If you’re like me, you like things organized for efficiency. Even if you’re not like me, you still probably prefer spending less time looking for what you want online. Most people don’t think, “Gee, I love how disorganized this blog is, I could spend hours exploring and trying to find something relevant.”
Blogs by nature are structured chronologically. Even when being used for news or events, they appear in the order they were posted. Most blogs will display an archive of the past months or years, but that doesn’t help users when they are searching for certain topics.
Categories are a great way to group posts by topic, and by default, every post has to have at least one category assigned. You can also place a post into multiple categories if the topic makes sense in more than one area. However, categories can be too broad for some user’s needs, and that is where tags come into play.
Tags provide a more detailed form of filtration to give users the ability to jump from one post to another without the constraints of chronology or category. For example, you can browse the posts in the “Recipe” category and you will, I’m sure, find all the amazing recipes the blog has to offer, but what if you wanted to go off topic a little bit? Say you find a great recipe for a holiday party, but now you’re curious about other preparation posts the author has for holidays. You could try searching for the keyword “Thanksgiving,” for example, if the blog has a search feature, but that still may only result in posts with the word “Thanksgiving” located somewhere within, and that could include anything from a post talking about a Thanksgiving from childhood to a list of reasons why they miss home, etc.
“No, no, no,” we want posts just about Thanksgiving, not posts that might contain the word. Tags create a convenient way for the author to cross reference subjects beyond basic categories. This gives users a curated selection of relevant content to the tag selected. This arrangement not only helps users, but also builds trust between readers and the author(s).
A common question about using tags is “how many should I use?” Tags are not keywords, and even keywords do not need to be stuffed. Google will penalize search rankings if it appears keyword stuffing has occurred. Fewer can sometimes be more, but it also depends on the post. You can set your own limit, but each post should be given some honest thought as to what tags to use and how many the post deserves.
After completing a post, take a break, read it the next day with fresh eyes, and imagine reading it for the first time like one of your readers. Take a step back, and think about the main topics in your post; there might be subjects or themes you didn’t even mention in the text that would make great tags. Also, think about the subjects you will most likely post about in the future. If you already know that you will be writing more about holiday decorations, be sure to tag the post appropriately. If after a year, you look back and realize that you accidentally posted several articles on leftover recipes, you can always go back and tag old postings to connect them. It will take you minutes in the admin, and save your readers time.
The following example was in a category called “November Events,” but as you can see, the associated tags give you an idea of the subjects within that article, and those act as links to find more posts for each topic.
At modXdigital, we are committed to a positive user experience because we know that is what attracts users and what keeps them coming back for more. On blogs and other types of news listings, be sure to use tags appropriately to provide your audience with the best content and helpful organization.
For more information and answers to common questions, you can check out what WordPress has to say about categories and tags (which also applies to most blog systems), but I will leave you with one piece of homework. Click the “Content” tag, and you will be redirected to a listing of other blog posts with that same tag. Go ahead, try it! Once you see how helpful it is, you might start designing and navigating blogs in a whole new way.