Why you should stop using tags

Tags are very popular. On Instagram, we add tags to our posts to help people find them. However, using tags in that way on your WordPress site is devastating for your rankings. Even if you think that you’re not using a lot of them, make sure to read this post. In it, I’ll explain how tags work and why using way too many can severely damage your rankings. After that, I’ll tell you how they should be used (because they’re not bad altogether). Finally, I’ll give you some tips on how to clean up your site if you’ve accidentally used too many tags.

What happens on your WordPress site when you add a tag?

Tags should be used to categorize your posts. To make it easier to find a certain article in the big pile of posts you’ve written. Tags in WordPress are like categories. Be aware that with every one you add, WordPress will create a new page: a tag page. All articles that have the same tag, will be bundled there.

So for every tag that you add in WordPress, you’re adding a new page to your site. And the content on this page is often very thin. It only contains a link to the articles you’ve used the tag for. At Yoast, we regularly encounter sites that have thousands of tag pages and only hundreds of blog posts.

What happens to your rankings if you add too many tags?

Every tag you add inevitably leads to an extra page Google needs to crawl through. That’ll make crawling through your website more difficult. And, to make matters worse, every tag leads to a thin content page. A page Google really dislikes. If you have more tags than posts, you’ll have more ‘bad and thin content pages’ than you have high-quality content. And Google hates thin content. Sites with a lot of thin content don’t rank well. Thus: if you’re using too many tags, your rankings will drop.

How should you use tags on your website?

Think of your tags as a closet and think of your posts as pieces of clothing. Of course, you understand you can put your clothes in a closet. That makes sense. It’ll clean up your room. It does not make sense to add more closets to your room than the number of pieces of clothing you own. You’ll end up with empty closets that take up a lot of room. You should never have empty closets. So, if you have around 90 posts, limit the number of tags to about 30. Try to keep your tag to post-ratio under 1:3.

I understand why you want to use tags differently for Instagram. On Instagram, they’re used to search through Instagram posts. They’re used to search through your Instagram posts, but also to search through the posts of the billions of other users on Instagram. It makes sense to add more of these kinds of tags because you’re adding your post to a group of other posts about a certain tag. Tags on your website, however, are only used within your website. It does not make sense to use those tags as you use them on Instagram. In fact, if you use tags like that, your posts will be harder to find on Google.

But what about my internal search?

Some people use tags to make sure that people can find their posts via the internal search of their site. That kind of makes sense, as the native internal search engine of WordPress is not that good. Solving that problem via tags is not the answer though. You should make sure to set up a good internal site search. Please set up an improved internal site search with Algolia in Yoast SEO Premium. It’ll give you great internal search functionality, without getting on Google’s bad side by creating a bunch of thin content.

What to do if you’ve added too many tags

If you have added a lot of tags to your website, you’ll need to get rid of these pages. The best thing is to delete and redirect these tag pages to something useful. If there’s only one blog post in a certain tag, you could just redirect it to that blog post. That will greatly reduce the number of tag pages. If you have a big site with lots of tags, this will be a lot of work. But you really need to clean it up in order to keep ranking (or start ranking). Delete and redirect those tag pages. At Yoast, we’re currently working on a new workout that helps you clean up your tag pages. This will help you clean up your site and optimize your site structure. Check out our current workouts to get an idea of what they can do for you.

Read more: How to optimize your categories and tags for Google »

Coming up next!

18 Responses to Why you should stop using tags

  1. Mausam
    Mausam  • 3 years ago

    Thanks for the information. Will definitely use this on my site.

  2. George Thiess
    George Thiess  • 3 years ago

    I have recently (less than 1 mointh) completed a domain name change and changed my URL structures to Domain/Category/Post_Title. We are also setting up silo pages based on categories. I often wondered why my content writers were using so many tags. I currently have 91 posts and 264 tags. 126 of those tags have 0 posts as we have cleaned out some older posts.

    Should I do a redirect for these or just delete? The new domain has only been live for less than a month.

    Then of the remaining 138, 124 of them only have 1 post. Should I redirect these? or remove?

    I certainly appreciate any advice you can give me on this.

    Thank you,

    • Amy Lees
      Amy Lees  • 3 years ago

      Hi George! As a general rule:
      – get rid of any tags you’re not going to keep using in the future
      – redirect any existing tag pages when you delete them, just to be sure you’re not leaving any dead-ends.
      Good luck :)

  3. Ace Outsourcing
    Ace Outsourcing  • 3 years ago

    How can I stop someone from tagging me on Instagram?

  4. Bart
    Bart  • 3 years ago

    It should be helpful if you could work on the tag pages with Gutenberg instead of the classic editor. That way it would be easier to make the tag pages more useful.

    • Amy Lees
      Amy Lees  • 3 years ago

      That’s an interesting idea, Bart, thanks for sharing! We’ll pass it on to our WordPress Core team. Even without Gutenberg, there’s a lot you can do with your tag pages, so we still recommend optimizing these if you can. Good luck :)

  5. ashishalfred
    ashishalfred  • 3 years ago

    Thank you for the information, will definitely use for my site.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      You’re welcome :) Lots of luck with your site.

  6. Jana Friedrich
    Jana Friedrich  • 3 years ago

    Why not just set tags to noindex and remove the path from GSC?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Hi Jana. Thanks for your question! To be honest, if you do that you’ll still have lots of tag pages on your website that you won’t need. When you think about this from a user perspective, it’s not that great an experience when you click on a tag (in an article) and end up on a thin content page with just that article on it.

      This article is meant to give more insight into the proper use of tags, as you should consider them more as topics that you write multiple articles on then adding 2 or 3 new tags for every post that you write :) Hope this answers your question!

  7. Pasquale Mellone
    Pasquale Mellone  • 3 years ago

    I think tags are useful for internal linking and internal navigation. For example, if I want to find all the articles on my website mentioning ‘Yoast’ I will add a tag to make it easier for the visitors. Having said that, I have added a noindex instruction for all tags so that I avoid the problem you mention in this article :)

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Hi Pasquale! Tags can be very useful to find more articles on a topic, but it’s important to be mindful of how many you create. Your tags should be topics that you have multiple articles on so that your tag page is a collection of articles on that topic. Then you won’t have to noindex them as they become landing pages that are useful for your site visitors :)

  8. Jonathan Heller
    Jonathan Heller  • 3 years ago

    Thank you! I actually had this very same question. I stopped using a whole lot of tags about a month ago because Search Console was showing me some strange results that I wasn’t too familiar with. Perfect article. I am glad to have found it.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Sounds like you’re on the right track, Jonathan. Keep it up! And make sure to check out the tags you already have, like Marieke mentions at the end of this post :)

  9. Jason
    Jason  • 3 years ago

    If I delete all the unnecessary Tag pages, do I still need to delete the tags that are in each post? Or will keeping them in there just re-create a tag page?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Hi there, Jason! That won’t be necessary :) when you delete a tag, it will also be removed from every post in which you’ve used it. Don’t forget to redirect your tag pages!

      • Jason
        Jason  • 3 years ago

        Thank you! Is there an easy way to redirect them? I have literally thousands of tags that I need to delete LOL.

        • Amy Lees
          Amy Lees  • 3 years ago

          Unfortunately we’re not aware of a quick-and-easy way to redirect a large amount of tag pages. Good luck!