As a newbie webmaster I started to make heavy use of tags here on this site. Some articles had ten tags or more associated with them which was not really a problem back then when search engines did not care how many tag pages you had. I thought that I'd help my visitors navigate the site better when I use lots of terms, and that my site would become more relevant for the selected terms.
When Google started its attempt to measure site quality artificially I started to notice that low quality pages on your site, or what Google considered low quality, would have an impact on the site's overall standing in the search engines. I do not really agree with this at all and would prefer if Google would look at articles individually instead. A quality article that helps people should not tank because of a web forum, lots of tags or other low quality pages somewhere else on the site.
To make matters worse, it seemed as if potential targets for low quality contents thrived as before, while legitimate sites such as Freeware Genius or mine were affected negatively by the change. Since it does not look as if Google will revert the decisions it made anytime soon, it was time to act, and one of the factors that seems to play a role for my site was the tag system.
When Google started to roll out Panda, my site had 15,000 tags, more than posts on the site. Some tags like Windows Software, Firefox Add-ons or Backup were used frequently, while others were only used in one or two articles.
I associate two major issues with tags:
The first is an assumption that I make after reading up on Panda and what webmasters have to say about it. Ghacks actually was affected by Panda last year and reducing the tags from 15k to 10k helped in the recovery.
Duplicate content is another beast that is lingering above our heads. WordPress is notorious for creating snippet pages. Think about it, you have the actual post on your site, the front page where it may be listed, the category pages it has been filed under, the author page, and the tag pages. That's a lot of duplicate content, especially if you use lots of tags and categories per post.
When I started cleaning up tags I did so manually using the Redirection plugin for WordPress. It was a slow process and something that I never want to do again.
I recently discovered Term Optimizer, a script for WordPress by Joost de Valk that is sold for $25. While I'm usually not a fan of paid scripts, I decided to make an exception this time to find out if it can help me improve my tag optimizations. Turns out, those were the best $25 I have ever spend for my site.
Terms Optimizer is a single php file that you move into the root directory of your WordPress directory. You then load it from there to manage all of your tags on your site.
The main page provides you with options to filter tags that you want to manage. The default setting displays the first 100 tags with three or less post counts. You can modify that to any number and add a search term that the tags should include to filter for specific terms instead.
The script displays the count, that is the number of times the tag was used in posts, the search count, which is the number of search results returned for that tag, and action buttons to edit the tag or view it on the site.
Once you have selected one or multiple tags from the listing, you select an action from the "with selected" menu. The two most important actions are:
Redirects are automatically added to your htaccess file. I'd suggest you start with one tag to see that everything works before you start merging or deleting multiple tags at once. I also suggest you delete the script file whenever you are finished optimizing the site's taxonomy to avoid that a third party accidentally stumbles upon it and wreaks havoc on your site.
My goal is to bring down the tags to less than 200 on the site. I have also started to add contents to each tag with the help of custom tag pages. Check out the Windows 8 tag page to see how this may look like.
Are you running a WordPress blog? Was your site affected by Panda or other updates? Did you recover or are you working on recovery?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.