Tag clouds can hurt your SEO
This is a fascinating little video from Matt Cutts over at Google talking about how Tag Clouds can be dangerous to your blog. I have been wondering just how efficient Google is at determining where on the page your keywords are, and this is informative. In short, YES, tag clouds can sink your blog. There are several reasons why they can cause problems and you should be aware of this. Watch and read on:
I, for one, am disappointed in Google here. I would have thought that with all their discussion about the ability to locate where your links are on the page (header, footer, blogroll, etc) they would have gotten better and determining which keywords are in a tag cloud and weight them lower. But this video implies otherwise. Matt basically says that your tag cloud will probably cause your blog to pick-up a keyword stuffing penalty.
So I decided to experiment on a few of my own blogs
What did I find? Matt is indeed giving you good advice here. When I removed the keyword tag from 2 of my blogs their organic rankings on their head keyword came UP the rankings. This implies that they had been suffering from either a keyword stuffing issue or a link juice bleeding issue (pushing link juice off the main page rather than keeping it there). On another blog, I added the tag cloud. This took my density from 2% to 7% on the home page. The organic rankings for this website dropped (on the head term) fairly quickly.
Matt Cutts and my data imply that tag clouds are very dangerous for SEO given their impact on keyword density and link bleeding. I find this very frustrating because they are, indeed, VERY valuable for end-users. And Google always maintains that what is good for the end-user is good for SEO. Well in this case, no. Matt tries to dance around the issue a bit in this video, but it's clear that Google is currently no good at understanding tag clouds. Best to not use them or use extreme caution when you do.
07/06/11 - Dave said:
Good opinion and analysis on tag clouds. Not sure they're as evil as you describe though. they are simply links, use them wisely.
10/16/11 - Cassiopeia said:
Thanks so much for passing on this information, and especially for adding the video so we can hear it "straight from the horse's mouth."
Thanks for sharing the information on your own testing. I think I'll remove tag clouds now!
10/17/11 - Adam said:
Every time I re-watch this, I just cringe. How can Matt say this with a straight face. Tag clouds are an AWESOME feature for end-users. Yet, Google says that they can be confusing? Seriously? They are only confusing to the spiders... But we're not supposed to make decisions based on that are we?
11/23/11 - sell a house said:
Thanks for the info, I always thought tag clouds would add to a site, rather then take away from it. There is a plugin on WP called SEO friendly tag cloud, would that still have the same implications?
11/23/11 - Adam said:
My guess is that the WP plug-in you're talking about uses NOFOLLOW tags, but I don't really know. I will check it out as that sounds like the right solution to get around what Matt is saying is clearly a problem for the GoogleBots above. Thanks for the suggestion.
02/21/12 - Michael Guild said:
I'm glad to run into your article because I've seen this video before and was curious if this is still the case. Because the video was is quite old at this point.
02/21/12 - Adam said:
I continually test this stuff and still think this one is a problem for Google. Ironic that I got your comment today Michael. I JUST removed a tag cloud from a personal blog of mine not 2 hours ago... So I obviously think it's still a problem...
03/13/12 - Troy nb said:
I think TAGS are good, but the words must be on that page with at least 100 words of content( related Text) per longtail tag. why? because im giving the search engines food & hitting my visitors with related content they are searching for.
But I limit my tags to a max of 6 tags, otherwise the content gets harder to put together and making it harder to link together without looking artificial. Thus looking non natural.
its actually a circle of information your content is built upon.
03/30/12 - Golf Gadgets said:
Makes perfect sense. After watching the video and with your commentary, I decided to take down the tag cloud on one of my sites. Although I thought it was giving a better user experience, the end result was that it may be taking away link juice.
06/28/12 - Rob Middle said:
Up until now i have had a tag cloud on my site made up of around 40 words and the last month or so the site has seen a drop in visitors of around 50% (panda?). After reading this i will get rid of it or at least reduce to say 8 tags and let you know what happens Adam. Thanks.
10/02/12 - Mike said:
Just removed the tag clouds from my site after reading your post. Makes total sense. I had way too many and surely bleeding link juice.
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