Today, in our WordPress tutorials section, we will be talking about WordPress tags and whether or not you should index them. This is one of the simplest WordPress SEO tips but it will help you greatly, especially if you are a beginner.
If you have just started your journey on making money online and/or blogging and using Wordpress as your content management system, you might have many questions about categories and tags. But there is no need to panic and get confused, not at all.
Tags and categories (collectively named as “taxonomies”) are a part of the system WordPress uses to help you show search engines what is what on your website.
Categories should be used to define the main sections of your website while tags (within the posts/articles) should be used to show WordPress more specific things that post is related to.
If we are to give an example; let us say your website is about history, then the categories should be like French history, German history, Spanish history etc.
Or if you want to go larger and categorize your main subject according to time periods, you could choose your categories as Ancient history, the Middle Ages (the Medieval period) and Modern history.
You need to/want to go more specific about your time periods and write about different periods of the Middle Ages? The best SEO practice here is to create sub-categories under the Middle Ages category such as Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages.
But where do the tags come into play? Well, WordPress tags are used while creating a post/an article. You should use them “to signal” what your article is about.
Let me show it to you with an example.
Let’s say you would like to write an article about World War II. You would have to write about the atomic bomb in such an article as it played a vital part in ending it. In that section you would have to mention the Manhattan Project, Julius Robert Oppenheimer and how the bomb was developed in USA.
In that case, your tags should include “the Manhattan Project”, “Julius Robert Oppenheimer” and maybe, some search phrases regarding the atomic bomb such as “World War 2 Atomic Bomb”
Hint: You can see these related search phrases/queries in the Keyword Planner section of Google Adwords.
Take a note here, I wrote “World War 2 Atomic Bomb” (all words with capital first letters) not “World War 2 atomic bomb”. That is a personal choice and I do it that way because tags look nicer like this at the end of the post.
Now, on to the real question.
WordPress Tags – Should I Index or Noindex WordPress Tag Pages ?
The short answer is no. You should not index the tag pages and that is the best practice as of now (and I do not think this will change anytime soon, if at all ). If you choose to index them you will have to make each and every tag page unique.
Why should you make them unique ? That is because Google will penalize your website for having duplicate content pages.
In simple terms, duplicate content is the content you serve under different URLs which looks and reads the same for the search engines (except the tag names/titles on the page). That is to say, it is the repetition of the same thing with very little difference. That is a big no-no for Google.
To simplify things even more, I will give a live example from this website. Now, check the “Tags” section at the end of this article please. You will see that I used “WordPress SEO” and “WordPress Guide” to tag this post as it is a WordPress guide and very much related to WordPress SEO.
(Note that I used these 2 tags also for the previous post about Avada WordPress theme H1 problem)
Now, Ctrl+click on those blue WordPress SEO and WordPress Guide tag links to open their tag pages up in two seperate tabs. Those tabs will look like this:
Do you see the problem here? EVERY single thing on these two different WordPress tag pages is the same. Only their URLs are different.
The pages are complete duplicates/copies of each other. If you index your tag pages, sooner or later you will be penalized by Google and you will lose your search engine ranks.
What Will I Lose If I Get Penalized ?
That depends on the extent of the penalty (which I can assure you will eventually happen). It might take all (or most) of your rankings down with one big hit. At the very least it will prevent your URLs from getting better ranks and hurt your rankings without you even realizing it is happening. There is absolutely no reason to take such a risk.
When starting a new website, noindexing tag pages is one of the first things I do. There are also other pages that might cause the duplicate content problem but I will go into that in another, much larger article and link it here when it is done.
You do not know how you can noindex the WordPress tags? Click here to read my post about how to noindex WordPress tag pages using Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.
Choosing to Index WordPress Tag Pages
Alternatively, you can choose to index WordPress tag pages, however, you need to write “tag page descriptions” for every WordPress tag page and insert these descriptions on the actual tag page.
Some WordPress themes automatically insert those descriptions. Avada 5.0, the theme I use on this blog, is one of those themes. You did not see any descriptions in the example tag pages above simply because I did not write one – to show you the pages look “exactly” the same.
At this point, think about this; you might end up having hundreds of WordPress tags attached to all those blog posts you will write. Are you really willing to put that much effort in writing unique tag page descriptions for each of those tags?
If the answer is “yes”, you’d still like to index the tag pages using this method and need more guidance, here is the post about indexing WordPress tags in the most effective way.
Still got questions about indexing/noindexing WordPress tags ? Ask them in the comments. I will be happy to help!