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Create a Sneeze Page and Propel Readers Deep Within Your Blog

Sneeze-1It’s Day 18 in the 2007 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project and today your task is to develop a ‘Sneeze Page’ (or pages) for your blog.

One of the challenges that faces blogs that have been around for a while is that they end up with a wonderful collection of posts in their archives that are rarely read by readers.

Write 1 post a day for a year and you’ll have 365 posts in your archives – but if your blog is like the majority of blog it will only be the latest 10 or so posts that readers will see when they arrive on your blog.

The challenge therefore is to work out how to propel readers towards some of the best posts in your archives.

One solution is what I call a ‘Sneeze Page’.

A Sneeze Page is one that simply directs readers in multiple directions at once – back into your archives. Let me explain further by giving a few tips on how to write Sneeze Page and then examining how to strategically position them for maximum impact.

How to Write Sneeze Pages

Writing a Sneeze Page for your blog isn’t that difficult a concept really – in it’s most simple form it is simply a list of links looking back into your archives. However as I think back on how I’ve done it before there are a number of techniques that you might like to use.

1. Themed Sneeze Pages – these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme. For example – on the front page of the newly designed ProBlogger you’ll now find a section called ‘Best of ProBlogger’ which has a tab in it titled ‘Darren’s Favs’. The five links in this section point to five new pages on ProBlogger which are in effect Themed Sneeze Pages (How to Make Money Blogging, How to Find Readers for Your Blog, How to Write Great Blog Content, Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers and Darren’s Recommendations).

These pages each break down the overarching topic or theme of the page into sub themes and then list off some of the key posts that I’ve written on the topic.

Interestingly – some of the posts that I link to are the central page for a series of posts (which are Sneeze pages in themselves – for example the page on writing content links to the 7 Days to Rediscovering your Blogging Groove series). As a result these pages have the potential to sneeze readers into hundreds of archived posts very quickly.

2. Time Related Sneeze Pages – a Sneeze page that is based around a defined period of time can be very effective. These ‘best of’ posts highlight your key posts from that period to either remind readers of previous posts that they might want to revisit or to highlight posts that they might have missed.

The period of time that you choose can really be anything from a year (here’s my best of 2006 at ProBlogger post) through to a month, week or even a weekend (ie a post that summarizes the posts from a weekend that those readers who don’t read your blog on a weekend might have missed).

3. Hot Comment Thread Sneeze Pages – I haven’t done this for a while but I used to occasionally compile a list of the posts in my archives that had comment threads on them that just wouldn’t die. This drove traffic back to engaging conversations, controversial debates and insightful discussions through my blog. It was actually a great traffic driver that worked quite effectively.

4. Series Sneeze Pages – as mentioned above – the introductory or summary post of a new series of posts can be an effective Sneeze Page. The best current example of this on ProBlogger is the central page for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog project which will end up being a list of 31 posts from this blog as well as hundreds of reader submitted tips.

Go Beyond The ‘List’

One more quick tip on writing Sneeze Pages – don’t make them just a list of links. Readers will use them a lot more and follow your suggested links into your archives if you take al little time to introduce what the page is about and to describe what they’ll get when they arrive at the page. This little extra effort will mean your page is more useful and useable for readers.

Also resist the temptation just to drive traffic to your money making pages. While you can definitely include pages that contain affiliate links and well converting ads in your Sneeze pages it will be much better received by readers if the posts you highlight are truly your best and most useful work.

How to Strategically Position Your Sneeze Page

The key with Sneeze Pages is to position them in a way that will enable them to be seen and used by the maximum number of readers. On some occasions this will simply been posting them as normal posts on your blog (see discussion below on ‘posts vs pages’ and in other instances it will mean highlighting them throughout your blog in other key positions.

Obviously at ProBlogger I highlight a number of Sneeze Pages from my ‘Best of’ section (something that is working quite well) but in my previous design I had them positioned in my top navigation menus (again – this worked very well).

Another way to highlight these pages is to link to them in posts when you’re talking on an issue. You can do this either within the content itself as you write or at the end of posts as suggested further or related reading.

Posts or Pages?

Those of you who use a blogging platform like WordPress (or now MT 4.0) that have the ability to write pages (as opposed to posts) on your blog will have an interesting choice when it comes to how to present your Sneeze Pages.

I use both posts and pages depending upon their nature. For Sneeze pages that will be linked to prominently for a long time on my blog I tend to go with a page (as they don’t have dates on them that could ‘date’ the page. But for smaller recaps of time periods or hot threads I’ll publish them as posts that will appear on my actual blog.

An Example of a Blog which Sneezes Effectively

Before I send you off to create some pages let me highlight one blog that I see using this technique very effectively – Lifehacker.

Here are four recent examples:

Your Homework

It is time to head back to your blog and create a Sneeze post or page for your blog. Use any of the above methods (themed, dated, hot threads etc) or use one of your own. Head back to this thread afterwards to tell us how you did it (and feel free to link to it so we can see some more examples of what others are doing).

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Great .. Very useful… Thanks Darren. I’m following your 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project step by step.

  2. Brad Isaac says:

    Darren, coincidentally, I broke ground on doing that for my blog last night. :)

    The question I am asking myself is the best way to organize the content, but more importantly to get a first time visitor to click through to the page. I am thinking about maybe a button, graphic or text link, but haven’t decided yet.

  3. Very useful – I’ll have to remember it.
    Currently I have one featuring my Weekly Video. It isn’t very prominent – but that’ll change when I get my new layout online.

    However, I wonder if that “Who See’s Ads” WP plug-in could be used? That could be fun to experiment with.

  4. Erik Karey says:

    Great tips Darren. I think a monthly roundup of the most popular articles on the blog is a good idea, plus their is a Most Popular posts plugin for WordPress that can also help.

  5. While I think my blog may be a bit new for this type of content… A great idea none the less. Something I will plan ahead and have ready by the time it is needed!

  6. rjlight says:

    I have been thinking about this lately. Thanks this helps. Love the new look by the way.

  7. Josh says:

    This is a great idea, thanks!

  8. Jim Moon says:

    Excellent concept Darren!

    This is a great way to “Revive” a collection of older posts.

    If you have a collection of older posts, simply create a new one outlining something like “The Best of (Insert Title Here)” Then insert the links to your older posts.

    Great idea, Thanks!

    Jim Moon

  9. terry says:

    It is sort of like creating your own carnival for your blog.

  10. Great tips, but “sneeze” pages? I think that cold you had last week may have had a slight impact on you. :lol:

  11. Darren,

    Thanks for the “duh” moment. I appreciate it.

    I like the term you coined too…”sneeze page”, awesome.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2
    http://josephratliff.name

  12. That’s what I call a great idea Darren ;)

    Kiss!

  13. Doug Green says:

    OK – so this is where we start to blur the line between “blog” and “website”. As soon as you start putting in page navigation (call it sneeze or page or ??) then you blur the lines between what has been a “blog” and what has been a “website”.

    I just gave up my wordpress software for a content management system that also features an RSS feed. Looks like a website – acts like a blog.

    So does this make mine a web site or a blog? :-)

    And what do you call your new design with landing page etc? :-)

  14. Just to prove how this works, your sneeze pages were among the first I checked out after visiting ProBlogger for the first time. Reading through some of the older series was what convinced me to subscribe way back when.

    Once I had discovered them I spent a week reading a lot of old posts, which naturally led to me reading the new ones as well.

  15. Snease says:

    All this talk about Sneasing and no mention of me. ::sniff::

  16. Great tips. I read lifehacker often, and I have to admit those round up posts are great.

  17. I’m glad my blog is relatively young so currently this isn’t an issue for me but one day I guess I’ll have to resort to some ‘Best of …’ articles.

  18. Jason says:

    Darren, thanks for the wisdom. I immediately took action on this one at my guitar blog atomicguitarist.com.

    I made a sneeze page including new gear for the summer of 2007 here http://atomicguitarist.com/?q=new-guitar-gear-reviews-summer-2007 . I liked the idea so much that I’m going to make sneeze pages for guitar gear for each season. You’ll see on my nav bar, I’ve added “New Gear.”

    I’d also like to say that I went to the Overture keyword selector tool and found a popular keyword for the sneeze page.

  19. What a photo! It makes me want to sneeze too. I am getting used to this new look. I miss having your photo though, it makes me feel like I am having a conversation. Anyway, I think this is a great idea to do sneeze pages. I do read lifehacker as well, their round up posts are great because sometimes I do miss some posts and it’s a great way to catch up.

    Cheers,

    Cindy

  20. Jeri says:

    My blog is still a bit young for this too, 84 posts in less than 3 months, but it’s a fabulous idea. I’ll definitely plan to implement it when I grow a little more!

  21. Alan says:

    Great article I will be following your articles alot more now I have started my new blog (We write about websites), and good luck with your new site, I am getting use to it :-)

  22. David Mackey says:

    That is one of the most disgusting pictures I’ve ever seen.

  23. Brad V. says:

    Hey that’s a great idea! I never thought of that! I often felt bad because I’ll write a great post and a month later it’s so buried in the archives I wonder if anyone will even read it again. Once my blog re-design is complete I’m going to work on a sneeze page of my own (probably the “best of” or something like that).

    BTW, I love that picture. Gross but funny!!!

    Keep up the great work. I love this blog!!!

  24. Hey, Don! says:

    Hey, a new blogging term! but this is related to what I realized a couple of weeks ago as I write a post and try to organically reference a similar post or two I previously wrote.

    If I do this on a regular basis with newer posts, then I’m referring my readers to my salient points.

    But I do like the idea of a “best of” . . . it may even be broken into “best of the quarter” . . . since I’m now at 112 posts on my blog in about 3 months.

  25. Starfeeder says:

    Ah cool concept, I never heard/thought about “sneeze page” concepts till read this, I see it done on smashingmagazine a lot too.

  26. codist says:

    I recently put up a page with all of my posts ordered by the number of readers (non-rss or front page). It’s add a steady supply of readers who otherwise might have only read the article they arrived on.

  27. KingJacob says:

    I’ve been doing this on a subtler measure within my posts, if the post is related to one of my old posts Ill just link the two.

  28. Ryan B says:

    I am not sure if this fits or not, but years ago, I posted one of those stupid myth stories you may get in an e-mail, that still gets traffic daily. At times 700+ hits. A shallow attempt at getting hits, but it works

  29. I’m thinking about doing this once a month… directing readers back to my favorite posts of the month. I’m sure it could be done in other ways when the blog has a few more months under its belt.

  30. Darren Rowse says:

    Skelliewag – I think that’s a good way to start out.

    KingJacob – that’s also a good technique that can work quite well – much more natural. It’s also good for the SEO of your blog. More on that here

    Steven Bradley – thanks – glad to know that they work!

  31. A Taylor says:

    Darren,

    Great ideal. I have an older blog that is a couple of years old with 100 archived posts.

    I can easily see how a sneeze page of categorized older articles would do wonders in terms of creating “new” content that could then be stumbled, digged etc

    Also for my new blog this is yet another great ideal for starting out.

  32. ugyen says:

    Darren you got that right mate, i will be on mission now for my older post.

  33. Mike Crowl says:

    This is a great idea, but I don’t know whether it’s possible to have ‘pages’ on blogger.com
    Does anyone know how to do this with blogger?

  34. Bruce says:

    I visit a lot of other blogs but always find myself coming back here for really solid information. I’ll be doing a best of August sneeze page shortly. What a great idea. Thanks – sincerly.
    - Bruce from the BookshopBlog.

  35. analogstuff says:

    Hi Darren,

    I really dont know how u get these ideas, but great ideas thats why i think you are famous blogger.
    I will try to implement some of the blogger tips you have mentioned in this blog.

    Thanks.

  36. Not a Square says:

    This is a great idea. Once I have some more blog posts on my new blog http://www.blogforsquares.com I will definitely make one of these.

  37. I thought these things were just called Golden Lists?

  38. Asako says:

    I also liked your old navigation at the top. Maybe, it is just me, but I tend not to remember the title of my favorite post, but only remember through that navigations how I got there. When the structure changes dynamically, I tend to get lost.

    But I am glad I can still easily find the “blogging for beginners” in your beginner sneeze page.

  39. “Sneeze page” – what a great name that summarises the gists. Thanks so much for the great tip!

  40. Mike Baker says:

    Good post. I use WordPress for my blog, and actually ran across a plugin on setting up an articles page (which in this case would be a sneeze page). You can find the plugin at http://www.alexking.org.

    It basically sets up an archive of all of your articles (posts you label as an article) by titles and categories. Very good place to be able to find articles again.

    But, yes, anything like this is good as your posts will get burried very deep in the archives other wise.

  41. My blog is still too new for this but I’ve book marked this page for future reference. As mentioned previously, “Sneeze page”, great term.

  42. DC365 says:

    Darren, I love this idea, and if I do say so myself, I think I made a pretty good one!
    http://dc365.blogspot.com/2007/08/perfect-3-day-weekend.html
    Mine is of the “themed” variety. I liked it so much I linked directly to it on the side bar of the main page, and also on the “City Guide” page.

  43. Sue Hickton says:

    Hi Darren
    have started the 31 day challenge – doing the chocolate version with Sue Waters and Frances McLean – have learnt an insane amout in the last 72 h alone, an thats without following the exploits of the other choc challenge participants. Currenlty I am sleep deprived but on holiday shortly, so hopefully post quality will improve and have more substance :) Looking foward to my ‘homework’ when I get back from holidays!

    chees Sue

  44. Kashif says:

    I have done theme based sneezing but instead of creating separate pages I send readers from main page to categories or tags.

    1. CJ Saga: http://www.chowrangi.com/content/justice-iftikhar-chaudhry

    2. Lal Masjid: http://www.chowrangi.com/content/lal-masjid

  45. OH HOLY CRAP! You read my mind!

    I’ve been blogging for 4 years and I am trying to renew my blog and update it. I’ve been going through your 31 Days and am so excited to share that I already did this “sneeze” page in a post this morning! I had no idea it was called a sneeze page, but it’s the perfect name for it! Here’s my link.

    http://coleyblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/my-wormhole-through-space-aka-archive.html

    I called it my Archive Shuffle.

  46. I’ve always been a bit confused about the difference between a page and a post. Isn’t a page just a post with no timestamp or comment link?

    Why the need for both pages and posts if you could selectively remove timestamps and comment links as required?

    I think a plugin which enables/disables post timestamps, post comment links and category numbering on a per category basis would be handy – anyone seen anything like this?

  47. Trisha says:

    It’s funny – this is what I was doing without realizing on the new site =P I happened to find this post right when I was trying to explain it to my programmer (hehe ^.^)

    I’m just going to have sections in my sidebar for all 7 categories with the top 5 headlines (weighted by visitors and comments) for each category. And of course a nice tag cloud.

    If they want chronological view, they can just click on the category name =)

  48. Ai Ling ONG says:

    Darren: simply awesome!
    Love your posts so much.
    Argh!!! Addicted!!!

  49. T Dave says:

    Great site, loads of helpful stuff.

    Just decided to add a ‘sneeze’ page as a separate blog (but with a navigation button like yours) on this advice and see how it goes.

    Only looked at 4 or 5 of the tips so far, so i’m looking forward to nicking your ideas / sharing your wisdom on the rest!!

  50. Another insightful article! Thanks :)