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5 Tips for Integrating Tagging into Your Web Business

According to one estimate, one in 10 online consumers in the United States tags something on the Web at least monthly. If you’re in an online business, this may whet your appetite for figuring out how to tap into our propensity for categorizing content with keywords.

That’s just the topic of a report from Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. While you can buy a copy of ” Executive Q&A: Social Tagging For eBusiness” for $279, here’s a free recap of the advice offered by Rotman Epps.

Consider using taxonomy-directed tagging, but give the choice. If your site suggests specific tags to the user, that encourages consistency and makes the tagging process easier for users to figure out. But don’t deny users the ability to come up with their own tags — that’s not very social. Just as it is with the people who update dictionaries, watch for the most popular uses of tags over time to expand the company collection.

Automate the process of coming up with that initial taxonomy of tags. Rotman Epps mentions several tools that can help. Endeca Technologies and Mercado Software can both extract phrases from product text that already exists on the site, and PowerReviews will do the job in a turnkey fashion by reviewing sites related to a product category, interviewing people and doing survey work.

Decide beforehand whether you’re going to go with a manual or automatic approval process for user-created tags. If your organization is concerned about filtering out junk, you may choose to go with the manual approach. The downside: It’s time-intensive, and, after all, what you want to engender with tagging in the first place is putting at least some of the content generation burden onto users. Rotman Epps says that “the relative newness of the technology makes this a concern that few companies had to confront.” She references companies that have gone the hybrid model — allowing any and all tags without prior approval, but bringing to the forefront only those tags that enhance the searchability of the site.

Broaden the appeal of tagging by making it easy to do. Have users select tags with check boxes or menus; provide help at points where it’ll best serve the readers in mouse-overs and popups; integrate tag functions with site search and navigation.

Let the user set the privacy level. Forrester recommends that you let a user determine whether his or her tags are viewable only by the person who set them, by that person’s network or by anybody using the site.

Do you have a tagging scheme worth sharing?

9 Responses to “5 Tips for Integrating Tagging into Your Web Business”

  1. Thanks. I am new to tagging, so this was interesting. I think the entire idea is really cool. There is just so much information on the Internet, we need ways to organize it topically. I would think, however, that the sites will need to start sharing their tagged info. Seems like all the tag cloud sites are building these massive databases in their walled cities. At some point, that will need to be aggregated via APIs… We’re not there, but I would imaging it’s coming.

  2. Tagging on the web has become a fairly mature technology, and a very useful one. However, what interests me even more (because so far no one seems to have implemented it) is the potential benefits of managing ALL information with tags, especially files on one’s own desktop system. The storage capacities even of handheld devices begin to approach a level where the traditional, hierarchical top-down system of folders and subfolders has become onerous and limiting. A really useful application would combine local and web tagging in one interface. The Linux-KDE Konqueror web/file browser is almost an example of what I am talking about, except that (as far as I know) there is no way for the user to assign tags to files or URLs. I believe that it would be more efficient to concentrate on the application rather than the content, because: people view many files and websites through one browser. Thus the programming and development would be better spent on the one rather than the many. I also believe that open-source is the best approach because once the concept has been developed and refined, then the community can port it over to a multitude of other applications; this will ‘seed’ the ecosystem leading to rapid market growth.

  3. “one in 10 online consumers in the United States tags something on the Web at least monthly”

    Can we have a source please? I’m very curious about these numbers. Are these from Forrester?


  4. Actually, Vanderwal, the individual need/desire to tag was part of the report — but I couldn’t figure out how to turn that into a “tip.” My bad, not the author’s. Any insights on that you could offer?

  5. Hmm, seems Forrester has another poorly understood concept in an expensive paper. There is no mention of social tagging being from the person tagging to hold onto the information or object. The focus is the common old school approach that people are tagging to add things to the system. They tag for their own reasons (there are many), but largely because the central methods do not work for finding in their vocabulary or contexts.

    The report sounds like it gets ease of use right and the privacy question (few good answers so far in the tools). The surfacing for search is really short sighted as it is also much more complicated than that.