Play Tag: WordPress Tags Help Your Readers

WordPress tags on Websites for Small Biz
An easy way to help the reader look through your various pages, posts and articles, even easier than categories and category pages, is by using WordPress tags. Tags are part of what is called taxonomy – that’s a big fancy word that means how you classify all different parts of your content. So categories are also part of taxonomy. The main difference between category and tag is you must add a post to a category (otherwise it will become ‘uncategorized’), but you don’t need to add tags.

Let’s say you already have about ten different categories on your blog. You might have one called cooking and another called vacations. Perhaps in both you discuss pomegranates. You don’t really want to start a whole category called pomegranates. Easy way to solve your problem – in both, add a tag called pomegranate!

pomegranates as a possible tag for your WordPress blog - learn more on Websites for Small Biz,
Pomegranates important to your readers? Use pomegranates as a tag on your blog.

Think about what you discuss and what is important to your readers. You can go through past posts and add tags now. It might help you organize your thoughts as well for future posts.

How do you add tags to your post?

While you are in Edit mode for a post, there is a box on the right called Tags. (If for some reason it is not there, it could be it was turned off in Screen Options, which is at the top of the Edit page). Here’s how it looks:

tags in WordPress back end

If you want to enter several at once, you can separate the tags with commas, and they will be added without the commas. WordPress will also sometimes prompt you with past tags used in a dropdown when you are adding new tags. To eliminate a tag from a post, click the little x in the circle.

Why use tags?

What is the advantage to your reader? Click on this examples on this blog: tag link for images. What do you see? I talked recently about images, but I didn’t want to create a whole new category. So I created a tag.

Don’t overdo it – you don’t need to tag everything. Think of what would be advantageous to your reader.

How can you present your tags?

Like with category pages, you can have a file in your theme called tag.php and customize it in a similar way to the category pages. If you don’t have tag.php, don’t worry. WordPress will look at your archive.php and use that format.

Another cool thing you can do with clouds is create a Tag cloud. How do you do this? If you look in the back end of your WordPress, you will see a column on the left. One item is Appearance. From Appearance, pick Widgets. In the widget list, there should be one called Tag Cloud. Drag this widget to your sidebar, and it should appear on the side of your blog. users: it looks like you can do both tags and tag clouds with For those on Blogger, there seems to be something similar called labels.

On this site I added a tag cloud on the right column (if you are reading this on an iPad or a phone, you may need to scroll all the way down toward the bottom). I am not sure if I will leave it there for long, but at least while this post is fresh and new.

What are you using on your site?

Tag, you are It (as in the game of Tag) – your turn to respond. Do you use tags? Why or why not? Ever try a tag cloud? Have you ever clicked on one – do you find them useful?

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50 thoughts on “Play Tag: WordPress Tags Help Your Readers

  1. This makes it all clear for me Leora. I stopped using tags about 2 years ago and opted only for categories. I’ve never understood the difference really. But this makes it clearer.

    From now on, when appropriate, I will do just this! And then even cut back on the categories.


  2. I am almost embarrassed that I rally didn’t have a clear understanding of the differences between tags and categories! Thanks for making this so clear! I have been using tags mostly for SEO by including the topic of the post as a tag.

  3. Tags are really great. They do help a lot in bringing in reasons and also make a good exercise in focussing your mind when thinking about your article, before and after it’s published. I’m a WP blogger so am very familiar with the awesome power of tags. I also have a tag cloud too, at the bottom of my site. It looks cool and gives me an idea on what’s hot.


  4. As a WordPress blogger I use tags with every post and have a tag cloud. I use the tag cloud myself to find older posts. Appreciate having you spell out the precise reasons for doing what I do.

  5. I’m using tag but i realise the danger is to overuse them. I found about 2000 tags in my fashion blog (5yr old) and see that i didn t remember all these tag. You must be verycareful about using them, acoording that you must keep in mind that an SEO effective tag have to gather at least 3 blogpost. And for your tag page SEO need you have a different content from archive page or article page…. for exemple only title or excerpt

    To sum up Tags are goods but it had to be seriously thinking. Take notes for new tags ideas and wait the right time to set it up!
    Amanda recently posted…Quelle robe de soirée choisir ?My Profile

    1. Amanda, good point that you don’t want to overuse them! At one point I converted some categories to tags. That might be another topic for a post – what if you have created too many? Thanks for your thoughtful addition to this post.

  6. I do use categories, tags and alt tags on my posts, something I learned from Susan. I’m not sure how readers get to them but that is something I’ll no doubt find out soon.

    1. Lenie,

      I looked on your site – you do have categories listed on the right, but they don’t seem to be listed with the post. A lot of themes will have categories and tags listed on the single.php page (when you show a single post). That’s how I like to show categories and themes. Some also have them on category pages and on search result pages.

  7. I wrestled for a while on how to best use categories and tags and finally decided the best way for me was to treat it like a folder structure. The difference, as you point out, is that there is cross-over and for that, tags are invaluable.

  8. Thanks s for making the distinction between Tags & categories so clear Leora. I use them both but it’s only recently the penny has dropped about how to use each. Very useful.

  9. The theme I switched too doesn’t display the tags beneath the post, but I still use them. I’ve thought of displaying a tag cloud though. Too often, I see people putting 20 or more tags on a post, but I think 3-5 is more than enough. Over time, a pattern emerges for the topics you focus on. I researched the difference awhile ago, and also learned the hard way that a deleted tag ends up in a 404 for the archive associated with that deleted tag.
    Jeri recently posted…Group Activity: The Chocolate Game #SocialJusticeMy Profile

    1. Jeri, I agree, 3-5 seems fine. I wouldn’t worry so much about the numbers but whether the tags are useful – is this something a reader might use to learn more on a topic?

      Regarding your theme, you can always set up a child theme that does have the tags under the post. You would set up the child theme (it mostly just needs a folder and a style.css), and then add single.php (copy it from your parent theme) with the tag code underneath the post.

  10. Come LIVE with me Leora!!!! This whole tag,category,link stuff drives me crazy. I believe god gave me the inspiration to start blogging so he could have a laugh everyday. I’ve copied and pasted your instructions and I’ll follow them to the tee while composing my next post. The way you explained the connections makes so much sense. Thank you,

    1. Pamela,

      Take a deep breath! I hope you can do this one step at a time and achieve the results you want. Good luck.

      You can always contact me (see my contact link at the bottom of the page) – I do WordPress training as a client service.

  11. I use tags, and a tag cloud. I’ve been wondering though, if I should have a lot of tags, or just a few? I feel like to add more would almost be “padding” and unnecessary, but maybe it’s better to think of several different ways to tag something? I usually have 2-4 per post. Thoughts?

    1. Meredith, 2-4 per post seems fine. If you are really curious whether they get used, you can examine Google Analytics or set up a Google Analytics experiment – but that is a topic for a different post.

  12. This is an example of my favorite kind of blog to read. I was such a Luddite that having someone like you describe web information helps me a lot. Knowing about tags and categories etc, is very beneficial to me. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hello Leora

    I was always confused between categories and tags and sometimes tried to use one and then other. But this posts really made this clear to me. From a long time I was thinking about tags.
    I will try it in WP.

    Thank you for an informative post.
    andleeb recently posted…Harassment and HijabMy Profile

  14. Hi Aunty Leora,
    My own blog is not WordPress platformed, but I am in the process of setting up a WordPress blog to learn WordPress. Tags are really great my uncle told me during one of our training.

  15. Hi Leora,

    This is my first visit here and I found this post interesting.

    I am agree with you here that “wordpress tags” are very helpful for readers. Users can find what they want very easily with tag cloud or category pages by just clicking on that tag link. So, we must use wordpress tags for user friendly structure at our blog.

    Thanks for the valuable post. It is very helpful for newbies. Have a nice day ahead!

  16. I do use tags. They are helpful if readers are looking for specific information. However, I don’t tag a one-time use of, say, a celebrity’s name I might use to make a point. Otherwise you could start getting useless traffic to your site. Many people think using tags helps SEO, but it is not counted by Google or other search engines in ranking your site.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Giving Thanks to Our Wounded WarriorsMy Profile

    1. Jeannette, yes, that would be strange, just tagging a celebrity, unless maybe one is running a gossip blog.

      I didn’t talk about SEO in this post, but I do think one gets a little bit of benefit if it’s one’s focus key phrase anyway. Helps one be organized toward creating quality, relevant content.

  17. Hi Leora,

    i’m inclined to say here that while tagging helps your readers for obvious navigation around your blog; the use of tagging is not good for SEO.

    The reason is because a tagged page is a page on its own with its own unique URL ( however, it does not contain much content and is seen as thin content from Google Bot purview). The key to solving this problem if one is still keen to use them on your blog posts is to make sure they are noindexed, nofollow and not showing up in the sitemap.

    Thanks for sharing this, thats just my 2 cents
    James recently posted…Best genesis child themes 2014 for responsive wordpress blogsMy Profile

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