WordPress Tags, some love them and others strongly dislike them. Personally, I never use tags. When I started blogging though, I used to create multiple, random tags each time I published a new blog post. And as I got older and wiser, I’ve learnt to step away from using WordPress tags.
And I’m not the only one. Slowly but surely, bloggers and Internet marketers are coming to the conclusion that tags are a bit out of fashion and don’t serve much purpose anymore. And there are certainly no SEO benefits either.
It’s interesting though, because when you start a brand new WordPress blog, one of the first things you’ll come across is the concept of Categories and Tags. They both are a cornerstone feature within WordPress. So why is it that WordPress Tags have lost so much ground?
Differences Between WordPress Tags and Categories
Before we move on, let’s quickly go through the key differences between WordPress Tags and Categories.
A WordPress category groups related blog posts together. As such, categories should be used to define the broad topics, or sub-niches, of your website.
A tag does not – or should not – represent a broad topic or a niche. A WordPress tag can be used to group together content around much smaller topics that don’t deserve to be categories.
WordPress allows you to create posts without tags, but not without a category. Each WordPress post must be assigned to a Category, and tags are optional. So in essence, you don’t need tags in order to run a WordPress website.
Categories can be organized in a hierarchical structure with several levels of sub-categories. With tags, you can’t do this. A parent category lists all the posts that are assigned to itself as well as the posts assigned to its sub-categories.
Remember those famous tag clouds from back in the day? Literally every single WordPress blog out there would have a tag cloud floating around in their sidebar. It was the thing to do.
If you had a blog, you would have a tag cloud. While some still use them, most bloggers have abandoned these tag clouds.
3 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using WordPress Tags
Okay, so WordPress tags are a bit out of fashion. But there are also more legitimate reasons why your website is much better off without tags. Let’s go through them.
1. Tags Create Thin Content Pages
Thin content basically means content that doesn’t add much value, has little or no substance, and is unlikely to trigger any user engagement. And Google doesn’t like thin content.
Now, the typical Tag page has a title such as “Name of tag – archives”, followed by a list of blog posts.
Other than the excerpts of the blog posts listed in that tag page, there is no content. And if there are very few blog posts, or worse, just one, then the content in this Tag page will be very thin.
In Google’s eyes, a WordPress tag page is another URL within your website. A real page. Just like a 2K words long blog post is a real page. The risk here is that if you have tons of tags defined in your website, the amount of thin content in your site will be significant.
Don’t worry, you won’t get penalized by Google that easily. But you can imagine that this doesn’t exactly benefit the overall content quality of your site either.
2. Tags Often Create Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content becomes an issue when Google can’t work out which two pages in your site should be ranked higher. As a result, Google may decide to not rank either of them.
In the case of tags though, it’s highly unlikely that any of your tag pages end up high in the SERPs, even when they’re used properly.
But that’s not really the point. The point is that if you have lots of random tags floating around in your site, then this will increase the risk of having multiple instances of duplicate content. And this will ultimately downgrade the overall quality of your website.
Duplicate content can also exist between a category and a tag that represent the same topic. For example, if you have a category about flowers and you also have a tag with the same name, you will have two very similar pages within your site.
With tags and categories, it’s important to always use excerpts, not the complete posts. If your tag or category pages display posts in their entirety, this will heavily increase the risk of duplicate content issues. An excerpt of a few lines, or even a few short paragraphs, works much better.
3. Tags Are Confusing
Yes, WordPress tags often increase confusion. For readers, for the search engines, as well as for bloggers themselves.
Confusing for readers
Some may think tags are beneficial from a user perspective. But in fact the user experience typically suffers. It’s confusing for your readers as tags make it harder for them to understand the structure of your site.
While internal links are important, it’s also important to not have too many links. It’s important to not let your readers click away to any random page.
A clean website structure always results in a better user experience. You basically want to take your readers by the hand and help them navigate through your site.
Confusing for search engines
Confusing for the search engines because the more tags you use, the harder it is for them to understand what your site is about.
And therefore it’s harder for them to qualify you as an authority in the topics you’re writing about. There is simply too much going on in your site without a clear structure.
Confusing for bloggers
Confusing for bloggers that use the tags as well. I’ve seen so many websites that have literally created hundreds of tags over the years. And lots of these tags only have one or perhaps a handful of posts associated with them. How can one keep track of so much clutter?
What often adds to the confusion is that too many bloggers don’t fully understand the essential difference between tags and categories. As a result, they use them interchangeably.
In other words, they would create tags that really should be categories, and create categories that should instead be tags.
You can use Yoast to to exclude WordPress tags from your sitemap and to stop the search engines from indexing them.
All you need to do is simply set the below option to No and your tags won’t be indexed.
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Final Thoughts on Using WordPress Tags In Your Blog
I must admit, I am a little opinionated here. Some people swear by using tags. And that’s cool, as long as they do it properly. Use WordPress tags the way they should be used and your site will be fine.
So, if you really want to use WordPress tags, keep these three things in mind:
Keep a clear distinction between Categories and Tags:
Categories are the core of your site architecture. The categories should define the topics of your site. Tags perform a far less important role within your site.
Use them to improve navigation:
Add (relevant) tags to a blog post so that readers can read more related posts. But make sure these tags that have at least three or four posts associated with them, otherwise there is not much point.
Use them to improve bounce rate:
Using tags can increase bounce rate if visitors click on them. But for this to happen, these tags need to be relevant and strategically placed.