WordPress, by default, allows you to organize your content using two main taxonomies: categories and tags.
The main difference between the two is that categories are hierarchical, while tags are not. This means you can have multiple subcategories nested under a parent category, while tags have no such structure.
Beyond that, categories and tags serve essentially the same purpose: to organize content on your website and help visitors find what they’re looking for.
But what about SEO? Can you get an SEO boost by tagging your posts with relevant keywords?
Are WordPress Tags Important For SEO?
The short answer to this question is no. WordPress tags do not offer any real SEO benefit, and in fact, using them excessively can clutter your website, create a poor user experience, and even have a negative impact on the SEO of your website as a whole.
The idea that WordPress tags can improve your SEO is a very common misconception. In reality, they have little influence on your search rankings.
The intended purpose of WordPress tags is to organize content on your website. Tags can help your visitors find content on a specific topic when they click through to your tag archives, for example, but tagging a post with a particular keyword does not increase your odds of ranking on Google for that search term.
How WordPress Tags Can Hinder Your SEO Efforts
There’s nothing wrong with using tags—they can be a great way to organize your content and help your readers find what they’re looking for. With that said, using tags improperly can create a negative user experience and ultimately hurt your SEO.
You see, every time you add a new tag, WordPress creates an archive page for that tag. If you follow the practice of tagging your posts with every possible variation of your target keyword, that’s a whole lot of new archive pages, most of which will contain only that post.
This creates a poor user experience for readers who click over to those tag archives to find related content, and it adds a bunch of junk that Google will likely interpret as thin, low-value content.
You may also run into duplicate content issues, especially if you have categories that overlap with your tags.
How To Avoid WordPress Tag-Related SEO Issues
Here are some of the steps I take to keep my WordPress tags SEO-friendly.
1. Distinguish Between Categories And Tags
Creating a category and a tag for the same term is usually a bad idea.
How you use categories and tags on your site is totally up to you, but here’s a common approach: use categories for broad categorization (e.g. “Sports”), and use tags for more specific/granular topics (e.g. “Football” or “New York Jets”).
If you follow this system, you should find that your taxonomies are well-organized and helpful.
2. Noindex Your Tag Archives
Unless you have a good reason, it’s probably not necessary to have your tag archives indexed by search engines.
If you haven’t already, I recommend installing the free Yoast SEO plugin.
Yoast makes it really easy to
noindex your tag archives.
From your WordPress dashboard, go to
SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies.
Under the “Tags” box, select “No” for “Show Tags in search results?”
3. Only Use Tags If You Need Them
While every WordPress post must be associated with at least one category, you’re under no obligation to use tags at all.
If you feel that tags will actually help people navigate your website, you should use them! But if they’re just adding clutter, it’s okay to skip them altogether.
The Right Way To Target Keywords
When people use WordPress tags for SEO purposes, they’re trying to show Google that their content is relevant to a particular keyword.
Google is pretty smart these days, so you don’t need to explicitly tell it which keywords you’re targeting.
Instead, it’s best to focus on creating valuable content, while including keywords naturally along the way.
Your target keyword should appear in your post title, subheadings, meta description, and your content itself. No tags necessary.
If you want to optimize your site for search engines and drive more free, organic traffic, check out our comprehensive WordPress SEO tutorial here.
The Bottom Line
The idea of WordPress tags improving SEO is a myth.
It’s okay to use them, but it’s important to understand that your WordPress tags are not just a list of search keywords. They exist to help you organize content on your website, not to boost your search rankings.
If you have any questions about WordPress tags or SEO, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!