Organize Your Blog Like a Hymn Book

A page from a hymn book showing the music and lyrics with arrows pointing to the categories and tags showing how to organize your blog.

When readers can find the information they are looking for on your website, they are more likely to stay there. So, let’s take usability pointers from a hymn book to organize your blog.

Why the Hymn Book?

I watched the Netflix series The Crown a few weeks ago, and a familiar song played in the background at the end of an episode. Recognizing it as a hymn, I looked it up in my late grandmother’s Book of Common Praise. I could have searched the internet, but it was faster to use the book. Why? Because they designed the book so the priests and musicians (choir, organists, etc.) can easily choose the appropriate hymns for the occasion, and the congregation can find hymns quickly during the service.

Blog Categories Are Like Book Chapters

The Book of Common Praise is divided into chapters corresponding to the Anglican church calendar– the Christmas songs are in one chapter, Easter in another, etc. There are also chapters for specific occasions (weddings, funerals, etc.) and a chapter for General Hymns that are appropriate for almost any service.

Likewise, organize your blog into broad sections, i.e., categories. A reader should be able to find all the posts on the topics you write about. For example, if you’re an auto mechanic, you might have categories like Transmissions, Exhaust Systems, etc. A career coach might have categories such as Résumé Writing, Interview Skills, etc.

In addition, each category should be relevant to your overall business objective but have a unique name. You don’t want to have similar terms such as Résumés and Writing a Résumé. Your readers won’t know where to find things, and you will confuse the little bots that crawl your site to rank you in search engines.

Simply put, blog categories:

  • Increase usability. Because your readers can find what they want, they might stay on your site longer and turn to your site first when they need information.
  • Streamline content creation (and combat writer’s block). Defined topics will help you build an editorial calendar. If you write a weekly post, choose a different category each time to showcase your expertise in each topic.
  • Improve your SEO. You can create a hierarchy and a network within your website when you link from one category to another. These internal links highlight other relevant content to your readers and search engines.

Creating and Organizing Blog Categories

If you are new to blogging, consider your blog categories before you start writing. You may choose to focus on three or four services your business offers. Then, do some keyword research to see what your potential audience would search for. For example, a career coach might find “Résumé Writing” is a more effective (and searched for) category name than “Résumés.”

Those who have been blogging for a while may have an extensive list of categories. Not only should you do some keyword research, but you can also look back on your website statistics to see which categories are most visited. Then, you can consolidate posts into those popular categories. But (this is important) do not delete the old categories until you redirect incoming website traffic to the new categories. Readers and search engine bots do not appreciate 404 Errors.

Blog Tags Are Like the Index

Next to each hymn, certain information is displayed to provide more details, such as the composer, lyricist, and even the metrical index. These “tags” are placed in indices at the back of the book. If I like a hymn by a particular composer, I can turn to the back and find every hymn written by that composer.

For example, if you are an auto mechanic, you might have tags such as specific manufacturers or models (e.g. Ford, SUVs, etc.) so users can find every blog post about those particular cars. A career coach might have tags listing specific industries (e.g., Tech, Law, etc.).

Again, look at your website analytics to see what readers are looking for and research keywords to optimize your tag names. Consolidate where appropriate but remember to redirect incoming website traffic first.

Is it a Category or Tag?

When organizing your blog, sometimes it’s hard to define which topics should be categories and tags – especially if you are starting your business. Generally speaking, categories are exclusive, but tags can span many categories. Returning to the auto mechanic example, a post about catalytic converters would only be in the Exhaust Systems category but tagged with environmental regulation, modern vehicles, unleaded fuel, etc.

Defining categories and tags is a little more difficult for new bloggers. Consider creating one category, such as [What my Business is about] Tips, and use tags instead. After building more content, it should be easier for you to organize your blog into categories.

Categories and tags should have different names so readers and bots can find what they are looking for. After a while, your business may evolve, and you could convert a category to a tag or vice-versa. If so, ensure you redirect website traffic.

Podcasts and Videocasts

In The Book of Common Praise, the hymns are numbered in the order they appear. It doesn’t matter which version of the book you have or what page the hymn is on; when the priest says, “Our next hymn is 544 in the blue book,” you can find it almost instantly. People don’t listen/watch in the same way that they read. If you refer to another podcast/videocast episode, use its number. People remember numbers (Episode 42), not the title and description (the episode entitled Five Career Tips, when we talked about what to wear in an interview).

Label, Label, Label

You can organize your blog all you want, but if you don’t add labels, your readers won’t be able to find any information. Add the category and tags to each post, either above or below the text. Ideally, provide the entire list of categories on your main blog page and consider adding a tag cloud too. Let it be easy for readers to click and find what they need.

An archive that lists posts by publication date might be helpful if you write about events over time (e.g., news articles or reviews). If your readers wouldn’t use a time machine to go back and read your old posts, then list your categories and tags instead.

FYI: As I am starting to build content, I only have one category (General Business Tips), so on my main blog page, I list only the tags in the sidebar. I display the categories and tags on each post right below the title.

Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in organizing your blog and want to discuss categories and tags. Organizing is one of my favourite things to talk about.

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Published by Jacki Hollywood Brown

I love to help businesses succeed by designing systems, structures, and processes that improve productivity, efficiency, cohesiveness, and harmonized workplaces. While quite content to work behind the scenes, I am driven by the desire to ensure organizations have internal structures to keep things running smoothly and teams continuously improving. Let's leverage the systems, tools, and structures you already use to facilitate complex changes, ensure everyone is heard, and find a better path forward for your team.

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