The Strategic Way To Define Your Blog Categories

There’s the usual way to define blog categories… then there’s the SMART way which will help you with your online marketing. A simple change in how you look at your categories can help you earn more opt-ins and make more sales.


As of the time I’m writing this post, I am in the process of doing a little reorganization of the Blog Marketing Academy site. By the time you read this, perhaps it will be live. Who knows. πŸ™‚

But, at the outset of defining my checklist for what I wanted to accomplish with this “tweak” to the site, I had a little aha moment.

In fact, it hit me while I was laying in bed at about midnight. It was one of those things where I had to get my iPhone and jot down a note to myself on my idea before I forgot. Β Bedtime ideas are one of those curses of being an entrepreneur, I guess. πŸ˜‰

It has to do with how you define your blog categories.

The Usual Way Of Doing Categories

Blog categories are usually used as little digital filing cabinets. You look at the content you’re creating (or want to create) and you break it down into major content divisions and you define your categories that way.

But, there are a few problems with doing it this way:

  • You inevitably end up expanding your category tree over time as your content adjusts.
  • You may end up with way too many categories and it just becomes unwieldy.
  • The categories end up being a bit meaningless.

In addition to the “nag factor” of categories for the blogger, there’s also this pesky fact:

Your reader doesn’t really navigate that way.

Now, true… if you have categories in your top menu, readers will probably use it. But, then again, most of the time that reader is just hunting and pecking. They don’t really know what they want. They’re just surfing casually to see what you have to offer.

Most readers will check out the most recent posts on your blog and make the “read or not read” determination based on that. So, in that case, the categories just don’t resonate.

And so we, as bloggers, get our knickers in a twist over blog categories and, more often than not, it is all for nothing.

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A Different Approach To Defining Blog Categories

Let’s back up a moment and let me restate a couple of core considerations about blog-based marketing:

  • The primary function of your blog is to communicate the benefits that your prospect is looking for and then motivate them to take the first step in your marketing funnel – namely, email opt-in.
  • The web visitor is surfing the net in a constant state of “What’s in it for me?”. They will subscribe to you if you offer them something they want. In other words, it is about THEM, not you.
  • This is a communication business, and in order for communication to take place, you have to be talking to them on common ground. There needs to be a common reality between what you’re talking about and what they’re looking for.

OK, so the idea for blog categories is this…

Turn your blog categories into “hot buttons” for your market, each being a major benefit that your target market is looking for.

So, instead of it being a filing cabinet, your category is actually something that your market is LOOKING FOR, and the posts to deliver them that outcome will be found there.

Not only that, you can actually name the category something which will communicate to your market.

So, an example….

How I Am Restructuring My Own Blog Categories

OK, here is the category structure that I have had here at BMA for awhile now:

  • Content Creation
  • Conversions
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Marketing
  • News
  • Social Media
  • Technical
  • Traffic

I left out a few internal categories (like the podcast), but you get the idea. Point is, these categories are primarily just filing cabinets based on topic. And they’re pretty damn vague, really.

Here’s the new structure I’m shooting for (as of now):

  • Get More Traffic
  • Build My Platform
  • Sell More Stuff
  • Increase Engagement
  • Be More Productive
  • Build My Business

When you look at the core things that my own market and audience are looking for, there you have it. As an example, if you’re surfing this site and you want to make money with your blog, is “Marketing” something which resonates with you?… or does “Sell More Stuff” more clearly communicate what we’re after here?

Another one… the word “Technical”. One thing about my audience…. the technical stuff is just one of those necessary evils. People hate it. πŸ™‚ It isn’t a benefit at all. But, what are you looking to accomplish? What is the outcome or transformation you want? “Build My Platform”.

Now, all this could be just a big exercise in naming conventions if not for one other thing…

Your blog will much more effectively communicate the benefits it offers if these benefit-based categories are out in the open in front of people’s eyeballs.

No longer do we just use some boring category widget in the sidebar (although you could). Now your categories are an actual marketing tool.

Here’s a screenshot of part of the new Academy homepage:

Blog Categories

Now, I have something much more effective in mind for these links than just pointing directly to a blog category, but these 6 things will each correspond to a blog category. And the blog itself will have these links in the sidebar.

How To Maximize Marketing Results With These Categories

If the main function of the blog is to get the lead, then these kind of categories will be much more effective.

Consider this…

With the StudioPress theme and the Genesis Simple Sidebars plug-in, you can have multiple sidebars on your blog and choose which sidebar you want to display on each post. So, why not display a targeted opt-in offer which is specific to each category?

You accomplish two things:

  1. You can increase opt-in rates because the opt-in is now tightly related to the BENEFIT the person was looking for on your site.
  2. By tracking which opt-in they used, you now know what that person is interested in. You can then follow up accordingly with more targeted email messages.

Not to mention that you can map each benefit-based category to an offer of some kind and increase conversions.


I encourage you to take a look at how you’re using categories on your blog.

About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.
  • Kathy Hadley says:

    This is brilliant. I can’t believe it has not been thought of before.

    Makes total sense and I am going to change my categories now.


  • Paul Sarwana says:

    Love your execution David. Never think about. That’s what I call the customer-centric approach. Starting with understanding visitors’ hot buttons and finishing it with benefit-based categories. This way we can segment readers’ interest using the categories, which is very helpful for building more relevant conversations with them.

  • Amazing idea – so simple… I wish I thought of this 5 years ago.

  • Tan-Ja says:

    Thanks David! It looks like I have a big category overhaul coming!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  • Love this idea David! I’ve been looking at my categories and just feeling uninspired in general, so was super excited to read this from you. πŸ™‚

  • Stephanie says:

    Super smart as usual, David. Assuming if you change all your categories that you’ll need to set up 301 redirects from the old to the new? Or would you bother with that? Thanks!

    • David Risley says:

      Not gonna worry about it. I doubt people are really linking directly to my category pages.

  • Kevin Cheng says:

    David – Great post and perfect timing, since I’m preparing to launch my first blog and have been thinking precisely about how to best name and use the WP categories. What you say (organizing based on the main categories of benefits to the reader) makes perfect sense. It takes more thought at the beginning, and it also might be challenging at times to put a post/podcast/video into one category (i.e. there can be overlap among categories in some cases), but I think that with a little forethought, this shouldn’t be an issue. And your readers will be that much more attracted to your content and engaged with you because you’ve made it that much easier to find (and remind them) what they’re looking for.

  • I never thought of it that way. Will have to spend some time thinking how I can apply this concept to my photography blog which is geared towards high school seniors and their parents.

  • Bill Huston says:

    This is great stuff and a completely different way of approaching the process of blogging. I have never been this strategic about creating a process for blogging with goals and objectives. You are opening up a entirely new paradigm for me.

  • As a professional organiser I love love love this idea
    Like a bullet straight to the top of my to do list
    Thank you
    PS I too suffer the bedtime curse constantly reaching out to make notes

    • David Risley says:

      Hehe… yeah, I’m usually pretty good at shutting down at night. But, when the idea hits, its best to note it down. πŸ™‚

  • David, genius idea. I will definitely shoot to implement this weekend!

  • Hi David – “Great post” doesn’t seem to cut it for this one!

    I’ve been thinking about the topic of categories for a while, wondering about their SEO characteristics and (more importantly) ways to make them more engaging, and you’ve brought the whole subject into clearer focus.

    I shared this far and wide, and I really hope people who read this fully understand the implications of thinking in this new and more meaningful way – it’s a game changer, for sure.

    Keep up the great work.


  • Chris says:

    Perfect timing on this. I’m doing a complete site overhaul and looking at my categories was a first step. Using Google Analytics, I could see the popularity of the categories. I dropped two categories and renamed a few of the existing.

    Per this post, I’m going to take a closer look at my existing categories and see if there is a better name for any of them.

    One question, should a blog post only be in one category or is it ok for a post to be in two categories.

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