Part 1 of this series can be found here.
Tags are a way of organizing your online articles into a searchable database using key words and expressions. Most people choose their tags based on personal preference, and that’s fine, but if you want others to be able to use tags to find your articles, you need to plan out your strategy.
There are basically two schools of thought on tagging: the “more is better” approach and the “less is best” approach.
Some people use as many tags as they can think of, hoping to get more people to visit their articles from Internet search engines like Google or Bing. Unfortunately, search engines list their results based on the number of hits an article has received. In my case, I’m assuming that I’ll be down around page 50 in the list, so I don’t bother with this strategy.
Instead, I tag for Viners, who might visit my column looking for specific types of articles. If I have hundreds of tags in my library, most people won’t take the time to look through them.
Consider that each of your tag words is like a shelf in your library. It’s confusing to have four different shelves for photography, photos, images and pictures. Instead, choose one tag word and stick with it. Which word you use is a matter of personal preference, though you might consider what word most people would use in a search on the Internet.
Each word has its own nuance. If you are simply posting photos, then the word “photos” should suffice, but if you are writing an article about photographic techniques, “photography” might be a better tag word.
Since I prefer the simplicity method, I don’t even bother using separate tags for “photography” or “photos,” because all of my photo articles are tagged as “newsvine-photographers.”
Instead, I focus on organizing my articles into predetermined categories, which best fit my usual content using a tiered approach of broad, medium and specific tags.
“Newsvine-photographers” is almost always my broad category, since I mostly post photos, but occasionally, I’ll post a “personal-narrative.” The types of photos I post can usually be categorized into more specific tags such as “flowers,” “pets,” or “butterflies.”
So how do you choose your tag categories?
I use word associations and then delete the words that wouldn’t really be helpful in narrowing down an online search. For example:
“animals” – “pets” – “dogs” – “cairn-terriers” – “Yeti”
“Animals” is a broad category, and I wouldn’t use it in any search for a dog. “Pets” and “dogs” are better descriptions of a category that someone might search. “Cairn-terriers” is a specific tag, but my articles aren’t really about cairn terriers; rather they are photos of my pet dog, who goes by the name of “Yeti.” If someone visits my column, they’ll recognize the name, and can search for those articles under that specific tag word.
“travel” – “Europe” – “Great-Britain” – “UK” – “Wiltshire-County” – “landmark” - “Stonehenge”
If you were doing a search online, would you use each of those terms? How many people know that Stonehenge is in Wiltshire County, UK? I just tagged my photos as “Stonehenge” because I think it gets right to the point. My broad category (shelf in my library) is tagged UK, because I have lots of photos from that location, and it tells me exactly where I need to go to see those photos. I don’t bother with the category of travel, because there’s no need, when I include a tag for the location.
So to summarize, I recommend three things when planning your library of tag words:
- Consistency! Use the same tag word for similar articles, so they all show up in one place, rather than haphazardly scattered throughout your library. Spelling and dashes matter, though capitalization doesn’t.
- Simplicity! Like automated phone services, most people get frustrated when they have to keep punching numbers (or search words) to get to where they are trying to go.
- Balance! Identify broad and medium categories that best describe your content, and get specific when warranted.
To help you plan your strategy, the following (though far from inclusive) are some word associations and suggestions to consider:
- Artistic Categories (abstracts, black and whites, movement, low key, high key, macros, photoshopped, enhanced)
- Types of Photo Articles (photo stories, photo essays, photo journalism, photo techniques, photo collaborations)
- Hobbies (collections, crafts, fishing, foodies, hiking)
- Holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween)
- Gardening (flowers, plants, trees, wildflowers, vegetables)
- Nature (fields, forests, woods, rivers, ponds, ocean, waterfalls, mountains)
- Pets (dogs, cats, hamsters)
- Skies (clouds, constellations, moon, sunsets)
- Travel (country, city, landmark, name of attraction)
- Weather (winter, summer, spring, fall, snow, earthquakes, storms, climate)
- Wildlife (birds, insects, squirrels)