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Design and Layout: Organizing Links and Taming Tag Clouds

Learn how to organize your links effectively, to help direct site traffic to where you want it to go.

Lately, in exploring design and layout, we’ve covered fonts and backgrounds and how different choices can affect the look of your blog. Today’ll we’ll look at why you might consider taming tag clouds, and instead, organize your links to direct traffic strategically to important destinations within your blog.

Why are we raining on tag clouds?

notebooktagcloudYou might be wondering: what’s wrong with good old tag clouds? In short, absolutely nothing; it depends on your blogging goals.

For example, I capture quotations and reflect on the books I’m reading in my Notebook. I use a tag cloud in my sidebar and personally, I like seeing it evolve as I read more books and add more tags. The site is purely for me — it’s a place for me to track the books I’ve read and to record passages that resonate with me. While people are welcome to visit, I’m not at all concerned with growing my traffic.

If you’re interested in growing your traffic, you’ll want to free up the space the tag cloud takes up and replace it with widgets that allow you to be more intentional about where you direct reader attention.

Using the Top Posts and Pages Widget

tppThe Top Posts and Pages Widget can help your readers find your most popular content quickly and easily. The widget displays the links to up to ten posts and pages that have the highest traffic in the past 48 hours. You can customize the title of the widget to match your site’s personality. Instead of the default “top posts and pages,” you might name it “my greatest hits,” “posts and pages you love,” or another name that matches your blog’s brand.

Hand-pick your links with a Text Widget

uglyvolvotextlinks When you blog, posts eventually fall off the front page, and sometimes out of the minds of readers. One way to direct people back to great posts on your site is to use a Text Widget to create a list of links to posts you don’t want readers to miss. The Ugly Volvo, one of our favorite humor sites on WordPress.com, uses a Text Widget to list posts to which the blogger wants to drive traffic.

Level up with an Image Widget

You know the old saying, an image is worth a 1000 visits? (Ok, well it’s a new saying we’ve just started here and now.) In addition to hand-selected links in your Text Widget, you might consider creating badges on your site and linking them to a category of popular or undervisited posts on your site using an Image Widget.

BLOG EVENTS AFor example, in the previous design of The Daily Post, we used a series of Images Widgets to help draw reader attention to important destinations such as Freshly Pressed, and our free ebooks.

PicMonkey offers a great free service you can use to create badges for your Image Widgets. Pop in an image and customize it with text as you see fit.

Take a good look at the widgets in your sidebar and in your footer — are there ways you can use that space to drive traffic to evergreen content on your site? You never know: your next traffic bump might be a new widget away.

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  1. Thanks for this useful post. I’m using Twenty Eleven and I’d love not to have a tag cloud. I haven’t selected the Widget so am not sure how to get rid of it!

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      1. Thanks Krista. You’re right about ‘topics’. I see how that works. Now I want to check out the Image Widget. By the way, I like that the way you’re using your ‘Notebook’ – that it’s mainly for you and that others are welcome to share.

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  2. This is just the post I was looking for. I’ve been trying to figure out how to highlight readers’ (and my) favorite posts. I think the text widget might do the trick. Thank you!

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  3. Since I ditched my cloud tag a couple of years ago, I didn’t think this post would apply to me. But you got me thinking about custom images and, combined with yesterday’s lesson on branding, I add some new pics to go with my search, archive & follow by email widgets. I’m pleased with the result. Thanks!

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  4. Thank you, Krista, for this information. Is this part of the Blogging 101 series? I was under the impression that the workshops were to have started on Tuesday but saw no indication that it had. How do I verify that my registration for the 101 was successful and that the classes are now available, if they are?!

    Thanks!

    JE

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      1. Oooh, that looks mighty helpful…! Would you be so kind to send me an invitation to the 101 Commons (for daily assignments) as well? Hope my asking is not out of place! Thanks in advance
        And, by the way, I really appreciate some of the recent posts here.

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  5. Thanks for this post! I had to get rid of my tag cloud because it was becoming a monster!
    The text widget is definitely a good idea to bring old posts back to life. I will try this!

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  6. Hi, thanks for this tip which I probably am already using but my widget links to other’s posts not mine to highlight the source of the challenge I am following. I do have a question which you could perhaps help me. If you go into my blog and on the homepage you see my lists of blogs and those (few) blogs that I have lots of LIKES, the gravatars and the tags are overlapping each other and that makes it look very messy. Is it because of the theme of the blog I am using or can something be done about it? Just wonder if anyone can help me out on that as I asked this question in other forums and no one responded. Thank you.

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    1. I see the overlap in the tags on some posts. There’s a couple ways to solve this puzzle. You can try different free themes to see if that fixes the problem.

      If you want to keep this theme, you can reposition the tags and give them some more breathing room with a CSS upgrade. We do have a support forum dedicated to CSS issues where you can get help with working with CSS on your blog.

      Here’s some information about the CSS upgrade:

      http://en.support.wordpress.com/custom-design/custom-css/

      Here’s the location of the CSS forum:

      http://en.forums.wordpress.com/forum/css-customization

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      1. I will check the link as this blog theme is very appropriate for my blog objective as I want it to make it welcoming and a flowery look. Also I have no idea how to change the theme and migrate. Thanks anyway.

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  7. So true, I realised the tag cloud was cluttering my space, so chucked it along with categories !! But I love your badges idea using the Image widget and I will soon get down working on it. Thank you so much for this brilliant idea … just what I need and suits my style :)

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  8. I’m still begging WordPress to create a widget called, “one year ago today” that will feature and rotate the posts of a year ago. I write a phenology blog and having that link/widget would be awesome!

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  9. Hey Krista! I took your advice and got rid of the tag cloud. Replaced it with images from past posts which I will change weekly. I also added the Top Posts and Pages widget. The tagline for my blog is “BE a voice amidst the deafening sound of sameness.” So as you suggested most of my widget headings have something to do with “voice”. Thanks so much for being a “voice” so my blog is now more unique. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  10. Great info on such a hugely important topic – I had FANTASTIC help from the WP tech team when I had a vision for my site and use many of the features you have outlined above – a dedicated page for links to categories can be helpful for readers as well. For those of us who are more graphics/photo heavy than text, a long-awaited update to the “Top Posts and Pages” widget would seem to be in order: a year ago we were able to get 20+ images into the image grid and then it was cut to 10 – would be nice to get that feature back! The top post statistics available in the dashboard under Site Stats make handpicking links even easier for those considering inserting text widgets. Keep up the good work…

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  11. I really loved this! I deleted my blog accidentally tonight, please re-follow and I’ll be reposting old poetry as well as new things!

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