Archived posts from the 'Usability' Category

How to feed old WordPress posts with link love

WordPress phases old posts out. That’s fine with timely contents, but bloggers publishing persistent stuff suffer from a loss of traffic to evergreens by design. If you’re able to hack your template, you can enhance your link structure in a way that funnels visitors and link love to old posts.

For the sake of this case study, lets assume that the archives are uncrawlable, that is blocked in robots.txt and not linked anywhere in a way that search engine crawlers follow the links. To understand the problem, lets look at the standard link structure of WordPress blogs:
Standard WordPress link structure
Say your category archives display 10 posts per page. The first 10 posts gain a fair amount of visibility (for visitors and search engines), but the next 10 posts land on category archive page #2, which is linked solely from the archive pages #1 and #3. And so on, the freshest 10 posts per category are reachable, older posts phase out.

Lets count that in clicks from the main page. The freshest 10 posts are 2 clicks away. The next bunch of 10 posts is 3 clicks away. Posts on category archive page #3 are 4 clicks away. Consider a link level depth greater than 3 crap. Search engines may index these deeply buried posts on popular blogs, but most visitors don’t navigate that deep into the archives.

Now let me confuse you with another picture. This enhanced link structure should feed each and every post on your blog with links:
Standard WordPress link structure
The structure outlined in the picture is an additional layer, it does not replace the standard architecture.

You get one navigational path connecting any page via one hop (category index page #2 on the image) to any post. That’s two clicks from any page on your blog to any post, but such a mega hub (example) comes with disadvantages when you’ve large archives.

Hence we create more paths to deeply buried posts. Both new category index pages provide links to lean categorized links pages which list all post by category (”[category name] overview” in this example corresponding to category index page #1 on the image above). If both category index pages are linked in the sidebar of all pages, you get a couple two-hop-links to all posts from all pages. That means that via a category index page and a lean category links page (example) each and every post is 3 clicks away from any other page.

Now we’ve got a few shorter paths to old posts, but that’s not enough. We want to make use of the lean category links pages to create topical one-hop-links to related posts too. With most templates every post links to one or more category pages. We can’t replace these links because blog savvy readers clicking these category links expect a standard category page. I’ve added my links to the lean categorized links pages below the comments, and there are many more ways to put them, not only on single post pages.

It’s possible to tweak this concept by flooding pages with navigational links to swipe a click level here and there, but that can dilute topical relevancy because it leads to “every page links to every page” patterns which are not exactly effective nor useful. Also, ornate pages load awfully slow and that’s a sure fire way to lose visitors. By the way that’s the reason why I don’t put a category links widget onto my sidebar.

To implement this concept I hacked the template and wrote a PHP script to output the links lists which is embedded in a standard page (/links/categories/). At the moment this experiment is just food for thoughts, because this blog is quite new (I’ve registered the domain a few days ago). However, I expect it will work.

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