Best Practices for Indexing Tags and Categories in WordPress

What are the best practices for indexing tags, categories, and date archives in WordPress? We have a quick explanation here.

Video Transcript

David: Okay, so you had a question about archived pages in WordPress.

Janel: Yes. So, I have set up Yoast to not index my date archive pages, but I have allowed Yoast to index my categories and tag archives. When I went back through to look at the settings, Yoast recommended that I no index my date archives, but I didn’t see any sort of notification next to categories or tags, which is why I left them to be indexed. Is there a best practice? Does that depend on other factors? My client saw that the date archives were being no indexed. And so, I gave her a pretty good explanation. But now I’m wondering if there is going to be some competition among the categories and tags for her post, as well. So, that’s what I’m wondering.

David: Yeah, exactly. Okay, so this is a really good question, and it can really get us into a lot of different topics. I’m going to try to rein myself in here. So, we have to ask first what the purpose of tags, categories, and even data archives in a blog is.

Janel: To help organize content, right?

David: Right. To help organize content. To help humans better get to content that is more relevant to them. So, for instance, they want to be able to say, what did she write about last month? Great, we can look at the monthly archive, right? Or I would like to learn more about this category they can get. So, there’s a human element to that. There’s also an SEO element to this, but it’s not like people think. And if I find the idiot who suggested that tagging posts in WordPress is helping your SEO, I’m going to punch him straight in the face. That’s the stupidest advice ever. You just need to have a plan of organization. So, the question is, does one or the other work best for you? The question is, what is your overall plan for consuming content? So, for instance, if your content is dated fundamentally in order because the date is important to the content, let’s say it’s like a news section or some sort of content that someone would want to know what happened in 2013.

Janel: Yeah.

David: Right? Then, that becomes a valuable part. Now, no index doesn’t affect humans getting to it.

Janel: Exactly.

David: Right? So, I think Yoast is recommending no index that date because that’s going to really resemble just the normal pagination archives, right?

Janel: Yeah, all the same stuff is going to be…

David: So, if you have, for instance, a default of ten posts per page, the regular blog post pagination is going to be identical to the archive for the most part. And so, what that ends up doing is creating a duplicate content problem. Now, this duplicate content problem isn’t a serious problem in the sense that we’re not really looking for Google to index our data archives typically. But if we were, then we would take advantage of a WordPress feature that allows us to add blurbs of content in our archive pages, right? For instance, on Curious Ants, everything is in five categories. There’s a link-building category, and at the very top of the link-building page, guess what? There’s some content that is common to all the link-building stuff, right? Because they want to use the category page as a landing page, right? So, Yoast is probably saying just no index the date pages because it resembles, and it’s not useful to Google to crawl back to.

Janel: Yeah.

David: However, if you didn’t have categories or tags if you weren’t using them for some reason, then it would be important to make sure that was indexable because then Google can skip to different parts of it and see the deeper content quicker, right? So, in that case, you would allow that to be indexed.

Janel: If you weren’t using categories or tags, you would allow the archive to be indexed, right?

David: Right. And so, then, this brings the question of how we organize our content. And I like to have a couple of rules. Categories, meaning everything in the blog, should belong to one and only one category, right? And never have a category with less than two pieces in it. Two or less, I should say. So, in other words, we should never have a category with one article in that category.

Janel: Yeah.

David: Right? We are using features within WordPress, like the Read More tag and the preview, to prevent the entirety of a blog post from being put on an archive page. So, the reason this is important is because Google recently, and by recent, it’s probably a year, changed the way they handle robots tags on blogs. And so Yoast is adding a robots tag to your archive page, and robots tag will have no follow no index, on it, which is saying don’t index the page, and don’t follow the links. Well, we used to have a directive where we’d say no index but follow. Google ignores the follow directive. So, at one point, we might have said, as a best case for all your archives, even your date archives, you would say no index but follow. So, Google could potentially uncover a new blog post, but Google ignores the follow no follow thing applies no follow if that’s no indexed. So, at that point, there is just no index the blog archive, and use your category so Google can get deeper and find the deep articles in your blog. So, that’s a really long way of saying, yeah, don’t index your archive, typically.

Janel: Got it. So basically, the way I have it set up is the best practice for most blogs as long as we’re using categories and tags.

David: Right. And if the client’s just like, we must have this, then I wouldn’t fall on that sword. It’s probably not that big of a deal.

Janel: Yeah.

David: It is a best practice – don’t do it. I would check in Search Console eventually and look at crawled, not indexed or discovered, not indexed or alternate canonical tag selected. And that will tell you how Google is reading through your archives. It’s not a warning as much as Google saying, hey, we’ve crawled this archive page, but we’ve not added it to the index.

Janel: Yeah.

David: Okay, fine. We don’t really care about that. So, that’s where you can monitor those things to make sure that Google is indeed treating it the way you want. If you find that somehow, you want it to index the 2013 page or something like that, you know?

Janel: I don’t.

David: Yeah, yeah. Then, then you can work with that. But, yeah, it’s an interesting question. I’m glad you asked. Thank you.

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