What’s the Right Way To Use Tags on Blog Posts?

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When it comes to organizing your blog content, there’s a lot of confusion about the best way to use tags.

Some follow the “kitchen sink” theory and load up their blog posts with tags; others use tags sparingly or not at all. There is a right way to use tags, but it does require planning.

When used correctly, tags can add another layer of reader engagement to your website. When used incorrectly, tags can clutter your blog and create a less than ideal user experience.

You want your tags to be relevant to the post and encourage a reader to click through to find related content. As a practical matter, overusing or under using tags can frustrate your reader. Ask yourself, What is this post really about? and tag your content with relevant keywords.

The Difference Between Categories and Tags

Too often, tags are used the same way as categories.

Instead, categories and tags work together to form a taxonomy, a way of grouping related things. Think of categories as chapters in a book and tags as the index found in the back of the book. Tags should focus on key concepts and keywords to aid your reader in navigating deeper into your blog content.

If you’ve created a handful of relevant categories, then you’ll see how tagging your blog content fits within that taxonomy.

For example, a blog for a Web design firm might have the following categories:

  •       Software
  •       Trends
  •       Portfolio
  •       Tutorial
  •       Inspiration

Examples of that blog’s tags might be:

  •       CSS
  •       Tips
  •       How-To
  •       Case Studies
  •       Responsive Design

When it comes to tagging your blog posts, less is more. Remember, tags should help readers find topics quickly. Too many tags causes confusion and lots of backtracking.

Don’t underuse tags, either. For example, using the same tag on the majority of your posts offers no real benefit to your site’s navigation.

Be selective and specific.

WordPress Adds to the Confusion

There was a time when WordPress only provided a category option. The more subjects you covered, the more categories you had to create. This led to very long category lists in the sidebar widget, as well as navigation bloat.

Once WordPress added tags, new bloggers tended to go overboard. Most likely they were following bad advice from WordPress itself. The WordPress support page states that, while tags are entirely optional, there is no limit to the number of tags you can use.

One piece of advice I gleaned from a conference that may help clarify the topic of tagging is this: if you find yourself using a tag several times, create a category instead. That’s the first step in maintaining a clear tagging structure. Here are a few more.

The beauty of having a plan is you won’t fall prey to adding every conceivable tag indiscriminately. With a clear taxonomy, you’ll be able to focus on guiding your reader to important content while avoiding the mess.

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

  • Bob Duthie

    Good clear description of tags and categories. Thanks

  • Thanks Bob! Glad you found it useful.