hold until cleared from index
Questions have recently been asked about the SEO value of using tag clouds with web sites. We have a response from Matt Cutts from Google regarding this type of linking methodology.
Tags are an additional method for joining similar articles through a common keyword. Tag clouds are the collections of tag links that are sometimes found in the menu sidebars on web sites. The tags are usually arranged in a circular grouping that is sometimes animated and swirls when a user places their mouse pointer over the tags. That is why they are referred to as clouds. These alternative menus are most commonly used with WordPress web sites
While we do not personally like the use of tag clouds, some site owners do like them. They were very popular a few years ago, but their use appears to be waning. My feeling has always been that Tag Clouds dilute the effectiveness of an internal linking structure when there are too many links in a tag cloud. PageRank and other important inheritance factors are divided by the total number of links on a page, so if there are 50 or more tags in a Tag Cloud (very common), the total number number of links on the page greatly exceeds the maximum number of links that we use as a limit. Our rule for the maximum number of links on a page is 50, because we frequently see problems with rankings with sites that use too many total links on the web pages.
For those of you who are not familiar with Matt Cutts, Matt is the head of the Search Quality team at Google. Matt is also Google’s liaison with the SEO industry. A question regarding the SEO value of tag clouds was sent to Matt and here is his response.
Summary of Matt’s views on the use of tag clouds.
- Tag clouds can be overdone. When overdone, tag clouds can look like keyword stuffing to a spider.
- Links with tag clouds built using Flash may or may not be readable by spiders.
- Too many tags can negatively affect the ranking of a page.
- Too many tags can dilute PageRank.
Matt’s overall view is that tag clouds are not necessarily detrimental if used conservatively, but overuse can harm a site’s rankings. To a spider, a tag cloud is just of series of links using keywords in the hyperlink text. Excessive amounts, especially when they appear on every page, can indeed look like keyword stuffing. It is hard to explain what that series of links actually is to a search engine spider, which is merely an automated algorithm that only reads the HTML code for a page.
Is is okay to use a tag cloud? Sure, if you do not stuff too many tags into the list of links. But be aware of the dilutive effects with respect to inheritance factors as well as the potential risk for a page or a site getting hit with a keyword stuffing penalty. The definitive answer is: Don’t go overboard.