Tagging and tag clouds provide an unrivaled form of alternative navigation. Though they're just one tactic of many, they should not be ignored.
In del.icio.us, tags are one-word descriptions that users can assign to their bookmarks. In Technorati, a tag is more likely a simple category name whereby users can categorize their posts, photos, and videos with tag logic. In Yahoo's Flickr, tags work like keywords or labels that users add to their photos to make them easier to find later or to discover via image search engines and search engines that provide blended results. For an example, check out my dog's chewy friends.
Just as the Internet allows users to create and share their own media via the Web, so too does it enable users to organize digital material their own way with tags, rather than relying on preexisting formats of classifying information, such as search engine directories, yellow pages, and nearly any other topically oriented hierarchical ontology.
A December 2006 Pew Internet survey finds that 28 percent of Internet users have tagged or categorized such content online as photos, news stories, and blog posts. On a typical day online, 7 percent of Internet users say they use tags to categorize online content.
The idea behind tagging is simple and straightforward, but its ramifications are complex and multifarious. For the better part of a decade, the primary way to categorize, retrieve, and discover information on the Internet was through search engines' automated algorithms, originally topically challenged and highly imprecise. Of course, this structured organization opened the door for SEO (define) as a means to influence ranked results.
Tagging has quickly gained popularity because it allows humans to bring a layer of collective, topically pertinent, and intuitive organization to what otherwise would be a discombobulated heap of semi-aggregated data, such as reverse chronological archives or authors pages, and the like. With its inherent keyword-rich, interlinked, topically concatenated structure, tagging content, images, and videos has become yet another readily adaptable SEO tactic; one worthy of inclusion in link-building strategies.
Rooted in folksonomies (define), tagging systems are generally created by users themselves, rather than site owners, and make online resources far more accessible and searchable than they had ever been before. The practice brings a social context to such resources as blogs, shared bookmarking, photos, videos and even books.
Because tagging is used as an indexing tool and as a way to search for information, both in specific databases and across the Internet, some say it's conceivable that tagging technology could one day give search engines like Google and Yahoo a run for their money. Tagging's growth probably contributes to a measure of competitive urgency for Google to develop its Custom Search Engine services and Yahoo to improve its Search Builderfunctionality.
Yet tagging, at its current development stage, is more a tool for collaborative social use, not for universal searching. But that doesn't mean large groupings of tags that collectively aggregate many online sources, known as tag clouds, could one day become a prominent search choice for many people -- especially if Eurekster, Lijit, and Rollyohave anything to say about it.
Trio of Tag Options
Eurekster started in 2004 with social search, allowing users to organize and share their search results. Subsequently, Eurekster came out with swickis, more vertically oriented search technology that improves relevancy over time, based on community usage, a key factor of tag popularity.
With nearly 100,000 "buzz clouds" (Eurekster's moniker for tag clouds) widgets created to date, the free service allows user to personalize Web searches into an ontology that's highly targeted and relevant to its audience. Users can seed their buzz clouds with their search terms, then Eurekster adds associated terms based on which searches are popular with the site's visitors.
With Eurekster swickis, users can organize and tag online sources for aggregated searches of destinations in blogrolls, image and photo collections, and even videos through its association with blinkx. And users can actually make a little money on their tagging efforts. Eurekster offers swicki users with an ad-revenue-share option via AdSense, as leveraged on the Ultimate Neopets Cheats blog.
While Eurekster offers advertising revenue as a Swicki creation incentive, Lijit offers substantive tag search data. Lijit allows users to readily create a customized tag-based search engine. It'll help search blogs, bookmarks, photos, blogrolls, and more. Users simply set up the Lijit Search Wijit on their blogs, and detailed statistics about its use will start rolling in, so users can better understand and serve their readers.
Let's say you blog about all 2008 presidential candidates. When your readers use Lijit to search your blog for information about "hillary clinton," the results might include blog posts you've authored and bookmarks you've made about other sites' articles and information. Lijit offers a way to extend your trusted search resources to others.
Rollyo is similar to Lijit in how it allows users to create personalized search engines based only on sources you trust. Its searchrolls facilitate exploring, saving, and personalizing searches created by others. According to Rollyo, about a thousand new searchrolls are created each day.
Rollyo offers interesting search features, as well, like the RollBar Bookmarklet, which allows users to drag an entire Rollyo experience onto a browser, and the ability to add a searchroll to Firefox with one click. High-profile Rollyo-ers include Arianna Huffington and PBS's "Frontline." From single-site search to full Web search, Rollyo provides a quick, easy way to find search results from the sites you trust. Keep in mind, there are some limitations to the number of online sources you can tap into at any time.
Summing Up Tags
From an SEO perspective, tagging and tag clouds provide an unrivaled form of alternative navigation. When personalized or customized search results are combined, tagged, and bookmarked, a complex layer of interlinking is readily applied to words and phrases, potentially raising your site content's visibility, as well as that of others, on the search engines.
Simply stated, tagging is SEO friendly. The ontology lends itself to the creation and concentration of topical themes, which when interlinked to sites, blogs, photos, videos, and the like, can create a powerful, readily built part of a link-building strategy. Though tagging is just one tactic of many, it should not be ignored.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.
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