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Stop using WordPress tags – they aren’t what you think

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We use WordPress for a lot of client sites – it makes a site easy for them to update, for example adding company news and publishing their expertise.

Not only does this help reassure potential customers who visit their website, done properly it can also help with getting more (relevant) visitors from search engines.

The only problem is that most people usingWordPress think that tags are the secret to search engine optimisation. Instead they’re making it worse.

WordPress has two built-in ways of categorising blog / news content:

Categories – these are hierarchical and usually used to denote the main subject for the content (for example we use “Search”, “Design” and “Company News” amongst others)

Tags – non-hierarchical, they are designed to allow grouping together of content across different categories (for example we would tag posts in different categories with “Google” or “Best practice”)

The key point to understand is – both are ways of grouping similar content, and WordPress creates a website page (in WordPress-speak, an archive) for each and every category and tag, listing together every post with the same categorisation or tag.

That’s not a problem for categories – all our Company News posts are on their own page, as are all our Search posts.  People can easily see all our similar posts together.

The problem with tags is – website owners usually don’t realise they’re creating archive pages by tagging posts. Instead, they conflate tags with “meta keywords”, thinking if they tag a post with “XYZ” that Google will give their post more visibility for “XYZ” searches.

(The number of people who think meta keywords are still important is scary).

But what they’re usually doing is tagging lots of posts with the same tags – meaning there are archive pages with all the same posts on. And that’s where the problem lies – Google is then seeing the same content, repeated again and again on your website.

Google doesn’t like repeated content – it’s a spam signal at worst, at best it’s going to be ignored.

Our advice is usually – don’t even use tags on WordPress (we don’t on our website, either). Unless you have thoroughly planned out your approach to content and how it’s organised, it’s more likely to do you harm in the search engines’ eyes.