You walk into a very large library and you have in mind to find a book to help you on a very particular topic. As you stand in awe at how large this library is, you don't have a clue where to start. You ask the librarian about your topic. She says, "I believe we had a few books come in on that maybe a year ago. If you look on the second floor, down towards the middle of the library, that's where the books of that timeframe were placed."
You think, "huh!?? How am ever going to find it?"
After a day of searching, voila! Your book.
Libraries do not work that way (for obvious reasons)... neither should your blog be referenced like that either!
In this post, I want to show you how you can keep your blog very organized by using the "tags" feature that we have available to us. The majority of bloggers have failed to see the usefulness of this feature and are doing it wrong. I hope to change your mind about it. It is never to too late to start doing it correctly.
First of all, consider how that each time you are ready to submit an ActiveRain blog post, you have to identify the "Topic". This categorizes the blog posts on the site to collections like "Home Buying", "Home Selling", "Real Estate Market Trends", and so on. This puts your post into a bucket of similar posts that someone may discover what you have written by following a link to that topic from the ActiveRain home page (near the bottom of the page are links to these collections)
That's all well and good, but...
What if you want to find all the posts on that Topic, WRITTEN BY YOU.
If you had used the "tags" feature on your blog posts (in addition to the "Topics" setting), you could cue the theme song for Rocky right now. :)
(sorry for the YouTube preroll ad if you get one, sort of kills the effect)
You see, each tag that you assign to a post puts it into a collection of similar posts, written by you, that you can see listed out anytime you want. There is a landing page for each of the tags that you have used. Wait, What?? Yup. Right under your nose!
At the bottom of each of your blog posts, is a set of clickable tag links that if you click on any tag, you will be taken to a landing page of all your other posts that have the similar tag.
In the above example, Janis Borgueta can find and share a list of all the posts that she has written about "Hudson Valley NY Restaurants." Or, if she was looking for a specific post on that topic that she wanted to share, it would be in that listing.
What if you want to find a list of all the tags that you have ever used?
Currently, there is a couple of different ways to find your "master tags list". Any time that you are composing a blog post, on the right hand sidebar is a link to "List my tags". That will expand a list of every tag that you have ever used with a count of how many blog posts match. Each tag listed is clickable so you can go to the landing page for that tag and see the matching blog posts listed. (raise your hand if you just learned something new) This is a really cool list to know about!
The second way to find your "master tags list" requires that you be an AR Jedi. Go to your main blog page and in the address box at the top of your browser, append this to the end of the URL and then press enter:
therefore the URL will be like activrain.trulia.com/blogs/username/tags
What you discover when you append /tags to your blog URL is a "tag cloud" page. Each of your tags is displayed. The tags that have been used more often, will be written in larger font size. If you find your name is the word in the biggest font of all, see my little discussion below of what not to do. :)
Personally, of the two options for seeing all your tags, I really like the listing of tags on the compose a post sidebar for reference, I find it very useful for finding my blog posts when I am searching or something.
Collections and Sub-Collections (Buckets Inside Buckets)
So to recap a bit, when you write a blog post and you identify the topic group from the pull down list, you should reflect that topic into a similar tag. That way you will be able to look up all the blog posts that YOU have written on that topic. Think of tags as collections of posts, or you might say putting the post into a particular bucket (or you might think of them as virtual folders). The broad stroke categories like "Local Information" might produce a very long list of matching blog posts. That is sometimes what you want to share with somebody -- a more comprehensive list. On the other hand, blog posts can have multiple tags. So you can tag a blog post "Local Information" and "Historical Sites" or "Parks" or "Featured Businesses" or "Restaurants" or ... well you get the idea. Each of the secondary tags will give the reader a more drilled down list of matching posts. These "buckets" also give you blogging ideas when you hit a dry spell. Come back to your blog list of tags, see a list of your buckets and perhaps some of your buckets could be filled up more the count of (1) becomes (2) becomes (3) and then you are getting a fuller bucket!
Maybe this is the point that I should highlight that your name should not be a tag. Every one of your posts would be tagged as such. This provides nothing useful. Now that the discussion above shows you what IS useful, you can stop doing that now :)
Tips for Tagging
Inconsistent tagging is VERY easy to have happen but is counter-productive. I've done it, you've done it, we've ALL done it... but how to we watch out to NOT do it? For instancce, one post you tag with "restaurant" and the next time you say "restaurants". Now your blog index is fragmented, you might have five in one bucket and four in the other. What you should have had is nine in one bucket for a singular listing.
There are two very helpful tips that make this easily avoidable once you know what they are. FIRST, when you are composing your blog post and filling in the tags, get used to expanding your tags list on the right sidebar. That will show you what you've used before. SECOND, as you start typing in a tag, type a few characters and pause. You will see a popup menu appear that lists any matching tags. Pick your tag from that popup list and you will be guaranteed to reuse a tag you've previously used.
Another tip: Since tags are collections of posts, I recommend that you use the plural of the topic when applicable like "restaurants" or "parks".
If you are using a tag that hasn't been used before you will want to type the whole tag and then press either the enter key or a comma. When you see the blue box, your tag is accepted. If you want to remove a tag, click the 'x' at the end of the tag box.
Because tag words also become the basis for the URL of your landing page for posts on that topic, it could be seen as advantageous at times to throw in a specific locality name. This is all part the overall SEO equation of best practices. So you might think of tagging local information with a little extra thought the same as you do when you are titling a blog post for SEO purposes.
But I've Been Blogging Since The Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth - It's Too Late for Me
It is NOT too late. Previously written posts are EDITABLE. I'm in NO WAY SUGGESTING that you repair every blog post that you have written. But stop and think which blog posts have you previously written that you are most proud of. If you wanted to share a list of local information posts with someone moving into the area, which posts come to mind? Go back to THOSE posts and edit them with tags according to the strategies outlined above. If you have a first time home buyer, which posts would help them. Go back to THOSE posts and tag them "first time home buyer". Then you will have a landing page with a URL that you can share with a link. Furthermore, it is not too late for you because every blog post that you write FROM HERE ON OUT can but put into your tag buckets. Soon these collections will start to accrue more posts.
Writing a Series? Give it a Unique Tag
Sometimes your topic is too long for a singular blog post and you decide it would best be presented in a series. (cough, cough says he who turned this post into a master class... alright! If I didn't get all this out now, you might have had to wait too long for me to finish it. This is an exception post!) When you write a series, you want to conclude the series with links to the other posts in the series so the reader can catch up. This can be very tedious if you have a 10 part series to look up all the other hyperlinks. Furthermore, as you are writing part 2 of a 10 part, you don't YET know what the other links are going to be. However, if you tag your posts with a unique tag just for the series, you can use the tag page URL at the end of the post with a caption like "To read the other posts in the series, visit this page for a list of all the articles."
Call to Action!
It is true that at the bottom of each of our blog posts is a clickable link to a tag that will list other similar posts. However, did you even know that it was possible to do that? Do you think that a person who landed on your blog post out of SEO blue sky, will know that is a feature? Let them know at the end of your post, with a quick call to action. For example, to see more posts on "Getting Your Home Sold", click here. Or perhaps in your blog signature box, put a couple of links to your best collections of useful posts. That way when a person is done with one of your posts, you lead them to more of YOU!
Leverage What You Have Just Created
After you go through the effort required to cultivate a collection of posts that you are proud of, leverage it! Let's say you have a listing appointment with a potential new client. Why not in the email correspondance, either before or after your meeting, make mention of the fact that you have a collection of blog posts that home sellers have found most useful in preparing to sell their home. Boom! There's your link to a landing page (tags page) on "Effectively selling your home". You just stood out from the crowd of your competitors.
Finally, The End - My AR Wishlist for Tags
I have just a couple of items on my wishlist for enhancements to the AR development staff for tags (cc: Kris Neese , Kerrie La Guardia ). First, please soon can you enhance the appearance of the tags landing pages to the more modern styling like you did for our blogs pages. It is much more attractive for us to send our visitors to a page like that. Secondly, the tag cloud page is broken for some users (if you want I can give you at least one example). The "List my tags" list is awesome but it is a private list. Why not make this a public list? We have our favorite bloggers, it would be really awesome for us to see an index of their works (like the index to a great book).
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this post, longer than usual, but I hope you feel that it is full of useful tips that you can put right to use!
(Here is where I get to practice what I preach...)
If you would like to see more posts on maximizing your ActiveRain blog, check out that link for collection of posts that I have written.