Don’t get trigger happy with tagging

By Adam Bunn | 03 May 2015

It's time to talk about an interesting SEO and content issue I'm seeing more and more.

Companies are obviously latching on to the need to have a blog and populate it - prolifically. Setting aside whether this is a good idea at all, let's look at the impact this is having.

In my experience, blogs are often run by people whose remit is to go forth and write stuff, which they certainly do with great gusto, and crucially they often tag things with equal abandon. They put no thought towards what this is doing to their site structure - and why would they?

What's a tag for anyway? It's supposed to organise posts into logical, themed collections. They should be good for users because they allow them to find other similar content and improve SEO rankings because they form a powerful "hub" page that is the central point in the collection of content about a topic, and therefore a naturally well ranking page.

However, this logic only holds true if one shows "tag discipline". This means that if your tag has only been used once or twice, it is achieving neither of the aforementioned goals, and also causes SEO headaches such as content duplication, excessive pages, wasted Google crawling and so on.

Our SEO team recently redesigned a site where we took the opportunity to restructure the tagging structure as, by their own admission, it had gotten out of hand. Fixing issues like tags that were only used once or twice, and tags which were misspellings of other tags or functionally the same thing, we managed to trim them down from 800 tags to about 50.

But that was not the worst case I have seen, oh no! I recently did a tag site search for a popular high street brand's blog to find that thousands of results were pulled up, this is far beyond what you'd expect for any brand.

A tag site search through Google is often a quick way to get the measure of how trigger happy a company is with tags. In this case, very. Thousands of tag pages indexed by Google? This is not a good sign. Bear in mind that there will be many more that Google is not indexing… even Google gets fed up of clicking through pages eventually.

You could say that this brand favours the shotgun approach to tagging.

Actually no… the mini gun approach.


Here's a good example of the cause of the problem.

Guess how many times each of these tags is used?

  • Brighton youtubers - Once
  • UK youtubers - Once!
  • Westfield stratford - ONCE!
  • Zoe Sugg - ONCE!!!!
  • Zoella…. Yes, just ONCE!!!!!!

You get the picture I'm sure… So, that's seven identical tag pages from just one post on their blog. We all know that Zoella is very important but how many YouTube subscribers you have is irrelevant, nobody warrants this much tag love.

Are any of the tag pages going to be useful to users? Probably not. Are they bad for SEO? Definitely! So when it comes to tags, remember…


Don't get caught up in a tagging frenzy, keep your tags selective and refined - and above all, avoid creating tags which may never be used again!

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