Building Search Engine Tag Trails

With so much of the success of your web site out of your hands and at the whim or the search engines and your site visitors, wouldn’t you like a way to tell them both that your site is relevant to their interests? This article explains how to use a basic tool for that purpose. It has the lovely effect of making your site more organized and helping visitors go directly to the content in which they are most interested. Keep reading to find out more.

When you first set up your site to be indexed for search engines, it is surprisingly similar to setting a ship out to sail. To a certain degree the direction things go in is simply out of your hands. No one likes losing control.

On the bright side, if you can not control some factors, that means that you can control others, and that is very good news for you indeed. As with a ship, you can set a general course and take advantage of the winds that have been provided to you. There is no point in fighting the winds, so you may as well go with them.

Before we go into how to ride the waves, let us first remember that in this day and age most sites are multi-page, or multi-post, and that if for some reason your site is not, then you may find that you have a very challenging time with applying this theory to your site. It will work especially well on sites with many pages, a great deal of content or blogs.

Blogs work especially well because of their easy tagging. You just add the tags below the posts when you make them, and most, if not all, platforms, allow you to go back and make changes to your tags later on. If you have a mis-tagged blog, I would suggest going back to change it at the end of the piece.

That brings us to tagging. For those of you who don’t know what tagging is, and that should be relatively few of you, tagging is a way to add keywords to your site in order to aid in both search engine indexing and help your readers to find the content that they want on your site.

Suffice it to say that tags are handy little tools when you are in the world of SEO. That is, of course, provided that you use them in the right way, and not abuse or misapply them. So what are the ways that people can abuse or misuse the tagging ability?

Here are a few things you should NOT do when you tag your posts:

  • Tagging way too much. If you put in too many tags on each individual selection or post, you run the risk of being seen as a spam site or as intentionally trying to give yourself an artificial boost in the SERPs. 
  • Tagging way to little. If you under-tag the pieces on your site, then you will miss out on rankings and you will lose out on visitors. 
  • Tagging too broadly. If you tag with lots of words — every one that you can think of related to the site —  then you will either have your rankings lowered or your listing discounted altogether.
  • Tagging too narrowly. If all of your tags are identical, then you will miss out on any diversity in your tags that might draw in more readers. 
  • Mistagging. Using tag words that have nothing at all to do with your site’s content will cause you to be seen as a search engine spammer and your ranking will go down. 

So, now that you know what not to do, how do you figure out what you should be doing?

Well, let’s talk about search engine algorithms. In order to do well in the algorithms, which are guarded secrets of the search engines, you will have to have more than one of the words you need to get ranked for the right kinds of searches. 

I know, I know, now you are wondering how you can do that without falling into the pitfalls of tagging too much, tagging too broadly or mistagging your content. Accomplishing this trick is actually "simple," but not short, so bear with me while I explain it to you.

The tactic that we will be using to help you grow your search engine rankings will be a building block style of tagging that allows search engines to value your rankings and see your tags as worth giving a little bit of extra love. We all want a little bit of extra love for our sites, so we can get our rankings improved and increase our readership. 

The idea behind leaving a tag trail is to build up a variety of lesser and more specific tags. I know that this sounds contrary, but in addition to boosting the number of relevant tags it also convinces search engines to return your site on more keywords.

In this example you own a small site where classic car fans can share their interests. Your first instinct will be to use the following tags: Car, classic cars, Historic cars, auto, older cars, automobile, drive, etc, as your tags. Now don’t get me wrong; for the most part, these are a good start to your tagging arsenal. The problem is that while they will make your site show up for a lot of generic car- related searches, you have a lot of competition for the top spot.

So let’s take a look at some of the trails that you could build, in relevant sections of your site. The goal is to get your site to show up more often and in smaller results pools as well as the big ones.

Car(s): You could trail down into different brands of cars that are frequently talked about on the site as well as specific models of cars, so, consider "Ford" and "Ford mustang" as possible tags.

Historic or classic car(s): You can use sub-categories like "classic car repair," "historic car parts," or "classic car restoration." These and others are all options open to you for tagging.

Drive: This one opens up phrases like "classic car drive" and "driving a historic car" to your site.

Example Two: The food blog

In this case your site is a blog about foods. In a blog you have a great many more chances to tag your site because each posting can be given any number of tags and you can add new tags every day that you post — even multiple times a day if you post that often. Here your list of obvious tags might be include food cooking, healthy, food shopping, groceries, etc. So lets look at some ways that you might be able to expand on your tags.

Food: Here you can break it down into types of food like "fruits" or "vegetables" as well as specific foods like "steaks," "asparagus" or "peas."

Cooking: Here you can use phrases such as "healthy cooking" or "easy meals" or even "southern cooking" to expand on your tag library.

Groceries: This one is a bit more challenging but you can use phrases like "getting groceries," "fresh produce" or "organic groceries."

By now you are no doubt getting the idea of what you should be doing to make your tag trails work productively, but just in case you aren’t, here are some of the basic guidelines.

  • Keep it on target. It will do you no good to have words that make no sense or are very peripheral on your site. This cannot be stressed enough; your tags should be on target and relevant to your site. 
  • Don’t be too repetitive. "Cars" and "classic cars" are one thing, but "cars," "car" and "classic cars," "car driving," "car fans" and "car enthusiasts" is taking it too far.
  • Don’t use convoluted tags that no one in their right mind would search for. No one looks for "how to repair vintage leather on my model-T car," at least no one in their right mind, so don’t bother with these long phrases unless they are specific to a brand or extremely well known.

Overall, to carry out this strategy, you need to use good judgment when you are setting up your tags. This means that you probably want to do it yourself, and not hire a service or that tech savvy college kid down the street to do it.

Think about it: nobody knows more about your site than you do — and presumably, you’re setting it up because you’re an expert on your topic (or at least a dedicated amateur). You know the jargon used by others with the same interests. The same may not be true of someone you hire to do it.

It can’t be said often enough: doing this right requires an in-depth knowledge of the site and its contents. It may be an annoyance, but you should do it yourself.

Now that you have an idea of how to tag your site, we have to talk about another aspect of tagging. When you tag a site, unless it is a blog, many people think that tagging is a one-time deal. That is not the truth at all. If you expect your site to grow, its tags will grow with it.

For sites of all kinds, the job of tagging will need to be checked and re-checked as time goes on and your site evolves. You may find that this allows you to add tags as you expand, or that as you go in a new direction you must drop certain tags. This is only natural.

So, the time to end the chat has come and now you can go out into the world as a more intelligent and more strategic tagger. Go forth and bring your site to new heights of popularity and new audiences of keyword searches. I can’t wait to come across your site on a search.

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