Pitfalls of WordPress tags and how to avoid them

July 16, 2012 / WordPress / By Kathy Alice

Just because you have a tool in front of you, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. This is particularly applicable to WordPress tags. A lot of bloggers tag each post they write with 4 or 5 multi word tags that they will never use again — thinking they are adding keywords to the post and helping their site’s SEO. Nothing could be further from the truth.

How WordPress tags work

tags: wordpressLet’s say you are a foodie blogger and just posted a recipe on tomato soup. So you wrack your brains – gee what are all the keywords that describe this post? And you come up with “tomato soup”, “healthy eating”, “warm foods”, “easy recipes”. The way WordPress works is (as long as your theme shows tags), those tags will appear as clickable links that will take you to an archive page that show a list of posts that have the same tag. The problem is that unless you have written several posts on “tomato soups” – the tag archive page will just show your one post. Not only is that not useful to your site visitor, but could be diluting your content in the search engine index.

I recently looked at a blog that had used lots of tags and rarely ever used the same tag again. Because of this, almost 60% of the pages Google indexed were the tag pages. Of course Google and the other search engines are pretty smart and usually pick a post to show in the results rather than a tag page – but why make it hard on the search engines? To see if your blog has this problem try this query in Google:

site:wwww.yoursite.com inurl:tag

Compare this to the number of pages indexed with just the site: command. So what is the right way to use WordPress tags?

How to Use WordPress tags

Use a tag cloud

WordPress tag cloudA tag cloud will help with navigation and give your site visitor a way to discover additional posts you have written. It’s a must have if you are using tags as your primary navigation for the search engines (see below), but even if you are using categories, providing a tag cloud is useful for your site visitors.

Reuse tags – a lot!

If you use tags, get familiar with the “Choose from the most used tags” feature in WordPress. Your goal is to reuse tags so that you are building a body of posts that are gathered under a single tag. If your visitor wants to read more of your posts that you have written on “soups”, they can click on the tag and get a full list. If you have been blogging for a while, clean up those almost duplicate tags, it’s tedious but worth doing.

Index tags or categories but not both

You need to decide which you are going to use for your site’s primary navigation – categories or tags? There is no right answer. If you are a frequent blogger that wants to evolve your categorization and keywords, consider tags. If you have a pretty good idea of your topics, categories might be your best bet. Categories can be organized into a hierarchy and you can show category descriptions, features not available with tags. But tags are more flexible and can be used to capitalize on long tail keywords that you might discover. Once you decide, use a SEO WordPress plugin to noindex the other.

With a little thought, WordPress tags can make your blog more user and search engine friendly.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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  1. Thanks Kathy. This is very helpful information about tags. I love the way you explain these sometimes complicated subjects so clearly and simply.

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