Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why it's a good idea to use labels in Blogger

Outside Tate Modern #1
or what to draw when life class is on holiday)
11" x 8"pen and ink
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I posted about Labels back in January in this post "New Blogger Update #3: Labels in Blogger". However I've since become aware that some people have only switched to New Blogger recently while others still don't quite realise why using labels are a good idea.

So the aim of this post is to help people to understand better:
  • why using labels is a good idea
  • how to choose labels to use
  • some things to think about before using Labels in Blogger
Why using labels is a good idea
  • Labels are essentially another word for 'tags' (as in Flickr) or 'meta tags' (as in building websites) and they are very similar to 'key words' (as in searches). They are incredibly useful for categorising your content on sites which deliver search results.
  • Labels help you and your readers to find all posts on a given topic quickly (so, for example, I use a new label for each new project I do)
  • Using labels seems to generate extra traffic for your blog - on a cumulative basis
    • it helps search engines to find your blog post
    • which in turn helps with page ranking because search engines can find your blog post!
    • as you get more traffic and your blog gets a better profile, labels act like keywords and start to come up independently in keyword searches on search engine pages. Links to some of the labels used on my blog now come up on the front page of some key word searches.

A tag is a (relevant) keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (e.g. a picture, article, or video clip), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification of information.

Tags are usually chosen informally and personally by the author/creator or the consumer of the item. Tags are typically used for resources such as computer files, web pages, digital images, and internet bookmarks (both in social bookmarkingweb browsers - see Flock). For this reason, "tagging" has become associated with the Web 2.0 buzz. Many people associate "tagging" with the idea of the semantic web, however some believe that tagging may not be having a positive effect on the overall drive towards the semantic web.

Typically, an item will have one or more tags associated with it.

Wikipedia - 'tags'

How to choose labels to use
  • relate the labels you use to keywords which you wish to be associated with (and if you've not worked that out, do this first if you want people to find your blog)
  • look at your tag cloud (eg in Technorati) and see which words you are using most
  • check what your stats say about which key words people are using to arrive at your site (and avoid all those you don't want to be associated with your site!)
  • Always use the totally obvious keywords in your blog post as labels / tags
  • You don't have to use just one tag. Use all the tags which are relevant to the content of your blog post.
  • Don't use labels/tags which are not relevant to your content. Some search engines penalise people for using tags/labels which do not relate to the rest of the content of a post or website page.
Some things to think before you start to use Blogger Labels
  • Take a look at the latest Blogger 'Help' advice about 'labels'
  • you must use one of the new templates to be able to insert a sidebar widget for 'labels'
  • think about which words to use for labels carefully BEFORE you start to label posts. Apart from issues to do with which words you want your blog associated with, there is the question of which words make the best label from an efficiency as well as an effectiveness perspective. You cannot delete a label once created even if you relabel all the posts which originally used the label. This problem is still outstanding and unrecognised by Blogger so far as I'm aware. So it's a really good idea to think carefully before you start to label and then review labels periodically to try and keep them to a manageable number
  • They don't have to be called 'Labels' in (my) right hand column and at the end of each blog post. I renamed mine 'categories' - simply by changing the name in the module which adds them in. They could also be called 'tags'.
  • Think about whether you want them ranked according to the alphabet or frequency. I started with frequency on the basis people tend to scan the first few items in any list - but then switched back to alphabetical because I couldn't find the one I wanted!
  • Watch out for use of the comma when inserting them - you can inadvertently create a new category.
  • Start by labelling all new posts before tackling old ones.
  • Tagging all past posts will cause them to republish. Which means you could make yourself a real nuisance to people who have subscribed to your blog. Check your settings in whichever subscription service you use before you start - and if you've got instantaneous publication switch if off or change it for a more suitable temporary setting. Setting aside some time, warning your readers what you are about to do and then doing them in big batches is one approach. I'm interested to know what are the other ways people have managed to label past posts without annoying their readers.

And when you've finished that exercise, spare a thought for me - I've just started to tag some 600+ blog posts and associated links in!

Note: The sketches at the top were done outside Tate Modern in August. Each sketch took just a few minutes and I did two pages in about 20 minutes. Drawing people waiting around is a great way of keeping hand and eye co-ordination up to speed while term-time drawing classes are on holiday!



Anonymous said...

Thankyou Katherine :D Next time I'll read your advice before I try ANYthing. Yes, I know I've said that before, but this time I mean it! :d

Manuela Valenti said...

I was just fixing the labels on my blog yesterday, and what a coincidence I just got your post about labels in my inbox.

I also think having too many labels might scare blog readers away? maybe I'm wrong, so as for now, aside from using carefully the keywords for my labels, I'm also trying to use them as categories instead for people to find more easily what they are looking for in my blog. I did name them categories in my blog aswell, is easy for non-bloger users to identify themselves with categories rather than calling them labels.

Great post Katherine, thank you for this invaluable information.

Kirsty said...

Fantastic advice, thanks. I'd honestly never noticed the labels space before, despite 8 months of using blogger for The Diary Project.

Anonymous said...

Ok here's a silly question. I am so new to blogging, I'm not sure of all the terminology yet. What consitutes a lable?

Making A Mark said...

A label is what Blogger calls categories or tags.

If you look at the end of the post you can see the Blogger labels for this post (which I call categories).

Basically it's a way of categorising stuff you write on the net which makes it easier for the browsers to find it.

If you then make sure that your labels also have a module in the right hand column, then people can access everything you've written about eg 'blogging'

Does that help?

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