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The Importance of Tagging

Jun 14, 2008
Tagging documents with keywords, particularly in academia, has been around for generations, and has become mainstream on the internet in the past few years, especially with the introduction of social tagging or bookmarking, with the likes of del.icio.us.

Tags are words which allow classification of information, not just by subject, but far more deeply, and the Internet has allowed a free form of tagging to develop, not using a list of permitted terms, but allowing users to add their own tags. This means that a wide variety of tags may be used to describe one particular idea or even an image, which has both pros and cons.

For instance, you may tag a document with a certain set of keywords, whilst another person sees it entirely differently and uses different tags to describe the information given in the document. This means that the number of keywords relating to that document is higher, and hence the potential audience who will find it is broader.

Allowing users to add their own tags has meant that when you search Flickr for a photo, Youtube for a video, or even Amazon for a book, user-generated tags will be part of the mix in the results you get.

These 'social bookmarks' make it possible to find items that have been classified by others who may use keywords and terms you are familiar with, but which may not be included in the text of the document, or the image.

The tag 'humour' is an example. A joke or a funny photo may not in itself include the word 'humour' but it is obvious to all who read or see it that it would fall into the category 'humour'.

Another example is when tagging is used, as was the case with academic papers, to describe content in a succinct, and therefore easily indexable manner. For instance, this article could include the tags:

Article, internet marketing, tagging, tags, keywords, social bookmarks, organic search

But you might also add:

semantic web, search engine optimisation, folksonomies

None of the latter terms are actually included in the article but all are relevant tags, and would mean that those searching on those particular keywords could then find this article.

Tagging is now used extensively on the internet, and it is worth understanding that tags develop very quickly in response to cultural changes, buzz, news items etc. Finding which tags are generating a buzz means that you can include these tags as keywords on your site and generate more organic search results.

Organic search is now extremely important as a source of traffic to any website, but it works best when you include as many keywords, or tags, as possible in a cohesive manner on your website. This does not mean randomly scattering popular keywords around your site (as used to be the case with terms such as 'Pamela Anderson'!), but by including the popular terms relevant to your niche in your content.

These tags can be stand alone as part of your page to answer the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) question your visitors ask as soon as they land on your site, or to categorise your content, or as an integral part of your content.

However you choose to use tags, they are an ever-growing part of the internet, of the way people search, and connect with information, and spending a little time looking at how different sites and users work with tags is a must.

Phil Robinson is an experienced online marketing consultant and Founder of ClickThrough Marketing - an international Search Engine Marketing & Internet Marketing agency.
About the Author
ClickThrough specialise in Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per Click Marketing, Online PR, Social Marketing & Website Conversion Strategies. We have a huge range of free internet marketing resources including ebooks, industry news and research reports - available here www.clickthrough-marketing.com/resources.php
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