Are blog tags working? Are they working for your blog? As a blog reader, do you use them to search a blog when you visit? Do you visit Technorati and search through their tags for information, or do you just hit the search engines?
We’ve been playing with tags on our blogs for about three years or so and I’m wondering if they are still working.
Categories work. I use categories all the time on the blogs I visit. They represent the content on the blog, directing me to categories of information I may be interested in. I also use them as identifiers on the expertise of the blogger. If the categories are related, they must know what they are blogging about. I see categories as your blog’s table of contents.
Tags, however, are more like your blog’s index words. They are micro-categories. Do you use them when you visit a blog? I’m not and I’m wondering why.
Many people believe that their tags have to link to Technorati. Thus, clicking a tag on a blog post takes you from that blog to Technorati. The resulting page doesn’t restrict the tagged content to the blog I was just reading. It’s filled with everyone who used that tag, whether or not that tag represents a good description of their blog post.
That’s not very helpful if you want to find related content on that blog and not every blog, is it? And it’s odd using tags to search for related content off your blog. I want to stay put and explore this one first!
Tag search results generated on Technorati cover everything and anything as many bloggers don’t really think out their tags very well, using whatever pops into their mind that should be related to the subject, but might not be. I think of this technique as the CYA of Tagging.
On WordPress.com blogs, the tags link to all blogs on WordPress.com using the same tag. That sucks.
Click on the writing tag and you will get things like Torry Holt: The Best Wide Out in the NFL, Morality and Government Today about religion and legislating morality, “Democracy?” is a post featuring a collection of old and odd facts of government business, Cut and Let is a restaurant review, and “I’m the boss” covers one person’s thoughts on “If I ruled the work world.”
These are all “writing” but ain’t most all blog content “writing”. I would not have used the writing tag on any of those as they aren’t about writing.
Sure, I want to be a part of the WordPress.com community, but let my tags keep my readers on my blog. Tags are supposed to represent my content, not everyone else on the planet.
I’ve seen many bloggers tag without common sense, using strange combinations or words or concepts or just mindlessly coming up with some words.
For a while, many believed that if their taxonomy was unique, it would restrict their blog post to that tag category, thus it would have little competition.
Wait a minute. Aren’t tags supposed to be search terms? Helping searchers find what they are looking for? Tags like “something I just thought of” or “useless thoughts” aren’t helpful phrases for searchers. I’ve never searched with those words. Have you?
On my WordPress.com blog, I want readers to dig through my content, not take a gamble on what others think is “writing” or whatever. I monitor several content-specific tags on Technorati like blogging tips, wordpress, wordpress tips, and blog writing, and I find porn, ads, splogs, and clearly unrelated content in those feeds every day.
Do you think I want to recommend those sites to my readers?
Technorati now admits that they search everything, tagged or not. While theoretically, you could search by tag, your searches search through the content beyond the tags. So what’s the point?
When was the last time you honestly went to Technorati first to search? Nah, you hit Google, Yahoo, or MSN, right?
WordPress is about to incorporate tags into their core programming, which will replace one of the most popular WordPress Plugins, the The Ultimate Tag Warrior.
This isn’t a rant to encourage you to stop tagging your posts. I think there is value in tags. If they are used right and benefit the readers as well as the bloggers.
As a blogger, tags are important to me because I assume they are useful to my readers. But as a blog reader, I don’t use them nor rely upon them. I don’t trust them.
My question to you is:
Do you use tags on blogs and do you use tags to search? What value are tags to you as a blog consumer and user, not blogger?
As mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, explaining, and justifying tags, and the issue of tags versus categories (they are different!). I don’t come by these thoughts of defeatism with tagging lightly. I’m a firm believer in tags, but something’s been broken and lost along the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.
Here are some of my previous thoughts on the issue of tags and tagging:
- Tags and Tagging in WordPress and Everywhere
- Categories versus Tags – What’s the Difference and Which One?
- The Problems With Tags and Tagging
- Categories versus Tags: Defining the Limitations
- Putting Some Thought Into Blog Categories and Tags
- Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense
- Tags Are Not Categories – Got It?
- 2005 – The Year of the Tag
- What Do You Blog About? Check Your Tags
- Playing Tag With WordPress
- Abuse: Keyword Spamming versus Tag Spamming
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.