This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Syed in Kerala, India, who writes:
“Should we use tags for blog posts? Do blog tags help SEO?”
Thanks for the awesome question, Syed!
I get this a lot, especially when speaking at influencer and blogging conferences.
The answer, in almost every case, is no. Do not use blog tags.
There is likely no need if you’ve done the work to create user-friendly categories and subcategories.
Before we dig into why, here is the one exception to using blog tags – but it’s not for SEO purposes.
If you have active readers using blog tags to engage with your site, such as shoppers who click on tags regularly to find more relevant content, and these same users increase your pageviews without bouncing, then the tags add value.
In some cases, you may find that you are, in fact, getting SEO traffic to tag pages. This is where we go into the “specific situation” category.
I would make a decision and craft a plan that likely does not apply to most other sites.
Because it is not a general answer and you did not provide your site, I’ll avoid going into a lot of detail.
Please note that we are talking about blogs and not ecommerce stores.
Ecommerce stores can use tags for data feeds, sorting, creating sub-folders and directories, etc.
This can be handled differently using meta robots and other tools.
They are a necessary evil right now for e-commerce, but not for blogs.
For blogs that use tags, I highly recommend applying a metarobots noindex, follow to tags.
The reason to noindex, follow tags is that tags normally lead to thin, duplicate, or competing copy. You don’t want to waste Google’s crawl even if you have proper canonical links, and you could have internal links that are relevant to follow.
Because you want your internal links followed, you use follow instead of nofollow after noindex.
Blog tags, in most cases:
- Generate unique pages that likely compete with main categories and articles because they are short variations of the same topic. There may not be a “read more” type of feature for older sites, which makes the UX weird when full posts and blurbs appear in the reading pane.
- Compete with other tags cannibalizing the keywords if they are too similar.
- Tag pages that contain lots of articles or only a few. These pages are likely not a good user experience for someone to land on from a Google search. However, the articles on a category page can be a better experience.
- Waste your crawl budget. If you have 100 posts and 1,000 tags, search engine spiders get lost in the massive web of tags, and these same tags can destroy a proper site structure.
- Add extra links to the body, sidebar, or a main section of your page which “in theory” dilutes the amount of authority each internal link can pass. I don’t worry about this one as much, but I threw it in here because other people I talk to feel strongly about this.
- If there is an important tag for your topic, you can likely write a dedicated post for it and group it into the blog category. Having a dedicated post for the tag/keyword is a better experience for a website visitor and can make sense for a search engine to show in a search result.
Years ago, tags were good, and bloggers would use them.
But now they are more spammy, produce thin pages, cannibalize keywords, and can hurt your crawl budget.
Unless you are a publisher making money on page views and the tags are driving a lot of revenue for you, I would not recommend using them.
You’re likely better off focusing on your categories and blog posts while using proper site structure, including categories, subcategories, breadcrumbs, sitemaps, internal links, and navigational elements.
I hope this helps answer your question. It’s a great one!
Lots of people ask the same thing on a regular basis.
- Google Discusses Impact of Tags on Rankings
- 10 Amazing Tips to Write High-Quality Blog Posts
- Content Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to What Works
Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
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