While it is simple to explain the two basic organizational and navigation elements of a WordPress site, coming up with tags for each post is a struggle many bloggers battle.
Tags represent micro-categorization of your site’s content. It helps the visitor find closely related content rather than generally related content through post categories.
Tags also represent SEO keywords, words people may use to search for your content, descriptive and helpful words.
How do you adequately define the tags for each post to meet these two needs?
Some people start with tags to write their posts, listing the words they wish to use in the article. They say that it helps them to stay on track and write with search terms and SEO keywords in mind.
The majority of bloggers add tags after the fact, trying to think up the words to describe what they just wrote, and what people will use to find their article on the web.
In my classes on family history blogging, I use the following example to help participants understand how tags work, and how to organize content on their site through categories and tags. Please remember that family history sites offer huge challenges to content structure and organization, often distinctive from traditional sites. Still, it is a good exercise.
I have a blog post written about my Grandfather West and his time serving on the USS Arizona from 1924-1925 as it sailed along the Pacific Coast of the United States. What would be the categories and tags I would use for this post?
I could use the following for categories: West, USS Arizona, Military, Military History, Ships, United States, California, Washington…
However, my family history site uses last names and places only, so the categories might be West and possibly California and Washington if it were appropriate.
What would be the tags? Think to yourself “What would be the words I would use to find this information on the web?”
I’ve done much searching on the web to find information on the USS Arizona at that time to give me a better understanding of my grandfather’s life on board, and what his military experience would be like. Since I cannot find information about him directly on the web, I have to search for stories and military records of life on the USS Arizona and similar ships at the same time.
I would use words that described the ships and military ranks, and mix and match them with words of the places, years, and other descriptions, finding some combination to open up the doors to the information I seek.
I put my list of tags together to help someone like me trying to learn more about their ancestors as well as mine, making their struggle to explore their family history easier than mine.
Here is the start of my list from my classes and workshops: military, military history, west, howard west, uss arizona, navy, marines, 1924, 1925, pacific, pacific fleet, ship, sea, sailor, security officer, united states, california, washington, oregon, pacific ocean, hong kong, japan, hawaii, taiwan, san francisco, seattle, bremerton, portland, san pedro, san diego, honolulu…
Notice my list is all in lowercase letters. You may use lowercase or capitals, or mixed case, but I recommend choosing one style and sticking with that.
Remember, tags do not work alone. They also need to represent words, terms, and phrases within the content itself, further strengthening the relationship for SEO between the content and tags.
Here is another exercise. The following video is one I’ve used in my classes in a variety of ways as it is always good for a laugh, but it also teaches us much about how to create a viral video and video humor in general.
Watch the video and come up with a list of tags one might use to find that video.
The blatantly obvious keywords would be “eharmony cat lady,” which I used for my search. What would be some other tags that might help if this video hadn’t been as popular as it was, and continues to be so.
Tags help people find things on the web. They reinforce the connection between content and search. Your Blog Exercise is to go through your posts and update or add tags.
Begin by going through the two above exercises and see what what you come up with for tags. What words would you use to find information about life on board the USS Arizona in 1924-1925? What words would you need to find the eharmony cat video on YouTube? Have fun with these. Then go through your posts and start working on those tags.
How many is too many tags? The more tags you use, the more spammy your tag list may appear, but it is up to you. How many words and phrases will it take to identify your post by that topic? If you use a tag cloud, what words would fairly represent the content you blog about on your site? Choose carefully.
This is a time to be creative, but not too creative. Choose words people would use in a search, not just any phrase or word you think might draw people to your site. The tags must be relevant to your content.
Here is a quick tip list to help you identify tag words:
- If I were looking for this, what words would I use?
- What are the most important nouns in this article?
- What are the most important descriptive words in this article?
- What concepts does this article represent? Emotional, physical, mental, etc.
- What categories and tags previously used on this site apply to this post?
Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.