The Golden Rule of Tagging (oh, and Categorizing)

goldenruleprettyI got to thinking today after reading Rand’s post about how Linkbuilding has changed over the years. It got me thinking about my own blog, and how all the changes in SEO factors over the years have kept coming and going and my own strategy on this blog hasn’t changed much.

{As a caveat- any designer or developer will tell you that their own site always comes last.}

Which reminds me of a question I asked my parent’s when I was young: “Mom & Dad: If doctors are so smart, why don’t they live forever?” I’m not sure I got the answer then but when I look at the websites I’ve built for fun over the years, I know intuitively how knowing something doesn’t mean you put it into practice.

So now that I’ve tossed out that little disclaimer hoping not to scare you off from my professional services (in stark contrast to how I serve myself) I’ll dive right in to the meat & taters.

A few years ago it was really easy to rank for some keywords just by making a whole bunch of tags (by tags I mean both tags and categories. Without diving into philosophical argument, they are essentially the same in WordPress, hence WP’s built in tool to combine them).

So if I wanted to rank for “Doggie Rain Coat”, “Doggie Rain Gear”, and “Doggie Poncho” you could write one post that mentioned all three (and had the appropriate other SEO factors built in) and then simply “tag” that post with three new tags… “Doggie Rain Coat”, “Doggie Rain Gear”, and “Doggie Poncho”.

On an atomic level, tagging a post with a term would create a page on your blog that was decently well optimized for that term. I’m going to try not too esoteric here, so let’s show an example.

Yesterday I wrote a new post pimping some hot new WordPress themes by “Elegant Themes“. I actually named the post something having to do with “Elegant Themes Discount” (cause I like to offer a discount on themes… what can I say?) Anyways, I also categorized the post with “Elegant Themes Discount” which is just idiotic for a whole host of reasons, but namely because I’ll likely never have another post that would/should be categorized that way. So what’s the point of making that a category?

But, like I was saying, I made the category page and it actually ranked for a few hours before the post itself starting ranking. You can see that category page here:

So whether this is the new “hot thing” in SEO or not, my particular belief is that the long-term ranking of a site is at least a function of its usability. And Lord knows that there is nothing worse then driving a bunch of traffic to a site that can’t be used, so let’s assume that usability it crucial for ethical and SEO purposes.

With that in mind, why don’t we all just categorize things the way we’d want to be categorized? (This is the Golden Rule part). Well, maybe not how we’d want to be categorized so much as the way we want to see categories on other sites.

The sad truth about blogs is that their navigation sucks. It’s terrible.

Look at your old posts. If people are going to them it’s because of Google, not because you have a nice sitemap or heaven forbid a solid navigation bar with appropriate names and terminology your target demographic would use.

We all suffer from not-good-nav-on-our-blog-itis.

That’s why the Blogging Gods handed us Tags and Categories. It was a way to make sense of it all. And look what we’ve done with them.

Have you ever been on a site that had a few… maybe 5-10 really well thought out categories that almost everything made it’s way into somehow? Wasn’t it lovely to have someone organize something the way you’d want to see it instead of just keyword dropping? That’s the kind of blog that I like, and the kind I want to have.

So “make sense of my categories and tags” made its way to the bottom of my Next Actions list (GTD talk for ToDo) but it could be a while since it isn’t client work….