The Reasons I Use Categories Only for My Blogs and Why I Think Tags Are Absolutely Worthless

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]

Allow me to let you in on a big secret (and strategy) of mine: I don’t use any tags in my blog posts or on any of my blogs.

Shocked? You might be, but that’s ok!

But here’s the truth: I have found tags to be utterly useless in terms of traffic, SEO, and general site architecture for most (if not all) of my blogs.

In fact, did you know that using tags poorly can pull your SEO ranking down? Now that’s something I bet you didn’t know!

Of course, I won’t just throw you that bomb without explaining myself a bit so I’ll give you some just cause to back all of this up.

Here are a few reasons why I only use categories on my blog posts and why tags are a complete waste of time (and a potential hazard to your SEO):

  1. Tags are simply duplicating data that already exists! Your posts have all the “tags” that it needs from a search engine perspective. Duplicate content can be penalized, even on your own blog!
  2. Additionally, by providing these alternate points of content origin for search engines you handicap yourself. Why would you do that willingly?
  3. Tags provide almost zero value to the visitor or end user. When was the last time you used them to navigate?
  4. Tag clouds are one of the ugliest things on a blog. Period. I hate them. Yes, I used the word “hate.”
  5. Most people have no idea the difference between a “category” and “tag” and yet they use them exactly the same! I see so many blogs that will have a blog post categorized as “WordPress” and then see the same post tagged as “WordPress”… sad!
  6. Categories are more intuitive to the end user and provide better content management than tags since you may end up with hundreds (if not thousands) of tags.
  7. Tags take too much time to fill out and since they provide no value it ends up just wasting your time. I really dislike wasting time when I have little time to waste!
  8. Because Matt Cutts, a search engine engineer at Google (and pretty much one of the best authorities out there on SEO and search technologies) doesn’t use tags on his blog (uses categories only) and has explicitly mentioned that it’s not really worth it.

Check out Matt’s thoughts here:

[tentblogger-youtube A96yDPqa2rs]

Also, here are some of his thoughts on “tag clouds” and their impact on SEO:

[tentblogger-youtube bYPX_ZmhLqg]

Sound logic from the source, right?

The first 3 of my bullet points are really the most important: I want the best search engine ranking possible and duplicating “links” (because that’s what a tag truly is, just a link) is not favorable and neither is creating confusion or poor usability for my end users and visitors to navigate my site.

Categories do just fine and strategic use of them (not too many, mind you!) are all you will need.

So, if tags are providing no additional value for your readers and aren’t being indexed heavily or are a priority index by search engines then why the heck are you using them? One suggestion that I have for you WordPress users is to simply delete all of them:

Go for it... delete those worthless tags!

Now, to be sure, there are some sites that have strategically leveraged tags as an intimate part of their site architecture and it does provide value because they have a site strategy around their use (and it’s not grossly overused and not grossly displayed) but for 99 out of 100 blogs the authors have neither the education nor strategy around them.

So don’t use them. You’re not missing out on anything, trust me.

What Should I Do Then?

Of course, I don’t want to leave you hanging completely! Here are some thoughts:

  1. First off, I’d recommend just staying away from tags and not using them for your blog.
  2. I’d spend more time building some strategy around your categories and defining your content focus.
  3. When executing your strategy via your categories make sure they absolutely fit and don’t veer from the overall focus of your blog.
  4. Limit the amount of categories that you use for your blog. I suggest 8-10 categories at the most.
  5. Prune and review consistently and be judicious about adding any new ones to the mix!
  6. Make sure your blog design favors the use of categories over tags. Checking thoroughly your WordPress Theme that you’re using (or thinking about purchasing) is a critical step.
  7. Blog to your heart’s content and be more happy knowing that you’re saving time not stamping a billion tags on your posts and that you’re probably ranking better without them in SEO!


Oh, and don’t miss this post about Focusing Categories for Maximum Impact!

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]