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Tags, Categories or Both? Getting found on Web 2.0

Web 2.0 blogging technology has made it easier than ever for just about anyone to publish their thoughts for the benefit of the world. The downside is that the chances of anyone actually finding your words of wisdom are considerably less than getting your voice heard in a capacity filled football stadium. Just make a search on Google and see how many thousand or million hits are returned.

Fortunately, Web 2.0 offers various ways to guide interested parties to your words of wisdom. Most blogging software allows postings to be assigned both tags and categories. This article explores what these are and how they should be most effectively used.

Categories are the broader topics into which items fit. They represent the subject shelves in a traditional library. Of course, in the library a book can be filed on only one shelf, but in cyberspace it can occupy as many categories as appropriate. Eg it's no longer necessary to make an arbitrary decision on whether something on financial psychology be filed under psychology or finance, it can belong to both categories.

Like the library, categories also reflect hierarchy. Eg an item on Einstein's relativity also falls into the higher-level physics and science categories.

Category classification helps those visitors who only have a vague idea of what they are looking for. They might begin browsing a broad category, and drill down to specific items of interest.

Once a site (blog) is established, the category structure should remain relatively fixed and will reflect the site's purpose. To maximize the usefulness of the category system it's best to limit an item's allocated categories to those, which fit best.

Tags are what, in the early Web's metadata, were formerly known as keywords. Essentially they represent the various words and phrases that users might type into a search box to retrieve the item in question as an appropriate response.

The ubiquitous tag cloud has become a defining feature of Web 2.0 classification. By displaying each tag in a font size according to its frequency of occurrence the tag cloud presents a visual signature of its site's content.

In contrast to categories, tags should be allocated liberally. Any search word/phrase, including synonyms, that should legitimately return the item is a candidate tag. Make use of the Google AdWords keyword tool to suggest suitable tags you mightn't have thought of. In keeping with the Web 2.0 ethos you might allow users (possibly with moderation) to add their own tags describing your site's content.

If you spend time and effort generating content for the Web it's worthwhile spending just a little more to ensure your efforts will be found and appreciated. Take the trouble to classify your work with the appropriate tags and categories.

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