It’s a new week of the Better Blogger Challenge and we’re not anywhere near out of content! Last week we optimized blog categories (or at least I did), and this week we’re handling Part 2 of the site re-organization:
Many, MANY people do this wrong. And I was one of them. You remember how bad my Categories were? These were worse.
I didn’t organize for the reader… I organized for searching in WordPress, because that’s how I find a good deal of new people to follow. That’s not a terrible thing, I actually re-did some posts to be optimized for this – and I’ll show you how and why, but I also did something really bad… because I was just plain misinformed.
I used tags like keywords.
Yep. Every month. It would have been “Birchbox”, “Birchbox Unboxing”, “Birchbox Review”, “Birchbox August 2016” and probably some tags for the products in the box.
These techniques… they don’t work. Not really. Not like they could or should.
I did a LOT of research over the past month to figure out what did work, and now we’re gonna go over what tags SHOULD be used for, and how to use blog tags the right way.
Understanding Categories vs Tags
Think of your blog like a book: your blog title is (obviously) the title.
We’ll say this is a recipe book, more than a novel, because then you find grouped content and it’s a lot more accurate since, in theory, you want your blog to be a resource, and not a “someday” read.
Categories are the Table of Contents. If you’re looking to read about a specific topic, you’ll flip to a certain section. If you want to learn to make an apple pie, you’ll flip to Desserts, or maybe Baking, depending on how broad the book is. It works the same with a blog. If you want to find my posts that help you learn something about beauty, you’ll go to Lessons in Beauty.
Tags are the Index. The other way to find out how to make that apple pie, is to flip in the back, and find it through Apple, Pie, or Fruit Pies. It’s going to be under all 3 of those things, and it might even be under Apple Pie itself. In a blog, instead of reading what page it’s on, we can have a mini feed of just the posts tagged with that topic. So if you want to read about my tips on wearing black lipstick, you might go to Makeup Tips & Tricks.
You also might come to the end of the black lipstick post, think what I wrote was useful, and click on Makeup Tips & Tricks (below the post – though other themes place it next to, or above) to view more content directly related to makeup tips.
Posts are the Recipes in this little comparison, by the way.
The Two Reasons & Systems Behind Tagging
1. Using Tags To Guide Readers
Use tags for a series of posts. Unless it is a series that you will cover regularly throughout the life of your blog, it should never be a category, but it should be a tag. For instance all of these posts will be tagged with Better Blogger Challenge.
Link to similar content within posts by using your tags. In fact, if you would link to a specific related post within the text of your new post, they should probably share at least one tag. There may be cases that this isn’t true, but it’s something to watch to make sure people move through content organically.
Be descriptive with your tags. You can be more clever with tags than with categories, but both should be somewhat self explanatory and give people a reason to click on it to know what they will find.
Avoid using a tag that you’ll only use once. Remember that “Birchbox August 2016”? That would maybe be used 3 times. Spoilers, Reveal, Unboxing. Maybe 4 if you include the Battle of the Boxes. But even that is a “one time” use, because I’ll never use it again.
2. Using Tags To Gain Readers
The second, more minor reason to use tags, is to be searchable. This works primarily within your network (such as WordPress), but is also indexed by Google.
Think of tags like hashtags. Search for a ‘tag’ and get content that people marked as containing that. That also means its just as irritating if you tag something with a word or phrase that isn’t accurate.
I search for posts regularly under BBlogger, Beauty Blogger, BBloggers, Birchbox, Ipsy, Beauty Box 5, Project Pan, Subscription Box, Beauty Box, Liebster Award, BrandBacker, ColourPop, and Beauties on Fire. I saved each tag to search easily.
That means that people are searching for those things… because it’s very unlikely that I’m the only one that does it. So when it’s accurate, I should be using these tags so that my posts come up in the same tag searches that I and other users are using.
Using tags like ColourPop for a ColourPop haul, even if you never write about them again, lets anyone else that is searching ColourPop in WordPress view you in their reader feed. So you’ll get a lot of other bloggers and people interested in that specific post reading it.
The danger of using one-time tags is when someone clicks on the tag on the post hoping for more reading, they come to a dead end with just that post, and that can cause frustration. So use this technique sparingly.
It is of note, that if someone clicks on a tag while ON your blog, it will only search your blog, however in the WordPress reader, if someone types in that tag, it will show them all posts on all (public) blogs with that tag. Using common terms will get more hits from THAT source. BUT… Google already has enough information from your keywords in your post just from the way you wrote it.
Why You DON’T Want A Tag Cloud
I see a LOOTTTT of bloggers using their tag clouds in their sidebar or footer. And while this isn’t inherently bad… I want to address a few reasons why you should take it down ASAP.
- It’s distracting. If your list is small enough that it’s not distracting, then you’re using the wrong tags anyway and more likely using them how you should be using categories.
- It looks clunky. Chances are you have that size variance based on post count turned on. So you’ve got words as big or bigger than your titles, on some blogs. Where does the eye go? There. Not on your content.
- You miss out on followers. If you do have the size adjustment thing on especially, the small ones don’t look worth clicking on, because obviously you don’t write about it as much. I was just about to follow you for XYZ tips, but it’s one of your smallest categories… you just showed me that I’d get more content I might not be interested in, than the topic I want to see. I probably won’t even come back.
- You take away from your main content. So I’m halfway through a great article you wrote, and this big, clunky wall of text with links taking me to other places, some of it huge, scrolls down the side of my screen. I now might not make it to the end to your call of action.
- It takes up space that could be used better. Almost everything would be better placed here. Your popular posts, your social media profiles, a manual link list of the series’ you’re running now or in the past, referral links… you know, basically anything that has value, since this doesn’t.
- You want readers to use your main navigation: Categories. This exposes them to more related posts on a broader level so they see more of your content.
I could probably come up with another 2 dozen reasons, but I feel like I got my point across. Take it down and lose your amateur status almost instantly. Well, if you can manage to be 85% typo free, too.
Setting Up A New Tag System
I started out with over 1000 tags. I had a screenshot of it, but it got lost somewhere in the shuffle. I wasn’t consistent. I just used search terms. I deleted ALL of my tags and started from scratch, and I came up with a little under 100 tags for my 191 current posts.
The easiest way I’ve found is to go into one Category of posts, and start tagging manually via the Quick Edit button.
You CAN batch add tags, but except for general tags I don’t recommend it. Like the KonMari method, it’s better to have your hands (or at least mouse) on each post to analyze them individually and optimize them.
(in WordPress, you can find your Posts page easily from wp-admin under Posts, then select a category from the drop down. I selected Boxes to show you guys what mine looks like finished)
WordPress recommends 5 – 15 tags per post. I haven’t quite followed that guideline, but I definitely agree that 15 is the maximum, otherwise you actually won’t show up in the feeds for tags away because WordPress views you as spam.
(For reference: Your posts should almost always fit into just 1-2 Categories, with a maximum of 3)
What I did do… is tag things that were accurate, relevant, and of interest. Every box got it’s own tag, because I want to be able to link to all posts concerning Birchbox with one link, and because people use WordPress reader to search for other Birchbox posts.
Tags should be different from Categories. Beauty Box got a tag because it’s searchable and I can use it as a subcategory for anyone interested in anything Beauty Box related. This is different from the Category of Boxes, because I also have Food, Lingerie, and TOM Supplies box reviews.
Tags can be applied to posts in different categories, to link them. PSA can be in any category accurately and clicking it will show you anything else I thought was relevant to post in a quick announcement.
I also used the tags One Time Boxes, My First Box, and Why I Quit It, because those add a different way for a reader to find similar posts.
You basically continue through each category and post, maybe even working your way backwards from older posts to newer ones to give yourself a baseline of what you post over time, until everything has the tags you want it associated with.
NOTE: If you have a very large blog, do your high-traffic posts first (ie: new posts, reference posts that get a lot of hits, etc) so that it’s less noticeable that your blog isn’t 100% done and organized if you need a few hours or days to finish fixing everything.
Fixing & Optimizing Your Blog Tags
This is still recommended, even if you JUST set up your system above.
(in WordPress, you can find your Tags page easily from wp-admin under Posts > Tags)
1. Sort your tags by Count: delete anything with ZERO posts attached.
2. Analyze all tags with a low count, especially 1 post counts, and decide if it benefits a reader in any way to have that tagged.
HINT: If it’s over 1-2 months old, and only used once, it’s likely off of peoples feeds.
I left tags only associated with one post IF:
- I know it is HIGHLY searchable. (ie: Jeffree Star, ColourPop)
- I know I will be posting about it within 2 weeks from today. (ie: Amazon Reviews)
- It is a subscription box or other company that I know I will be posting about again multiple times (ie: Adore Me, BzzAgent, Influenster, etc)
You’ll also see one tag that breaks the rules. My “All About” tag is meant for the All About series of blogger resources I’ve been running every Monday… but it’s not very helpful or descriptive except to those people reading it at the bottom of the post. This is something that’s being updated and it’s a partial tag name as a placeholder until I figure out the ‘right’ tag. Then I can just edit the tag itself instead of having to find and tag later.
3. Fix Duplicates. I ended up with 3 sets of things that were one letter or grammatical choice off (ie: Food Subscriptions & Food Subscription, or One Time Box, One Time Boxes).
You can quickly fix these by right clicking on the count number of the one you choose to get rid of, open in a new tab, and edit that tag to say the right thing. Then go back to the main tab and delete the one you chose to fix.
4. Add Depth. The same way as starting from scratch. Fill holes that people might be looking for more posts of. If you review boxes and don’t have tags for them… make them! Let people find out about Spoilers. Make it accurate to your content and make it add to the readers experience.
5. Add Industry Tags. This goes back to being searchable, and for me it’s those BBlogger and Beauty Blogger tags. You absolutely should not tag EVERYTHING with one of these tags. But if it’s something you think would be of particular interest to those in your industry, or it’s aimed at them… use it.
You can also use it from time to time on new posts you’d like extra traffic on because it’s an extra great post. Or maybe decide whatever you post every Tuesday will be tagged with industry tags to keep you in the feeds. It’s up to you, but avoid having the majority of your posts linked to a tag JUST to be linked to that tag.
That’s about all the tips I have for you, but if you have ANY questions or anything you think I missed, let me know in the comments! If anyone would like private help or to ask a question less publicly as well, you are always welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure you’re following the blog so you don’t miss next week when we talk about:
Writing a Must-Read Post Title
in the meantime, make sure you’re caught up with the rest of the Better Blogger Challenge.