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Tagging 101

Wait! Don’t push that publish button without tagging! Properly manicuring and setting up your blog posts can help you win the race to the top of the Google search list. I know what you’re thinking: tags, categories, social bookmarks… it’s all a blur and can be confusing to figure out what should be a category and what should be a tag but hopefully this post will help.

Think of your entire blog like a book. How is a reader going to be able to find the information they need? How can they search for a blog in your archives if they are looking for specific information? If you organize your blog like a book, your categories would be its table of contents, and your tags would be the index.

Categories are used as a structural way of organizing your blog -- they reflect the content and the topic. For example, this post would fall under our blogging category because it is specifically about one aspect of blogging. So if users wanted to know more about blogging in general, they could check the posts under the blogging category and find many different posts that will help!

Tags, on the other hand, are a non-structured way of organizing your blog. They should be labeled in a non-linear, conversational way. The best way to describe it would be to tag as if you were recapping a conversation. Someone asks… “How was your lunch with so and so? What did you talk about?” Well, we talked about this, this and this. All those topics of conversation should be tags on your blog entry.

You should also tag any proper nouns you used in your blog. For example if you mention the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in a blog, or the fact that it is World Health Day, or even if you went to Cool Beans Coffee Shop… those should all be listed as tags.

Tagging is how Google finds blogs, posts and news that are pertinent to a specific search term. It searches the web looking for the information you have typed in; tags are like a red alert –a little flag that says, “Here I am! Ooh! Ooh! Pick me!”

That being said, the closer your tags are to popular Google search terms, the easier it will be for Google to find your blog. You will make an even bigger Google impact if you link certain search terms to other pages on your site.

Tagging is important, but don’t go crazy! Google will penalize you for using too many tags, or tags that are not applicable to your content just to gain better SEO. How? By ranking you lower in their search rankings. So tag, but don’t over-tag.

Still not sure on what to tag? Try using Google Insights to find the best search terms. Google Insights compares the popularity of certain search terms to others so that you can choose the best, most popular ones. For example, if you’re writing a blog about cardiovascular disease, Google Insights can tell you whether more people search “heart disease” or “cardiovascular disease” – or even that most people search “heart attack.”

Here is a best practices short list:

  • Make tags short and simple.
  • Use lower case.
  • Be consistent throughout your blogs.
  • Use nouns.
  • Don't not use abbreviations unless they are a branded term.
  • Tag proper nouns.
  • Tag concepts like time management.


Join The Conversation

  • Aug 31 Posted 5 years ago karrie (not verified) It all pretty much depends on the web designs as well, web design is not just about aesthetics, it's all about the technique used for optimizing the website. Take this physician website design for example, the meta-tags are just as they should be, I used this website as a model to learn some very interesting designing techniques.
  • Apr 25 Posted 6 years ago Ballywho

    Greg, thank you for your comment and John, thank you for the insight! 

  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Apr 16 Posted 6 years ago Courtney Hunt

    Thank you, John! I have been blogging for about a year, and I have struggled with both the keyword and tagging questions. I use TypePad, and I finally gave up on both keywords and Technorati tags because the benefits of using them didn't seem worth the pain and suffering of trying to figure them out. There is still plenty of traffic coming into my blog from Google searches, and for certain topics my posts rank pretty high. Your comments have confirmed my perceptions of the limited value of keywords/tagging from an SEO perspective, as well as my belief that too often we can focus so much on the "tricks" of driving internet traffic that we forget it's better to focus on ensuring we provide high-quality substance.

    Courtney Hunt - Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

  • Apr 16 Posted 6 years ago johnblue

    Greg, great point. One example is when an issue or news item bubbles up (example, H1N1 in April 2009), with a good tagging system in place, you can curate the tagged posts into a relevant landing page or panel sections. In this example, we had tagged posts with H1N1 and were able to share that information to our audiance quickly. We also were able to create focued landing pages for certain groups. 

  • Apr 13 Posted 6 years ago Greg Satell (not verified)

    Good post.


    One additional point not related to SEO:  Tags help to establish relevance for related posts and allow you to build "content clusters."

    - Greg

  • Apr 13 Posted 6 years ago john blue (not verified)

    Good article. However, there are some items here I think need clarification.

    Good tagging is great for the reader. Good tagging allows the reader to discover other related posts on a particular site. Good tagging also helps the website management process. 

    However, tagging by itself is not utilized by Google as part of its web site ranking algoritms. This was declared by Google in Sept 2009 in a post "Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking". 

    For example, this very page,, uses the following tags: 

    Best Practices, Blogging, blogs, categories, Content, google, How-to, posts, seo, Social Bookmarking, Social Media, tags

    The site's content management system (looks like Drupal) renders the post and associated tags into HTML. This HTML are what search engines see. So the tags above are traslated into the following meta tag line: 

    <meta content="Best Practices, Blogging, blogs, categories, Content, google, How-to, posts, seo, Social Bookmarking, Social Media, tags" name="keywords">

    This is the very keyword meta tag that Google states is no longer being used to rank web sites.

    Tagging should be done to help the human reader. But do not use tagging just to help page ranking in Google as it will not be used.

    It should be noted that the meta tag issue generates lots of discussion. To help, read SearchEngineLand's Yahoo Search No Longer Uses Meta Keywords Tag and Sorry, Yahoo, You DO Index The Meta Keywords Tag.

    It is also important to note the difference between tags as keywords (in HTML meta tags) and keywords in the body. Write articles or blog posts that utilize keywords of the topic being developed. The search engines see these keywords in the body of the text and will use this information. Tags added to posts that get put into HTML meta tags are of little value to page ranking.

    Hope this helps,

    John Blue

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