Are Tags Dead?

When tags burst into the spotlight tags were hailed as the second coming of Jesus for the web. Flickr was using tags to organize photos, and del.cio.us to sort bookmarks. My first set of photos I uploaded on Flickr of the deviantArt summit were tagged pretty thoroughly, I loved the ability to see photos of similar content by clicking on the little globe, so I added as much detail as I thought was reasonable and likely to get results.

Blogs were on the tag bandwagon too, the demand for tags, was for a long time, outstripping the WordPress team’s ability or desire to add this functionality spurred plugins to do just that. I installed Christine Davis’ Ultimate Tag Warrior on every blog project I could until WordPress finally came out with built-in tag support, albeit very limited compared to what the community had created in the years prior.

There even grew Technorati tags out of the excitement, a once hailed blog search tool that used your articles tags to help categorize the results it returned. It was the age of the folksonomy revolution; collaborative tagging, pivot browsing, and social indexing were the hallmark of user driven content. Everyone and their mothers had tag clouds, hell they had tag cloud t-shirts.

But at some point they became passe, like the big hair and high tops of the 80’s the love for them seems to have faded. XFEP doesn’t make use of tags, and neither does bloggingtips which I write for as well. Yes, I still have a tag cloud on my own site, and add a minimal amount of tags to my posts and photos, out of habit. But do I regularly use tags anymore to find content? No.

There is hope though. Engadget is one site that does tagging right. Not just relegated as an aside to a post or footnote, but as useful aids within the content. Words that relate too or are the name of a tag are made into links to that tags archive. It’s useful, it’s simple, and it’s relevant. This is where tags can make a comeback.

Do you use tags on your blog? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.

Guest Author Bio: If you liked this post, please check out the writer, John Leschinski, someone who is both great at web design and a friend of mine. John Leschinski is a designer & consultant with almost a decade of experience, on the forefront of modern design, focused on creative opportunities and solutions for challenges facing businesses today.

6 thoughts on “Are Tags Dead?

  1. Bill Deys

    I don’t think tags are dead, I just think a lot of people aren’t using them as they should. Partly because they don’t see the benefit, I subscribe to a bunch of technorati tag feed for stuff like my name and events I want to track and there are not a lot of other easy ways to do that. Also partly because until now it wasn’t out of the box ready and they don’t know how to get the plugin or that it even exists.

  2. Kevin

    Good post John. I decided not to use tags on BloggingTips for a few reasons.

    1. I personally don’t ever click through tags on other blogs
    2. I think that categories are sufficient – both for seo reasons and for the user. BT has 25 categories which is more than enough, I really don’t see the benefit of having a tag cloud with 100’s of keywords.
    3. You need to remember all the tags you used otherwise your tags become a mess. For example, if you have a few authors on your blog (which is not uncommon nowadays) the chances of them using different tags for the same topic is very high. Say you wrote a post about buying a domain name and you used the tag ‘domains’. Another author might use the tag ‘domain’, or ‘domain name’ or ‘domain names’. That’s 4 tags for the same subject. Obviously this happens with every blog topic.

  3. John Leschinski

    I agree Kevin. Tag clouds are pretty useless, and as I mentioned I rarely find myself using tags anymore. But they still have a place I think within the content itself.

    The multiple tags for the same thing is an issue I neglected indeed. I think if wordpress had a better tag support, an auto complete, it wouldn’t be as bad.

  4. John Leschinski

    As an example though, using your domain scenario, say you wrote a post about godaddy. Tag the post godaddy, and then link the tag archive in the post and future posts about godaddy.

    Using tags with product or company names, rather then generalized descriptors, like phone or cat, would prevent some of that multiple tag problem.

  5. Kevin

    You make a good point, when I made tags I usually used the topic rather than the product or company name.

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