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Driving Traffic to Your Archives

Given the ephemeral nature of the internet — from breaking news to memes to reader attention spans — it feels…

Given the ephemeral nature of the internet — from breaking news to memes to reader attention spans — it feels like we, as online publishers, are pushed to keep pace with the web, writing post after post each day.

Most blogs are set up for this kind of schedule, with front pages displaying your latest posts. But while your readers (and search engines) love seeing fresh content on your homepage, we encourage you to promote your archives, too: your best posts, your hidden gems, and your timeless content. It’s great to drive traffic to older posts and different parts of your blog.

You’ve got handy tools in the dashboard to promote your older content, from the Archives Widget to the Categories Widget. But let’s look beyond these and discover other ways to drive traffic to your archives.

Custom menus of pages or categories

Over on Butterfly Mind, writer Andrea Badgley has a custom menu on the left that includes two archive pages of content: Contents, Year 1 and Contents, Year 2. Combined, these act as a “table of contents” for her blog, and is an alternate way to organize and display older content.

Andrea Badgley

Similarly, you can create a “Best Of” page and curate a shortlist of your favorite and most popular posts, then add the page to your menu. The Top Posts & Pages Widget may generate a similar list for you, but if you want more control over your selections — and want to display this list on its own page rather than your sidebar — this is a simple way to do it. (For users who like tinkering with shortcodes, consider the Display Posts Shortcode: using various shortcode options, you can fine-tune the posts you want to display on a page, too.)

You can create a custom menu with categories as well (or mix it up and include pages and categories, plus external links). I don’t write frequently on my own blog, so I created a menu for my most popular categories, which highlights older posts. As a result, I’ve made my categories more accessible, allowing readers to easily discover content that’s more than a year old.

Writing Through the Fog

Custom image widgets

Here on The Daily Post, we display clickable custom Image Widgets in our sidebar. (We created these in PicMonkey, which is free and doesn’t require registration.) The widgets not only jazz up and visually enhance our blog, but drive more traffic to various places: “Blog Events” leads to our Blog Events Listings page; “Freshly Pressed” leads to the latest crop of editors’ picks in the Reader; and “Photography 101,” “Community Etiquette,” and “Writing Challenges” direct our readers and new visitors to the pages of three popular categories:

Revisit our Widgets 201 tutorial for a refresher on creating custom Image Widgets — they’re a great way to direct readers to specific pages and posts, and can enhance your blog’s overall visual look.

Featured post sliders

Some themes have the option to activate a post slider — a slideshow of featured images, often at the top of your homepage, that highlights selected posts. In the Theme Showcase, you can browse themes that support post sliders and the different ways your featured posts can be displayed.

Check out Carter Higgins’ vibrant, well-designed site, Design of the Picture Book. She uses ThemeMinwhich supports a post slider on the front page, just below her header image. You can see a row of image thumbnails for five featured posts, which Carter has activated by selecting featured images for her posts and then making these posts “sticky.

Design of the Picture Book

A post slider is another visual way to call attention to older posts. Here, Carter selects various posts from 2013, and even one from 2012 — “Rapido’s Next Stop,” the featured post on the far right, is from August 2012.

ThemeMin is a premium theme, but there are free themes that support post sliders, including Untitled, Forever, Superhero, and Oxygen.

Recurring posts, roundups, and anniversaries

Another way to direct traffic to your archives is by publishing an ongoing series. Former school librarian Miss Anderson at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! has two weekly series: Top Ten Tuesday and Quotetastic Friday. Visitors who click on these tabs in the left-side menu are led to these category pages, which compile posts published as far back as fall 2011.

Top Ten Tuesday

You can also curate your own content. The end of the year is approaching, so why not write a “2013 in Review” post that summarizes your year and includes standout posts? Or, if you’re a food or DIY blogger who writes about seasonal recipes or craft projects over the holidays, be sure to promote and link to older posts you’ve written. These are opportunities to highlight your writing and work in timely, relevant ways.

Some bloggers create editorial calendars to keep regular schedules per week or month, while others write annual posts, too. Expat and nomadic bloggers pen “travelversary” posts that mark another year of living abroad or traveling the world; in these kinds of posts, bloggers revisit older “travelversary” posts and look back on what they’ve accomplished and experienced.

Not an expat or traveler? You can draft a similar post, no matter your niche, and then call attention to related posts from your archives.

What do you do to promote your older content and drive traffic to your archives?

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  1. Thank you for the shout out, Cheri. I have noticed that readers have started digging into my older posts now that I have the tables of contents set up on the left of my blog. I also reference those lists frequently for days I’m not posting new material – on my Facebook page I will link to posts from last year with the status, “A Year Ago Today: Haiku from a winter run” or whatever the post was from that date a year ago.

    If anyone has questions about my Table(s) of Contents, I’m happy to answer them. Thanks again.

    1. The “A Year Ago Today” idea is a great one as well — the idea fits in with an upcoming post we’ll do on repurposing evergreen/timeless content. And you’re welcome for the shout-out!

      1. Yes, Cheri, that’s a great tool, too, and it selects three posts at the bottom. I often click on them on blogs I follow.

        I also have a custom menu under my header with categories “Laugh, Think, Cry” as well as “Freshly Pressed” and “Responding Promptly.”

        Each of these has drop-down menus, which lets me categorize ongoing humor or memoir series, writing prompts, social commentary, etc.

        I’m not sure how often people check them, but it satisfies my latent librarian ;)

        Thanks for always providing such helpful information!

  2. Even when I enter the full title of a post, if it’s more than a year old, it may not come up. This is also true of photos in the media files. Too many posts? Too many pictures?

    1. Hi Teepee — to clarify, do you mean when you search for post using, say, the search field at the top right of the Posts page (or somewhere similar in your admin panel), your older posts don’t appear?

      https://cloudup.com/cFvuQh1xjGc

      I find that using just one or two terms (searching simply for “Barcelona” instead of a full or exact title like “Architecture and Gaudi in Barcelona: A Photo Essay”) helps to pull up relevant posts quicker. Is your experience different?

      As for photos — I sometimes have similar problems, but it’s not because theres’ too much content…but rather I’ve not properly labeled the images. (My bad.)

  3. I’m still quite new to blogging but thinking about highlighting a “post of the month” where I refer back to most popular post of the month…just an idea at the moment.

  4. Thanks for the explanation, and the tutorial link, on the custom image widgets. I’ve seen them but wasn’t sure exactly how to create them!

  5. I categorize my posts, but with more posts coming in frequently, older posts are buried deep into the archives. Sometimes, we tag other bloggers and as a part of that we ask them to link to their favorite posts from a particular year (for example). This brings out some gems.

    My old posts have so many errors (not that the newer ones are perfect) that I am afraid of showcasing them on the homepage . LOL. :)

  6. Thank you for the excellent ideas – the 2013 review post idea is brilliant! I’m not very good at the visual side of blog organisation- I’m always scared I’ll overload the side columns with too many things. Time to get back to the drawing board and conquer my fear of technology, I guess…

    1. Cool — glad to hear you like the 2013 review post idea.

      You can always try adding stuff (ie, widgets in sidebar, etc.) and if you don’t like the look, can always delete/revert what you’ve done. It’s hard to “break” our blogs, really — go for it and experiment!

      1. Thank you for the encouragement… I’m permanently in awe of Those Who Master WordPress Wizardry. I will give the sidebar widgets a try – wish me luck, this will no doubt take a lot of determination and chocolate to achieve!

  7. Hi Cheri,
    Thanks so much for the additional tips. I’ve been publishing WordPress.com blogging tips since 2006 and have been using appropriate anchor text to related posts in the text of my posts since I began. I began manually adding my related posts to the bottom of my posts in 2007 and have now published 932 posts.

    I have also published posts containing several ways of featuring older content listed under this Category older content My Featured content page, Popular Posts and Basic Blogging Pages do attract traffic and direct it to my older posts. In addition I curate my content and publish posts from time to time like 4 Year End Blog Post Ideas and Better Blogging by the Numbers , which is a post that features posts from my List posts category and is aimed to help my readers locate relevant posts quickly.

    1. Great — thanks for leaving additional tips here. For sites like yours — which have accumulated a wealth of material over the years — there are many opportunities to promote older posts, year after year.

  8. Great ideas! I personally refer to older content in newer posts, linking to the older post. I can see that this definitely drives traffic to the older post in my stats. That’s not my primary reason for back-referral, but the increased traffic is a nice side-effect!

  9. Thanks! I love thinking about how to improve my blog. If you ever want to say anything about mine, please feel freed to do so. I’m sure I will love what you may say. I don’t think of my blog as a daily news sort of place. Its more like threads in my mind.
    I like the arrangements that you are using — like a news journal website more so than like mine. I did get a few ideas though that I may get to in the near future as my blog is far lager than I’d though would it be.
    ~ Eric

  10. I corralled all my recipes (I hope!) as links with descriptors on one page entitled “Kitchen’s Hot!”.

    Also made a page with a series of posts about how to do “friendship”.

    Those seem to get a few hits, now and then.

    Also have a “best of” page, that I update every January, and often link to older posts.

  11. Some themes, like Delicious Magazine that I use have a great sub-feature panel. I try to change up those sub features to show off older posts and drive traffic there. The pictures really get more clicks going to those older recipes.

    1. Hooray for Delicious Magazine — that was my theme on my personal blog for years, but I recently changed it. I particularly loved the main featured slider; there was another featured section just below it for thumbnails, but I never used it — that’s an extra place, though, for even more archived/themed content. (And great for food pics specifically!)

  12. I always have a dilemma when it comes to oldie but goodie posts of mine. I use the categories, add hyperlinks to old posts etc when appropriate.

    However my question is this. If I want to legitimately rerun an old post (say from when I had just 10 followers and now I have 580; so ‘new’ to the vast majority), which is the most appropriate?

    1 – create a new post with a short intro and a hyperlink
    2 – create a new post and copy/paste the content into a standalone new post
    3 – create a new post and creatively rework the old post into something new (but fundamentally the same story)

    Advice, as always, is very much appreciated.
    UNCLE SPIKE

    1. Great question — it’s something we’ll cover in a post on repurposing evergreen (older but timeless) content next week. I think people approach this in different ways, but I definitely think #1 or #3 is best, as I think you could always say something new. If anything, an introduction to the post is helpful, so your newer readers have some context and know that this is a revisited piece.

      I think #3 can work to an extent, although I think there’s something special about republishing something in its original (or near-original) form. It means you’re calling back at certain moment, and probably for a specific reason — the anniversary of something, or the need to “refresh” a post to make it more up to date (like for a tutorial or service-y travel post, with outdated information) — which you’d want to let your readers know.

      I also sense that if you set out to do #3, the writer/thinker/editor in us will naturally come through — and you might find yourself drafting a different post entirely.

      Thanks for the question — it gives me a good starting point for the next post.

      1. No, thank you – some helpful ideas there.

        I’m gonna stick to #1 probably as the posts in question are from earlier this year, but write-up’s of events 20+ years ago. I feel they don’t need any changes, some of my better posts; it’s just a matter of re-marketing them.

        Sometimes tried that before but whilst the new post is viewed, the link to the old post isn’t always followed. Any tips apart from literally using a sexy intro and a hyperlink ?

    2. Do not choose 1. because if you have no new information to provide you can use the sticky post designation.

      If you don’t do that and choose to publish the same blah, blah, blah again in a new post then you are deliberately choosing to create duplicate content and if I am subscribed to a blog where the blogger does that I would immediately unfollow.

      Do not choose 2. because all you would be doing is creating duplicate content.

      … an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359?hl=en

      Choose 3. if you have new information to update the post with. If you don’t have any new content then use the sticky post designation on the original post.

      1. Perfect… I’d forgotten about that one. That’s a useful tip. I don’t want to bore old readers with the same stuff, but equally I want newer readers to see certain earlier posts.

        I presume sticky things are not shown on Reader?

      2. One other question (last, promise) regarding Option 3 (update old posts). Yes, I want to update some old posts as my writing has evolved somewhat since then too…

        So yes I want to reuse them/add more, but once updated, how should I republish so that newer readers will see it? I dont want duplicate posts, sure, but no point in updating if my new readers (and I mean 90% of my followers) wont see these updated old posts.

  13. I enjoyed this post. It made me think about whether I need to improve the organisation of posts on my second blog Sue’s Trifles. On my first blog Sue’s considered trifles I have an index and a contents page, which I update manually. I also do a summary post every forty posts.
    Sue’s Trifles now has more posts and it can be difficult to keep track of all the information. I have a few pages listing posts for month-long challenges for instance. Time to put my thinking cap on! Sue

  14. I’ve always had a “Table of Contents” page with actual links to my posts, grouped by subject. It gives me more control over old posts than the “categories” widget could do. The thing grew so large I had to create a few more pages with links to specialized topics. After each new post, I add a link to it in the appropriate page. It only takes a minute. I don’t know if my readers make much use of those pages, but it’s useful for me, and in new posts I often link back to what I’ve said on that topic in the past.

    1. Me too. I created an All Posts page years ago manually and updated it manually whenever I published a new post. When the Archives shortcode was introduced I used it but that meant I lost my category separation. :( All Posts

      1. Timethief – I got soooo tired of the manual update that i actually moved to the display posts shortcode and have a page for each category (although you could have a different display post code for each category). I love not having to manually update and as long as I am consistent in my tags, they just show up! Unfortuantely, I had to update each older post with the right tags and featured picture and excerpt to get a consistent look and feel.

  15. There is so much information in here I find helpful that I’m going to have to come back and reread it tonight when I get home! Thank you so much :)

  16. Thanks for these tips. Very useful.

    My blog focuses on species of birds, animals and plants that I find on my property (which is mostly native bushland) so I have created a number if A-Z species index pages. I add each new species I find to the index, so that readers can see all posts for a specific species together. It doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic though,. so maybe some of your tips can help to promote these pages.

    Thanks.

  17. Thank you for this!
    I am trying to create a Custom Image Widget that will link to a particular category of posts on my blog. How do I do that since it’s not linking to one particular page but multiple pages?

    1. A tutorial to create an image widget is here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/widgets-201/

      As an example, the “Writing Challenges” image widget in this blog’s sidebar links to a category (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/), rather than one particular page.

      Here’s what the settings look like for this widget in the widgets panel: https://cloudup.com/cGTh7qlQd5c

      For “link URL,” use the URL that leads to the specific category (in this case, http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/). When the image widget is clicked, the reader will see a stream of posts/pages tagged with this category.

  18. This is actually not easy since readers have limited time. At least the regular readers. I know that one can also use RSS feed links that can pull tagged blog posts from a 2nd blog that one owns and writes for.

    Or use the random post tag to pull something for fun out of the fishpond. :)

  19. I have not updated my What I write about page for a year, because it was not often clicked (less, now it is an easter egg) and less explored. I might try a The Best of Clare page, picking out up to ten posts and saying why I love them, and see how that goes.

  20. I have done reconnect posts before, promoting related posts together. Recently I have discovered how to use shortcodes to create quick loading and easy to read lists of posts, sorted by categories. It has made my archive much easier to view at a glance.

    Also, I am trying to see if adding a random feature is a good way to drive traffic to older content :)

  21. if I may ask a question here.. does traffic increase as you blog more and have more posts? i am blogging anonymously, so I dont share anything to any other social media whatsoever, and I only recently shifted to wordpress from blogger. I was on blogger for a month and I was getting much more traffic when I was there. Being a newbie in the blogosphere, I’d really like some advice on how to attract people to my blog without actually promoting it using my real identity..

    1. Okay, way too early for me t obe dispensing advice that I got last night, but to answer our question, yes. Traffic increases with each blog post. Another thing that helps is interacting with people on their blogs and other forums. This is also how you may generate more followers.
      Hope this helps. All the best :-)

    2. I set up a twitter account under the name of my blog. I don’t have many followers, but if you tag your tweets smartly (which I am still learning to do, as I do not even have a personal twitter account), this will still get the traffic in. My post on Rufus Wainwright got nearly 20 times the average views, because somebody with a very large number of followers retweeted my original tweet about it. So, anonymity is definitely no obstacle for social media.

      1. that’s genius! I was thinking of a separate facebook page as well later on, maybe after at least a few months blogging. and i’ll add twitter to the list. And yeah, I don’t have a personal twitter account either. I really don’t know what I’d say with so little characters! that’s why i blog..duh.

    3. Posting on your blog is just one step — readers won’t be able to find you if you blog in a bubble. You don’t have to reveal your identity at all — but you can do some things to help drive people to your posts: be sure to tag your posts so they can be found in the Reader, where many users look for new posts to read and blogs to follow.

      http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/tags/

      Metalheadfairy’s comment about interacting on others’s blogs is key — follow sites and writing you’re genuinely interested in to try and build a network.

      We’ve written about growth and traffic here — do check out other posts:

      http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/traffic-growth/

  22. Thanks for the great ideas! I didnt realize how useful categorizing can be..I will def try these. A lot to learn and improve since im new here and just getting the hang of blogging.

  23. I am new and so naive and probably have done some wrong things on my blog. But I am determined to learn doing things right. I believe this will help me some day.

  24. I am liking that Idea that butterfly mind has done, however how can you list posts in that menu by year, there is nothing obvious under the options?