I’ve long held the view that while tagging can be useful for improving some types of searches, tagging also has problems that can inject noise or ambiguity and actually muddy search results. Nonetheless, tagging is clearly not a fad, and it may even eventually replace hierarchal indexing systems used by most libraries, according to new research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. According to the study, 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content. And tagging sites like Flickr and Del.icio.us are gaining in popularity, and are increasingly valuable as a source of traffic referrals for search marketers.
The Pew white paper also features an interview with David Weinberger, talking about why tagging is popular, and how systems can be put into place to mitigate the problems associated with tagging. The nine page paper is a useful read if you’re getting more involved with social search marketing activities.