Effect of Tag Clouds on SEO

Tag Clouds are popular widgets used in blogs to direct users to topics which are more frequently posted about or discussed. Usually, this is done by using some sort of automated script which analyzes all of the tags on different posts, and then generates a random “cloud” of the common tags, with the more common ones being larger.

This is a great way to direct visitors to the more popular parts of your site, and many popular blogging platforms have a built-in widget to do this. One important aspect to consider when deciding whether or not to use a tag cloud is how it will effect SEO. In another of the very helpful videos on Google’s Webmaster Help Channel, Matt Cutts explains the possible impact of tag clouds on your sites PageRank. Basically, a tag cloud is a cluster of links, and so it should be treated just the same as any other batch of links is with standard SEO rules.

Tag clouds can have a positive impact by creating extra internal links on your site, but they can also look like keyword stuffing, because of the high number of links stuffed together, and the randomness of the keywords they contain. A small tag cloud will not hurt and may even help a little bit, but a very large one can hurt your PageRank as it may look like spam. Also, the technology you use to generate the tag cloud can affect its performance. The Google web crawler cannot read Flash files, and so if you use Flash to generate your tag cloud, it will be unreadable to Google.

This could be a way to have one without having to worry about the potential SEO downsides to a tag cloud, but it also prevents the benefits. The overall tone of the video is slightly against using tag clouds, as they have a bit of a risk associated with them and not a whole lot of potential benefit, however if they are used properly with adherence to standard SEO rules, you will be fine to use one. Ultimately, whether or not to use a tag cloud is a personal choice and should be made with user’s interests in mind, just so long as it will not cause any major SEO problems.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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