Tagging in WordPress: A Summary

23 September 2013

Edinburgh: Tagging is a WordPress feature which people have a tendency to either embrace sincerely or overlook altogether. It's different from using categories not just because of the lack of hierarchy but because tags don't tend to be used in a site's structure or navigation in the same way as categories.

Tags are a way of classifying your posts but they are not hierarchical like categories. Most sites tend to have a small, distinct number of categories which read out the site's structure, plus a larger (and ever growing) number of tags which are employed to make content easier for users to find but not to structure the site.

When to Use Tags?

For people new to tags, it is recommended using them in the following cases:

  • Your site is large and complex (for example a multi-author blog, a news site or a vacancies site) and users will require being able to get at content speedily and competently.
  • Tags add an extra layer of value on top of your categories - for instance on a jobs site, categories might take in the industry or contract type, whereas tags could include things such as pension, car or other bonuses that come with the job
  • You have SEO keywords that you want to make best use of by using tags. A word of warning however: since the Penguin changes to Google, using tags for keyword-stuffing may in fact lose you ranking. So be cautious not to use too many tags for each post and think about your slugs so they don't repeat the same keyword again and again. For example a url such as http://best-camera-site.com/tag/3D-cameras may look as if you are keyword-stuffing - you're better off using http://best-camera-site.com/tag/3D.

If the default tagging doesn't quite meet your requirements, you might want to use a custom taxonomy instead. Taxonomies can be registered as hierarchical (like categories) and non-hierarchical (like tags); in fact, categories and tags are each a kind of taxonomy themselves.

Displaying Tags to Users

WordPress will produce an archive page (or pages) for each tag you create, which users can access to view all posts with that tag. The most accepted way to give access to tags is by means of a tag cloud - a widget for a tag cloud comes with WordPress so it's easy to set up.

You can also add a list of tags at the end of each post - by listing the tags applied to that post, you give a link to the archive page for each tag. Most well-built WordPress themes, including the default theme, include this functionality.

A word of warning though – Its  advised only to show only excerpts on your tag archive pages, indeed on all of your archive pages. This will make it simpler for users to browse the posts with that tag and pick the ones they want to read and will also have SEO advantages. If you take in the full text of your posts in your tag (and other) archives, Google could mark you well for copying content across your site.

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