WordPress.com Subdomain Spam With Tags?

Over a year ago I questioned the use of tagging on WordPress.com to spread link equity around as “a rising tide”.

If you use similar tags to a high profile blogger, it can help with faster indexing and rankings, at least from what I have observed.

In many ways the effect is similar to linkfarms, using the tagging as a central hub. Many commentators complain when they see Technorati tag pages appearing in the Google SERPs, because Technorati doesn’t have a huge amount of editorial control over the content of those pages, they are more like search results.

In that situation however for any specific query, you are unlikely to have more than one or possibly 2 results appear.


In theory Google are meant to have changed the way subdomains appear in the SERPs, limiting how many subdomains can occur from a single TLD.

Matt Cutts addressed this in more detail

As mentioned on Search Engine Round Table, there would likely be exceptions to the rule for things like the large blog hosts, and Matt pointed out IBM as a likely search that should give more results.

So it would be perfectly natural for WordPress.com to be one of the exceptions, because multiple unique blogs might talk about the same topic, and give a good user experience, which is what Google strive for.

Tags As Subdomains

I notice on a query I used to receive occasional traffic from but for some stupid reason people are competing for it now – it rarely brought more than one query a day when I was ranking first, though it was targeted.

WordPress training in Google (note:- US geolocation non personalized)

The initial results are great.

One of the results is the tag page on WordPress for training – that is covered in my previous article which was questioning whether this is allowed – it is a tactic I would be keen to use if it was officially sanctioned, as would many blog networks.
Actually at least one blog network does do it.

Currently I use internal tagging and I know many of those get discounted as being poor quality, whilst others that are used more frequently are actually better results than any individual permalink page.

However further down the long-tail things get extremely messy.

Wordpress Subdomain Spam

When you study the pages, you discover that these subdomains were in some way intended for localized tags, so if your blog is in Polish, it would appear on a Polish tag page. Unfortunately the content on the pages is identical.

The English tag page for Training Resource could be looked on as a useful page, though it is still user generated content and easily abused, and a small webmaster doing the same might be looked on as a linkfarm.

The problem is that the Brazillian Portuguese subdomain contains identical content.

If that happens across for example 200+ different languages, then it represents a problem, especially seeing as WordPress.com is a commercial interest.

Whilst I think the original tag pages have merit, I am going to take a harder line with these subdomains.

If they had gone to the trouble of using a translation plugin to make the pages useful for discovery, they would have been useful, even though the translation wouldn’t be perfect. The title and headline being translated would make a significant difference on English search results, even if the URL remained the same.

But Automattic didn’t translate the pages, and they didn’t restrict these subdomains to only blogs written on that specific language.

As they might both read this, Matt & Matt, this in my personal opinion is search engine spam.

These are worse than your typical scraper site.

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  1. says

    Great post on tagging, good research. I didn’t realize that tagging the same as high profile bloggers can help index and rankings, that seems kind of odd since I’d be competing with their posts as well.

  2. says

    I agree wholeheartedly. Getting results in another language, but not actually being in that language, and having the exact same content over and over and over again is certainly search engine spam. Honestly, if someone only speaks Portuguese, and searches for something in their native tongue, how in the world is it going to help them if the results are in English? Come now, we can all agree that this is without a doubt search engine spam — these people should be punished and pummeled with the ban hammer.

  3. says


    It is great you are raising this concern. And I do hope Matt and Matt take this seriously.

    I have my selfish reason to see this being address. As you know I have been through hell as far as reputation management is concerned.

    The other place is Yahoo! Answers, but at least there it takes longer time for a “question to spam” the search engines.

  4. says

    WordPress is not the only game in town. By this I actually mean that their standing is that many bloggers treat it as the blog platform while others exist. It might be possible to see an end to this by creating a strong competitor.

    I’ve said this before on this blog… I think I have some code to write.

  5. says

    Andy, why do you use both tags and categories? Is not one enough for relevancy? Actually MyBlogLog only reads categories not tags! If you put tag and category it gets confused and does not list it in user MyBlogLog control interface of user community post feed. I have not checked if it adds it to its tag table when both are used.

  6. says

    Here is an interesting article I found that analyzes and compares the difference between tags and categories.

    My synopses of this is unless you have tons of articles like Andy does, having tags may not be necessary, also aesthetically it may not look good in original WP configuration, so a plugin maybe be required!

    Of course everyone will have their own interpretation of this, and maybe Andy can give us his.

  7. says

    Seeing through my blindness I realized the benefit of tags. It is a navigation tool for blog visitors. As Andy has on his blog. It does not come with original WP installation so I will use UltimateTagWarrior plugin to fix the problem!

    Often in social media we talk too much instead of listening, or in this case, looking under the nose. ;-)

  8. says

    Tags are meant to be simple words that are related to the post are subject being discussed. it is some kinda guideline to get the reader directed to the topic he wants to read. but over different languages thatmight become messy. like andy stated earlier . event hough i use tags..

  9. says

    This may become a problem, but it raises an interesting side note.

    If the best way for a new blogger to gain ranking is to copy tags, wont that eventually eliminate tags altogether (or at least further reduce their impact) from the search algorithms?

    It’s the standard arms race, webmasters are trying to beat the search engines, and search engines change to avoid this.

    The simple fact is that for small and/or new bloggers, copying the big successful ones will always be a way to circumvent the learning curve.

  10. says

    I’ve spent more than 40 man-hours tagging over 1100 posts on my blog. I didn’t do it for SEO. I did for it relevancy. Each tag represents a sub-topic on a post. If a person clicks one of the tags, they’ll find related posts. I believe if it’s used for anything else, it’s a waste of time.

    • says

      RT it is relevant for users, but what is relevant for users is also relevant for search engines ;)

      I notice weird search results all the time, just by using tagging. Pages appearing for related searches which only include a tag with the search term.
      It used to be that the tag page was most likely to appear, but now Google sometimes do something else, somehow merge everything into the permalink page, but still apply the relevance from the tag page.

      It is also great for double listings, when the tag page becomes highly relevant, such as a search for dofollow currently.

  11. says

    All done! I could not get UltimateTagWarrior installed on my WP 2.3.1 but I found out there is a built in WP tag cloud function on 2.3.1 +

    Just add it to where you want it displayed. I put it in single.php but some of you my want it it footer.php or sidebar.php

    credits to this Dude! Could not get his blog to open, so the link is to Google cache!

    Hacking WP is fun! If you can learn a bit of PHP it will take you a long way in your blogging carrier!

    Honestly I could not get one plugin to install properly on my WP, so have been hacking all the way! But then I am developer by heart!

    I hope my rants are useful. Andy, sorry for going a bit off topic.


  12. says

    I’ve been using the same keywords in the tags as I use with my All in One SEO plugin for wordpress. Will the search engines looks at this like spam?
    Also should I seriously consider getting a language translation plugin. Would that really help with rankings?

  13. says

    Thanks Andy, but I’ll probably hack my WP a bit more and get exactly what I need. So I got the tag cloud now. Need to add the tags as keywords to the header. Also would like to have categories serve as tags, which probably can be done with a few Tweaks! (Lazy to retype!) The recent post and comments may even have an inherit WP function.

    But will see how it goes, maybe will try the plugin you recommended and see if it does the trick for me.

    Or reverse engineer one of the plugins to extract the needed functionalities! Remember I already have lots of other gunk in the header. So if replacing it, will need to add back the missing parts. LOL

  14. says

    Hey Andy –

    Well to be completely honest I’ve been testing the tags and have come up with similar results to that of Andy, however, I have noticed that users stay on the site(s) longer now that tags have been implemented and with wordpress 2.5.1, allowing for tags to act as categories, the results in google are much more relevant in comparison to when I had not used tags as categories.

    I was getting scattered results when initially implementing tags, but I think it really has to do with how tags are utilized. If you want them to be relevant, optimized, as well as useful to the visitors on your site, ensure you’re not just using them like people way back when did with keyword spamming/loading.

    I’ve opted to add no more than 2-3 tags which are also categories on my site as well.

    Why not test it out and let me know what you get Andy?