Tag Cloud

The term tag cloud describes a form of visualization for catchwords. Keywords and the associated links can be visualized in an appealing and user-friendly manner through tag clouds. Depending on importance or popularity, the respective terms are shown in the tag cloud in different font sizes and/or colors. Tag clouds are often used in blogs. Their benefit in terms of SEO is controversial. The terms word cloud, term cloud, keyword matrix or even label cloud are synonyms.


Tag clouds originated in 1980. This is when the book “Mille Plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie” by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari was published, in which they tested a new system of knowledge based on rhizomatic learning. A specific pictorial representation was printed on the cover of the German translation “Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia” published in 1992, which was created by graphic artist Heidi Paris. The cover presented important keywords of the work in a graphically prepared manner. This is the context in which the term “term cloud” was probably used for the first time. The graphic designer could therefore be identified as the “inventor” of the tag cloud.

The principle of knowledge linking and its graphical presentation started to be used in the IT sector a few decades later as well. Large web portals like Flickr or Technorati work with tag clouds to visualize frequently searched terms or categories for users in a kind of alternative and autonomously growing menu. Many WordPress blogs also use a keyword cloud as a plug-in to provide users with the most popular content quickly.

How it works

A tag cloud is not just a simple listing or categorization of keywords, but a weighted list. This means that the optical conversion of the word cloud is based on the weighting of the individual terms as well. Therefore, before setting up a tag cloud, you have to establish a formula to determine the weighting. The more frequently a keyword is used, the more conspicuously it should be displayed in color or font size. Moreover, a different font can also be used for more frequently used terms. The most common formula for creating a tag cloud is as follows:

tag cloud formel.png

s i.png

Font size to be displayed

f max.png

Maximum font size

f min.png

minimum font size

t i.png

Frequency of the concerned keyword

t min.png

Frequency at which a keyword should be shown

t max.png

Frequency of the most frequent keywords

(Source: Wikipedia article on tag cloud)

A detailed listing of methods for creating a tag cloud algorithm is available at [1].

In the case of blogs or websites, the individual words of a tag cloud get linked to the subpages that are most relevant to these keywords. Or they refer to the corresponding category page.

Advantages and disadvantages

The benefits of the tag cloud are that large records can be categorized intuitively by popularity or frequency using catchwords. That way, a word cloud can reflect the content of a website or blog quite well. Users also have the option to quickly get to a subpage relevant to his desired keyword, without having to click through many pages.

The disadvantages of tag clouds are that webmasters may not optimize word clouds, assign no meaningful tags or only link to tag pages. If users click a supposedly popular keyword, they may reach a landing page that does not meet their expectations and bounce in extreme cases.

Benefits for SEO

The use of tag clouds for search engine optimization is controversial. Because first of all, the word cloud creates a whole lot of site-wide internal links, which refer to subpages. In the case of blogs or even ordinary websites, there is a risk that archives or tag pages will be linked more intensively, which, however, does not contribute any real added value and, in extreme cases, result in duplicate content. In addition, the terms of the tag cloud should be compatible with the overall concept of internal linking. It would be counterproductive, if, for example, a link of the word cloud with the term “tips” refers to a sub-page, which is otherwise internally linked to the main keyword “jogging shoes.” If a lot of users bounce from such landing page, Google and other search engines may be less likely to list these subpages because their performance is poor in terms of user experience.

If you want to increase the usability and the value of your site with tag clouds, you should take the following points into account:

  • For which articles or subpages keywords are used
  • How to limit the size of the tag cloud sensibly
  • How the weighting of the respective terms should be carried out
  • How the tag cloud would fit in best in the overall appearance of the website
  • Whether there are navigational alternatives to a keyword cloud

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