One of most popular posts I wrote is on A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users, which offers a step-by-step process of how to create the tags and signature you find at the bottom of every post that I write. I’d like to clear up a little confusion about tags in WordPress.com for you.
1. A Tag is a Keyword in a Link
A tag is a keyword. It is created by adding the attribute
rel="tag" in any link going any where.
<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/" title="Lorelle on WordPress" rel="tag">Lorelle on WordPress</a>
This creates a “tag” for “Lorelle on WordPress”. The tag is the words which the link wraps around. Without it, it’s just a link. No more, no less.
With it, it is recognized by search engines and tag services crawlers which add that word or phrase to their “tag database”, acting like a keyword. When a visitor types in the tag word or phrase in a search engine or tag service, like Technorati, any post with that “tag” or those keywords, even if not tags, will turn up in the results.
I’d like to emphasis the following as it applies to the process of tags and tagging.
- When pinged or as part of their normal schedule, search engines and tag services send out crawlers to your blog which scan your entire post and add it their directory. If they have a feature that recognizes the
rel="tag"in a link as a tag, it adds your tags to a section in their database, and your tags help them to categorize your post.
- Search engines and tag services store most or all of your entire post in their database. Any search of their “tags” will also include searching every word in your stored post data to generate the search results. Search results are not limited to only tags.
- A tag link can be to anything or any where. It does not have to be a link to Technorati. You will not be penalized for linking to non-Technorati sites.
2. Tags Serve Three Purposes.
- Tags link readers to keyword related content, on or off your blog.
- Tags help group content by category and keyword.
- Tags are recognized by search engines and tag services crawlers as tags and they are treated like keywords.
Tags do not cause people to rush to your blog. Tags do not increase traffic. Tags do not help search engines add you to their databases. Tags do not help your page ranking. Tags do not cause readers to be impressed with what you write. Tags do not help you with social climbing or social bookmarking.
Pings get the attention of search engines and tag services, not tags. The keywords in your post content helps search engines and tag services define your content for searchability and page rank.
3. Tags That Link Off-site Escort Visitors Out the Door.
When Technorati began, the idea of tags was based upon the mythology of “Web 2.0″, the social determination of which content and information should “rise to the top”. By assigning “tags” to articles or blogs, it helped categorize the information.
The categories were set by the blogger, helping to micro-categorize their writing topics, and therefore make it for you, the author, to control your content categories, and make it easier to search by tag categories rather than a free-for-all search dependent upon the mysteries of search engine page rankings. To participate in this new social “tagging” experience, you would go to Technorati and search for “tag words” to find related content, creating a new way of searching but also competition for other search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Tag users were encouraged to set their tags to link to Technorati so those reading their blogs would have the option find related content on the topic via Technorati. This is nice. It helps the reader find related content from a variety of sources, not just yours.
But what if you have 300 articles written on the same topic? Your link to Technorati just told the visitor to leave your site and find their information elsewhere.
If 5 people had posts with your same tag, it didn’t matter because theoretically your 300 posts would be listed under that tag on Technorati. But if 46,000 people have written 164,327 posts with your same tag, your 300 related articles would be lost in the crowd. Especially as Technorati lists search results chronologically rather than as “most likely to meet your needs” and you haven’t posted anything using that tag for 2 weeks and 6,986 posts by other people.
Do you think that the reader will scroll through that many posts on the list to find your posts? Hmm?
Depending upon where a tag links to, tags do help the reader find related content off your blog. It can also help the reader find related content on your blog. Depending upon your blog’s content and purpose, you might want to consider offering tags to Technorati, Google, news services, WordPress.com, or other sites. Or you might have enough articles that you want to only allow the reader to view related content on your own blog. Or you might want to offer a combination of both to give your readers options. Below is information on providing the various on-site and off-site tag links.
4. WordPress Comes With Tags Built-In
WordPress, whether the full version of WordPress or WordPress.com, comes ready out-of-the-box with a tagging system built in. To create a “tag”, simple add a category to your category list and file the post in one or more of those categories. Automatically, the category is a tag.
WordPress Themes generally use the
wp_list_cats() template tag to generate a list of your blog categories, typically in the sidebar. WordPress programming functions automatically adds
rel="tag" to all generated category lists on your blog.
If you want more tags, then you have some options for adding tags on a per-post basis and/or a tag cloud or tag heat map. For full version WordPress bloggers, I highly recommend The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin. For WordPress.com bloggers, I recommend A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users. WordPress.com bloggers can also create a tag cloud such as I have on my site map, grouped by topic.
5. Categories as Tags Presents Challenges for WordPress Blogs
In WordPress, if you use categories as tags, the tags apply to your entire blog, not your posts. The list of categories typically appears in your sidebar. This presents some interesting challenges for the wise WordPress blogger.
Categories which link to “categorized” posts on your WordPress blog increase navigation on your site. They help the visitor find related content and move around from one group topic to another. I think of categories as a table of contents for your blog and tags as the index.
If you use categories as tags, then keep your category/tags to only a few. As they are displayed typically in the sidebar, a long list of tags in your sidebar can make it really, really long. The reader will have to scroll a long way down the page to see all of the topics you write about. If you have Pages, blogroll, feeds, ads, or other things in your sidebar, you end up with a seriously long sidebar. Is this pretty? Is this useful? Do 56 “categories as tags” really help your readers navigate your blog? Think about it.
If you are using a Kubrick/Default-based WordPress Theme, there is usually no sidebar on your single post view, only on the multi-post views of your blog. This means they won’t see your full category list on the single posts, but they will when viewing the front page of your post where you have more than one post displayed. The only categories shown in the single post view for those types of Themes are the categories belonging specifically to that post.
What are the odds that the new visitor arrived on the front page of your blog where all your categories are visible? Slim or none, right? You can pick the Theme you want, but pay attention to where your navigational aids are if you restrict your tags to the built-in categories with WordPress.
Category lists in WordPress Themes are not listed as tags visually. So the reader only recognizes them as categories not tags. Or some WordPress Themes and WordPress bloggers change the title of Categories to something else, like “Topics I Write About” or “My Stuff” or “Topics”. How do they know these are tags as well as categories? Should they? Do you treat categories differently from tags as you read and navigate through other’s blogs? Should people know there is a difference or that they are exactly the same?
Categories as tags in your WordPress Theme sidebar result in a listing of posts on your site when clicked. What if you do want to provide off-site links to related content with tags? Since WordPress doesn’t automatically provide that, you have to add the feature with The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin or A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users.
If you add tags to your posts, how will you let the reader know if they they are about to leave your site or stay on? Some title the tags “Technorati Links” or “Technorati Tags” as a clue. I title mine “Site Search Tags”, advising people that clicking these links will keep them on my site, not off.
There is a lot of thought that should go into your tagging and category decisions, and as much thought into deciding how to incorporate tags and categories into your WordPress blog. Identifying which are “categories” and which are “tags” may not be important, since they are basically the same, but most people treat them differently. Maybe you should, too.
6. Using Tags As Blog Navigation.
As mentioned in Point 3, tags which link to off-site references encourage readers to leave your blog. I like to think of my tags as helpful blog navigation. I like to help my readers find related content on my blog, and I like to keep them on my blog. Therefore, I manually add tags to the bottom of every post. These on-site tags are called “site search tags” or “intrasite links”. When clicked, they generate a list of related articles on my blog.
The tags are also post-specific, set on a post-by-post basis. While I only have a few categories, I can have dozens of tags listed on my posts. My posts can be on a variety of subjects and I can direct the reader to very specific information that I might only have one or two articles about. Why would I need a whole category for a one post topic? I use the tags to act as a sub-grouping of categories. “Micro-categories”, if you will. These are created manually, not by any special feature for WordPress users.
To set your tags to links on your site, you can set any link in your post as a tag or create a list, like I have at the bottom of the post, that link to search results on this blog based upon the tag keyword.
To create a tag link to another post on your site, add the link and then add the relationship to the link HTML:
<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2005/10/14/a-tagging-bookmarklet-for-wordpress-and-wordpresscom-users/" title="Tagging bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com users" rel="tag">A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users</a>
To create tag links to intrasite post search results, you can use one of the following, either written manually or used with the A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users or The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin:
<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/index.php?s=tagname" title="Site Search Tags" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="/index.php?s=tagname" title="Site Search Tags rel="tag"">tagname</a>
The results show will be a search results page based upon the “tagname” keyword, such as tags.
7. Using Tags To Link to Off-site Content.
If you choose to set your post-specific tags to offsite content, you have a lot of options. Again, I recommend The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin or A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and WordPress.com Users.
To set the off-site location for your tag links, here are some examples (I left the titles off for clearer code, but make sure you put titles back in for compliance with accessibility standards):
<a href="http://www.technorati.com/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://wordpress.com/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://del.icio.us/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://blogs.icerocket.com/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://tagjag.com/discovery/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://www.blinklist.com/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://www.blogmarks.net/marks/tag/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://www.rawsugar.com/search/tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
<a href="http://www.sphere.com/featured-blogs?q=tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
- Google Blogsearch:
<a href="http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
- Yahoo MyWeb Tags:
<a href="http://myweb.yahoo.com/myweb?ei=UTF-8&dg=6&tag=tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
- Lorelle on WordPress:
<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/index.php?s=tagname" rel="tag">tagname</a>
Hey, why not offer links to my blog for more information on a variety of tag topics?
You can find more tagging options for WordPress blogs in A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and wordpress.com Users. Note that this is what I use below to “sign” on all my posts. It includes the horizontal line and the signature and 9Rules graphics, so I encourage WordPress.com users to have some fun with this easy to use technique and add some personalization to their blogs. I’ll be talking about how to bling bling visually accessorize your WordPress.com blogs soon, so use this bookmarklet technique to jump ahead of the rest of the crowd.
Understand Tagging a Little Better Now?
I hope this helps to clear up the differences and similarities between tags and categories. They are the same but different, and you can use them in a variety of ways to help you with your blog navigation and connection with off-site content. Think about how you use tags and categories when you read blogs, and then think about how tags and categories work on your blog. And let me know what you think about all of this.
- A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and wordpress.com Users
- Categories versus Tags – What’s the Difference and Which One?
- The Problems With Tags and Tagging
- Categories versus Tags: Defining the Limitations
- The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin
- Helping the Ultimate Tag Warrior Work with Jerome’s Keywords WordPress Plugins
- Adding Del.icio.us, Digg, Technorati and Slashdot Links to Your WordPress Blog
- Putting Some Thought Into Blog Categories and Tags
- Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense
- Tags Are Not Categories – Got It?
- What Do You Blog About? Check Your Tags
- Playing Tag With WordPress
- Top 10 Tips for Technorati Tricks
- Tidying Up Tags – A Technical Review
- Lorelle on WordPress Now Part of Technorati Tools
- Combining Ultimate Tag Warrior With Jerome’s Keywords WordPress Plugins – Meet Tags in the Head
- Link Referrals – Linking to Site Search Tags
- Abuse: Keyword Spamming versus Tag Spamming
Site Search Tags: tags, tag, tagging, category, categories, tags+and+categories, tag+and+category, links, off-site, offsite, intrasite, onsite, on-site, intrasite+links, search, search, engine, tag+service, directory, traffic, navigation, technorati, wordpress, wordpress.com, wordpresscom, wordpressdotcom, keyword, keywords
Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network