If you've been writing content for any length of time, you're probably wondering what the section for “blog post tags” means inside of your post creation dashboard.
At its most basic, blog tags or blog publish tags are simple words or phrases that can be used to describe the contents of your blog post.
An easy way to think about this: is as a label that you would put money outside of a folder used to organize similar documents.
For example, you may have printed versions of your tax returns and all related documents inside of a folder labeled “tax returns 2020”.
Tags are a simple short description of the actual contents of a specific post.
This often will beg the question, okay but what's the difference between this tag thing, and categories.
What’s The Difference Between Blog Tags and Categories?
The confusion behind blog post tags often will set in because of WordPress's mandatory use of what they call “categories”.
So when is the difference between the two?
Unlike tags which are used to describe the specific contents of a post, word press categories are designed to describe the broad topic that a post fits inside of.
If we return to our 2020 taxes example from above, we may create a category that's more generally called taxes, and put all of our tax-related posts inside of that category.
We could then continue to use blog tags to describe the specific years or specific kinds of taxes.
For example, we may have a blog post about local property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes for specific years, etc.
Each of these may have blog tags, describing the specific contents of each post, but they would all generally fit inside of the broader category of taxes.
Another way to think about the difference between categories and tags would be to think about it in the terms of a book.
If like me, you grew up using reference books at the library you may be familiar with this example.
Most of us are familiar with tables of contents that tell us what is contained within a specific document but don’t tell us exactly where something is (outside of giving us a page where it might start).
An index on the other hand will tell us all of the themes and topics contained inside of that book and will tell us each of the pages and places where they are discussed.
In the online world, categories function much more like a table of contents, giving us a decent idea of what's contained in, while blog post tags function more like an index and give specific guidance on exactly where a specific topic can be found.
Thinking of categories and tags in this way makes it much easier to understand the difference but it also raises an additional question.
If at least one category is mandatory for each WordPress post, are our blog post tags necessary and/or mandatory to publish posts and get the most out of our on-page SEO?
Do Blog Posts Need Tags, Why Do They Matter?
Unlike categories, adding tags to your blog posts inside of WordPress is completely optional.
That being said, you may want to consider adding one or two tags to each poster you create because they can be extremely helpful to users.
While most users don't understand how WordPress uses tags, many onsite search engines, including the WordPress default search engine, can use tags as a way of helping to show the right content someone is looking for, when they run a search on your site.
Often, broad categories will be placed inside of the menu for users to select. If they are searching for a specific theme or subtopic, they’ll usually run a search on your website to find the specific post they’re looking for.
In this case, tags can go a long way to helping them find what they're looking for inside of the site search function.
Are blog tags good for SEO?
Realistically, blog post tags don't have much of an impact on SEO.
While it's true that WordPress creates pages that group all posts with a specific type together and these pages can be indexed by Google, they're not helpful to a user and aren't likely to rank highly inside of the search engine.
They also are going to be the reason that your post ranks or doesn't, Google and Bing don't care about the “meta” information of your posts, like tags or categories, and are much more focused on the content itself in the user experience of your site.
That being said, increasing the amount of time that a user who comes from one of the search engines spends on your site, can be a positive signal.
With this in mind, the use of blog post tags may have a small benefit for SEO in that it helps people discover the content looking for a standard site longer if they stick around long enough to perform a search on your site.
I wouldn't make tagging your blog posts a massive priority for SEO and would rather see you spending time creating great content.
If you're truly interested in understanding how to create content that Google and other search engines love, you may want to check out the seven-day content creation challenge here.
That’s a Wrap
Post tags, like many of the things we find inside of the word press sidebar, can seem like an extremely confusing thing.
If we think about them in terms of a cook way for people to be able to discover the actual contents of the post and we can come up with one or two quick tags, we don't need to think about it much more than that.
At the end of the day, tags are not going to make or break your post if you choose to skip the section altogether and spend an extra few minutes creating even better content than you already are, that's okay too.