Is there a problem with using tags on WordPress? Should I be using them or not?
You will read varied opinions on the use of tags in WordPress. My advice yes, use them if you want the SEO advantage they bring. However, the way I do it is to avoid their use on new sites. Instead, as you add more and more posts, to implement a planned tag strategy for SEO.
The Problem With WordPress Tags
The general problem with tags is that they can generate a ton of duplicate content on your site. This is due to the way WordPress works.
How Does Google Deal With Tag Duplicate Content
I read an article the other day that said Google can handle this type of non-malicious duplicate content. Based on that, they said there was nothing to fear.
The Disadvantages of Duplicate Content
It is true that Google tries very hard not to penalise for duplicate content unless they believe their rules are being deliberately flouted. But how can you be sure that Google is counting your tag page duplicate content as innocent? While they don’t typically penalize for innocent duplicate pages, they do filter duplicate pages.
So you could have the wrong (duplicated) page, rank for a keyword while the correct one disappears from the index. In general the disadvantages are as follows:
- The wrong page may rank over the right page so lowering your conversions. You may be thinking – hmmm – that’ll never happen. No it may not for the phases you planned to rank for but what about all your long tail phrases that you didn’t know you ranked for?
- Your site will be crawled inefficiently if you have too many pages that are essentially the same and so important pages may be missed by the crawler.
- Your site will not appear to have as much unique content as it should, thereby clouding the data model that Google is trying to build of your content.
While none of these are penalties, they are undesirable.
How Do Tags Cause Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can arise due to :
- Over-tagging of posts
- Not using extracts on your archive pages thereby allowing them to contain full posts.
Each tag creates a tag page on your site. And every post that you mark with a tag, gains an entry on the tag page. If you put the tag red on 10 pages and the tag blue on 10 pages, they had better not be substantially the same 10 pages. If they are you will have created two tag pages that are essentially the same. You’d be surprised how many people do this and it is caused by over-tagging.
You can set your Genesis theme up to place extracts on archive pages (this includes tag pages). At least this will prevent the tag pages from including the whole article in full, for each tagged page. But even if you only include extracts, you are duplicating an extract from a full post somewhere on your site. This isn’t great either.
So the best advice is to hand-craft each of those extracts and never generate tag pages with the same content. We teach you how to do this in the SEO module of the Apprentice Course.
How To Handle Duplicate Tag Page Content
On a new site have no tags whatsoever. As time passes and the site grows, create a tag strategy where you organise your tag pages to
- Be completely unique content
- Have value to the visitor
- Call the visitor to action and aim for a conversion.
We will go over a step by step strategy for doing this and a way to really make tag pages work for you in the Apprentice course. But basically what we will cover is this.
- Setting up a tag for a key phrase
- Writing a number of posts that support that keyphase
- Augmenting the tag page to make it look like a “normal”, non-generated page
- Add a call to action
- Change the way sidebars display content to create less sidebar duplication across tag pages
Tag pages already have the potential to rank well in the search engines by virtue of the way they contribute to the structure of a WordPress site. If you can further enhance them to utilise that SEO rocket boost, you can benefit from them for conversion and not suffer any kind of duplicate content filtering at all. That is a win-win.