This is a re-post, with minor edits, from my blog, Blog on a Stick. I felt that it was worthy of posting here too.
For those that are just jumping into the blog world, or the Web 2.0 world for that matter, there is a new idea out there called tagging. Much like folders or categories, it’s a way of keeping things organized.
Lets start out simple with folders.
On your computer you have folders. Maybe a documents folder for paperwork, pictures folder for pictures and so on. You’ve probably even created your own folders. “Christmas 2005” or “Work Documents” The idea is to keep your files organized on your hard drive. Simple enough.
The folder idea is our starting point for tags. Granted, folders have nothing to do with tagging, but the idea is the same.
Next, lets move to categories. Categories are set up on blogs to keep like posts together. This blog has categories like SEO, Online PR, Analytics and RSS because those are things that get posted on a lot. Categories should be specific to your blog and they make it easy for users to find information. If this blog was about cars, we may have categories like Ford, Chevy, 2006 Models, Used Cars, Hybrids and so on.
Now we get to tagging. Tagging is much like categories, only they are not usually topics you post on a lot. They are like mini categories almost. The idea is to tag each post with some specific phrases that are not in your categories, but that you feel are important to the post.
I’ve written about American Idol a few times on my blog, Blog on a Stick, but not enough that I feel the need for a category. So I’ve tagged each post with American Idol plus any contestant names that I’m talking about in the post. This helps when tag search engines like Technorati come by and index my posts. They’ll read those tags and offer them up in their tag based searchs. It’s also good to note that your categories will be read as tags too so there is no need to duplicate your category names in your tags.
Basically, tags are just one more way to increase exposure on your site. There are many more ways than regular search engines to get traffic and tagging is one of them.
So how do you tag? It’s easy really. Check your blogging software and see if they have a Tag or Technorati field. If so, just put your words in there and it’ll do the rest. Or, you can add tags to any post by adding rel=”tag” to any link. There is also a nice Tag bookmarklet over at Andrew Beacock’s Blog. That can just be added to your bookmark bar and clicked on when you want tags created.
Once your blog post is live, make sure you ping it by going to Pingoat or PingOMatic. Most blog software will automatically ping for you so you don’t have to worry about that.
If you have WordPress, check out the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin. It’s a great way to include tags with your posts and has many features.
A common misconception with tags is that your link has to go to technorati.com. That’s not true. Technorati will allow any link to be a tag as long as it says rel=”tag” in it.
A lot of Web 2.0 applications are also starting to use tagging more. You can tag photos in Flickr, bookmarks in del.icio.us and documents in Writely. These tags are for searches within their own system. Instead of categories or folders, they choose to use tags to keep your documents organized and searchable.
If you aren’t using tags, you’re missing out on traffic. Tagging is free and easy and can increase your blog exposure.
Interesting note: If you use a Mac and have 10.4, you can get info on a document and put space separated words in the comments area. Then, when you use Spotlight to search, they’ll show up. It’s like you have a tag search built in to the OS.