Revisiting Keywords and Tags

google magnifying glass Search engines detect and use keywords when indexing your posts and each tag has a unique descriptive keyword term – permalink. Theoretically assigning relevent Tags/Categories to posts helps potential readers locate relevant content in search results, and increases the odds your content will be found by new readers. More to the point, is the fact that Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking and has not done so since at least 2009. See Matts Cutts of Google state that in the video below:

These days search engines pay more attention to your keywords in your content than they do to your keywords in Tags/Categories.

Categories are like the chapter titles on a Table of Contents of a book. Tags are like the index terms that are found in the back pages of a book. Both are based on keyword descriptions that naturally occur in any written language. In fact both are superfluous from the search engine POV.  The function they serve on your blog is to provide readers topical access to content located deeper in your blog via Tags and/or Categories clouds, widget displays and lists.

I have recently met new bloggers who were under the impression that the WordPress.com global tags pages operated as a blog directory does. This isn’t the case.  Global Tag Listings at WordPress.com aggregate all published posts attached to any particular tag or category, and display the most popular topics.

When we publish a post it’s automatically sent to the global tag pages to appear in order of the original date and timestamp under the Tags/Categories we assign to it.  However, display of posts in the most popular Tags/Categories is randomized, as there are 31 million blogs and about 7 posts are published every minute.  If your posts aren’t appearing under a Tag/Category do not approach Staff unless or until you have assured yourself none of these apply > global tags > missing posts

1.  The most common mistake new bloggers make is spamdexing ie. assigning an excessive combined number of categories and tags to any post. Keep the combined total of the two under 10.

2.  The second most common mistake new bloggers make is tag spamming ie. assigning unrelated categories and/or tags that the text in the post does not support.

3.  The third most common mistake new bloggers make is changing datestamps. The software will post only under the original datestamp and timestamp. Editing datestamps will not change positioning but it will create a 404 (page not found).

4.  Though search engines treat Tags/Categories the same way, for a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences between tags and categories by  read Lorelle’s Categories versus Tags: What’s the Difference? and Categories are not tags: Got it?

SEO Optimization – Key Factors

Successful blogs draw between 30 – 60 % of their incoming targeted readers from search engine referrals. Targeted readers are those who arrive on your site because they already have an interest in the content your posts and blog contain. They have typed keywords and phrases into search engines and located your posts in the SERPS (search engine page results) and clicked through to the posts. The fact that targeted readers already have an interest in the content in your posts means they are likely to read more than one post, more likely to leave comments, and more likely to become regular readers/subscribers. Basic SEO elements for bloggers

In a blog is it worth spending time on creating tags and categories for SEO purposes?

Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say in reply:

  1. Search engines pay more attention to your keywords in your content than they do to your keywords in Tags/Categories.
  2. Words matter
  3. Titles matter
  4. Links between websites matter
  5. Words used in links (anchor text) matter too
  6. Search engines care about reputation
  7. Tags/Categories are not required for SEO purposes.

46 thoughts on “Revisiting Keywords and Tags

  1. timethief, I gave you props in this post: http://wp.me/p2Pdiy-Fl

    I just visited this post again as a refresher. This really is a home run post!

    Am I thinking right that, once guilty of spamdexing, there isn’t much advantage in reducing tags and categories of already published posts?

    Thanks again!

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  6. This is a great help and now I have another question about datestamp? Does this mean when you change the date of a post or is it the when you go back to older posts to edit the categories into proper categories and hit the update button? (or lol, neither!?!)
    my thanks ahead of time…

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  10. I may have fallen into a beginner’s hole with tag usage. I think (in fact, I am certain) WordPress has deemed me to be a spamdexer; I’m not. I read your post, and I think I overused tags in many (most) of my posts. Now, my blog is not being listed in the Global Tag lists, according to the tags I use. Since this started, about a week ago, I’ve begun to discipline myself on the use of only ten tags per post. I also notice that when I comment on many (but, not all) posts around WordPress, it goes into spam; but, not always…most of the time. I suspect this is related to the tag issue.

    Is WordPress’ action on my blog permanent or temporary? If I continue to ‘behave,’ will WordPress reinstate my blog to the rest of the Global Tag blogosphere?

    • I can’t speak for Staff so I don’t have an answer for you. Please use the Help link on the top right hand corner of your Admin page to contact them and ask.

  11. Thanks for the informative site, I need to understand tags better and THANK YOU for helping me out last night with the infinite scrolling problem I was having on Misty Look. I ended up switching twice and went with Coraline(?)

  12. My categories and tags are a bit of a mess. Much like my garage, it’s a mess I try to ignore as much as possible :(

    You mention that 30-60% of traffic should come from Google. How did you come up with that number? I’m curious about these things in general. I get 76% of traffic from search engines (so probably 65% is Google) and thought more was good.

    I have a friend who get’s a scant 5% from Google which seems totally wacked!

  13. Great post, I learned a lot, thanks TT.

    Quick question: re that rule that the sum of all categories and tags combined shouldn’t exceed 10– what’s that based on? Why would exceeding 10 be a problem?

  14. A great summary of what Categories and Tags are all about! I agree with the thought that Categories are like the Table of Contents, while tags are like an Index. However, tags are no longer the only content that a search engine looks at, so there is no point adding a great long list of them to each post!

    • Hi Kathryn,
      You’re welcome. This post is based on the wasted time and energy I have invested into categorizing and tagging my posts over the years. When I began blogging I was convinced they were neccesary and now I know they aren’t.

  15. I love Matt Cutts :-)

    I wrote my categories to help with navigation – this will cause me to rethink how I am displaying my custom menus. My SEO scores has stayed pretty low (54%) and know I know why.

    You always have such great posts TT, thank you.

    • Hi there,
      It’s good to know you found this post thought provoking. My reality check is that I have far too many categories and tags. And now you’ve made me wonder about my custom menu which lacks any categories …. hmmm. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Titi, thank you for this post. It’s something I really have to work on. I haven’t been able to get online consistently, but I keep an eye out for your emails, as well as a few other choice product producers…tautological? Will be in touch, Sweet tides to you and yours, Linda

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