3 Tagging mistakes to avoid in Evernote

3 Tagging mistakes to avoid in Evernote

Image of luggage tags

Tagging is HARD. Ever since I really started to get to grips with Evernote and use it properly I’ve been conscious that I still haven’t really nailed tagging. I have however made a number of false starts which, now that I’ve fixed them, I thought I’d share.


“I still haven’t really nailed tagging. I have however made a number of false starts which, now that I’ve fixed them, I thought I’d share.”


So this isn’t so much a ‘how to’ guide as a ‘discussion starter’. I’m going to throw a few of my own observations out there and I’m hoping that over time I’ll get sufficient feedback to start to build a more definitive ‘get the best from your tags’ type article.

Mistake 1: Trying to Tag EVERYTHING

To use tags well it’s important to understand: What are tags FOR exactly?. In my view they can:

  • Describe the content of your note (“this is a picture of my cat wearing a funny hat”)

  • Describe the context of your note (“this is a picture from my ‘cats in funny hats’ album that I took on holiday in Spain”)

  • Describe what to do with your note (“this is a picture that needs adding to my scrapbook”)

It’s worth recognising that all three of these objectives can be achieved using Notebooks, Titles or Tags (or a combination of all three). It’s basically down to personal preference.

When I started out I tried to use tags to do all three of these as well as smart titles and multiple notebooks.

The result: lots of tags with only 1 note. When you think about that….what’s the point?

My suggestion is as follows:

  • Use the Title to describe the content (My cat 23rd January 2013)
  • Use the Tag to describe the context (Holiday Photo, Scrapbook, Spain)
  • Use notebooks to drive workflow-based tasks (add to scrapbook)

Mistake 2: Double-tagging OCR’d text

I’ve already mentioned that Titles, Notebooks and Tags can all be used to describe context, content and workflow and how it’s important to try and avoid overlapping.


“Think carefully about any additional contexts that would be useful and only add tags that add meaning.”


Remember also that text from clipped articles and OCR’d images will be searchable in Evernote. So your clipped article:

50 funniest cat hat pictures of 2012

Will already be searchable on keywords for cat, hat, picture, 2012.

There is no point adding these words as tags. Think carefully about any additional contexts that would be useful (“hat purchase ideas”) and only add tags that add meaning.

Mistake 3: Generic tags

I’m going to make a confession here: I’m still making this mistake. I’m convinced it’s the wrong thing to do but I haven’t fixed my tagging taxonomy sufficiently to address it.


“It’s the digital equivalent of that “drawer of random crap” we all have in our houses.”


I have 53 notes saved with a ‘reference document’ tag. The principle of this tag was to identify those documents (mostly) scanned that I might want to refer to in the future.

But truthfully, what use is a group of notes whose common characteristic is ‘I might want to refer to this in the future?’ It’s the digital equivalent of that “drawer of random crap” we all have in our houses.

For tags to be useful they have to add meaningful context. I have a ‘bank statement’ tag and a ‘tax’ (correspondence from UK Taxman) tag that I’m perfectly happy with. But the ‘reference document’ tag is useless and I need to delete it.

Take action and address these mistakes

If you’re making these mistakes, I recommend you take the following action:

  • Pick a taxonomy and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but decide how you’re going to use tags, titles and notebooks together and stick to it. Anything goes, but remember that overlapping titles and tags = wasted effort.

  • Delete all your tags with only 1 note. The ‘tags’ shortcut in the Evernote sidebar will show you how many notes have a particular tag. In general the higher the number the more useful the tag (but beware Mistake #3). Tags with 1 note are a waste of time and you should delete them.

  • Review regularly. Set some time aside to look at how your notebook structures, titles and tags look. Do they give you structure and meaningful groupings? When you type a search term into Evernote do you get small groups of highly relevant notes?

I firmly believe that if I can crack a great tagging methodology It will supercharge my Evernote effectiveness. If you have any suggestions, please comment here and maybe we can build a ‘Tagging Super-guide’!


I’m experimenting with Sketchnote. You can find the Tagging mistakes in Evernote sketchnote here.


Cover image © Saransk | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos