When I originally wrote this article I was allowing the search engines to index my tag pages as well as my category pages.
However, since all my articles appear in both tag and category pages, I recently changed my approach and now ‘noindex’ my tag pages. This is because the search engines can find all my articles through the category pages so I don’t want to dilute my SEO focus.
Original article starts here:
I just spent a full day reviewing and rationalising the tags on this site – and reduced them from 82 to 49. Here’s why:
Categories and Tags are WordPress’ filing system and, as anyone who’s worked in an office will tell you, having a good filing system is crucial to being able to find important information quickly.
With WordPress, having a good category and tag structure (filing system) has a couple of benefits:
- It makes it easier for first time visitors to find what they’re looking for, or to discover what else is on the site
- It helps to keep visitors on the site longer by giving them an easy way to find other articles on the same subject
And if it’s easier for humans it’s also easier for the search engines.
How do I use categories and tags?
I’ve evolved the way I use categories and tags over time as my understanding has grown.
I have 10 categories on this site now, and any articles I write must fit into one of them. I no longer add new categories.
That helps me to keep the site focused.
One of those is a category called WordPress. So all articles I write on any aspect of WordPress will go into that category. Think of it as the WordPress filing cabinet.
Within the WordPress filing cabinet I have a number of folders, which contain articles that are more closely related to each other. These are my tags.
So any article I write on anything to do with a WordPress plugin will go into the WordPress plugins folder (tag), which is in the WordPress filing cabinet.
And any article on anything to do with a theme will be in the themes folder.
Then, at the bottom of each article, I display the tag that it’s in – with the description ‘Filed in:’.
So anyone reading to the bottom of the article, and who’s interested in similar articles, only needs to click the tag link to find a listing of all the other articles related to the one they’ve just read.
One of the benefits of electronic filing in this way is that you can file an article in two (or more) places. That’s useful if your article covers a couple of areas.
So, for example, an article that reviews a WordPress security plugin would be filed in both WordPress Plugins and WordPress Security.
I also display the titles and links to 3 other related articles. These are generated by the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.
The YARPP settings are pretty focused and one of them allows me to specify that links to other articles can only be added if they’re in the same folder (tag) as the one being read.
This, again, helps to ensure it’s easy for people to find more information on the same subject.
Search Engine Optimisation settings
WordPress’ structure enables you to access the same article in a number of different ways: month archives, day archives, year archives, author archives, tag archives and category archives.
In order to keep the SEO on this site focused I ‘noindex’ all those archives with the exception of my tag and category archives. Those are indexed.
Those settings can be made in any of the SEO plugins (All-in-one-SEO pack, Platinum SEO, etc.) and some of the better theme frameworks. Here’s how to do it in Thesis.
By keeping my categories and tags focused in this way, the search engines can get all the articles on my site indexed more easily. (I also, of course, use the Google Sitemap generator to help with that).
Plus, my category and tag pages will appear in search results.
And that all helps to grow the traffic to my site from the search engines.
New sites vs. old sites
I mentioned at the start that my understanding of categories and tags has evolved over time. The structure of your site will also need to evolve.
Today I do not have any tags with only one article in them. Following the logic above, the article in that tag would never be displaid or linked to from another article.
However, the first article on a new site will be the only article in both its category and its tag.
So at the outset of a new site you’re going to struggle with its structure. This is unavoidable.
You can ease that struggle a bit with some advance planning.
Make sure you have a focus for the site and create a number of articles prior to launching it.
This will also enable you to set up your initial filing system, because those articles are likely to cover a number of different subject areas.
But as you write more articles you’re going to have to review and revise your filing system and, quite likely, re-file articles that you’ve written previously.
This is exactly the exercise I’ve just completed.
It’s a pretty mundane old task, but reviewing your filing system and re-filing articles where it makes sense will help to continuously optimise your site.
Which will help both your site visitors and the search engines.