Tags & Tag Cloud- Do they help or hamper ranking?

Tags & Tag cloud are very often used in on-line content today. This post explores the pros and cons of using tags and tag clouds.

What are tags?

Tags are keywords or key phrases assigned to on-line content, whether it be a post, information, or item, so that it can be easily found.

What is a tag cloud?

A tag cloud is the resultant of tags; it is a representation of the tags used in the online content. The tag & tag cloud is essentially a cloud made up of words, with some of the most used tags displayed very prominently in bigger fonts, colours highlighting the primary and the most relevant content.

How are tags used?

Tags are manually assigned to each blog post or any online content. In word press, there is a box provided so that you can provide relevant tags for each of your posts. Users can easily determine the focus content upon viewing the tag cloud (if the web page displays the tag cloud) as shown below.

Tag Cloud
Example of a Tag Cloud 

What are the benefits of using tags & tag cloud for on-line content?

There are several benefits of having tags in your on-line content. As long as it is used in an optimized way such that it helps and not hinder the visitors browsing the on-line content. For maximum effectiveness, the Tag clouds should be displayed in a way such that it does not take away from the content, meaning if visitors want, they should be able to ignore it. The tag cloud should attract and not distract.

Benefits of Tags:

  • Visitors will immediately know of what your content is about.
  • Visitors will click on the tag and immediately arrive at the relevant content directly without having to click several levels.
  • Search engines will be able to easily find all your pages.

Do tags & tag cloud help in ranking?

Tags do help in boosting your web page’s on-line visibility and ranking. One of the main things that tags do is increase your Website stickiness. When visitors click on tags and are taken to content that is relevant for them, they will continue to explore your website. The more time a visitor spends on your web site, the more the chances of converting that visitor. Attracting and retaining a visitor will in turn impact the rankings and visibility of your web site.

Are there any possible fall outs of using tags & tag cloud?

There is one possible fall out of using tags. And that is creating duplicate content. Duplicate content is a huge no-no for search engines and may cause penalty, and it does create a poor visitor experience as well. While assigning categories and tags, many of us may not even be aware that we are creating duplicate content.

If you are using WordPress, in wordpress, each post can be assigned to a category (which would usually be a broad topic). Typically  a web site may not have too many categories since categories are broader topics, but tags that are assigned to posts are more specific  and focused, and there could be 5-10 tags assigned to each post.

How does duplicate content get generated with tags and what should be done to rectify it?

If a tag takes your visitor to a page that has the excerpts of your posts, there won’t be duplicate content issues, however, upon clicking the tag, if the entire post shows up then it would lead to duplicate content issues. Here is an example to explain this further:

For instance, your original post’s URL is:

By clicking on a tag, you reach the same post, but the URL changes as shown below:

This would mean you are presenting the same content through two different URLs, definitely something that search engines frown upon. The best way to rectify this is to
ensure that you do not have only one post for a tag and category. If your website has duplicate content issues arising out of using tags, you may want to no-index those tags, or, clean up and merge the tags, if that is not possible, then use 301 redirects to avoid duplicate content penalty.

In Summary: Tags and tag clouds can be very beneficial provided they are used with the intent of organizing content, creating effective navigation, and guiding visitors towards their goal.

More about tag cloud here.

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