Justin Tadlock

Managing WordPress Tags

  • Do you input 50 different tags to compliment your post?
  • Use “blog,” “blogs,” and “blogging” as a tag every time you post?
  • List “WordPress” as a tag simply because you’re using that blogging platform?
  • Add random things that have nothing to do whatsoever with the content of your post itself as a tag?
  • Put flashes of thought or sudden inspiration in that little box labeled tags?

I’ve seen way too many WordPress blogs with a long list of tags for each post. Even I have acted upon this blogging sin (see bottom of entry). It’s become so bad that many users don’t bother clicking tags because there’s a good chance they will not find what they’re looking for.

Today, however, I’m going to change this. I sincerely hope you other bloggers can change too.

How do we do this?

Organization. Organization. Organization.

Before we get to the organization part, you should read this excerpt from Lorelle’s Are Tags Working For You?.

Categories are your blog’s table of contents. Tags are your blog’s index words.

Categories are large groupings of related articles, and tags are the micro-categories, keywords that describe the content within your blog post.

That’s the basis in which we need to create our tags.

I have quite a few Topics (Categories) because I cover a wide range of subjects on my blog. However, I’ve been trying to trim that list down by figuring out what’s important enough to keep. Each of these topics may cover a fairly large area. For example, I will post this entry under the category WordPress.

What’s that telling me about posts that are related to this post? That’s the question you should ask yourself when thinking of tag names. We need to narrow the field down a little bit because there are many things that could go under the WordPress category, such as “plugins,” “themes,” and “custom fields.”

I like to think of tags as “your blog’s index words.” That’s the best way to describe it.

Example:

I have a category named Book Reviews. Some good tags for a post on a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows might be “Harry Potter,” “J. K. Rowling,” “fiction.” Of course, there are other tags you might include, but this starts to narrow it down some. You wouldn’t want to list every character, spell, and magical creature in the book because that’s not helping your readers find other content.

Maybe you’ve written reviews on all seven of the Harry Potter books. By listing just a few good tags, you can help direct your users to your other reviews easily. If a user clicks on the tag “Harry Potter,” they will immediately go to a listing of all posts with that tag. But, if you list “Sirius Black” as a tag, the user wouldn’t find the books in which Sirius wasn’t a character.

The main idea here is to direct your readers to other content. If every time you make a post, you’re listing entirely new tags, you’re not helping your readers.

A good strategy would be to open Notepad or some other text editor and list your categories. Think of all the things that you might post about for each category and mark it down as a tag you want to use (list them as if they were sub-categories). Of course, you won’t be able to know all the tags you’ll use, like in the Harry Potter example. For things like that, just type “author” and “title” because you won’t know what authors and titles to put in if you haven’t written the review yet.

Book Reviews

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Ethnography
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Classic Literature
  • Author
  • Title

You should try to only add tags that will direct readers to other posts. These tags can also span many categories. You may blog regularly about politics, and when a user clicks that tag, they’ll see that you’ve written a book review on a political book.

I hope this helps you start managing your tags a little better. I’m going to try my best to stick to this strategy, while maybe working in a few other ideas. My number one goal when using tags is to help readers find content that they’re interested in. Of course, since I’ve done such a poor job with tags in the past, it’ll take a while for my tag archives start taking shape.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back and change all your tags in your old posts. That’ll just take too long. One thing you could do is update your tags in important posts, reader favorites, or highly commented posts. At least start helping readers find your best content.

Do you have any strategy that you use when listing tags? How do you use tags to get readers to related content?