What Are Tags in WordPress

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What are tags, how can they help a WordPress site, and how do you use them to best effect? This short piece covers the tag essentials that every webmaster should know.

Tags Defined

A WordPress tag is a neat tool to help webmasters group similar posts together. At the front end, tags are visible words that visitors can click. Tag clouds are typically located in sidebars or under the written content. Let’s say there’s a tag for a specific type of camera. When someone clicks it, the link opens a tag archive page for all other posts tagged with that camera type.

Taxonomies?

You’ll come across the word taxonomy a lot when reading about WordPress tags and categories. In this context, a taxonomy is a process used to group data based on specific criteria. It’s not a term invented for WordPress, either. Science has used it for aeons to classify organisms.

WordPress has the following 4 default taxonomies or grouping systems:

  1. Post tags
  2. Categories
  3. Link categories
  4. Post formats

Why Bother with Tags?

Website and blog owners should use tags as they provide an easy way to showcase all related posts. That helps you manage your site better and enhances the visitor experience. The ‘visitor experience’ should always be the top priority for every webmaster. Most internet users don’t have a lot of patience, so better-organised, easy-to-navigate sites stand out.

What you don’t want to do is overuse tags on a post. That could result in too many archived pages and too much duplicate content. Tag spamming doesn’t serve any useful purpose, and it does nothing to improve SEO. Consider restricting all post to 3 tags maximum to avoid over-usage and SEO penalties. 

Tags vs Categories – What’s the difference?

Both categories and tags offer ways to keep your site and posts well-organised. Many novice webmasters get confused between the two and when to use them. The way to overcome this confusion is to understand the differences between tags and categories.

Categories group the written content

Think of a WordPress category as a broad definition. Let’s use photography again to illustrate. The site could categorise posts written about different types of camera lenses. The categories might be for Prime, Macro, Zoom, Telephoto, and Wide-angle, etc. The hierarchical category system also allows for sub-categories. Our example could use Brand Name and Third Party.

Tags micro-categorise content

Tags are useful to add more specific details about the posts than categories. In the lens example, we could create tags for, 24mm, 35-70mm, waterproof, DOF, and autofocus, etc. Some plugins can help to optimise your WordPress tags, and Yoast is a great example.

How to Add Tags to WordPress Posts

Log in to your WP Dashboard, then click Posts è All Posts from the side menu.

Open your post in Edit view.

Now go to the Tags section on the right of your Edit Post screen.

Start typing the tag name into the Add New Tag box, and it will auto-appear before you finish. If it’s a new tag, type the full name and press Enter on the keyboard.

In either case, click the Update button to save the changes.

Our Demo Post now has the tag ‘autofocus’ assigned to it.

Here’s how the sample post now looks in live view.

Note there is also a “Filed Under” link above the tag, which is the category assigned to the post. So, this demo is in the Camera Lenses category. And we have added the autofocus tag to it because it’s a feature of the lens in the article. WordPress will now add (group) all posts with this tag to the autofocus tag archive page.

Click the autofocus tag link.

This opens the autofocus tag page which links to all posts assigned with it. How that displays depends on the theme in use. Our sample looks like this using the Academy Pro theme.

Closing Comments

Categories organise your posts under clearly defined topic headers. Tags get into the micro-details, which tells us more about the content. Always think carefully about what tags to use, and use them sparingly. SEO researchers have proved that tag-spamming (over-use) can hurt a website’s search engine optimisation potential. 

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