How to Setup Blog Tags for SEO Amidst Stricter Search Engine Rules

How to Setup Blog Tags for SEO Amidst Stricter Search Engine Rules

Update: This article was previously published on Yahoo Voices, but has been moved here to my blog because the Yahoo Contributor Network was closed as Yahoo re-organizes its business efforts.  This SearchEngineLand article alludes to closure due to Google’s Panda updates that target content farms, destroying the traffic.  I can verify that my article on blog tagging previously ranked #1 or page 1 in Google for a variety of relevant terms, but has dropped to page 2 since the last Panda update.  Since traffic is key to a publisher business model, I would guess the Yahoo Contributor Network, which is a user generated content platform that pays users, must not have been making enough profit from ad revenue.  This is likely one example of Marissa Mayer trimming the fat as promised when she became Yahoo CEO.

Tagging Posts Without a Strategy Can Damage Your SEO

The mantra “content is king” has remained true for as long as SEO has been practiced. A blog embodies this idea by providing a platform to publish an ongoing stream of fresh content. However, if approached wrong, a blog can bury rankings for an entire website.

Google’s Panda filter which has been running since February 2011, is designed to lower rankings of websites using crafty black hat spammer techniques to thinly spread a finite amount of content across many pages, creating the appearance of a large volume of content. For many years predating Panda, search engine webmaster guidelines warned about a very similar issue, the technical difficulty created by duplicate content often generated by a CMS (content management system). A blog is a CMS, and Panda is essentially penalizing duplicate content.

How NOT to Use Tags

If done wrong, tags can open up the door for duplicate content. Usually writers add tags to posts as an afterthought – sometimes with tons of tags and sometimes with none. They sometimes create multiple variations of the same tag for the same article, the way you might use meta keywords. For example, one post might be tagged with…

  • consultant
  • consultants
  • consulting
  • consult

Sometimes the same tags are reused for multiple posts, but often new ones are created for every new post. For example, one post may be tagged “ad agency”, and the next writer who publishes a post, instead of reusing the existing “ad agency” tag creates the tag “advertising agency”.

How Tagging Causes Thin Content

Because of the way tags are often used, there is a very high risk of creating duplicate content or thin content. Each tag has its own webpage, known in WordPress as a tag archive. And if there are multiple tags for each post that are not reused, you end up with multiple tag archives with the same content. Bloggers are told using a tag will help the post appear for that keyword. As a result, the common practice is to create as many different tags for each post that can describe the post. The result is duplicate content for each tag archive and risk of penalty. The common solution is to use an SEO plugin to place rel=”nofollow” code on tag links and to disallow tag archive URLs in the robots.txt file. This makes tag archive pages invisible to search engines. The risk of search engine penalty is eliminated, but so is any potential SEO benefit.

How to Use Blog Tags to Help SEO

The way to use tags to benefit SEO is to coordinate tags with categories based on rules. You need to establish a rule all authors will follow that prevents any tag archives from having the same posts as each other, or the same posts as a category. You want to reuse tags as much as possible. A way to achieve this is to use your categories to organize posts by one means and use tags to organize across a different pattern. For example, categories might organize posts by services provided and tags might organize by industry served. This will allow you to optimize for both service keywords and industry keywords with little overlap (assuming you don’t provide only certain services to certain industries). Another solution is to use categories as a top level navigation and tags as a lower level. For example, your categories might be dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. while the tags are the breeds of the animal, or maybe the color of their fur. Whatever system you use, the plan must be communicated to authors as well as the importance of reusing existing tags whenever possible.

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