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What Are WordPress Tags and Why Use Them?

By Jesse Petersen

One of the things that makes blogs and sites created on blog platforms so powerful is the ability to get your content and products indexed by search engines very quickly, and often highly ranking. Few things will help your business or site more than getting repeat traffic from people using search engines to look for exactly what you offer.

But the old way of adding a bunch of hidden (or not) keywords all over (or in a big body at the end) of your pages to get the highest ranking from a search engine no longer works. In fact, that can blow any chance of your page or site getting ranked at all.

Introducting tags

Search engines like Google are constantly improving their algorithms to ignore and demote blatant attempts to overshadow other sites. And as a result, a new breed of search engine optimization (SEO) has been born: tags.

Tags are essentially keywords for each page/article you create. Tags are intended to be words or very short two or three word phrases. Adding tags that accurately represent a post or page will increase the chance that it will get its due traffic.

Tags are purposefully sought out and indexed by search engines and other Web 2.0 sites, such as Technorati.com, who gather these terms and often sort them by date rather than popularity. Google, however, concentrates on sorting relevance and popularity.

With tags, it is possible to get instant traffic for a blog or blog-based site for an empty niche on the Internet or by creating new content for a popular topics, so it’s important to use them appropriately and effectively.

If you recognize a void of a particular piece or set of information, you could become #1 in the search engines by publishing a post with carefully-selected tags. And if you already have an established site, implementing tags on your most unique or powerful articles will enhance your site’s visibility.

Harnessing the power of tags

I have two proofs of the success of harnessing the power of tags to improve site traffic:

Proof #1

First up is from my personal blog, which I purposefully targeted the most popular Google trend of the hour one morning. I wrote a post, linked a video, and used appropriate keywords for my subject.

That day, my traffic was triple that of the day before and the hit trail continues today. Keep in mind, this was THE most popular topic of the day on July 8th, but it managed to get an immense amount of traffic despite the competition:

Stats graph of tag improvement

To this day, my two most popular posts happen to be the first ones on the subject that Google mapped and I’ve used this technique to successfully build a string of “flagship” content on various sites, including untapped topics.

Proof #2

The second proof of the effectiveness of tags is based on my brand new site.

Despite the whole Internet being stacked against a new site, using tags has the ability to “level the playing field,” so to say. We had essentially zero traffic because we only had 35 articles on a very narrow subject.

With only a few days of being indexed by Google, these searches were already getting ranked high enough to get traffic. As clearly indicated by the landing page, this was because of the tag associated with the search query:

Results hitting the tags specifically

To be sure your site is indexed to begin with, be sure you don’t miss the best Google tool available: Google XML Generator.

Tags and WordPress

Thankfully, WordPress 2.4 began incorporating full tag support as a much-anticipated built-in feature. Because of this update, it is no longer necessary to use plugins to achieve better search engine results.

Keep in mind it doesn’t hurt to double up and use the All in One SEO Pack plugin because it updates your titles, too. I use it along with filling in the tags field with every article I write. There are also plugins and widgets that display tags in either cloud form or pull-down lists; however, those will likely become overwhelmingly long before long, especially if your site covers a wide array of interests.

As you would expect, iThemes’ premium themes are optimized for harnessing tags, categories, and page titles for the absolute best search engine results.

Check out more site tweaks and tips found here: 7 STEPS TO OPTIMIZING WORDPRESS.

Comments

  1. This is helpful. I’ve started using tags more on my own site, and it’s just helpful to see connections between various posts, never mind the SEO benefits.

    One question: Does it help or hurt to enter tags that duplicate your categories? For example, if I’ve got a post about music and it’s in my music category, does it help or hurt (or neither) if I tag the post “music”?

  2. Kevin,

    Thank you for your interest in this tags article. Tags are generally only seen as helpful, even if it matches the category. Depending on your permalinks and usage of the Google XML plug-in, you will receive both an index link for your category (…com/dogs/) and your tag (…com/tag/dogs/) for extra exposure.

  3. Would the “extra exposure” also look like duplicate content, though? Particularly if you are delivering an XML sitemap to google, google will see that the same posts are showing up in two different areas, so it would actually identify the post as duplicate content. If you removed the tag/* directory from index consideration, it may make for a more accessible website to your visitors, which google may appreciate, but definitely indexing two different places that the same content can be found is not the best SEO principle.

    Thanks for this post, though. Very helpful.

  4. Sean,

    You have a good point about things being in two different places, but Google indexes the tags and the keywords found in posts separately, so it really doesn’t have any negative impact on their indexing. It’s not the same as putting in dozens of words at the end of a page or post because it is kept in a separate field in the database that Google actually wants to look at.

  5. My blog has been up for quite some time and there was an option to use tags. I haven’t used or activated this option but I’ve noticed that most blogs or websites have a tag cloud so I decided to activate it then searched the web for what it exactly do.

    Thanks for this nice guide. It enlightened me more about tags.

  6. Thank you Jesse for this informative article on what a Tag is and why they are important.

    WordsPress, All In One SEO all have fields for this but never explain why I’d want to bother with tags.

    I’d also like to see you cover:

    Permalinks
    Categories

    And best practices for their use in SEO.

    Thank you!

  7. Wow – great article. I’ve been using too many tags and using “no index” all wrong. I think. Loved the info on “tag topic authority.” I’m busy re-tagging now. Thanks for all the tips.

  8. Great post on detailed information about tagging. Initially I was tagging too much for each post. Yet now I got the idea that tagging should be relevant to the blog post. Thanks a lot for sharing this post.

  9. Thanks for explaining in detail. Just started using tags, now I feel a lot better about the time it takes to implement them. Quick question, does it make sense to use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool as a guide for creating the tags?

  10. Hi, Thank you for the article, but being completely new to this I still have a couple of questions.

    1, When I add the tags, do I have to link to anything ?

    2, What exactly is the ‘slug’ ? What do I add ?

    3, My blog is linked to my website. Since the blog went live, Google has sent a message to say that there are 400+ crawl errors caused by the blog. Some of these are caused by the ‘tags’. Am I supposed to link my blog tags to the relevant pages in my website ?

    Sorry if all these seems completely ‘obvious’ to most people.

  11. Thank you for this post! I’m just starting my blog and didn’t quite understand tags. I now have them on my blog thanks to your explanation of their purpose and how they work! Thanks!

  12. Thanks so much for this information. I finally understood the importance of “tags”. I was working in too many ” categories ” in my blog and few almost no tags on my posts.

  13. Thanks for the useful articles about tags but after penguin and panda update I don’t see that using tags with improve traffice to the blog because Matt Cutts in one of his videos says that he would not use the tag anymore.

  14. Excellent post. I’ve read other blog sites about not using tags at all. Also have read using excessive tags on posts could cause duplicate content issues. Maybe you could elaborate on this?

  15. Thanks for the excellent write-up about Tags. I know SEO is a constantly changing battlefield and I have been out of it too long.

    Time to go make some tags…

  16. I always confuse while get tagging done on websites. Although, tags are good for easy navigation of users while in some themes tags make an individual post appear multiple time and as such ranking and traffic gets diverted. That’s what I experience.

  17. Thanks Cory! I actually don’t have an idea how to use tags properly and whether they affect SEO until this post. Now I have to redo the tag lineup I have in my posts. I think I have overdone it with some redundant ideas. Cheers!

  18. This is really very good information. I have never used Tags on my website. Are you talking about the Product Tags showing up on right side on the Products page ? Or is it something else.

    I have only used SEO Title, Meta Descriptions, Focus Keyword and Meta Title yet which is part of the SEO Plugin by yoast on my website.

    Please let me know.

    Thanks
    Sach

  19. Is entering meta tags using All in One SEO by Yoast
    worth the effort if I’m already using WordPress tags?
    What’s the utility?

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