Tagliatelle - a tag too far?

Occasionally some of my clients ask me if it's a good idea to add a block of tags beneath a blog article or a web page. Note that this isn't the same thing as including what are called metadata tags or meta tags. (For an explanation of these, see blow.)

Tags in this sense are vocabulary terms that can be used to organise or categorise content. You might see them arranged in a block under an article, looking something like this:

A block of tags on a web page

So is displaying a block of tags like this useful? Would it have any positive impact upon SEO? The short answer is I don't think so. They're a waste of time.

But surely, you're saying, they help categorise content and placing these tags in links will help users find your content. Well, maybe but not always.

I favour using and displaying categories like those used on this blog. They help users locate specific content. But that usually does the trick perfectly and therefore makes a block of links unnecessary.

One reason you might see a block of link tags is because the owner wanted to stuff in a collection of 'high-value' keywords in order to improve SEO ranking. Well, if that's the aim, forget it. It's far better that the text of each blog post actually uses the right vocabulary. Don't try to add to that with trickery and wizardry. And certainly don't decorate the page with links that will confuse your users. Links that navigate round in circles, often displaying what we've just seen, really are jumbles of pasta. Keep it simple. Keep it transparent.

Taxonomy/categories tags are there to help readers quickly locate articles that interest them. They're not supposed to play any SEO role. The internet is full of stuff that says that tagging blog posts with blocks like the one above is necessary for SEO. Most of it is nonsense. I was formulating this in response to one of my clients asking me this question. Before I hit the send button, I thought it worth Googling for a definitive view of the matter - and came up with this. Here Google’s Matt Cutts saying more or less the same thing:

Footnote on metadata tags

The distinction between blocks of tags (as described above) and metadata tags is crucial. Whilst the use of visible blocks of tags is optional (and often pointless or confusing), the inclusion of invisible metadata tags in the head section of a web page is critically important. This is especially true of the description tag which is very useful for serving search engines with a short piece of descriptive text that can be used against a link to one of the pages on your site.