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Using Tag Clouds May Harm Your Search Rankings

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Guest article by Mr.Amit Banerjee from Ampercent. This is a gift for all our readers on account of our 3rd anniversary celebrations.

If you write a blog, a tag cloud can be very useful when you want your readers to push through the different sections of your website. There can be a lot of topics on which you write about and a tag cloud is one of the best ways to organize the content and help the user to easily navigate within your site.

For example: If you write a blog on Blogging and have around 500 posts, it’s not possible to link to all the popular posts from every single page. Rather you can tag your blog posts according to keywords and display a list of tags on your sidebar so that readers can click through them to read the content they are looking for.

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Example ofa Tag cloud

On the user perspective, the tag cloud may or may not be useful. This depends on who the readers of your site are and what type of content you write. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself  before giving the tag cloud a permanent position in your blog template:

Do my readers use the Tag cloud?

If your readers are not using the tag cloud, the original purpose is defeated. You should dig down in your web analytics logs to find out how many pageviews or impressions the tag pages receives a month. By analyzing the ratio, you will be able to figure out whether the users are actually going to the Tag pages or not


You should alter the position of the tag cloud to see whether things work out or not.

For example: Keep the tag cloud in the footer of your template for two weeks and track the results. Then move the tag cloud to the top of the sidebar and track, you have to play with the positions to find out what works best for your site.
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From the Search Engine Perspective

But if you think from the search engine perspective, a tag cloud can sometimes have a negative impact on your rankings.

On the eyes of the search bots, a tag cloud is nothing but a list of links. When you display a very large number of tags in your blog template, the bots may sometime consider it as “Keyword Stuffing”. This is because a tag cloud consists of arbitary words which may or may not have any relation to the blog post in question.

For example: let’s say I am reading a post on “How to make money blogging”. The user in this case is interested in keywords like Making money, blogging, earning online etc. When the bots read that page and find a list of irrelevant tags e.g Nokia, iPhone they will think that the blogger is trying to stuff the page with words which are “not related” to the content of the current page.

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So if you really want to show the Tag cloud in your blog template, here are a few things you should know:

# 1. Don’t overdo

If you use only a few important tags on your blog template , it’s fine. Thus if you have 800 tags on your website, you can find the most popular tags and display the top 30 as a list in the sidebar. Google suggests that you should keep the number of links on a webpage below 100.

Don’t overkill by displaying all the tags or say 200 tags in the sidebar. This will really harm your rankings.

# 2. Control Distribution of Pagerank with Rel=”nofollow”

A search bot crawls different webpages via links. So if a Page A links to page B which in turn links to page C, the page rank is going to flow from A > B  >C. Now suppose you have a large number of tags in all the pages of your site. In this case, the overall page rank of your pages are getting distributed to the tag pages.

You should control this flow of page rank with “Rel=nofollow”. It would be even better if you dump those wordpress plugins and create a manual list of tags yourself.

# 3. Avoid “Phrase Clouds”

Some bloggers have the habit of using phrases as tags for their blog posts. This should be avoided at all costs
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For example: If your post is about Google Chrome, it’s advised to tag it as “Google Chrome” or “Chrome”. The wrong way is to tag the post with phrases like “Download Google Chrome”, “Google Chrome Beta”, “Google Chrome 3.1″ and so on.

These phrases should appear in the content of your blog post and not as tags. The bots can tell what your page is all about, you don’t have to add a ton of “Phrase Tags” for more traffic.

In the following video, Google Engineer Matt Cutts offers some nice tips on working with Tag clouds:

Do you use Tag clouds on your blog ? Please share your ideas and thoughts on the comments section.

amitb

Amit Banerjee, a computer geek who blogs at Ampercent.com If you like this post, you can follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to GadgetCage Feeds via RSS or Email to get instant updates.

14 Comments to Using Tag Clouds May Harm Your Search Rankings

  1. Two main reason to avoid tag cloud is “keyword stuffing” and “loosing link juice”…

    we can avoid by showing less tags of less than 50 and adding to the tag cloud links…..

    — Sudharsan @ Technoskillonline

  2. If you are concerned about losing link juice, you can always try one of those flash based tag clouds! With flash based tags, you can be certain that it won’t either hurt or help your ranking. :)

  3. @techchunks: As far as Flash based Tag clouds are concerned, you can try them. But personally, I don’t like the spinning tag clouds (appears a bit distracting and slows down the blog).

  4. 100% correct….coz if your page is regarding SEO topic and on the same page if you will show Tags regarding jobs,entertainment,chat then you will get low cost advertisement and also your page rank will be less for SEO keyword.

  5. Glad I stumbled on this post and video. In some niches you may not have a wide-range of keywords to choose from to describe something. (for example: TV HDTV and Television are about the ONLY words you can describe the TV market with!) So I can see how a Tag Cloud could really overload a page’s keyword density for starters. And the flow of rank dilution can be problematic as well.

    Less is More. Especially with newbies – they seem to think Goog/Yhoo/Bing need to have a bazillion keywords shoved down their throat to, uh, “understand” what a web page is about. Focus on the body content, kill the fluff like Tag Clouds in the sidebar and you’ll do fine.

  6. I just noticed that on Matt Cutt’s blog he does not even use tags let alone a tag cloud. I don’t see on this site either, I’m considering losing mine and seeing how it affects my rankings.

    • @Dave You will see the effect of SEO measure quite lately but by that time your foundation will be really strong and you wont loose even if you dont post regularly… So never neglect these terms.
      By the way Welcome to GadgetCage. Stay Tuned for more Updates

  7. Yes, what you’ve described is true – but that’s just one half of the story. Basically, tags won’t harm if don’t have too many! So, the big idea is NOT to create hundreds of useless tags, but rather creating them selectively, and using them wisely.

    Few of tags on my site latest-technews.com even have PR2, PR3! Same is the case with categories — so don’t put rel=”nofollow” for tags & categories always!

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