Categories vs. Tags » Tagging Tips

Tagging is important not only because it brings your site traffic (though that’s important for many, of course), but also because it can bring you the right kind of traffic. It connects you to people who are passionate about the same topics as you, and who might belong to online communities you want to tap into.

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15 Items or fewer

You may have already heard the cardinal rule of tagging on, but it’s worth repeating it: you should never add more than a total of 15 tags and categories, (combined) to your post, otherwise it won’t show up in the Reader. This cap is used to keep out spam blogs — it means that you need to ensure that your tags are only those that are most relevant to your post.

15 is still a lot! Our advice: mix a few general terms with more specific ones, to appeal to multiple groups of potential readers.

Tags for immediate attention

Here’s a number: 50 million. That’s the number of posts published on last month, give or take. Tagging helps you break through the crowd.

Say you have a book blog, and you tag your book reviews with “books” and “reviews” — great! But you’re still competing with about 70,000 posts published with those tags, over the past 30 days. On the plus side, those are very popular tags, with tens of thousands of people checking them every day.

Does this mean you shouldn’t use broad, popular tags? Not at all — just remember that they serve a very specific purpose: to get noticed soon after your post is published by the many people who care about these topics. Their shelf life is very limited, because your post will soon be pushed down in the Reader by hundreds of others, but they attract lots of eyeballs in the first hour or so.

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Tags for the long-term

Let’s assume that post you just tagged is a book review of Andrew Roberts’ biography of Napoleon. Now you can get more specific. Using the “biography” tag means you’re only competing with 1500 or so posts over the past month. “Napoleon?” Now we’re talking: 150.

Tagging your posts with these specific tags might mean that fewer people will look them up. It’s almost certain, however, that those who do will find your post at least somewhat relevant. For you, it’s a double win: your post finds the right audience, and, because the tag is less popular, it stays easily accessible in the Reader for a much longer time.

How many specific vs. broad tags you should add is not an exact science! Try different tags, keep an eye on your stats to see how popular they are, and you’ll figure out what works best for your site.

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