After “erotica for men,” the search term that brings the most traffic to this site is “literotica tags.” I have no idea why this is the case since I’ve never written a post explicitly about tags and literotica. I wrote one about the site in general, but after a quick skim, I didn’t even mention the tags. So on this happy Friday, I’ll give the internet what it wants: my thoughts on tagging on fiction sites (erotica ones included).
This is actually a subject I’ve given quite a lot of thought to long before I created this site and had to tackle the challenge first hand (and more recently, since I’ve embarked on a more user-friendly fiction sharing site). With a large catalog of content with varying subject matters, organization usually takes two forms: categories and tags. Just taking an example that’s immediately at hand, the metadata that WordPress has baked in its initial install are Categories and Tags.
Here’s the quick of it before I get to burying the lead. On the internet, with search so prevalent and our browsing habits the way they are, the distinction is blurry — antiquated, even. Tags are the way to go. Categories (as they’re used in the majority of story sites) should probably either go away, or be rethought of in a less exclusive way. OK, on to my reasons.
In the past, I’ve used the analogy of a reference book when describing the differences. Categories typically come in the form of broader subject matters, like the table of contents at the front of a book: chapter one is about Spring, chapter two is about Summer, chapter three is about Fall. Alternatively, tags are for more specific details in the book, like the index at the back. Tags can span any chapter and are a way to cross-reference: I want to know about plant growth across all the seasons — this would be a tag.
I’d say a great deal of sites that employ tags and categories follow this model. When you post a story to a site, you pick one (and only one) category, much like how a bookstore has to shelve a book in a particular section. The book is physical and cannot exist in two places, so a choice must be made. If the site has modernized itself, you can also pick tags for it. These are typically free-form and allow for a lot more granularity to catalog and describe the story (and since it’s not physical, there’s no analog to the bookstore shelver).
Here’s the thing: sites aren’t physical. You actually can shelve a book in multiple sections. When posting a story, why do I have to choose? Rags to Reunions, just as an example, has a strong romantic undertone, but it also features group sex. And yet it can only be one or the other. That’s dumb.
Storiesonline takes the opposite extreme. It isn’t built with categories in mind, other than very broad ones (romantic, erotica) and you don’t even have to choose one. Instead, when you submit, you choose from a large variety of story categories (or codes) that function more like prepopulated tags. This presents its own problems. While it’s great for the author, it makes browsing and navigation for the reader more difficult unless you’re willing to slog through all those codes.
I feel like there’s got to be a happy medium between the two, one that works for the casual browser yet doesn’t restrict the author. I’m still working this one out, though, but I think SO is more on track than any other site. I think a flatter organization scheme that favors multiple categories is the way to go, but perhaps identifying the most popular categories would help? Or dividing categories into primary and secondary for the reader (but not the author)?
And if you’re here for “literotica tags” and are still looking for your answer, my suggestion is to use them as a more granular way to describe your story. Pick from their limited categories to get the reader to the right place and then use the tags to catch all the details that might not be obvious for that category. And whatever you do, don’t ignore the tag fields (which is another option). The tags will not only get more readers, but you’ll get the right readers for your story.
If you’ve got your own thoughts on categories versus tags and how to organize an erotic story site, post here or e-mail me.