To get your WordPress website indexed by search engines, you’ll need valuable, well-written content. However, context is also critical to maximize the appeal of your website. That’s where WordPress tags come in.
WordPress tags offer an easy way to optimize your content. Users can quickly find what they’re looking for, and search engines can recognize your content as relevant.
In our ultimate guide to WordPress tags, you’ll gain general guidelines and practical knowledge to help you maximize the impact of tags on your site.
Table of Contents
- What Are WordPress Tags?
- WordPress Tags vs. Categories
- Tags vs. Meta Tags
- How to Use WordPress Tags
- Maximizing WordPress Tags SEO
Let's get started.
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. Tags allow you to connect multiple pieces of content with similar information.
In practice, the tags are typically displayed either alongside or under the post itself. Users who click through are 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 links it to similar content on your site. Perhaps “glass shower door” or “tiling at home.”
Clicking on these tags should 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.
While you’re not required to create tags for a post, these connections can improve visitor engagement and your overall SEO.
WordPress Tags vs. Categories
WordPress tags, like WordPress categories, can be used to improve your content management. In addition, you can style WordPress categories as you would tags.
So, 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.” One click 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 messy very quickly.
In addition, you can arrange categories in a hierarchical order. This means you could have a parent category of “home renovations,” with child categories such as “kitchen projects” and “bathroom renos.” These child categories can be 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.
- Meta tags are used to describe the site itself.
Meta tags aren’t added in posts 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. That includes the type of content it contains, along with details such as your contact information or content copyrights.
Unlike tags, which you can add 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 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.”
- Then, 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 unsure of 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 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
Regarding maximizing SEO, tag relevance is key to higher rankings.
For example, let’s say you’ve done some keyword research and found many 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 primarily 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 provides added value for your visitors and allows SEO algorithms to connect your content to relevant searches.
Adding WordPress Tags to Your Site
When used properly, WordPress tags can help users find more content quickly. Plus, you’ll improve your site’s overall rank for keyword relevance and context-driven content. It’s a win-win!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.