In this post we will dissect a topic long debated over, tags. Our goal is to deliver some clear guidelines for the implementation of tags as a part of your search engine optimization strategy.
What are Tags?
Tags are simply an extended category structure often used in WordPress. When you create a tag, you create a new category which stores content under that label.
Why use Tags?
Many people feel that tags are beneficial because they improve internal linking and create many new content streams. For instance, say I write a post on search engine optimization and then I add three tags to the post, those being, SEO, search engine optimization and search engine marketing.
What will happen is that that piece of content will not only have the dedicated URL:
it will also fall under the following URLS:
So what does this do, well, it creates new databases of content. The issue is, however, that if there is only one post associate with 4 URLs then we have something the serps hate, duplicate content and canonical URLS.
Now keep in mind; this is only duplicate content until more posts are associated with the tag. If 5 different posts eventually fall under each tag, and they are all different posts, then the content should be unique enough to rank. Another important point is that when a Read More tag is added then the full article/blog is not displayed. So technically the entire piece of content is only displayed on one URL and the rest of the URLs/ tags only display text preceding the Read More link.
Why not To Use Tags
So we have long debated this around here and the general consensus is that tags are simply a short cut to improve internal linking. But the issue is that they improve internal linking to new categories. Also, after much testing it has become clear that many times the dedicated URL of the post will not rank, but instead the tagged post will rank because of this modified internal linking. This is OK, however, the tagged post URL is not SEO friendly.
When it all comes down to it, what really are tags? They are simply categories. So if you already have categories on your blog or site then tags are simply creating duplicate categories or niche categories. So what’s the point if you already have a clean category structure?
The Final Word on Tags
If you have tags on your blog already it’s probably a good idea just to keep them around. Tags greatly expand the size of your site, improve internal linking and can be effective from a search engine optimization perspective if used the right way. However, if you are just starting a site and are thinking about using tags, it would seem that a standard a category structure many be a more clean and SEO friendly option. If you do not use tags you may need to do a little more work to improve cross linking and create dedicated aggregate pages, but ultimately, it will pay off.