Either/Or: To Stick or Not to Stick (Posts)?
Sometimes, simply checking a box or clicking a button can make a subtle, but significant difference in the way your audience reads and reacts to your blog. In these posts we’ll dig deeper into the dashboard, and explore some either-this-or-that decisions that can have a real influence on your readers’ experience.
If you ever wondered what sticky posts are and why you should use them (or not), here’s some food for thought. Sticky posts are an efficient, clear way to highlight specific content on your blog, making them first among equals. Depending on your specific goals and needs, this can either be a great idea, or make little sense.
For most blogs, the front page is an ever-changing landscape. Each post you publish goes straight to the top of the page, enjoying its spot in the limelight while adding a fresh perspective to the mix.
For information that rarely changes, or which you don’t want to bury in the constant flow of updates — About pages are an obvious example — static pages are often an ideal solution: once you publish them, they’re there to stay unless you scrap them. (If you’re still not sure about the difference between posts and pages, you’re not the only one: we’ve got you covered!)
All blogs on WordPress.com are displayed in reverse chronological order: new posts go on top, pushing older ones down the screen or to the next page. Sticky posts are a sneaky way to play around with this setting. When you create a new post, or edit an older one, you can set it as sticky in the Visibility section of the Publish module.
This means the post will stay at the top of your front page, above all the others, for as long as you keep it sticky. Depending on the theme you’re using, sticky posts will often have some visual cue to set them apart: a different color, a border, a larger font size. They’re there to stand out.
No sticking around, please
Most bloggers want their most recent content to be featured front and center, with as little distraction as possible. This is particularly true for active writers who update their content regularly and who enjoy frequent visitors to their homepage.
Would you ask a ravenous guest at a BBQ to first have some of the lukewarm rib (or, sure, veggie burger) made an hour earlier? This is how readers might feel when you force them to scroll down a long sticky post that doesn’t serve any particular purpose.
Whatever makes you (s)tick
In some cases, however, it makes complete sense to highlight one or two posts above all others. For some bloggers, it’s a way to showcase a post they’re particular proud of, thereby using their strongest material to transform occasional visitors into regulars. For others, it’s a way to explain the essence of their blog without requiring their readers to check a separate About page. A parenting blog, for example, might use a sticky post to narrate the arrival of baby Emma, and a travel blog can frame the journey underway with the writer’s itinerary or travel philosophy.
A sticky post can serve as a useful space for temporary announcements on any blog.
Here at The Daily Post we use a sticky post as a visual reminder for our readers to submit their entries to the Weekly Photo Challenge, our most popular regular feature (we simply change the post in question every week). A sticky post can serve as a useful space for temporary announcements on any blog, though. Say you’re organizing your birthday party, or running a back-to-school book drive. You can give your readers all the information they need in a sticky post, making sure that nobody can miss it. Then, once you’ve opened your gifts or distributed the donated books, simply unstick the post (by unchecking the appropriate box in the Publish module), and your blog is back to normal.
VISP: Very Important Sticky Posts
There is one case in which sticky posts are absolutely essential: if your theme supports a featured post slider and you want to activate it (and who wouldn’t? Sliders are gorgeous!), the posts featured in the slider will be those you set as sticky (note that different themes allow for different numbers of featured posts in the slider).
Getting your slider going is a simple, two-step process. First, set a post as sticky in the Publish module described above. Then, add a featured image to the post — you do that in the Featured Image module, in the bottom right corner of the post Editor. This image will serve as the visual anchor of your post in the slider. As long as you select featured images that meet your theme’s size requirements (check your theme’s page for details), your header area will be transformed into a sleek showcase for your content.
In the Oxygen theme, for example, featured in the image above, sticky posts are used to populate the magazine-like Showcase Page template. You can choose up to six posts to be highlighted, and select a featured image for each one (in this theme, the showcase images need to be at least 750 pixels wide; other themes have different requirements) for a breathtaking result.
Do you use sticky posts? If yes, what goals do they serve? We’d love to hear your opinions and advice.