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I'm wondering whether someone here conducted some tests (or heard of someone who has done so) to see whether a totally mislabeled tag on a WordPress post has some SEO impact.

WordPress offers us to write posts that we can (1) tag and (2) categories.

What I'm wondering is whether search engines, such as Google, see it as a bad thing if we tag a post as, say, "Smurf", when the page does not talk about Smurfs.

Way way back, people would add keywords (now generally called tags) in their header meta tags (<meta name="keywords" content="smurf"/>.) One of the main reason to stop allowing that meta tag was because it was abused left and right.

Now I'm wondering whether on-page visible tags and categories of a WordPress post should represent a word that appears at least once in my post content or whether that has no bearing in terms of SEO. Remember that WordPress clearly marks the tags and categories as such with a rel="..." attribute as in:

<a href="example.com/tag/smurf" rel="tag">Smurf</a>

I'm looking for people who have tested such and seen visible variations between both (unmatched tags and matched tags).

  • You have to realize that no term used anywhere is taken in a vacuum. SEs do not do term matches. That is not how search works. A term used out of context will not move the needle. No at all. Especially in something so small as a link or URL path. Not when compared to content which is the meat of search. Your smerf example will have no effect unless the content itself is about smerfs. You do not need a WP test. Just take the word of Google when it uses the term relevance when talking about links and URLs. – closetnoc Mar 19 '18 at 5:25
  • @closetnoc Are you sure that having a "displaced" anchor tag on my page has no effect on that page? From what I understand this can be viewed as spam. Just one is probably going to be inconsequential, what I'm wondering is whether that would generate a problem if someone is doing that to all of his/her pages. (I thought it would be easy to extrapolate from my question that this would apply to the entire website, not just one page.) – Alexis Wilke Mar 19 '18 at 9:17
  • A tag is just a link to a page with content about that topic. It doesn't look much different than a navigation link. Most sites have navigation links that don't match the topic of the current page. I don't think Google parses tags specially compared to other page elements to try to discern the topic of a WordPress post. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 19 '18 at 10:31
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    ...has no effect on that page... I did not say that! [Insert grin] Certainly a cr@p load of them can be seen as gaming. One stray dog in a yard does not mean the yard is crappy. A pack could possibly do it though. Watch where you step! Cheers!! – closetnoc Mar 19 '18 at 15:24
  • @StephenOstermiller, I thought of that first. But then I thought that anchors used for tags have that rel="tag" attribute. So it's not equivalent. Also they are not in the same HTML block. Menus and sidebars are in blocks that repeat throughout the website and as such are easily viewed as navigation links. Tags are bar of the main body. Maybe I'm going a bit too far, though. – Alexis Wilke Mar 19 '18 at 16:26
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There is some damage that this can cause to your site. The amount of damage that it can cause ranges from extremely small to a moderate amount.

Anything that a webmaster does to his webpage that isn't quite right or diminishes the user experience can hurt your rankings on Google. Google's algorithm is designed to give its customers the very best experience that it can in its results. A website that is about "cars" but has a link to "smurfs" on the page is in itself a poor user experience. The page about cars could be amazing, 100/100, but the link to smurfs might make it more like a 99/100. Because the link just doesn't really make sense.

On top of that, a lot of SEO experts have found that Google values links based on their association. It's vital to be linking to content that is relevant to a page. When a page about cars links to a page about smurfs, the page relation doesn't make sense, and to Google's algorithm, this could look slightly spammy.

Google has become an expert in understanding words and language. And so it knows what the word "smurfs" is. It knows that we're talking about little blue cartoons. If that doesn't have anything to do with the on page topic, then it's off topic. And Google analyzes anchor text to determine what the following page is about.

If you're internally linking to a page about biology with the anchor text of smurfs, Google will likely see this as spammy anchor text. And Google has taken serious measures to stop webmasters from abusing anchor text for years. It's taken such a serious approach against it because websites used to rank their dirty/spam sites for keywords such as cars by flooding car related anchor text to all of their backlinks. Tags are generally used as internal links with anchor text.

Google wants to show users a page about cars when it searches for cars. If the user sees a link to smurfs, the page is slightly less about cars than it was before.

By messing around with the anchor text in the tags on your site, you're almost certainly going to be slightly damaging it.

One little tag link to an off topic of "smurfs" may not actually change your rankings, but the concept of it is actually dangerously running the risk of getting your site hit, especially if the tag structure of the site is misused many times.

Sites that are built with the absolute best intentions for user experience are most likely to rank. And Google is getting better and better at understanding when a user experience was positive or negative. Messing around with on page content that doesn't belong, or using improper anchor text for your tags is intentionally sabotaging your own user experience.

Overall, one little incorrect tag is probably no big deal. But messing around with things like that could cause more harm than good.

  • Yes! Your 3rd paragraph says it all, I think. That was what I was also thinking. Such links could look like spam. Now it's interesting that you say the search engine would take it all in account. I hadn't thought of that. The contents of the destination page will also be taken in account. That makes total sense and just the link in itself does not represent everything. – Alexis Wilke Mar 19 '18 at 9:13

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