Blog Tag Optimization Tips for News Sites

Ever notice all the tags that some blogs add to their posts? Adding a few meaningful tags is fine but news sites in particular have a habit of taking this practice much too far.

The Huffington Post is a good high-profile example:

Huffington Post blog post tags

Looking at recent posts they appear to have dialed tagging back a bit but the average post still gets quite a few tags.

Unfortunately The Huffington Post’s success with search engine visibility has created a “HuffPo effect” in which other news organizations try to copy their blog formula. More than one news site has specifically asked me if adding this block of tag links to the top of posts is good for SEO.

Back in the day making the most of Technorati tags was a blog optimization best practice because it helped to increase visibility on that site. But that’s no longer a significant opportunity so blog tags are now more about on-site usability; directing users to additional content on a particular topic or allowing them to subscribe to topic-specific RSS feeds.

To be clear, I’m not saying that blog tags have no SEO purpose or value. Tags or categories can be used to help organize content into topical silos and give users and crawlers easy access to posts, and sometimes well-optimized tag pages even rank well. But search engines don’t need 10+ different paths to the same content and over-linking to a vast number of tag pages makes poor use of a site’s of internal link structure.

Tag pages that include the full text of posts can also create duplicate content issues (including only links and excerpts is the better approach). This is compounded by the fact that most news sites don’t establish tagging rules. So the editorial staff ends up creating lots of tags that are nearly the same and/or a large number of tag pages with hardly any posts on them.

At that point over-tagging harms usability too. Users don’t want to sort through piles of tags to find what they’re looking for and they don’t want to click through to a tag page to find nothing there but the post they’d just read.

So use tags, but use them wisely.

In a recent Google Webmaster Central video Google’s Matt Cutts talked about blog tags and SEO:

“There are certainly some blogs, including some really popular blogs, who have an entire paragraph full of tags. And they have clearly spent a lot of time, almost as many minutes writing the tags out as they have the actual content to the post. And I always laugh at that because it’s really not that needed.”

Do yourself and your users a favor and tame your blog tags.

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