Judging by the questions I constantly get from my readers and by the guest posts that get submitted to Traffic Generation Cafe and the numerous unrelated tags they come with, the question of tagging is something that definitely needs to be addressed.
Here’s what we’ll be looking at in this post:
- what are blog tags?
- are they the same as categories? or keywords?
- what benefit do they bring?
- how to use them the right way.
What Are Blog Tags?
A blog tag is simply a phrase that best describes your post.
Blog Tags vs Keywords
Are they the same as keywords? Yes and no.
It’s good to get into practice of doing a quick keyword research before you get into writing any blog post – that way you’ll know exactly the kind of content you need to serve to your readers that will also have a chance to show up in Google search.
I personally use Market Samurai for that – just like I did before I started writing this post. If you still haven’t taken your time to check out Market Samurai, I strongly suggest you do it now.
So now that I found the keywords I’d like to target in this post, while providing an outstanding read for my visitors, of course, I will write my blog post around them, build a few links with the right anchor text after my post is published, and wait to see if the search engines think just as highly of this blog post as I do by listing it in their searches for the keywords I hope to rank for.
Not so with blog tags.
Your tags COULD be the same as your keywords, but you can dig much deeper with your tags whereas you are limited with your post keywords to whatever feels natural to the reader.
When you “tag” a blog post with tags, you are actually creating additional pages on your blog, pages that are indexable and rankable.
So to drive this deeper, let me show you what I am using as keywords and tags for this blog post.
Let’s say my primary keyword for this post is “blog tags“.
That’s what I’ll use in my title, post slug, and, naturally, the body of the post.
However, this post could have a chance to rank for so many more keywords than merely “blog tags“, for instance “blog tags vs category”, “blog tags vs keywords”, “blog tags seo” – just to name a few.
So what I am going to do is name those additional keywords as tags for this post.
After the post is published, WP will create a page for each one of those tags, thus giving me an opportunity to build links to those pages and get them ranked for all those extra keywords I couldn’t and wouldn’t stuff into my post.
Blog Tags vs Categories
Are they the same?
Yes, they can both be the means of organizing your content.
However, categories should be much more general in nature than tags.
Let’s say you have a travel blog.
Your possible categories could be “Cruises”, “Family Travel”, “Travel Abroad”, etc. For each of your category, WordPress will create a separate page that could be ranked by search engines – just like with tags.
Now, let’s say you want to create separate pages for different states or countries. You wouldn’t want to have hundreds of categories, each named with a different geographical location, would you?
THAT’s the perfect job for tags.
Should you bother using tags?
Before I did any kind of research on blog tags, my main problem with them was the fear of duplicate content.
Contrary to popular belief, duplicate content is not syndicating the same article to several directories.
Duplicate content happens when Google finds different paths to the same content on your site.
For instance, the same post on your blog can be accessed via the main post page, category, archives – by month, day, year, whatever, etc. We, the readers, understand that it’s still the same article and have no problem finding it different ways.
However, to the search engines that’s the definition of the duplicate content.
Getting back to tags now.
In my uneducated and unresearched, back then, opinion, tags would simply create yet another path to the same content.
What Are the Benefits of Using Blog Tags?
As I previously mentioned, when you use tags, you instantly create new pages for your blog that are fully indexable, searchable, and rankable. In other words, you create additional content that can bring search engine visitors.
The magic really happens when you start using the same tags over and over again. This way, you start sending more and more link juice to the tag pages, thus potentially increase their importance as far as search engines are concerned and hopefully get them ranked higher.
Let me also remind you that all of this happens behind the scenes without your active participation. All YOU need to do is to add proper tags to each post.
Tips to Make the Most of Your Tags
1. Research your tags like you would any keyword. What’s the point of ranking on search engines for something no one is searching for?
2. Use the same tags consistently.
3. Avoid duplicate content issues by displaying excerpts on your archive pages instead of full posts. You really want to give your readers just a hint of the content and direct them back to the original posts.
To accomplish that, open your archive.php of your theme and replace the_content with the_excerpt.
4. Track your tag performance.
Thanks to Google Analytics, it’s free and easy, and you have no excuse to not do it. Here are the instruction on how to set up your tracking.
From your dashboard, click on “Advanced Segments” in the left sidebar, then “Create New Custom Segment“.
Find “Landing page” in the drop-down menu under Dimensions => Content, and drag and drop it to the right.
Set condition to “Contains” and value to “/tag/“(WordPress default for tags).
You will also need to name your segment (“Tags” would be appropriate) and you are all set.
Now in order to check on your traffic from tags from your dashboard, all you do is click on “Advanced Segments” in your top right corner this time, check “Tags” segment and click “Apply“.
This is what you will see as a result:
As you can see from the graph, my tag traffic (orange line) is absolutely flat, since I haven’t paid any attention to tags in the past.
That’s all about to change now though.
Proper tagging can be a smart way to get more quality content in front of the search engines.
Please remember to use them sparingly though – there’s absolutely no need to trash your blog with a bunch of useless tag pages that will never see the light of day.
My limit on tags per post is 4-5.
Not that this is a rule of any kind – no such thing, but it gives me a manageable number of tags that I use over and over again for different posts to build up my internal links to those pages, thus creating a better possibility of ranking them.
Know something about tags I don’t? Comment to show me that you’re alive!