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I am currently working on an Arts & Crafts eCommerce website, with my current focus being on the creation of the Content Inventory/Site Architecture.

I am wondering if, as part of their SERP Algorithms, do Search Engines factor in both Product Categories and Product Tags?

Let's say the Product is a pair of Sun Glasses. The Category is 'Oakleys' with the Tag being 'Red'. Would Search Engines pick up on this? As a result, the Product page would rank for terms, such as 'Red Oakleys Sunglasses'?

I know that there are many other factors at play here but I am just looking to further understand the role of Tags and its impact on Search Results.

Additional Example:

Say I am a Photographer/Painter and I would like to display my repertoire of work. I create a website and have the following Categories:

  • Urban Collection
  • Mammals Collection
  • Animals Collection

The above categories will allow people to browser the different collections, based on their Subjects. I then use a Tool, such as Google's Keyword Planner and come to see that there are a lot of people performing search queries, such as: 'Red Wildlife Photographs', 'Abstract Urban Print for Living Room' and '3 Piece Canvas Print of Safari Plains.'

Wouldn't this be a good time to use Tags, such as 'Red', 'Abstract' and '3 Piece Prints'? My thinking being, that by having a Tag 'Red' and 'Abstract' etc, the visitor will be able to browse a 'Tag Page' which pulls all 'Red' Photos and 'Abstract' photos from all Categories. To me, this would be a better user experience since, the user would not need to browse all Categories, since all the results relating to their 'Red Wildlife Photographs' would be on one page rather than the visitor needing to filter the 'Mammals' and 'Animals' Collection.

The way I look at it, is that Categories are reserved for 'Themed' Products while Tags are reserved for Products to be linked from different Categories by a common Attribute.

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    To understand tag and categories you need to understand the intent, both Google and Bing return results on what it thinks the users intent is within the search term. For example... Google and Bing understand that a user search of car parts is a broad 'looking to buy' search and therefore the likelihood of a category page or tag page is extremely high since they will feature lots of car parts. A search with Nissan Micra Bluetooth stereo is specific and therefore a full product page will likely be returned in favour of category or tag page. – Simon Hayter Apr 3 '18 at 21:58
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    Red Oakleys Sunglasses is unlikely to work since Google has the ability to understand the colour of products because often product pages include multiple colours, so its a pretty poor approach and in fact, your likely to have lots of worthless pages. A category Oakleys Sunglasses with the colours mentioned before clicking the full product would be much more suitable and less spammy. You could, however, use red sunglasses that returns all brands available and in stock glasses in red. Tag and Catagories are designed for users, not search engines, keep to that and SEO follows naturally. – Simon Hayter Apr 3 '18 at 22:03
  • This sounds like an answer to me. I was waiting for a good opportunity to talk about intent in search queries and how and when they match pages. You nailed one excellent example perfectly! Cheers!! – closetnoc Apr 3 '18 at 22:10
  • @SimonHayter Thanks for your Comment. I have provided an 'Additional Example.' Would your directive also apply to this or is my understanding 'along the right lines' so to speak? That said, maybe a Faceted Navigation could prove to be a better solution for an eCommerce site with so many variables?! – Craig Apr 3 '18 at 23:35
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The better that you can convey what your page is about to Google, the more you are likely to rank for the keywords that you are targeting. By telling Google that your page is about "Red -> Animal Collection -> Zebra -> Tshirt", you'll have a good chance to match for that exact combination of keywords or close to it.

Because you specified "red" and "tshirt", Google is now even more confident than before that it shouldn't send users to your page who are looking for "Green Zebra Animal Pants"

Anything that helps the bot better understand your pages is likely to help rank and target you. Google wants to show the absolute best pages on the web for what its customers are searching for, and so it needs as close to 100% confidence that your page is about that as possible.

  • Thanks for your comment. Am I right in thinking that Search Engines, are capable of picking up the Tags as a signal then? Keeping to your example, you could rank for Red Zebra T-Shirts, if the Parent Category was 'Zebras', the Child Category being 'T-Shirts' and then a Tag entitled 'Red'? Of course, there are other signals too but this is the jist, so to speak? – Craig Apr 4 '18 at 22:51
  • Yes these tags should impact the signal of search engines. Googlebot will primarily determine what your page is about by its content but all of the structure, markup and meta help them with this as well. – Michael d Apr 5 '18 at 10:38
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Tagging your products is a great way to organize them on your site for your visitors. It however is not a great way to associate keywords with your products for SEO purposes.

Tag and category pages are not great landing pages from search engines. Users tend to prefer to land directly on relevant product pages. It isn't great user experience to leave a list of search results and land on a list of products. Google knows this. Google observes user behavior when users turn back to the search results because they are unhappy. Tag and category pages are great for navigating within your site, but they end up hurting SEO.

Because of this, it is usually preferable to noindex your tag and category pages and link your product pages together directly. You can do so with sections such as "Other red wildlife paintings".

Creating tags just for getting keywords on the page could also be a form of keyword stuffing which is against to Google webmaster guidelines. Having a handful of tags to help users navigate is fine, but having more than 5 starts to look spammy.

I would suggest writing descriptions that address the concerns of people searching. You don't have to use keywords and phrases exactly. Google does a lot of topic matching and synonyms. But if people are searching by room in their house, then describe some of your art work as designed for the dining room, for example. Make sure you state the major colors of the work in the description. Describe the subject matter of each painting in words as if you were describing it to somebody who couldn't see it.

  • I am a little uncertain on how Tags and Categories could be poor landing pages. If a user performs a broad search, such as 'Bedroom Curtains', wouldn't a Category be better for the visitor, so they have choice, rather than a specific Product page, which would likely require them to 'click back' so to speak? Furthermore, not sure how the proper implementation of Categories and/or Tags, could hurt SEO, since they have the potential to reduce Bounce Rate, if nothing else. Am I missing something? – Craig Apr 4 '18 at 22:42
  • As for Tags, I totally agree regarding Keyword Stuffing. That said, it is the generation of the Tag page itself, I am concerned with. Simply, as I would be looking to optimise the Tag page for relevant Keywords. A typical Keyword, I would be looking at for a Tag page, could be 'Extra Large Photographs'. The Tag page would include the Extra Large Photographs from all Categories. I see no problems in this approach. Always keen to hear from people, who may think I have overlooked something, of course! :-) – Craig Apr 4 '18 at 22:47
  • Better usability is usually presenting users with your best option rather than choices. Choices turn users off and make them go away. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 4 '18 at 22:58
  • I may be letting my own personal preferences cloud my judgement here but still not convinced that people prefer to be 'spoon fed' assumptions rather than make their own decisions from a choice of search query related choices. I just feel that long tail keywords would be better for Product pages, with Categories and/or Tags great for the broader Short Tail Keywords. After all, doesn't a broad search query suggest the intent is 'I am unsure what I want but would like to see what is out there'? Thus the user's intent is on generating choices rather than eliminating all choices, prematurely? – Craig Apr 4 '18 at 23:11

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