Managing Tags for Greater Searchability and Sanity

Feb 27, 2012

Tags are important for adding visibility to your content with your audience and search engines. They can also be used incorrectly and exclude important stories. Too many tags can create eyesores and a loss of focus

Michigan Radio has developed a way to manage tags and streamline the process for their reporters. Senior producer Mark Brush created an in-house guideline that could be applicable to many stations. He's been kind enough to share it with us. 

How to add tags to a post

Tags help us create and point to a collections of stories, and they also help someone else find a collection of stories on the website.

When someone clicks on the "Mitt Romney" tag, for example, they are saying to themselves, “I want to see all the stories Michigan Radio has done on Mitt Romney."

So it's important for us to try to have consistent tags for the stories we post. We want to thread all of the relevant stories to that tag.

If you have multiple tags for the same topic (i.e., "Romney" or  "Gov. Romney," instead of sticking with “Mitt Romney”), the reader will miss important stories.

Also, Google crawls for tags, so we want make sure the reader has a thorough experience when they click on a tag in their search results.

Here are a few thoughts and rules to keep in mind when thinking of tags:

  • Before entering a tag, ask yourself, "would I click on this word to see other stories on this topic?" If not, it’s probably not a good tag.
  • Let the autofill function work for you. As you begin to type a word, some options will be given to you. Pick one of those options. If there’s a tag you think needs to be on the list, let us know and we’ll look into it.
  • Tags are not the same thing as keywords. A tag can be more than one word and they're often more specific. Someone's not likely to want to see all the stories we've done on "election," but they are likely to check out the stories for "May 3rd election."
  • A tag can be the same as a category ("environment" or "politics" for example) or a slug.
  • Use the first and last name for individuals (e.g. Rick Snyder, or Barack Obama). We might follow these individuals when they're not in office, so titles are not important here.
  • If appropriate, include the place where the story took place (e.g. Fenton, Kalamazoo, Detroit). We don't have to include "Lansing" for every story coming from the State House, but we should include "Lansing" if the story is about the city or takes place in the city.
  • You can enter up to five tags in Core Publisher. If you've entered two and you can't think of three more, don't worry about it! It's better to have two solid tags than to create three more marginal tags.

Right now, there are a lot of tags in the system that are related (e.g. Gov. Snyder, Snyder, Rick Snyder, Governor Snyder). We'll work to clean those up so the options are narrowed down. In the meantime, pick "Rick Snyder."

Here are some of the top tags we're using right now:

Rick Snyder, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Auto, Education, Housing, Economy, Environment, Public Schools, Arts, Election 2012