When it comes to getting your WordPress website noticed and indexed by search engines, relevant, well-written content that delivers real value to visitors will always outperform generic posts and articles that are simply vehicles for keywords.
The caveat? Content alone isn’t enough to push your site to the top of search engine results. To really maximize the appeal of website pages to search engines, context is also critical — how does specific content relate to the rest of your site? To your target market? To the Internet at large?
WordPress tags offer an easy way to organize and optimize your content, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for and search engines to recognize your content as relevant.
But what exactly are WordPress tags? How do they compare to similar structures like categories and meta tags? More importantly, how do you effectively implement them on your site?
In our ultimate guide to WordPress tags, we’ll offer both general guidelines and practical knowledge to help you maximize tactical tag impact.
What are WordPress Tags?
WordPress tags are very similar to keywords. They’re used to highlight specific concepts or details on a page or post that let you connect multiple pieces of content with similar information. In practice, the tags are typically displayed either alongside or under the post itself and are clickable — if users click through they’re taken to a list of all posts on your site that share the same tag.
Let’s say you run a home renovation business and create a new post about bathroom remodeling. Your tags should highlight information on the page that link it to similar content on your site — such as “tile installation”, “sink plumbing” or “waterproofing”. Clicking on these tags will take visitors to a list of pages with similar content; this might include posts about entryway tile installation, kitchen sink plumbing or even exterior waterproofing — all of which may be relevant to user interests and are connected by tags.
While you’re not required to create tags for a post, using tags that connect your new content to other pages on your site is a great way to improve visitor engagement and improve your overall SEO.
WordPress Tags vs. Categories
Along with WordPress tags, WordPress categories can also be used to improve your content management. But what’s the difference?
Think about it like this: While both tags and categories are part of WordPress taxonomy — the process of classifying things or concepts — tags are specific while categories are broad.
Consider our home improvement example from above. The tags focus on specific aspects of the content page itself, such as sink plumbing or tile installation. The categories, meanwhile, speak to the broader impact of the content — in this case, the categories might be “bathroom renovation” or “home improvement” which will lead users to a list of pages filed under those same categories.
It’s also worth noting that while tags are entirely optional, categories are required for any WordPress post. If you don’t assign a category the post is filed under “uncategorized”; if all posts are filed this way your site can get very messy, very quickly. In addition, categories can be arranged hierarchically, meaning you could have a parent category of “home renovations” which contains child categories such as “kitchen projects” and “bathroom renos”, followed by a second set of even more specific categories such as “installing a new vanity” or “replacing your old countertop.”
Tags, meanwhile, have no such parent/child structure. As a result, they’re applicable to posts no matter their category — any post tagged with “plumbing” will show up when visitors click on the tag, regardless of which category it occupies.
Tags vs. Meta Tags
It’s also worth breaking down the difference between tags and meta tags. While the word “tag” appears in both, they’re fundamentally different: Tags are used to categorize posts and pages on your site, while meta tags are used to describe the site itself.
Meta tags aren’t added in post or page details. Instead, they’re added to the WordPress header.php file under the “themes” directory of your wp-content folder. These meta tags may contain general information about your site itself and the type of content it contains, along with details such as your contact information or content copyrights.
Unlike tags, which can be added directly to posts from within the WordPress content editor, meta tags must be added by either manually adding code or using a WordPress plugin. While search engines used to prioritize meta tag data in ranking and relevance decisions, they’ve largely been supplanted by more specific taxonomy solutions such as page tags and categories.
How to Use WordPress Tags
Using WordPress tags is simple:
- From your WordPress admin dashboard click “Posts”, then “Add New”
- On the right-hand sidebar, look for the “Tags” box
- Enter any relevant tags, each separated by a comma
While you may have several tags in mind before you write the post, it’s worth revisiting the Tags box once you’re finished to add any other relevant tags before the page goes live. If you’re not sure which tags to use, WordPress includes a “choose from the most used tags” option just below the Tags box which will suggest some of the most popular post tags. Even if none of these tags fit your post, they may provide inspiration to help refine your tag strategy.
It's worth noting that while while tags are essential to help categorize your content, more tags aren’t always better. Here, the rule of thumb is simple: Value over volume. Although you could add hundreds of tags to a home improvement post — everything from “hammer” to “wires” to “structure” and “safety” — many of these don’t add any direct value and instead take users to the same set of pages over and over again. Instead, tags should deliver value by helping visitors find relevant content on your site as quickly as possible.
Maximizing WordPress Tags SEO
When it comes to maximizing SEO, tag relevance is key to higher rankings. Let’s say you’ve done some keyword research and found a high number of searches for reliable home kitchen renovators in your area. While you could try to capture this market by linking every post to kitchen-related tags — even if pages are largely focused on other aspects of your business — the divide between content and context won’t deliver the SEO bump you want.
Instead, it’s critical to create content that lends itself naturally to relevant and specific tags. In the case of our kitchen reno SEO capture, this means writing blogs and creating resources that deal with specific aspects of kitchen renovations and then highlighting their shared characteristics in your tags. This not only provides added value for your visitors but also allows SEO algorithms to connect your content to contextually-relevant searches.
Adding WordPress Tags to Your Site
Building a great WordPress site means leveraging every tool available to maximize visitor engagement and boost SEO. Used properly, WordPress tags can help users find more content, more quickly and improve your site’s overall rank for keyword relevance and context-driven content.
Originally published Dec 30, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated March 17 2021