May 19, 2012

Blog Tips: Optimizing Your Topic List

BlogIf you look at that tag cloud in the far right sidebar labeled "topics," you'll get a quick idea about the sort of thing I write about here at Atheist Revolution. The tags that are fairly small (e.g., foxhole atheists) represent topics I have written fairly little about, while the big ones (e.g., Christian extremism) are those that have been especially frequent topics. But there are a couple problems with this tag cloud that I need to fix, so you may see some changes soon. Since I haven't written a new blogging tip in almost a year, I thought I'd explain what I plan to do and why.

Whether you use a tag cloud or a simple list of tags (see Mississippi Atheists for an example), this is an important way to help readers find posts about topics that may interest them. Accurately tagging your posts and providing this sort of information in your sidebar not only helps readers access more of your content; it makes it easier for them to find relevant content.


How many tags should you use? That will vary based on the nature of your blog and the content of your posts, and you may want to experiment a bit. Having too many tags takes up too much space on your sidebar and means that you'll probably have tags with very few posts in them. Having too few tags is unlikely to be helpful to readers.

I've long made the mistake of tagging countless posts with "Christianity." Not only is this not particularly descriptive, but the label has become so large that it is unlikely to be very helpful to readers. This label could be (and has been) applied to a great many posts. Recognizing this led me to recently create a new tag (i.e., Catholic) and use it to re-classify many of the posts I had been labeling "Christianity." It is still a common subject, it is more descriptive and takes a bite out of the more broader label.

What I am learning is that many of the tags I started with have outlived their usefulness and need to be rethought. My guess is that the longer your blog has been around the more likely you are to find yourself in a similar situation.

Optimizing Tags

If you are thinking of creating new tags, deleting old ones, and doing some reclassification, you can use some basic keyword research to guide your efforts. I went with "Catholic" because it performed better than "Catholicism" or "Catholic church." How did I know? Keyword research.

I've also discovered that I have some real duds in my current labels that do not perform well at all (e.g., foxhole atheists, atheist-theist dialogue). Almost nobody is searching for these terms. I just need to be careful that whatever alternatives I use are still meaningful to readers. It is also important to realize that there probably isn't much (if any) search engine benefit to doing this now that Google is penalizing duplicate content.