Not sure how to use tags?
Tagging can be a great way to add user-friendly navigation to your site, but many WordPress users struggle with two issues:
- When should I use tags?
- How do I add them?
In this post, I’ll explain exactly when you should use tags, where to find them in your post editor, how to overcome some common mistakes, and how to bulk apply tags (without adding any new plugins).
Let’s start by covering when you should add tags to post.
When to use tags
First of all, you should create a great category structure first.
Since categories can have sub-categories (and tags cannot), they are usually the best way to organize your posts. Then you can add tags for supplemental navigation.
A tag example
If you have a recipe site, you might have categories like salads, sandwiches, and soups & stews. New categories can be added for additional types of dishes, and each category can easily be expanded with sub-categories e.g. adding a “chili” category under soups & stews.
That same recipe site could add tags like vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. This way, a meatless chili could still be included in the soups & stews category where it belongs, but also be tagged as vegan or vegetarian.
Often times, tags are best used for qualities that are true or false like if a dish is vegetarian or not.
As another example, a video game news site might use game genres for the categories and then tag each post with the consoles it’s relevant to (PS4, Xbox, PC, etc).
How to add tags to a post
Now that you know when to use tags, here’s how to actually add them to posts.
To add a tag to a post, start by visiting the Posts page and clicking on the post you want to tag.
In the post editor, you’ll find the tag section in the right side of the editor. Click it to expand.
Type in the tag you want to add and hit the Enter key to add it to the post.
If you’re not using the Gutenberg editor yet, here’s what the tag box looks like:
It can still be found in the right sidebar of the editor. Type in a tag and hit the Enter key or click the Add button to add it to the post.
I don’t see the tag option!
If you’re using the classic post editor and don’t see the tag box at all, scroll to the top of the page and click on the Screen Options tab.
Then check off the Tags box and close the Screen Options tab.
The tag box will now display in the right sidebar like in the screenshot above.
Mistakes to avoid
Don’t add tags on the fly without any consideration. While this won’t be a problem right away, it eventually poses both usability and SEO issues.
First of all, if you constantly create new tags with each post you publish, visitors will frequently click a tag and find only the same post in the archive. They’ll learn quickly that clicking the tags doesn’t help them find new content and they’ll stop clicking them.
Second, you don’t want to create a ton of archive pages on your site with the same posts over and over again. You get a crawl budget when a Google bot visits your site and you want the bot to crawl your most important pages, not get lost on an endless variety of tag archive pages.
In other words, carefully consider your tags beforehand just like you would for a category structure.
How to bulk tag posts
Once you’ve got your tags picked out, you might have a lot of posts to tag all at once. You can use WordPress’ built-in post editor feature to get this done quickly.
First, navigate to the Posts menu. You can immediately select all posts by clicking the checkbox at the top, like this:
Otherwise, you can select them one at a time. You can also change the number of posts per page if you want to edit even more at once.
Next, click the Bulk Actions dropdown and select the Edit option.
Then click the Apply button to display the bulk editing tools.
You’ll see a new section added to the page where you can bulk edit the posts with the tagging option all the way to the right.
The tagging works a bit different here than for individual posts. Type in each tag you want to add and separate them with commas. Then click the Update button at the bottom of the editor to tag all selected posts.
Most WordPress users never use the bulk editing tools or even know about them.
Tags are subtlely different from categories and the majority of WordPress users don’t apply them properly.
Avoid causing usability and SEO issues by carefully considering the tags you’ll use. They’re great for boolean or true/false values in particular.
Then apply the tags individually through the post editor, or use the bulk post editing tools in the Posts menu to tag many posts at once.
If you’ve got questions or feedback about using WordPress tags, leave a comment below.