SEO: Tag Clouds are Ugly, But Are They Good for SEO?
I’ve seen many blogs (both corporate and personal) with a right sidebar widget that includes differently sized keywords in various orders – its a Tag Cloud. Personally, I think tag clouds are ugly and people abuse them by keyword stuffing, “the more tags I use, maybe I’ll rank better for each tag”. . But, what if a tag cloud isn’t abused, are tag clouds good for SEO?
Tagging Your Posts
Tags are useful elements in a page or post by providing a topical keyword reference that Google and Web 2.0 technologies like Delicious use to identify and attribute content. In essence, tags are a good thing. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that people know how to use them effectively. I’m sure we’ve all seen some not so pretty tag clouds that have over 50 keywords in them and even the ones where the display is controlled with flash and rotate around.
Tag Clouds & SEO
Within a WordPress Tag Cloud exist individual Tags that link to a Tag Archive. A Tag Archive contains a listof all posts that contain that tag. More tags mean more pages. Unfortunately, more pages mean they’re going to take some valuable link juice from your more important sections of your site, such as your Categories and posts. Passing link juice through these links can take away from your post’s link juice (unless you implement rel=”nofollow” and add a line to your robots.txt file “noindex”-ing your Tag archives.
Focus Your Google PageRank on Your Posts & Categories Instead
The thing is, Tag Clouds or Tag lists can in some ways be redundant especially if your primary navigation method, which most of the time is a Category list, is designed properly. You want Google to put more weight on your categories than your tags. One reason for this is because your navigation structure is one of the first things people look for and thus is a very important piece of your site. In the Google XML Sitemap plugin for WordPress, Posts and Categories are given more weight in your Google sitemap. Have you ever noticed that popular sites appear differently when they rank for the number one slot for a search term?
Here’s a screen shot of how my Calgary Filipino site appears in Google search:
Google only does this with sites that are 1) proper content structure 2) Google XML sitemap 3) decent traffic. Google lists the most popular categories and in some cases, it will show top posts as well.
Video: Matt Cuts on Tag Clouds
If Tag Clouds Aren’t Good for SEO, What Should I Do?
Well if you are totally in love with your sitemap and cannot dare to see it go, then 1) at least add a line to your robots.txt file so Google doesn’t put any emphasis on them, 2) only tag your posts and pages with a maximum of 3 tags, and update your stylesheet so the most popular tags don’t appear so large; reduce the font site, or even better, keep them all the same size.
Conversion Optimization Advice for Tag Clouds
I don’t recommend using a Tag Cloud. One of the biggest reasons is because they take up too much space in a side bar. Even if the Tag Cloud is buried deep under every widget in your sidebar, its going to leave the main content area on the left side blank – not very good visually and makes it appear as if you didn’t think about all the elements in your page. Oh and I better not catch you with a Tag Cloud on one of your landing pages, I’ll tell on you! 😉