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Thinking back to when I first got into blogging, some of the simplest concepts to me now seemed very confusing at the time. Things like themes, plugins, pages vs. posts., etc.
One of those things that I remember really getting hung up on was tags. I had a hard time figuring out how they differed from categories, how to use them, and whether or not they even needed to be used at all.
In this post, I’m going to dive into WordPress tags and show you some creative ways to use them, tell you how they can benefit you and your users, and let you know whether or not you even need them in the first place.
Do You Need to Use Tags on Your Blog?
To make sure we’re on the same page, let me first show you a screenshot of the tags screen on our public site, My Backyard Life:
You get to the page above by going to Posts > Tags on the left side in your WordPress dashboard. If you’ve already created some tags, you’ll see a list of those tags and the number of posts with each tag.
So do you need to use tags on your site? The short answer to this question is no. You absolutely don’t need to use tags on your blog. In fact, until several months ago, we only used tags on a couple of our sites.
I’ll jump into some of the benefits further below, which led us to eventually start using tags on all of our niche sites.
I want to point out that just because we use them on all of our niche sites now doesn’t mean we think they’re absolutely crucial. In fact, we use them mostly to help us manage our sites, not so much to help our visitors.
The benefits that I’m referring to, as well as the ones that help your visitors, really aren’t significant until you have a ton of content on your site. By a ton, I’m talking about hundreds of posts.
If you have less than a hundred posts on your site, you likely won’t have a need to use tags to further categorize your content beyond using categories. In fact, at the time of this writing, I don’t use tags on passiveincomeunlocked.com, as there simply isn’t enough content on it to justify the effort of adding them.
Do WordPress Tags Help SEO?
The general consensus out there is that tags do not help SEO in any way, at least not directly. We even go as far as to noindex our tag archives, since they don’t provide much value and basically show duplicate content from our posts.
That’s not to say there aren’t some potential indirect benefits from using tags on your site. If you can use tags in a way that improves navigation and allows users to find more content quickly, that can lead to improved user engagement.
We’ll jump into some of these potential ways to use tags further below.
What Are the Benefits of Using Tags?
Before deciding to use tags on your blog, it’s important to clearly identify what benefits they’ll provide, either to you or your visitors. As we’ve experimented with tags, we’ve found benefits on both sides of the coin.
On the visitor side, the main benefit that you’ll likely see is improved navigation. Tags allow you to cluster related items together, which means you can guide your visitors to posts that are related to the post that they’re reading.
On the back end, the benefits range from better organization to easier targeting. Both of these things can be really useful, and I’ll dive into some examples of each of them in the next section.
What Are Some Creative Ways to Use Tags on Your Site?
We avoided using tags on all but a couple of our sites up until recently. While that didn’t keep us from finding success, I do think it held us back in some ways.
In this section, I’ll go over a few of the ways that we’ve found WordPress tags to be useful. Because of these various uses, we now use tags on all of our niche sites.
1 – Internal Linking
The first benefit of using tags that I want to go over is to improve your internal linking efforts. This applies whether you’re doing it manually or with a semi-automated tool like Link Whisper (and we’ve done plenty of both approaches).
If using Link Whisper, the benefit is pretty clear, because you can limit the link suggestions to only show posts tagged with a specific tag.
The benefits when doing internal linking manually are somewhat similar, and this is the main reason why we eventually added tags to all of our sites. By using tags, you can target one cluster of posts at a time.
I recently posted a video going over our internal linking process. Watch that video, and this process will make more sense.
When adding internal links manually, we follow the steps that I laid out in the video. However, when we’re searching our posts within WordPress for potential terms to target, we typically only look at the resulting posts that are all tagged similarly.
For example, if you’re looking for articles that have the term “bird feeder” in them, and results in WordPress shows 100 posts, we only open the ones that are all tagged with “birds.”
By doing this, not only are you keeping your internal links within each cluster, but you’re also cutting down on the number of posts that you have to check for linking opportunities.
With that being said, we aren’t strict about linking within clusters, but when we get a result set that’s dozens of posts or more, we tend to only check the posts that are tagged the same.
2 – Related Posts
One of the best uses of WordPress tags is to improve the results of a related posts plugin. There are a lot of related posts plugins out there, and all of them work slightly differently.
Most of them have the option to show suggestions based on categories and tags. Since tags are typically very specific on a site, using them to show related posts will provide much better results than filtering based on category alone.
3 – Custom Filtering
Another way that we use tags on a couple of our sites is to show a custom filter to our visitors, either in the sidebar, a separate landing page, or both. To do this, we use a plugin called Search & Filter.
With the Search & Filter plugin, your visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for by filtering your content by categories and tags using dropdown lists, radio buttons, etc.
We implemented this on a couple of our sites that have a ton of clearly-defined categories (all marked with tags), and we’ve found that quite a few people do use the tool to find additional posts on the sites.
Aside from the sidebar or a separate landing page, another great spot to put this custom filter is at the bottom of your posts. Basically, as someone finishes reading a post, they can use the filter to find the next post that they want to read.
We found good success with this technique on one of our sites, but eventually swapped it out with a link to a digital product instead.
4 – Navigation
Whenever you can improve the navigation on your site, that’s a big win. With that being said, there are various ways to implement tags for navigation, some better than others.
One way that used to be very common that you don’t see very often anymore are tag clouds. A tag cloud is basically a visual representation of the tags on your site, often shown in the sidebar.
One of the more common ways to use tags for navigation is to use them in your upper or side navigation menu as a way to drill down further into the various categories on your site. This can be especially effective for an ecommerce site, where tags might be used to filter products by size, color, etc.
Another way that you’ll often see tags used effectively for navigation is to simply show the appropriate tags for a post either above or below the post. This is basically telling your visitors that this post was tagged with these words, and when someone clicks them, they’ll be taken to an archive page showing other posts tagged the same way.
5 – Targeting
The last one on this list is one that we don’t often use, but can be used very effectively if you like to run targeted advertising campaigns.
The idea here is that by tagging your posts, you can show your visitors ads or affiliate offers that are more in line with what they’re looking for. If you use a plugin like Ad Inserter, you can set it to only show your ad or offer on posts that have specific tags.
Another way you could use tags for targeting is to show specific exit-intent popups to your visitors. This puts a more targeted popup in front of visitors, which will lead to a higher conversion rate.
There are plenty of other ways to use tags for targeting as well. Anytime you’re trying to get something in front of a specific subset of your visitors, always consider whether or not tags might make it easier.
So, should you use WordPress tags on your blog? Well, that’s really up to you to decide and heavily depends on your goals.
We’ve gotten by just fine without tags on most of our sites until recently, but we do find them useful for internal linking. Tags can also be used effectively to help your visitors find content more quickly.
Like many things in life, there’s no clear right or wrong answer. You simply need to determine whether or not the benefits of using tags apply to your specific situation.