Many bloggers are sitting on a treasure trove and don’t even know it (or don’t know how to use it). The treasure is in their archives – hundreds, if not thousands of posts that they’ve slaved over for hundreds of hours that unfortunately are rarely seen by readers.
This post is about how to release the potential of your archives and get your readers digging into them. I share 8 ways I’ve attempted to get more eyeballs on my archives.
ProBlogger has been running for just under two years and in that time I’ve published over 2600 posts. As I reflect upon that massive amount of content I can largely classify them into two types of posts (for the purposes of this post at least):
1. News Posts – each day I publish what I consider to be ‘newsy posts’ (yep that’s the technical name for them). These point readers to what is happening around the blogosphere in relation to my topic (building better blogs and making money blogging). These posts tend to date very quickly and most are largely irrelevant (except as a record keeping exercise) within days or weeks of me posting them. They do continue draw readers into the blog via search engines as they are often keyword rich – but I doubt that they are really much use to readers who find them.
2. Evergreen – I try to post at least one of these posts each day (each weekday at least) on Problogger. They are posts that have a ‘how to’ focus or which have some element of teaching or inspiration to them. They tend to be posts that do not date very quickly. Some might call them ‘evergreen’ posts as they are often as relevant today as they were when I wrote them some time ago.
Of course there are a few other types of posts in my archives but the vast majority of what I’ve written here fit pretty clearly into one of the other category.
The Problem with Evergreen Posts
The ‘problem’ that I’ve been pondering lately is largely related to the evergreen posts and how they work (or don’t work) on a blog.
The issue is that evergreen posts remain relevant for long periods of time – but the nature of blogs is that they are dynamic and quite temporary in how they highlight posts.
In a blog’s natural form evergreen post might only be exposed to readers for just a day or two while it sits on the front page of a blog. As more posts are written it slides quickly into ‘archives’ where it may never be seen again.
Having spent considerable time on such posts (I can spend anything from 30 minutes to numerous hours working up one of these posts) they seemingly disappear from the radar of readers unless they are specifically are searching for terms you use and happen to find you in a search engine search.
The problem is highlighted to me everyday by the emails that I receive from readers asking me to write on topics that I’ve already written on numerous times. In some cases this might be the reader’s laziness but in most cases it’s simply because my archives have become too large and finding what they need is becoming difficult.
I’m interested to hear how other bloggers tackle this problem.
I’ve been pondering it a lot lately and to be honest feel like I’m still not really close to ‘the answer’ (if there is one). Instead I’m coming to the conclusion that a blogger needs to be quite intentional in directing readers to their evergreen posts and should probably do so in a multi-pronged way.
How to Highlight Your Archives
Here are some of the strategies that I’ve used and have seen others putting into place:
1. Search – perhaps one of the most common features on blogs is the ‘search’ feature. This enables readers who know what they’re looking for on your blog to actively search for it.
This is great for some reasons but the problems with it are that readers need to have a felt need and to be actively searching and that they need to do so using terms that you’ve used in your posts (I find that a lot of beginner bloggers don’t know the terminology and as a result search for the wrong things).
2. Categories and Tags – another common navigational tool that is built into many blogs is the ability to assign posts categories and/or tags. This enables readers to at least narrow down what they’re looking for information on to a smaller topic within the niche you’re writing about.
The downside of categories and tags is that readers again need to know what they’re looking for (to some extent) and that categories and tags can become very large archives in and of themselves also. For example here at ProBlogger I have hundreds of entries in my AdSense category – some of them are ‘newsy’ others are ‘evergreen’ posts.
3. Highlight Popular Post in Sidebar/Menus – this is something I’ve been doing with some success here at ProBlogger (I’ve written about it here). If you place key posts prominently you can drive significant traffic to your best old post.
The weakness in this approach is that there is only so many posts that you can highlight in this way. At ProBlogger I use my top three boxes for this purpose but even if I used each slot I could only highlight 20 key posts or categories (less than 1% of my archives). You can increase this by linking to pages that themselves highlight different keyposts (for example in my menu I link to my Top 20 posts) however there is still a limit to how much you can highlight.
4. Related Posts Plugins - this is another common strategy among many bloggers these days. Those using blog platforms like WordPress can use plugins like Related Entries that will automatically suggest to your readers what else they might like to read that is related to your post.
I’ve not done any studies on how well this works but it makes sense that it does and it’s something I use at the bottom of each post here on ProBlogger.
The weakness of this approach is that bloggers have no control over which pages they highlight. While it’s pretty good at suggesting related posts it’s fully automated (great – but not completely in our control as bloggers). Of course you can always manually suggest related posts instead or in addition to such a plugin.
5. Internal Linking – once you’ve been writing a blog for a while you’ll find that you do find yourself writing on topics that you’ve touched on before. One way to take advantage of this is simply to interlink these posts within your posts. This means you’re in complete control of where you send readers and can ensure that the links are contextually relevant and fit within the natural flow of your posts instead of having them at the end of your posts.
If there’s a weakness of this post it’s that you have to go searching for the old posts and have to have a good enough memory about what you’ve written previously on a topic (it gets a little hard once you get over 1000 posts or so). There’s also a danger of overdoing it and frustrating your readers by always referring to previous posts instead of writing posts for now.
6. Alternative Blog Architecture – more and more bloggers have been experimenting with new ways of structuring blogs. For example – recently Aaron launched a new architectural structure to his blog. You can view it in a standard blog format (chronological order), in a ‘conversational’ format (where the order of posts is based upon which posts have had comments most recently) or a ‘Best Of‘ type format (where the blog is arranged not chronologically but in an order that Aaron determines with his ‘best’ posts at the top. The conversational and best formats highlight older posts.
This opens up interesting possibilities and I’m sure Aaron will develop it further. I guess the downside is that in each view there is still a top post and only 10 or so on the front page of that view meaning that only a smaller number of old posts will be highlighted.
7. Update Posts - After a year or two of blogging it goes without saying that some of your old posts will be somewhat dated. I can think of posts in my archives that I don’t really agree with anymore or that are just obsolete. On a number of occasions I’ve actually gone back to these posts to do updates (usually adding paragraphs and occasionally rewriting posts).
On these occasions you can either republish the post with a new date (be aware that this can change the URL of your post if you incorporate dates into your URLS – which is problematic) or write a short post telling readers that you’ve updated the post with a link to it.
This is a good way to keep your archives up to date but it does have some problems also. For example some people have an issue with changing previously published posts.
8. Compilation Posts – another similar strategy that I use from time to time is to write posts that highlight a collection of previous posts. This is what my top 20 posts does.
This is particularly effective if your compilation post brings together posts on the same topic and is almost like you’re putting together a series of previously published posts.
Combinations of Above
Of course none of the above 8 strategies are mutually exclusive. Each one can be used in combination with each other and other strategies.
What do you do to highlight older posts and get people into your archives? Have I missed anything?