When you create a post in WordPress, you can create “tags” for your posts. A lot of people do not really understand the significance of tags, and see them as a “keyword list” much like the “vestigial” keyword meta tag. To that end, they create long tag lists for each post (I saw one post on a blog the other day that was about 200 words in length, yet there were around 50 tags assigned to that post. In SEO terms, this is bad, very bad.
To understand why long tag lists is generally a bad idea, let’s look what happens when you create a post.
When you make a post on your blog, WordPress will put the post on your homepage. Now, it depends to a certain extent on the templates you use, since some templates may only post a snippet of the post (or maybe an author-defined excerpt). WordPress also wants to put the post (and often the entire post) on a number of other pages including:
- A page specially created to show the post
- The category page
- On every tag page
Before we consider point three in the list above, can you see how that one post can be duplicated on multiple pages of your site? Duplicate content on a site is not a good thing!
Let’s consider now the tag pages that are created when you make a post.
If you have 50 tags assigned to a post, that article may be posted 50 times on your blog (on 50 different tag pages).
If you want to see what a tag page looks like, click on any of the links in the “tag cloud” in the right hand menu of this site. Click on one of the tags that is large, like the WordPress one. See how every article I have written and tagged with “Wordpress” appears on that page?
Tag pages are a little like category pages. You can assign related posts the same tag, and then those posts will all appear on the same tag page. It’s just another filing system for your posts.
The way a lot of people use tags is to simply think of a keyword list related to the post they created, and create tags for each keyword. The biggest problem arises when a particular tag is only used for one post. In that case, the tag page will only have the one article on it, meaning it is almost identical to the post page created by WordPress for that article.
How to use WordPress tags properly
The tag mindset: Before you use a tag on a post, think in terms of a page being created for each tag you use. Your article will appear on each of those tag pages. Is that what you want? Is that tag going to be used on other relevant posts?
With this in mind, here is what I suggest you do:
During the design stages of your site, make a list on a piece of paper of all the tags you want to use on your site. These will be the most important keywords for the niche, but they should be keywords that are different to the categories you have setup for the site. After all, WordPress will create pages for each category anyway, think of tags as “additional pages” that WordPress will create offering you a secondary way of filing your posts.
As you create posts on your site, refer to the tag list you wrote down, and use only tags on that list. My all means add new tags over time, but make sure that tags are going to be used more than once. Don’t create a tag that will only ever be used on a single post on your site. Also, only use a few of the most relevant tags for each post.
What if my site has a lot of posts with spammy tags on the posts?
Fortunately there is a good plugin to help you manage tags. This plugin will allow you to mass edit the tags on your posts, and a lot more as well. You can read more about the plugin here:
Modifying tag pages?
Quite often you’ll find that your tag pages are getting traffic from Google. I have found that the tag pages often rank very well for the chosen tag (as a keyword phrase). Depending on the template you are using, the tag page may or may not be where you want to send your visitors. A good example is the site I setup during my WordPress for Affiliate Sites coaching program.
I had tagged a post for “i-pet glucose meter”. I found that my post was not ranking too well in Google, but my tag page was in the top 10. Because of the template I was using, my tag page was just showing the title of my post as a link to the post. Most people arriving at the tag page would probably have just clicked the back button assuming the information they were looking for was not on my page. My solution to this was to create a custom tag page for “i-pet glucose meter”. Here is my custom i-pet glucose meter tag page. Here is the original post I made that was tagged with i-pet glucose meter.
Do you see how the tag page is NOT showing the original post, but unique content? That is very different from the other tag pages on this site, which I have modified to show title and excerpt of the pages. Look at this normal tag page for the tag diabetes mellitus.
Using custom tag pages in the way I did for the i-Pet glucose meter is just another way you can use WordPress to help your site succeed.
I suspect the question you are all dying to ask is does that tag page lead to affiliate commissions for me. Do I actually sell any of these meters? Well, here is a screenshot for a couple of days this month. I have highlighted the page that sent each of these three customers to the merchant:
Used properly, tag pages can work for you. Used without thought, tag pages can increase duplicate content on your site.