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HostPapa Blog / Web Design & Development  / WordPress Tags and How to Use Them
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15 Jun

WordPress Tags and How to Use Them
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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2022)

If you’re not already using tags in your WordPress blog, you should be. They help your readers find related posts and encourage them to explore all the topics your site covers. Tags also help search engines assess how your content is organized.

In this article, we’ll explain what WordPress tags are, explore the benefits of using tags, and discuss the difference between tags and categories. We’ve also included information about how to create tags and why you should limit your use of tags, plus a discussion about displaying a tag cloud widget on your site.

Let’s get into WordPress tags and why you should use them.

What are Tags in WordPress?

Tags in WordPress are descriptive keywords that you assign to posts. They’re helpful for site visitors in a couple of ways. When someone reads a post, the associated tags are displayed, often at the bottom of the page or in a sidebar. By clicking one of the tags, the visitor can access all other posts assigned to that tag.

The other way that tags help visitors is by making it easy to explore all the topics covered in your blog. When your site prominently features a tag cloud, a list of all the tags you’ve defined, it can help guide readers to topics they’re interested in.

WordPress, a fantastic platform for bloggers, simplifies the use of tags, and there’s a native tag cloud widget that’s easy to set up. Additionally, WordPress plugins give you more control over where and how your tags and tag cloud display.

Using tags is all about engaging your readers, but it can also impact your SEO. We’ll explore what you can expect to gain by using tags in your blog in the next two sections.

Should I Use Tags in WordPress?

When you have attracted a new reader to your blog, a single post likely sparked their interest. After they have consumed their first post, you want them to either read other posts on the same topic or explore a collection of related topics. Tags can cause both those things to happen.

A reader who clicks on a tag assigned to the post they’ve just finished reading will get more information about a topic they’re already interested in. A reader who browses your tag cloud will familiarize themself with the breadth of coverage your blog offers. Tagging your posts and displaying a tag cloud are the best ways to engage new visitors who aren’t familiar with your content.

Tags are also helpful for your loyal readers. People who love your blog and visit it regularly may be aware of all the topics you cover, but they’ll appreciate how easy tags make it to navigate your site by subject.

Using tags improves the user experience, and that’s reason enough to use them, but they also impact your SEO. Let’s look at how using tags can help (or harm) how your blog posts get ranked in search results.

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Do WordPress Tags Help in SEO?

Tags can help your SEO, but not how you might think. A common assumption is that search engines assess tags like they do the keywords that appear in your content, but that is not the case.

When a user searches keywords that appear in a post’s title, headings, or content, that impacts whether the post will be included in the search results. Tags don’t have the same effect. Some of the same keywords could be assigned to the post as tags, but because tags are not directly associated with the content, search engines don’t give them the same weight as in-content keywords and other types of metadata.

So, if search engines don’t treat tags like keywords, how do tags help SEO? There are two ways tags can improve your ranking in search results:

  • Tags improve the user experience – Google measures the quality of a website’s user experience using metrics tied to the site’s organization, ease of navigation, and how long users stay on the site. Tags engage users, prompting them to explore more topics and spend more time on your website.
  • Tags help web crawlers index your content – Google favours well-organized sites with a manageable number of categories and tags. Hierarchical relationships in categories and a lean tag collection free of redundancies will help search engines index your content.

When search engines crawl your site to find new content, they encounter a current version of your sitemap, Categories page, and Tags page, which WordPress creates by default. Search engine algorithms use information in those files, with other factors, to assess how well the content is organized.

The high-value keywords you include in your titles and headings help your ranking in search results. Don’t use those same keywords as tags, as that will make it harder for search engines to assess your website’s structure and cause your well-earned ranking to drop.

If your best keywords are the only words that make sense to use as tags, you can use those words as tags, but in that case, you should hide your Tags page from search engines. The noindex WordPress tag instructs search engines to ignore your Tags page while crawling your site. The easiest way to implement that is by using the Yoast SEO  plugin or the noindex SEO plugin, both of which provide a simple interface for excluding your Tags page from site indexing.

To sum up, careful use of tags will greatly impact your search rankings, but misuse could negatively impact how search engines see your site. In the rest of the article, you’ll find tips on perfecting your use of tags so they help your readers and your SEO.

The Difference Between WordPress Tags and Categories

Tags and categories are used to organize your posts, with categories serving as high-level topic identifiers and tags describing smaller details about the content. Categories are like a book’s table of contents, whereas tags are like a book’s index.

Categories are used in WordPress by default – any post that you don’t assign to a category is added to the default category, called Uncategorized. Search engines will have a harder time crawling your site if your content is not categorized. Plus, grouping your topics logically will help your site visitors. 

Categories are hierarchical, allowing you to define parent-child relationships. By dividing your subjects into categories and subcategories, you can simplify how readers find what they’re looking for. In contrast, tags have no relationship to each other. They’re ideal for highlighting important keywords that are too specific to be used as categories while representative of your content.

How to Set Tags in WordPress

WordPress makes it easy to add tags to new posts and existing posts. For new posts, the right-hand panel of the visual editor displays a Tags box where you can enter one or more tags. If you enter multiple tags, separate them with commas. By choosing Posts > Tags in the admin dashboard, you can view, search, and filter all existing tags and add, edit, and delete them.

Although WordPress makes it easy to handle your tags, some plugins offer extended tag management capabilities, like TaxoPress and Category Tag Pages. In addition to providing more ways to manage your tags, plugins in this category typically allow users to define a custom look for their tag cloud to create an eye-catching display that entices visitors to explore more topics.

When discussing SEO, we touched on how the misuse of tags can negatively impact how search engines rank your site. One way you can misuse tags is to overuse them. In the next section, we’ll discuss how many tags are too many.

How Many Tags Should You Use in WordPress?

WordPress does not impose a limit on the number of tags you can use, but you still need to use tags sparingly.

While a small number of tags is helpful for visitors looking for related information on your site, assigning too many can lead readers off track. If the post includes ten tags, some of which barely relate to the topic subject, most of the benefit to the visitor is lost. For that reason, tag assignments should be kept under five and restricted to the most relevant subjects in the post.

The total number of tags you create has an impact too. As we’ll discuss later, a tag cloud widget will display all your tags, but they may be overwhelmed if the reader has 100 tags to choose from. Also, regarding SEO, a straightforward category structure that’s only one or two levels deep coupled with a limited tag collection that doesn’t duplicate your categories makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site.

You should manage your tag collection with the same minimalist approach when defining categories. Limit the total number of tags and ensure that every tag relates directly to the post it’s assigned to.

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How to Display a Tag Cloud in WordPress

Displaying a tag cloud widget, which presents all your tags in one place, gives readers an enticing view of your site’s content. In a single look, visitors can get an overview of your blog’s content and easily jump into the subject they find most interesting.

In WordPress, you can include a tag cloud widget on your site by using the block editor to add a Tag Cloud block. The widget can display up to 100 of your tags, with the most common tags in larger font sizes. Click the + Block Inserter icon, search for “tag cloud,” and select it to add the block. Settings allow you to determine how your tags appear and specify the number of tags to display in the tag cloud.

There are numerous tag cloud plugins that give you more control. Tools like Ultimate Tag Cloud Widget have advanced tag management features, help you include or exclude tags, and provide ordering, colouring, and styling features to make your tag cloud pop.

A Final Word About WordPress Tags

A visitor may enter your site, read the article that brought them there, click a tag at the bottom of the post, read that article, and keep going like that until they’ve consumed five or six of your posts. That scenario alone illustrates the power of WordPress tags. But consider the even deeper engagement that can occur when the same visitor sees your tag cloud widget and becomes aware of the whole scope of your blog.

There’s no doubt that WordPress tags help your blog visitors find related posts and entice them to explore your site’s content, but tags can also help search engines assess how your content is organized, thereby improving your SEO. Practically speaking, though, the most important tag-related SEO factor is avoiding the negative impact of tag misuse.

We hope this look at WordPress tags is helpful. If you create and assign tags with your readers in mind and manage your tag collection with SEO, you’ll delight visitors and keep your posts at the top of search results.

Tim Mattson

Tim is a freelance writer focused on helping people achieve their business goals through digital marketing.

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