Guest post by Christoph Amthor
Writing a blog is not about piling up content. A messy blog is not easy to read, and neither is it fun to write.
We are lucky that out of the box, WordPress comes with everything you need to keep your posts organized – most notably categories and tags. Let’s focus now a while on WordPress tags. You do use them, right? If not, here is how to add tags to a post.
People who are new to WordPress need some time to understand the benefit of tags, and the difference between tags and categories. But once they got a grip on them, they often tend to overuse them.
While it is difficult to find rules that fit all blogs, there are some tips that can help you make the best of your tags and avoid later frustration.
#1. Don’t Overdo
There is no hard limit, but in most cases you don’t need more than five to ten tags per post. Remember that a high number of tags will also make your tag cloud more difficult to use. Most tag clouds simply cut off all tags beyond a set maximum amount.
When you tag a post, search first if you can use any of the existing tags before creating a new one. On the post edit screen you find that link “Choose from the most used tags” under the tag box. Or just start typing into the tag box and see what pops up.
There is a handy rule of thumb that helps you decide if you need a new tag: Create a new tag only if there is a chance that you will use the same tag again.
#2. Don’t be Overly Precise
When it comes to choose a good name for your tag, be only as precise as it makes sense. If you list the names of actors, using their full names certainly makes sense. But if you tag photos from your travels, don’t use a tag like “sunset over a beach in Italy”. Instead, boil it down to the most important aspect (“sunset” or “Italy”) or, if you really need every detail, split it into multiple tags: “sunset”, “beach” and “Italy.”
#3. Avoid Synonymous Tags
If there are different possible ways how to express the same thing, stick to one. Don’t use “plane” in some posts and “aircraft” in others.
There is no benefit for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) either to stuff your site with similar keywords. Google will automatically figure out the synonyms, and keyword stuffing is a negative signal for search ranking.
And remember that capitalization doesn’t matter. Stick to the official spelling in your language.
#4. Avoid Special Characters
Google and your visitors will have a hard time reading and interpreting your tags if you add smilies, Unicode icons or special characters like ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ. Also, remember that tags always link to a list of posts that use that particular tag. It is always better for SEO and usability to keep these links simple.
If you want to display a hashtag in front of each term, you should modify your theme or use a special tag cloud to achieve that. So whenever your visitors click on a tag, the link contains only the word – without the hashtag.
#5. No Duplicate Names
Avoid using the same name twice – even across different taxonomies (Taxonomies are types of tags such as product tags or image tags). WordPress can be tricked into duplicate names but you would likely run into problems later on.
The only place where it makes sense to use duplicate names are multilingual sites. The word “Internet” for example is simply the same for most of the world’s languages. But in that case your multilingual plugin takes care of it and makes sure that the same tag appears only once for each language version.
If you need to use the same tag in different contexts, there are better ways how to go about it. See the bonus tip at the bottom.
Bonus Tip: Organize Your Tags in Groups
Now you have become an ardent blogger and your tag cloud is growing every week. Looking at that seizable proof of your productivity gives you a good feeling. But you also keep wondering if it really makes sense to mix up tags of such different kinds. You may find there names of countries or activities next to tags that list up the ingredients of your favorite recipes. Some of them become ridiculously large, while others end up tiny and hardly visible.
I am describing the situation where I found myself when I decided to do something about it. The result is the free Tag Groups plugin that helps you organize and display tags in meaningful groups. After some years I added Tag Groups Premium with many more feature that make working with tags fun again.
About the Author
Christoph Amthor has been coding since the mid-80s. He is the co-founder of a NGO and an author of several blogs and websites. Originally from Germany, he has lived in the UK, Slovakia and the Czech Republic where he is now working as a freelancer.