Keywords or Tags, or both?
Keywords and Tags play a vital role in organising and indexing the modern web and are used heavily by search engines to classify website content. But, what is a Keyword, what is a Tag and what is the difference, if any, between them?
My explanation would be this:
- A Keyword is a common and pertinent word used within a web page
- A Tag describes a conceptual idea about a web page
To demonstrate the difference between these two terms and highlight how they both play an important role here is an extract taken from an earlier article from my website at www.jasonslater.co.uk
“These days I have the Google Analytics service implemented, so any time I want to evaluate the relative success of a post or article, or track the bounce rate from a piece of content, I can simply refer to the service which updates fairly quickly. So, what is Alexa really doing for me if the information is updated irregularly? I also use Technorati from time to time as another useful metric though I tend not to check these sites as regularly as I used to; most of my (rapidly diminishing) time these days is taken up researching and writing articles.”
Taking this piece of text I might extract the following Keywords and Tags:
- Keywords: Article, Google Analytics
- Tags: Ranking, Analysis, Readership, Metrics
So we can see that Keywords have been selected as words which were actually used within the text. In this way, we can use them to tell a search engine what we feel are the important words in our article. This helps the search engine to index our content, and build up a word library which can be used later to better categorise the article. Categorising an article is an important element in making a particular article or post re-mixable – something important when considering the future of our content such as in mash-ups.
However for searching, the search engine cannot, without some help, understand the concept of our article. If someone searching for content is not aware of technical terms, service or specific phrases we may have used then our content is likely to be missed. However, if the search engine can take the criteria from the searcher and understand conceptually what they are looking for it may be able to closely match it to our conceptual idea. For example, a searcher may not be familiar with Google Analytics but they may be aware about website metrics and analysis.
So, Keywords are typically fixed, finite and relate directly to a post and so are relatively straightforward for optimising into a Keyword based search engine. However, Tags are not so easy to handle because they rely on the approximation of ideas (and most people have different ideas about things!). Take the example above, the Tag “Analysis”, after reading the paragraph, is probably taken to mean traffic analysis or readership analysis to someone interested in websites but if I type analysis into a typical search engine it can’t be sure what I’m looking for -> psychological analysis, computer systems analysis, or stock market analysis? If the search engine returns unexpected results enough times the user may turn to a different mechanism for finding information.
As a side note, for my ongoing search engine research project, I need to add a Keyword analysis and extraction routine (the extraction of useful words from web pages) in order to build a library of Keywords which can then be cross-referenced with a list of web page addresses (URLs).