Content Marketing: The Lost Art of Post Tags and Categories

by 7 02/20/2014

You’re missing a huge opportunity. Right now, I’m almost certain you don’t bother with categorizing or tagging your blog’s content.

What you don’t realize is that not doing so makes your life a million times harder when it comes to publishing content, and that you’re probably missing out on some very easy traffic opportunities. Want to fix it? Read on.

Why categorize my content?

There are three areas that benefit from having a cohesive categorization structure for your content: publishing, SEO and usability. Let’s break these down:

Publishing

We’ve talked about this in insane detail already, but the basic idea behind implementing a cohesive categorization is to answer the question, What are the subjects that make up my blog’s primary topic?

For example, if I ran a blog about Online Marketing, my categories might include:

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing

From a publishing perspective, this could help you structure a content calendar that’s informed by the categories on your site (e.g., on Monday we talk about Social Media, on Wednesday we talk about Email, etc.)

Studies have shown that people typically perform better on every level when boundaries are established .

Creating a framework for how you publish on your site will eliminate much of the anxiety associated with “what do I publish next?”—especially if you’ve done the upfront work of keyword research and you have a general roadmap of your content goals.

SEO

From the SEO perspective, the linking structure of your website ends up looking something like this, where your homepage is the big dot at the top and the blue dots underneath are the categories.

image source

Within this pyramid structure, your categories target the shorter, highly competitive key phrases, and the articles within that category target long tail, highly specialized key phrases.

Because this structure goes hand in hand with the dandelion keyword theory, which basically supports creating content around a major keyword—search engine spiders can easily crawl the site and “know” what each page in the category is going to be about.

What’s more, when others link to the long-tail pages, the link juice will flow up towards the shorter, more competitive keyphrase, increasing everything in the category’s chances of ranking well. Take for instance the “Content Marketing” category page on Copyblogger.

Even though the top part of the page looks like a well-designed landing page (more on this later), when you scroll all the way to the bottom, you notice the “Content Marketing Advice,” which is really all of the most recent posts organized in the “content marketing” category.


For a FANTASTIC case study and heart-warming story on strong content categorization, read this article about Noahsdad.com—a site about raising a child with Down Syndrome—and how they categorized the site to segment visitors and direct them to the right content.

Usability

From the user’s perspective, proper categorization of content allows me to easily navigate broad topics on your site and get exactly what I’m looking for.

If I wanted to read content on “Email Marketing,” I click on the “Email Marketing” link, and everything I see is about… well, you get the idea.

Like I was saying in the last section, categorization can also be used to help segment your viewers.

Take this proposed structure for Noahsdad.com.

The menu helps filter new parents from students looking for research, people who need support, or journalists looking for news stories.

Because each category page can be customized and can include things like custom content and email opt-in forms, they can be used to prequalify people signing up to your list.

By delivering highly targeted messaging through autoresponders, based on what you know about people who sign up through the page, you can dramatically improve your open rates, clickthroughs and, eventually, sales—all because you put extra thought into how you categorize your content.

So then, what the heck are tags?

Tags are the second level of organization for your categorized content.

They allow for organization of more specific content, making it easier to search for very specific terms OR cover terms that are applicable across multiple categories.

Put another way, where categories cover broad, overarching topics, tags allow for specificity and connections that bridge one category to another.

One analogy I really like, found on ManageWP.com, was:

“[…]if categories are the table of contents for your blog, tags represent the index.”

Still confused?

Stay with me, this example should clear things up.

How to categorize and tag a men’s footwear review site

On a men’s footwear site, you’d see shoe categories based on style of footwear.

  • Boots
  • Loafers
  • Sneakers

These are broad terms that serve as a good starting place for shoppers, mainly because most people know they want a certain type of shoe before they know the details like color or brand name.

But, on the off chance you’re looking for something very specific, you might find tags such as:

  • Blue
  • Classic
  • Suede
  • Diesel Brand

Clicking on one of these links delivers a page full of search results where that tag is the element that all of the results have in common.

The purpose here is to broaden the horizons for folks who either want more information on a certain topic or aren’t sure what they’re looking for and need a broader range of similar topics to parse through.

“I like this blue, but I’m not sure I want a boot. What else is out there?”

If anything can be both vague and specific, tagging is it.

Here’s how I approach tagging

When considering tags I ask, “If I were searching for something like this, how many different ways could I look for it?”

With proper tagging, a visitor could search for blue suede shoes and see a relevant assortment of blue boots, loafers, and sneakers.

Likewise, they could search for a brand name and see all of that brand’s shoes the site offers with no filtering based on color, style, or material.

Without tags, the only thing an internal site search could use are the page’s title tags, which are not likely to contain the descriptive “meta” phrases associated with what’s on the site.

But how do you tag posts when your site covers something intangible, like information?

The way I use tags on my online marketing blog is to identify practices or processes that are shared across multiple disciplines of online marketing. So let’s say I categorized my site by various online marketing disciplines:

  • Content Marketing
  • SEO
  • PPC

Now I know I’m going to talk about things like “Keyword Research,” “Copywriting” and “Headlines” quite a bit, but because it will always be in the context of the categories and never really as a practice of it’s own, articles that feature “Keyword Research,” “Copywriting” or “Headlines” will be tagged.

Why are they so misunderstood?

There isn’t a lot of authoritative information available, because there isn’t a formula that can be applied to every site.

Choosing what topics become categories and which become tags is dependent on what you plan to offer on your site, what your users will come to you for, and where else on your site you want them to go once they’ve found what they’re looking for.

There’s also the simple matter of a site meeting its initial goals without using proper tagging. Without trying it, it’s hard to notice there’s anything missing.

This is a practice that makes “good” better.

How can tags and categories be beneficial to improving search ranking?

With every tag and category, an extra page is added to your site.

Adding the tag “blue” to a post about blue shoes means now you have two pages: the original result page, and a new page with all of the items tagged “blue.”

Add “suede” and now you have three.

Basically more pages mean more real estate opportunities to rank in search engines—and the more tightly woven your entire website becomes. But don’t stop there.

WordPress and every other major content management system also give you the option to create custom content for your tag and category pages.

Really take the time to make these pages evergreen, cornerstone content, because every time you categorize or tag a new piece of content on the site, it adds an internal link to the custom page and reinforces that page’s strength.

For more reading: check out Wordtracker’s guide to internal linking.

A word of caution: Tagging can be a double-edged sword

Adding tags that are overly specific in hopes of creating multiple pages might mean thinning out your content if you’re not keeping track.

“Blue” may turn up 100 results on your site. “Blue suede” may turn up 50. “Blue suede green soles” may turn up a search result of one.

Sure, you have three additional pages, but one of them is virtually useless.

Tags that only have one or two results look like “thin” content, and Google may penalize or ignore your site if it is a widespread problem.

To see what this looks like on your WordPress site, visit:

http://yoursite.com/wp-admin/edit-tags.php?taxonomy=post_tag

…and check out the number of posts associated with each tag.

Managing your tags

Simply put: Keep track of what you use for tags and know when to stop.

Most content management systems have a method for tracking tag useage, but I recommend keeping tabs by using a separate spreadsheet.

On the spreadsheet, I recommend keeping track of the tag name, number of articles tagged, keyword search volume and titles of articles associated with that tag.

Keeping this in one place allows me to do my keyword research, know at a glance what posts might be relevant to what I’m about to write, and write mindfully of tags that may be coming up as “thin” content.

Conclusion

While improving your site’s internal navigation and structure might seem like a lot of extra work, it’s well worth investing in.

Tom Ewer of Managewp.com has stated that simply improving the tagging and categorization structure of a client’s blog resulted in an extra 10,000 visitors per month, making up just 5% of the overall site traffic.

With readers’ ever shrinking attention spans and Google using time on site as a ranking factor, doesn’t it just make sense to make it easy for visitors to get what they want as quickly as possible?

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Tommy Walker.

About 

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist, show host, and prolific guest blogger specializing in highly effective, counter-intuitive approaches to online marketing. He seeks to expand your thinking on what's possible with online content.

Check out his approach on guest post landing pages, and get a free copy of The Top Ten Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes by clicking here.

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7 COMMENTS

Lisa Moore

Great article, Tommy! This is very helpful, actionable info.

February 20, 2014 Reply

Renee Litzenberger

What you’re describing is formally known Subject Cataloging in Library Science. In its most distilled form cataloging asks what is the nature of this content and what shall I name it so others can find it. This is why Melvil Dewey’s system of subject classification is still so effective today. Or the Library of Congress along with the Sears List of Subject Heading. It begins with a controlled vocabulary and then human cateloguers determine what the subject tags will be for that work.

February 20, 2014 Reply

Mike Wilton

While this is great for getting more content from your site in the index for some of the related terms you might be targeting, I’d be careful with a strategy like this. What you failed to mention in this post is the risk of duplicate content that is posed when indexing Categories and Tags into Google’s index. WordPress ultimatley generates multiple versions of your content, or your summaries throughout your site when you index tags and categories.

Another thing to consider is that Category and Tag pages are more or less search results for a certain type of content, and Google has been cracking down on stuff like this over the last few years as it tends to be a bit less useful to users. As you mentioned in your article, “thin content”

Ultimately you want Google to give the most importance to the articles on your site and not your Tags and Categories. I think advice like this is going to get more pages in the index for sites, but it’s not really the best advice for overall SEO performance. If mismanaged it could create more pitfalls to your performance than benefits. Not to mention you probably want people getting pages most relevant to their search from your site to show up for their keywords, not an index of all of your content that is loosely related to those terms.

February 21, 2014 Reply

    Tommy Walker

    That’s a very good point Mike, and to your point about duplicate content, if you’re using excerpts and “rel=canonical” tags on the original pages, you will be more than fine.

    Also, I did address another part of what you’re talking about by adding custom descriptions to each of your tag & category pages, so you’re not just having pages of search results indexed, but instead high quality, top level overview of evergreen content.

    If I’m adding tags about “email marketing” to a page that is a truly indepth resource on email marketing, which also happens to link to my most recent articles on…email marketing, I don’t think google is going to be cracking down on that.

    Type email marketing into google and see copyblogger’s result to see what I am talking about.

    What I am talking about here is not intended to be quick or even easy way to game google, it’s really quite the opposite, at least to get set up.

    February 21, 2014 Reply

Noah’s Dad

Thaks for including our site and the link to our review with seomoz!

February 22, 2014 Reply

Ben U.

​Hey Tommy,
Great post as usual. Each month, I put together a roundup of the best social media, SEO, and content marketing articles. I thought that our readers would find your post useful, and as such, I included it in this month’s edition. http://www.northcutt.com/blog/2014/03/february-round-up-best-seo-social-media-and-content-marketing/ Thanks for a helpful and informative post.

Ben

March 6, 2014 Reply


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