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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9 Comments to "How to feed old WordPress posts with link love"

  1. […] WordPress is kinda plug ‘n play thingy, at least that’s how I’ve used it before. Installing and configuring WordPress for my personal blog was a completely other story. I looked at more details, and found many things I wanted to change or optimize. Now I’m the proud owner of the most hacked template ever. Some things weren’t doable with plugins and template-hacks, so I wrote a couple scripts too, producing enough fodder for a soon to write blog post or two. And of course I had to enhance the WordPress link structure. […]

  2. JLH on 23 August, 2007  #link

    I’m sure this all very valid, but it confused me to no end. Sorry I am pretty thick.

    I just threw up an ugly sitemap to have all pages two clicks away from the home page, it’s my simpleton way of doing it.

  3. Sebastian on 23 August, 2007  #link

    With a small blog like yours or mine the single sitemap works just fine, that equals my mega hub. Once you’ve dozens or hundreds of posts per category you might want to go for a more scalable solution which separates the links lists into particular topics. Then you just make the link to the sitemap/mega-hub less prominent in favour of links to your top selling categories. That changes next to nothing with the engines and is a (one of many) suitable method to manage traffic streams.

  4. […] goodness) switched over to a new domain and a WordPress installation and it seems creating some customized WordPress linking structures. I haven't fully worked out the benefits and drawbacks of what he is doing, but it will […]

  5. Andy Beard on 25 August, 2007  #link

    I just gave the sitemap a stumble too ;)
    I am waiting for a friend to finish his Glossary plugin

  6. Sebastian on 25 August, 2007  #link

    Thanks Andy for stumbling the funny variant not mentioned in the post. :)

    That’s just a plain piece of code printing the category descriptions and inserting the cross-links. Implemented with perhaps 10-15 more lines of code in the category-index script. A real glossary plugin should parse posts and comments for defined terms too. That’s a great way to insert topical cross-links.

  7. […] Did I really promise that applying basic SEO to a WordPress blog is done in five minutes? Well, that’s a lie, but you knew that beforehand. I want you to change your sidebar too. First set the archives widget to display as a drop down list or remove it completely. Second, if you’ve more than a handful of categories, remove the categories widget. […]

  8. […] How to feed all posts on a WordPress blog with link love I’ve outlined a method to create short and topically related paths to each and every post […]

  9. links for 2007-12-04 on 3 December, 2007  #link

    […] 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. Template hacks can enhance your link structure to funnel visitors and link love to old post (tags: wordpress seo link structure linkstructure) Filed under Links by hyperlinkguerrilla […]

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