What is a tag?

You’ve probably heard of tags being used on websites and blogs.  In case you’ve never noticed them, you’ll find a list of tags at the bottom of each of our blog posts. You may wonder what purpose these tags serve.  Essentially tags are keywords used to classify content.  In the past this task would have been accomplished by placing the content in the appropriate folder within a predetermined hierarchy.  There are several key reasons why tags are a better approach for organizing and classifying content than traditional methods.

Greater Flexibility
On the surface, classifying content based on it’s location in a hierarchical structure sounds like a great idea.  However, since content can only be placed in one location you greatly limit the number of classifications each item can have.  Tags allow unstructured classification.  Not only can you select as many tags as necessary, you can create new tags as needed without the hassle of determining where the new classifications fits within the existing structure.

Help Readers Find Related Content
Of course, if tags allow you to classify your content better, it means your readers can locate your content better.  In a traditional hierarchy your readers must navigate through a keyword structure that is unfamiliar and quite possibly confusing from their perspective.  Tags allow readers to quickly locate topics of interest.  They also allow readers to easily locate additional content by reviewing all content that has been given the tag of interest.

Increase Your Rank on Search Engines
Search engines love tags.  Most major search engines prioritize tags meaning that properly tagged content is likely to rate higher in the search results.  For this reason it is critical that your tags are well thought out and incorporate industry relevant buzz words.

Rank Higher on Social Bookmarking Sites
Social bookmarking sites such as technorati and del.icio.us also value tags above other content.  These sites are increasingly popular for sharing interesting and relevant content.  Users are able to easily review all articles with similar tags.  They can also compile lists of their favorite content and share with friends.  This is a great way to increase traffic.