to see you give up on everything. If you ever want to chat, contact me on my contact page.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’d be disappointed if you stopped blogging altogether too. I was upset with WP at first two. They are just changing how the blogs works. Programmers are now using blocks much the same way WP. They are just changing with the times. I just go with the flow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand that making changes is frustrating and that we don’t have any choice. But it is so much better than managing a self-hosted blog.

        For me, using the blocks is so much easier because there is a built in change of font depending on the type of paragraph it is. I like that I can easily move one paragraph up or down.

        If you do decide to stop blogging, my advice is to let your blog go to a free or premium account. You’ve got lots of memories, and they are carefully organized. The blog will just sit there and you can use it or not. It’s so reasonable. I deleted my self-hosted blogging account, and a friend convinced me to move my content to my account. I’m so glad I did. Ultimately, it’s your choice., Marilyn, but there’s no need to be hasty.


    • That’s just per post according to Hugh. The WP article I read suggested a total of 15 categories total, but I can’t stick to that yet. I suppose in parent categories only, but I like to subdivide.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. What a great summary of the answers you got to your questions, Marsha. This is going to be so helpful for so many people.

    And yes – limiting both tags and categories applies to each post. So it’s no more than 15 categories and tags (combined) per post.

    Finally, if you have too many categories to list on your sidebar, use the WordPress Categories widget and make sure you tick the ‘Display as dropdown’ box in the widget options section. That way, categories only show when a visitor clicks on the dropdown box in the widget.

    Liked by 3 people




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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