Stephan Spencer writes a useful SEO Tip on highlighting Popular Posts and kindly uses ProBlogger’s top menus as an example of one way of doing it.
I have to admit that my reasoning for using the boxes at the top of my blog was twofold.
I first saw the idea on a blog that Rachel had designed for herself and then asked her if she could incorporate it into my design. My reasoning was that it would help with:
1. Blog Stickability – when a new reader comes to a blog the chances are pretty high that they will spend a minute or two with you (at the most) looking at the page that they enter on and then that they will either hit the back button on their browser to return to the place they came from, will leave your blog via a link on your blog or will close their browser. Giving them something else within your blog means they stay with you for another minute or two which increases the long term chances that for some sort of connection or loyalty to you.
If you give your new readers a way to go deep within your blog to multiple pages where they’ll find rich helpful content the chances are that they’ll come back again.
I quite often get emails from readers who have spent an hour or two on their first visit to ProBlogger surfing through the archives after discovering some of my best content via these menus. It’s funny to see them progress through posts and leave comments as they go along and is not uncommon to get 10 or more comments within an hour as they progress through the articles linked to from the menus above.
In a sense what you’re doing is giving readers a guided tour of your blog in the hope that along the way they’ll make a decision to make a regular stopping place in their online activities.
2. SEO – as Stephan writes – Search engines also love it when you link deeper within your blog and the benefits of doing so are tangible.
When I analyze my blog statistics each week to see which posts are most popular it is almost always the case that the posts linked to in my top menus are the most visited. This is of course partly because they are linked to prominently and people visit them (as discussed above) but it is also because these posts tend to rank higher than other posts on my blog in Google.
One of the key principles of SEO is that if someone links to a post on your blog that Google sees this as a vote of confidence in that post and will boost it’s ranking (sort of like a popularity contest). As a result most SEO types love to get links to their blogs and posts from other blogs. However it’s not just links from outside your blog that impact SEO. If you link from within your blog to key posts it boosts their ranking also (not as much as an incoming link from outside your blog – but it does seem to count).
In a sense what you’re doing is giving Search Engines a guided tour of your blog and showing them your best bits so that they can promote those for you.
As a result of these two benefits of doing so it’s well worth identifying your key posts on your blog and linking to them from other points within your blog. You can do this from within other relevant posts, form a a sidebar, from a menu or even using plugins (WP has a variety of them that allow you to create a list of popular, relevant or recent posts).