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Let there be absolutely, positively no mistake here. "Tags" have completely different uses depending on the platform on which they're used. We're going to take a look at three of the most popular platforms and how tags affect them: Wordpress, Ning, and Tumblr.

Before we dive into each, let's get one thing out of the way. Those who say that tags are old and no longer useful are simply being lazy and encouraging the same. It takes less than 30 seconds to come up with a handful of appropriate tags to go along with any blog post and therefore it falls under the category of "why not?" Nobody outside of Mountain View, CA, knows for certain how tags benefit search engine optimization. They do, however, definitely have an opportunity to benefit the reader. It's a best practice that is getting pushed aside by many. Don't fall into the laziness trap. Tag away!


Tags for Wordpress

Depending on how you have your site indexing set up in the back end, tags allow search engines to find similar articles. The two major types of taxonomy, tags and categories, are intended to help people navigate a blog. As a result, Google and Bing will follow tags and categories in order to see what level of understanding a blog has on each individual topic.

The tag pages themselves, once visited, will give the search engines a depth-of-content picture. For example, if you have a blog for a Nissan dealership that often uses the tag "Altima", the search engines will be able to see that you have written a good amount of content on the topic. Many would argue that they know this already and that semantic indexing is designed in part to replace tagging as a method of establishing authority, but again, "why not?" It definitely doesn't hurt to tag. It probably helps on Wordpress, even if only a little. There's not reason to skip the few seconds it takes to add them.


Tags for Ning

On the Ning social platform, tags work in ways similar to Wordpress, but with an added bonus. Blog posts on Ning do not have categories the way that discussions do. As a result, tags become the primary taxonomy that search engines and readers use to navigate a site when they want to see similar articles.

Some have also speculated that there is a direct SEO value to the individual post, that the search engines look at tags very similar to how they look at highlighted content and will give a post a lift in the rankings as a result. This is unconfirmed and I've never tested it myself, but I would speculate that it is true.


Tags for Tumblr

This is an entirely different ballgame. On Tumblr, tags are everything. The community lives off of tags in a way that is similar to hashtags on Twitter, but there are certain ones that are eternally "trending", so to speak.

Tags are Tumblr users' primary method of discovery. Tumblr has devalued them a bit in recent months and focused on "Spotlight" that highlights individually influential tumblogs rather than the community-rich "Explore" page that lets people surf tags, but they're still extremely important and can help a new tumblog get found by the community. Getting found on Tumblr is the key to both social exposure and search; reblogs by other Tumblr users are extremely important and can mean the difference between having an invisible tumblog and having an extremely popular one.


Tags for Humans

At the end of the day, the real benefit of tags should be for the readers. Google and Bing may or may not pay attention to them, but allowing your blog visitors to latch onto a particular topic and follow it all the way through is a way to make your blog stickier.

Again, it takes second. Why not?

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Tags: blog, blogging, blogs, content marketing, ning, seo, social media, tagging, tags, tumblr, More…wordpress


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Comment by Alexander Lau on November 27, 2012 at 10:17am

I should have mentioned this. Tag cloud production through WordPress has helped my SEO. Below is a major entry point for my blog / site.


Ex: #8. /tag/pittsburgh-cars/ 1,345 14 00:03:02 194 57.14% 53.85% $0.00 (Metric for the 8th ranking entry point for my blog, data measured via my analytics package)


One best practice that I feel we're overlooking. Analyze your data in order to try and fully understand if tags are working for you. Example: If searchers are eating it up and you're able to measure your conversions, then it works. DONE!

Comment by Alexander Lau on November 27, 2012 at 5:30am

I forgot the mention, Nielsen (deemed a "usability expert") has said, "Tag clouds were a huge fad in 2009, and have actually been a fad for several years. Even so, usability studies show that most normal users don't know what they are and don't know how to deal with them."


I don't know if this has changed or if what he deems as a "normal" users perceive tags any differently.


Here's a fun application for styling your tags in the form of a good looking image.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on November 26, 2012 at 9:08pm

The most important thing to remember here is time. We can assume that tags hold more weight one way or another regardless of whether you feel they are a search benefit or not. They are definitely helpful for readers and most likely relevant for search.

Time, however, is the easy selling point. Whether you're using a plugin or putting them in manually, there's no excuse to not spend the few seconds it takes to tag a post properly.

Comment by Alexander Lau on November 26, 2012 at 6:42am

I meant "rank for TAGS alone", LOL!

They did not "tank", they "ranked."

Comment by Alexander Lau on November 26, 2012 at 6:09am

Wow, great post, JD.

I've been doing this for some time and yes TAGS absolutely hold a ton of SEO fuel (I've seen many of my posts tank for TAGS alone, especially in the WordPress world, but also as a navigational tool within your blog / site as well.

It's no secret, a good blogging platform like WordPress will enable you to add a ton of tags to your tag cloud (there is a hack that can be made in order to increase the number of tags that can be used. Default is 45 tags, I find that to be insufficient. I usually put in 2000. Also, the font weights, which obviously represent the number of times a blog post has been tagged and holds SEO power, can be edited here: “YourBlogsRootDirectory/wp-includes/category-template.php”. Easier to do it through normal old FTP (drag down; drag up and replace), not your WP CMS.


A few non-automotive retailer examples of the work I've developed using WordPress (go to the TAGS tab in the right sidebar column):


Ralph, a lot of those articles on those sites were written using TextBroker and iWriter. :-)


Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on November 25, 2012 at 7:49pm

killer piece - I appreciate and share your perspective

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 24, 2012 at 4:43pm

"Those who say that tags are old and no longer useful are simply being lazy and encouraging the same. It takes less than 30 seconds to come up with a handful of appropriate tags to go along with any blog post and therefore it falls under the category of "why not?" Nobody outside of Mountain View, CA, knows for certain how tags benefit search engine optimization with a certainty."

Thank you for that!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 24, 2012 at 1:36pm

One of the benefits of Tags on the Ning platform is they help determine the "similar content" that is offered up alongside videos and other content that you are viewing.  Another benefit to the use of tags on Ning platform sites is for the proprietary search function... For example, when we were having scholarship contests that were based on number of views, I would tag each video with the exact phrase "ADM Scholarship", then because nobody else was using that tage, a simple search in the video section for "AM Scholarship" pulled up an exact listing of all videos submitted for the contest... Allowing me to quickly see which videos had the most views and then display a rank.  There have been many other uses of Tags on many different platforms, and although as JD points out there has been an obsession with how Tags effect SEO practices, regardless of those factors, Tags provide many platform specific benefits... Which I use daily.  If you post a blog on ADM and it gets featured, you will see that I add certain tags to make your post easier to find and to associate it with topics that other similar posts have been associated with.

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