Using Blog Tags to Benefit Your Readers and Your SEO

Tag.jpgGuest post by Amy Derby:

There are probably as many ways to tag a blog post as there are to blog in general, but the following is based on what works best for me and for my clients using WordPress.

What are blog tags, and what are they good for?

Tags in blog posts are short labels that group posts together by single words or key phrases. Using tags consistently helps readers find related posts, assuming your blog theme actually displays your posts’ tags at the end of each post. Tagging blog posts can also boost your blog’s search engine optimization (SEO), depending on how you use tags.

Tags are often confused with categories. Although some bloggers use the two interchangeably, categories and tags have two distinct purposes. I like the way Michael Martine explained categories vs tags in a post last year:

“Categories only live in one place, but tags can repeat themselves and live in many places at once. Categories are like big buckets to divide the information itself, but tags are ways of labeling and identifying characteristics about the information.”

Why tag blog posts if you’re already using categories?

Tagging goes beyond organizing your post by category and allows you to break things down one step further for easier accessibility. Grant addressed blog tags vs categories a few months ago, so I won’t rehash too much. But a few benefits of tagging in addition to using categories can be:

  • Better search engine optimization, especially if you use key phrases rather than single words.
  • Easier navigation for people searching quickly for closely related posts.
  • Less clutter to your category list, if you’re OCD like I am and would otherwise make every tag a category.

The categories on your blog are usually displayed in a sidebar or at the top of every page to help readers find the topics you regularly post about, whereas the tags on your blog might be displayed only on each post itself to break down the topic even further.

For example: I frequently post under the category of “social media for lawyers,” but I have created the tag “Twitter for lawyers” to organize and link posts within that category. In most cases, people who land on my blog and read one Twitter post will click through on that tag and read further posts on the subject. Very rarely does anyone click back through the Social Media category to look for related Twitter posts. I don’t post about Twitter often enough that I think it deserves its own category, so the tagging option serves me well in this case.

How to tag blog posts to benefit readers:

Think like a reader. If you were reading a blog post about using websites vs blogs for lawyer marketing and saw it tagged with something like “lawyers, marketing, websites, tips,” would you care about that? I wouldn’t. Assuming the category is “lawyer marketing,” a better use of tags would be “lawyer websites, lawyer blogs.” Depending on the specific content of the post, you could possibly break it down even further. But don’t go crazy; too many tags can be a turnoff.

One mistake I made when I was first trying to figure out tags was going overboard. I would tag the above post with something like “lawyer websites, lawyer blogs, legal websites, legal blogs, law websites, law blogs.” While this made me a lot more popular with the search engines, my readers were either confused/distracted or turned off by this. I learned the hard way that if you give one or two good solid options, folks will be more obliged to click through to read related posts. (Plus, there’s the added benefit of not looking like an SEO-crazy idiot. Oops.)

How to use blog tags for better SEO:

Think like a search engine. Because your tagged posts will show up in a page of their own, it’s helpful the name you give your tags can stand on its own. It’s even better if the tag name is something people might be searching for.

Going back to my “Twitter for lawyers” example: if I had simply used the tag “Twitter” for those posts, I wouldn’t get the traffic I get from people searching for “Twitter for lawyers.” I don’t get a HUGE amount of traffic, but some is better than the zero I would get if I only used the word “Twitter” as a tag.

Whatever tags you choose, don’t sacrifice readers for SEO.

Be consistent with your tags. Having one or two posts tagged with a single phrase is fine if you’ve only posted about the topic once. But if you frequently post about lawyer websites, you’ll be doing yourself, and your readers, a disservice by using “lawyers websites” one time and “legal websites” another time. The person landing on the “lawyer websites” tag won’t see your related post tagged “legal websites” unless he does a separate search. If your ultimate goal is to get hired, you want your readers to be able to easily find as many related posts as it takes to convince him that you know your stuff.

How are you using tags on your blog? Any tips to share? Questions about tagging?

Amy Derby is a law blog consultant and an affiliate member of Grant and Michael’s Blawging Lawyers program.

About The Author
Grant Griffiths is founder of Blog For Profit and co-founder of Headway, the first Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Framework. You can follow Grant on twitter at @grantgriffiths
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