Do you have hundreds or even thousands of articles hiding behind those “previous” buttons on the bottom of your page? I bet that many of you do. They, unfortunately, offer little or no value to your readers. Valuable page views are being lost if you fail to make an honest attempt to promote past content.
Your living in la-la land if you believe that the typical reader is going to take the time to click the previous button on your blog over two or three times. I was once shocked to notice someone go back four pages on my technology blog, but even then I think it was one of my friends. It just doesn’t seem right. I mean, after all, you invested so much time into those articles, and while your blog may be prospering with new readers that are reading what you write today, they are missing out on all your previous hard work. Something must be done about this!
Alright, So How Do We Fix It?
Understandably, if you are running a site that consists of time sensitive issues like current events, news, or even technology, it is not as important to highlight that five paragraph article on why the iPhone will rule the world. On the other hand, if you do have any content that you have written in the past that could be of value to your readers, then you should do your best to make it easy for them to find it. Perhaps, at the very least, your hard work from the past will generate more back links with your newer readers.
There was a good reason you assigned tags and categories to your content (hopefully), and now is the time to explain why. Whether you prefer using tags or categories, these two methods are the primary link to organizing your previous content. They also give you great ways to pull out content as well. Good categorization of your content is crucial. Even if it doesn’t appear that way now, it might come back to haunt you later.
Using multiple pages that focus on a single or multiple related categories is a relatively easy way to spread your content out. Instead of limiting your readers to the last 10 or so recent blog entries, you could have your site also display the last 10 or so items from a broad set of various categories. News, previews, and reviews pages could be a relatively simple start for adding more value to previous articles. Already your user has access to more content than they did before.
Accomplishing this in WordPress can be somewhat tricky. Maria’s Guides has a great tutorial on how to create category specific archive pages. This is probably the best option if you do not want to bother with the other methods available. Once this is set up, everything will be automated as long as you manage your categories correctly.
If you check out a site like ProBlogger, you will notice that, even on the very front page, the site manages to promote content from years ago with the “Best of Problogger” section. You might not need to be so fancy with how it is done, but if you do, try checking out jQuery if your looking to do something similar to the tabbed interface. It does have the advantage of making great use of little space.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated though. Something simple like listing 10 to 20 of your past favorite articles from a few categories would be better than nothing at all. It is a great way to give your readers something to do other than reading your most recent entries.
Alex King has a great plugin called Popularity Contest. It will allow you to keep track of all the views on your content, and with a little bit of code, you can extract information about the most popular posts. This will allow you to generate lists that display your most popular content. Many sites tend to do this, and maybe you should too.
If you want to make displaying lists of previous content easier, you could also check out Alex King’s Articles plugin. Most of the functionality can be done without a plugin, but this could make the task much easier.
The best way to learn is by example, so here are a few blogs to take notes from:
- ProBlogger – the homepage and archives page are excellent for showing off the site’s previous content. The ajax tabbed interface also allows much more content to be displayed in the same amount of space.
- ArsTechnica – separates past content with tabs on top; the “Ars Journals” section on the right also helps to show off additional content.
- Smashing Magazine – exactly what I was talking about before — the site properly highlights its best content from the past, even if in a simplistic manner.
- TreeHugger – in addition to featuring an amazingly unique design, the sidebars of the site are full of quality content from the past.
- A List Apart – while putting together an archive like this might be significantly more effort, it would unquestionably be worth it if you have that much valuable content.
- Zen Habits – features excellent use of previously popular content on the bottom of the page.
If you can be consistent with featuring your previous content, it really adds value to site. Readers might be, for example, more inclined to visit the site instead of only reading via content feeds.
Hopefully some of those sites will inspire you to spend some time and feature your hard work. If you have an article that you spent hours on that maybe didn’t get enough appreciation, it should be on the front page. Most of us don’t do this, and I will raise my hand and admit that I am one of those people. Fortunately, after joining Performancing, I have been thinking of new ways to improve my blogs.
This is a step in the right direction.
If you have a unique way of displaying your previous content, please let us know in the comments section. I would also be glad to help anyone that needs an opinion on how to make their previous content useful; just fire me a private message.