Blog tagsSince the arrival of blogging, we have got used to the idea of tagging content. The idea is straightforward – you tag your article with a theme, a word or a phrase, so that it can be linked to other articles with that same tag.

There are many online writers and editors who don’t ever use tags or even know what they are for. Additionally, many people who use tags don’t do so with any defined strategy. This article aims to help you think more strategically about how to use tags to improve the content structure of your website. I’ll refer to WordPress but the same is true of any content management system (CMS) that uses tags and categories.

The difference between categories and tags

The way I describe categories and tags to customers is like this. A category allows you to group content into a navigational section of your website; a tag allows you to cross reference content regardless of where it lives on the site.

For example, let’s say your website is about home decor and you have one blog category called ‘DIY Tips’ and another called ‘Plumbing Tips’. You may publish one article about decorating a room around a radiator in your DIY Tips, then another article about bleeding radiators in your Plumbing Tips. In both of the articles, you could tag them with the word ‘radiators’.

Tags create new indexable URLs

Once you have created your tag, you also create a new web address (URL), which will be indexed by search engines. In WordPress, this would appear like www.myhomedecorblog.com/tag/radiators. From an SEO point of view, you don’t want to be creating tags unnecessarily because each new URL you create may not be helping your overall site rank, it may be detracting from your core pages.

How can that happen? A site that contains lots of similar pages may make it hard for Google and Bing to understand which pages are the right ones to show for specific phrases. Also, if you create endless new URLs on your site by constantly adding random tags, you are giving the search engine spiders more work to do to index all these less-important pages, which may mean they spend less time prioritising your important ones.

Common problems with tag management

Creating too many similar tags (eg, ‘radiators’, ‘radiator’, ‘rads’), which means you are either creating too much duplication or that you are separating your content across different tags that could all be grouped together under one. Or both.

Tagging on some articles and not on others. A lack of editorial and SEO policy on a blog may mean that the structure of your content is not as good as it could be. A tag page that pulls together a few articles that are highly relevant to each other may mean users find what they need on your site without searching and it may be the difference you need in helping you to attain rank for that key-phrase on search engines.

Planning structure with categories and tags

If you are planning a website on a blank sheet of paper, I would suggest planning a site map that gives you a navigational structure that makes sense hierarchically. If you want to rank well, for example, for ‘plastering advice’ you might want to have a section of your top navigation called ‘Plastering Advice’ which is a single page, or a section with sub pages. Or you might decide to make it a category into which you can then post on-going articles on this theme.

Work out what needs to be a static page and what needs to be a category (of an indeterminate number of articles). Then think about the likely themes in your ever-growing array of articles that are likely to need tags. Create these tags in your CMS so they are there to be selected as writers post articles on the site to prevent them adding their own random collection.