Keyword tags are used for two very different purposes and how many you use depends on that purpose. Most of what you read will be related to selecting keywords for SEO or Pay Per Click (ppc) purposes.
For SEO you want to target one phrase of two to three words
This is because search engines use an algorithm with percentages in it. Here is an example of how that percentage affects your content being found:
If you use two words, each word is worth 50% in that algorithm (equation). If you use four words each word is worth 25%; 10 words = 10% and so on.
If someone searches for affiliate marketing and you have targeted that exact phrase with 2 words your site is 100% for that part of the equation.
If you used four words and their search hits on two of them your site is at 50% for that part of the equation and all sites at greater than 50% will be ranked above yours (for that one factor – yes there are other factors but this one is very important).
If your page uses 10 keywords you are only at 20% – more than that even less. I know that many advise using lots of keywords. Either they don’t understand simple math or they are intentionally misleading others to make their own ranking efforts easier to attain.
I personally know many top SEOs and have listened to them discuss getting top rankings for really tough industries like mortgages and insurance. I guarantee you they always target only ONE phrase of 2-3 words per page. They just don’t admit publicly how they do it.
Tags used for other purposes are different. On Social Networking sites you want to use as many relevant phrases as each site allows. They aren’t calculating percentages for search rankings. They are using them to decide how many different places to put your content.
For WordPress tags and most Social Media purposes More Tags = more opportunities for visibility.
Note that you have to know what a site is doing with the keywords to know whether to use one phrase or multiple phrases. If they are searching and ranking the way search engines do, use the most important 2-3 word phrase only.
If a site uses keyword phrases to put what you share in multiple locations the way StumbleUpon or Delicious does then use many phrases.
You can either test to see which works best on each site or decide what is more important to you: maximum laser-targeted traffic or more less targeted traffic.
Here is a real life example so you can be really clear on the difference between the various uses for what are called keywords, keyword tags, meta tags or simply tags.
I just wrote a post about Deadhead Sinker Cypress for Good Millwork.Notice that I used the phrase Deadhead Sinker Cypress as my anchor text in that link and that is the primary phrase I’m targeting for SEO for that post.
When I run pay per click ads to that page I will target multiple similar phrases because there are many different ways someone would search for that type of wood.
When I selected the WordPress Post Tags for that post those tags are totally different than the Keywords aka Meta Keywords aka Tags I entered in the SEO field in their blog or the keywords I selected for their AdWords ads.
If this were a WordPress.com hosted site instead of a self-hosted blog, the Post Tags would decide who at WordPress will see that post. For these tags we want to think very broadly about who we want to reach.
For that post I chose the tags for architecture, construction, green building, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Lumber and specialty woods. Anyone interested in construction, architects drawing up plans, builders interested in green building or LEEDs and those searching for lumber or specialty woods would all be a good target audience for that post.
None of them are likely to be searching for Deadhead Sinker Cypress right now and it is unlikely that there is a WordPress category that is so narrowly defined. The point of Post Tags is to show your posts in the categories where the target audience for that post is likely to see them.
NOTE: WordPress global tags pages only display the blog posts that are hosted on WordPress.com and NOT self-hosted blogs.
Even though posts on self-hosted WordPress blogs do not appear in the WordPress global tags pages, those tags are still important because search engines and sites like Technorati crawl your blog and use those anchor-text links to categorize and index your content.
While researching links for this post it became very obvious that not everyone agrees with me about the best uses for tags and categories. Some excellent bloggers and I have different points of view and in the end some decisions are personal perference.
I mention this now because I want all my readers to remember to make their own decisions about what they feel is best for their own blog or Web site. There is always a pro or con to how we decide to do things as those who are following the KeywordLuv CommentLuv dofollow debate have seen.
In the end each of us must decide where are priorities lie, who we are, and what is most important to us.
NOTE: Many posts below mention an Ultimate Tag Warrior Plugin. It is no longer supported and since tagging has been incorporated into WordPress a plugin for that function is no longer necessary.
- WordPress Global Tags
- WordPress Support: Categories versus Tags
- WordPress.tv Adding Categories and Tags to Your Posts VIDEO
- WordPress Training Managing WordPress Tags VIDEO
- WordPress.org Official Getting Started with WordPress how-to information
- FreeWPTraining How to Use Tags in Your WordPress Blog Posts – Detailed post on using tags
- WordPress Training
- DevDuff WordPress Tags versus Categories
- Theme Lab How to Add WordPress Tag Support to Your Theme
- Simple Tags WordPress Plugin for Technorati Tags
- Technorati The State of the Blogosphere 2009
There is far too much disinformation about what does and does not work. Use what you read to gain information and then VERIFY that information by your own observations. If you are not doing your own testing be careful whose advise you rely on. Here are some sites I have found to report honestly:
- SEO Must’s When Blogging
- Google SEO – Using Keyword Proximity Correctly