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How do tags influence Stack Exchange's SEO? On RPG we've noticed we don't get as much traffic from Google as we would expect at this point.

One of the reasons we think this may occur is that our terms are often long, have ampersands, and otherwise don't match what people are searching on. For example, "Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition", "Dungeons & Dragons Essentials", "Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition" are common games. Our most active tag is dnd-4e. This isn't a common search term in Google. A much more common term is D&D 4, or Dungeons and Dragons 4. A search on dnd-4e has rpg.stackexchange.com questions pretty high in the list. But of course due to the 25-character limit and no special characters, our tagging options end up diverging from what people may search on. In addition, people generally use the tags to avoid having to say all that stuff in their subject.

Do our tags have a lot of influence on how we're presented to Google? Should we be double-tagging items as e.g. [dungeons-and-dragons] and [dnd-4e] to try to get the SEO?
Is there some other solution to this problem?

Our site gets some decent SEO but not near as much as it should be for the content on it (as compared to other RPG sites).

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One of our members did a search term analysis for someone looking for a D&D 4e hexblade warlock, and here's how RPG.SE fared in terms of Google rank. 95 -dungeons & dragons 4th edition warlock hexblade; 12 - dungeons & dragons 4e warlock hexblade; 12 - dungeons & dragons 4 warlock hexblade; 11 - dnd 4 warlock hexblade; 9 - dungeons & dragons warlock hexblade; 7 - dnd4 warlock hexblade; 6 - d&d4e warlock hexblade; 1 - dnd4.0 warlock hexblade. People are talking about overtagging for SEO purposes, but shouldn't tag wikis or something else handle synonyms-as-keywords behind the scenes? –  mxyzplk Nov 13 '10 at 14:46
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In general our search referral traffic is very low, and we think it's because we suffer from this pervasively - even the site is "role-playing games" and "RPG" doesn't appear on the front page often. RPG names are long and always abbreviated in tags (e.g. [ditv] = "Dogs in the Vineyard". So people are talking about having to multiple-tag everything and have really long tags to try to boost seo - tag the same question [dnd], [dnd-4], [dungeons-and-dragons-4], [dungeons-and-dragons-fourth-edition] (whoops over the 25 character tag limit already) and various others. Seems bad. –  mxyzplk Nov 13 '10 at 14:50
    
Related Question on meta.rpg: Proposed tag synonyms –  C. Ross Nov 13 '10 at 14:55
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Seems like functionality where you could define search terms for tags to get injected into posts would be perfect. Tag it [dnd] but that puts a meta keyword of "Dungeons & Dragons" in it as well... That way an individual post author doesn't have to worry about it, nor do people have to turn into meddling post/tag editors chronically fretting about retagging for SEO. –  mxyzplk Nov 13 '10 at 15:59
    
@mxyzplk Google (almost?) entirely ignores meta keywords because of decades of spammers abusing them. I have heard tell that it similarly ignores (or even penalises) search terms that are injected into a page if the reader doesn't actually see them. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 20 '10 at 17:47
    
I am quite disappointed that no one has yet answered the question. Do we need to worry about tagging to affect SEO, do they influence it, and if so by how much? –  mxyzplk Jan 11 '13 at 13:54

3 Answers 3

Here's how tagging affects SEO: Why is the first tag sometimes in the <title> tag of some questions?

In short, having the primary topic of a question in the page title (though not necessarily in the <h1>) helps a good deal.

Ideally, you can work this in organically - but as a backup, if the top tag doesn't appear anywhere in the title it'll be automatically put there during page rendering.

By "top tag", I mean the most popular tag on the question as determined by its use elsewhere on the site. So obviously, you want to avoid having extremely common tags that are more or less meaningless.

Beyond that... Strive to write good titles, titles that capture both the subject and the question itself in a concise manner. If everyone did that, the tags would be mostly irrelevant, SEO-wise.

Aside: Google can automatically recognize that "D&D" and "dnd" are the same thing.

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You might consider renaming that tag to [dnd-4.0]. In general where it is important to have a space, you should use a dash. Obviously there's no way to have an ampersand in our tags.

http://www.google.com/search?q=dnd

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There's the spaces but then there's the expansion/abbreviation in general... –  mxyzplk Nov 13 '10 at 14:41
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Hey though this one suggestion was appreciated, what I was asking for was a bit more explanation of how SE SEO works and how tags play into that. We are not sure if we should be going to the trouble to double tag and stuff in an attempt to get SEO or not. –  mxyzplk Jan 11 '13 at 13:55

My interpretation is pretty simple. If a question is about the Dungeons & Dragons game (any edition) it should have the words "Dungeons", "Dragons" and possibly "dnd" on the page.

Enforcing their usage in the title or question itself is one way, but I think using a tag would be more elegant.

dnd4.0 is useless. It is not in widespread use.

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you could do [dungeons-and-dragons] ... bit long but tolerable –  Jeff Atwood Nov 13 '10 at 22:05
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@jeffatwood - but so do we tag every question dungeons-and-dragons and d-and-d and dnd and other stuff to get all the combinations? What about versions like "dungeons & dragons essentials" that go over the 25 character tag limit? Making SEO dependent on every poster seems not robust. –  mxyzplk Nov 14 '10 at 0:54
    
if we want every post for every game to have to do that, or have someone edit it after the fact, sure. Of course that still misses searches for D&D because of the ampersand problem. Any way you cut it it's really suboptimal. –  mxyzplk Nov 14 '10 at 1:11

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