Creating tag clouds has long been thought to be beneficial for a websites SEO.
Although, recently Matt Cutts explains the possible negative effect tag clouds can have on your sites PageRank. See more from Matt Cutts here: Google Webmasters.
If you are new to blogging, tag clouds are typically found on the sidebar of a website. They create a visual image which represents the most popular content based on keywords most often used.
The more a keyword is used throughout a site, the larger that tag will appear in the tag cloud. As you can see in the picture above, Internet Marketing is larger than all other tags, letting you know at a glance what the main focus of the website is about.
Simply put, a tag cloud is a grouping of keywords which are external hyperlinks on your site. If you click on a tag it will take you to the group of articles pertaining to that keyword. (or tag)
~ Disadvantage of Creating Tag Clouds
Ah, but here is where the trouble can begin! Too many of these tags, (links) can look like keyword stuffing to Google. As mentioned earlier, a tag cloud resides on the sidebar and that cluster of links will show up on every page. This may be confusing to the bot crawling your site and end up classifying the cloud as spam.
You can decide for yourself after watching Matt’s video if cloud tags are a good or bad idea. Personally, my take away from the video is, the smaller the cloud tag the better.
~ Alternatives to Creating Tag Clouds
1. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – This is a great little free plugin you can download if you’re using a WordPress site. As you can see, based on the keywords used in the article, YARPP adds a list of related posts as a hyperlink and the end of the article, making it easy for your reader to view similar posts. This is not listed in the sidebar and therefore won’t show up everywhere throughout the site.
2. WordPress Popular Posts – Another free WP Plugin which is displayed in the sidebar shows your most popular posts. You can configure it to show as many posts as you want. Again, I would keep this number to a minimum, 6 or 7 max. It can also be configured to show the number of views or comments left on each post.
3. Category Pages – Clickable keywords in a list form showing the number of pertaining posts.
Oddly enough I ran across an article on using Google Analytics data to build Keyword Tag Clouds for your website. I thought you might find it interesting.
It seems Matt’s overall tone leans on the negative side, but In the end, creating tag clouds is a personal preference.