Tag Clouds - SEO or not?

Posted Thursday, 04 March 2010 at 04:34 by Andrew Liu
Tagged: search engine optimisation (seo) | link strategy
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A tag cloud or word cloud is a visual depiction of tags or words related to a site, typically used to describe the content of that web site. Tags are usually single words and are normally listed alphabetically, and the importance of a tag is normally denoted by way of a different font size or color. Thus, both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Tags are usually links that lead to a collection of pages that are associated with that tag.

 

Tag clouds normally have not been done right for SEO purposes. Tag clouds should be built on a relevance model – not by popularity models as they are most frequently used.  However, there is difficulty in determining relevance without using popularity, and this is normally beyond the possibilities of small scale sites.

 

The intent of tag clouds as designed in the popularity model is to display the most frequently used keywords that people apply as tags on a given site. The more popular or frequent a word or phrase is on that site or for a particular photograph or article, the larger the font those keyword phrases are displayed in within the cloud. Larger words mean they are more popular and are more often used as tags on the site.

 

Those individual tags are then linked to a page bearing a list of articles or photos tagged with the word or phrase you click on.

Most off-the-shelf tag clouds are done in javascript or AJAX or flash – all bad for SEO purposes.

Most custom build tag cloud solutions fail to use a format which would be favored by search engines and instead – they simply link the tags to an internal search function which does a site level search for the word linked in the cloud. This is horrible for search relevance, user experience (due to poor results), and poor for SEO.

Tag clouds should group only topically relevant words. This requires a different mind-set than most apply to tagging. Remember that we want all related words and phrases in a cloud, followed by each word or phrase hyperlinked the way the tags used on this blog are linked – by going to a page which includes all articles tagged with that particular phrase.

The other main point is to disregard popularity in this model – relevance is key in my tag clouds. Remember that a) search engines would rate this model highly, b) users would love this model due to the relevance of links and therefore c) clients who take this advice will love the relevance model of tag clouds because of a) and b) bringing search referral traffic that loves the utility of those tag clouds which deliver them to exactly what they are searching for – in plain HTML – not in javascript, flash or AJAX.

 

References:

- Wikipedia - Tag Clouds

- Reality SEO - Tag Clouds

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