Moving beyond just tagging

Ryan Weal

July 25, 2007

How often do you go to a blog and see a swarm of tags down the side of the page which have little or no relevance? Well, if you look at this blog you will see just that. Right now most of the new tags are empty but this is intentional as I rework the blog.

We run a few blogs out of my office which has led me to have some criticisms of tagging in general. The first lesson that I have taken away is to keep the format your tags consistent. In my del.icio.us bookmarks I use all lower case words for my tagging for consistency, while on the blog I'm trying to reinforce proper capitalization of words to bring it more in line with news media. Many blogs I see have a mixture of both and it appears unprofessional to the casual viewer visiting the blog for the first time.

Another strategy that I am keen to embrace is to limit the number of tags. I hinted in a previous post but I think more needs to be said. Some bloggers will add new keywords each time they post an article but this quickly gets out of control. One particular entry in a blog I read has only one story about religion but a tag was created so this is visible on every single page. The author may not realize this, but the post challenges the blog's credibility in other ways when the general topic of the blog has nothing to do with religion. To avoid these mishaps I think the best strategy is to limit yourself to a set number of tags. If something doesn't fit, cut the article as it will deviate from the defined scope of the blog (or tag it with something more meaningful).

Since we're now in the business of defining our tags I think a further step is needed in blog functionality that has been missing for some time. Tags as landing pages. Yes, that's right, when you click on a tag you should be taken to some kind of customized section. Perhaps a definition of the tag, what it means to you, it's history and why you use it on the blog. This makes sense when you think about the tags as "categories" of information. Users will rejoice that your tags will become research topics for them and the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits will be great too: no longer would search engines ignore your tags but rather see them as individual pages worthy of indexing. The thought of that sounds enticing.