Many bloggers are sitting on a treasure trove and don’t even know it (or don’t know how to use it). The treasure is in their archives – hundreds, if not thousands of posts that they’ve slaved over for hundreds of hours that unfortunately are rarely seen by readers.
This post is about how to release the potential of your archives and get your readers digging into them. I share 8 ways I’ve attempted to get more eyeballs on my archives.
ProBlogger has been running for just under two years and in that time I’ve published over 2600 posts. As I reflect upon that massive amount of content I can largely classify them into two types of posts (for the purposes of this post at least):
1. News Posts – each day I publish what I consider to be ‘newsy posts’ (yep that’s the technical name for them). These point readers to what is happening around the blogosphere in relation to my topic (building better blogs and making money blogging). These posts tend to date very quickly and most are largely irrelevant (except as a record keeping exercise) within days or weeks of me posting them. They do continue draw readers into the blog via search engines as they are often keyword rich – but I doubt that they are really much use to readers who find them.
2. Evergreen – I try to post at least one of these posts each day (each weekday at least) on Problogger. They are posts that have a ‘how to’ focus or which have some element of teaching or inspiration to them. They tend to be posts that do not date very quickly. Some might call them ‘evergreen’ posts as they are often as relevant today as they were when I wrote them some time ago.
Of course there are a few other types of posts in my archives but the vast majority of what I’ve written here fit pretty clearly into one of the other category.
The Problem with Evergreen Posts
The ‘problem’ that I’ve been pondering lately is largely related to the evergreen posts and how they work (or don’t work) on a blog.
The issue is that evergreen posts remain relevant for long periods of time – but the nature of blogs is that they are dynamic and quite temporary in how they highlight posts.
In a blog’s natural form evergreen post might only be exposed to readers for just a day or two while it sits on the front page of a blog. As more posts are written it slides quickly into ‘archives’ where it may never be seen again.
Having spent considerable time on such posts (I can spend anything from 30 minutes to numerous hours working up one of these posts) they seemingly disappear from the radar of readers unless they are specifically are searching for terms you use and happen to find you in a search engine search.
The problem is highlighted to me everyday by the emails that I receive from readers asking me to write on topics that I’ve already written on numerous times. In some cases this might be the reader’s laziness but in most cases it’s simply because my archives have become too large and finding what they need is becoming difficult.
I’m interested to hear how other bloggers tackle this problem.
I’ve been pondering it a lot lately and to be honest feel like I’m still not really close to ‘the answer’ (if there is one). Instead I’m coming to the conclusion that a blogger needs to be quite intentional in directing readers to their evergreen posts and should probably do so in a multi-pronged way.
How to Highlight Your Archives
Here are some of the strategies that I’ve used and have seen others putting into place:
1. Search – perhaps one of the most common features on blogs is the ‘search’ feature. This enables readers who know what they’re looking for on your blog to actively search for it.
This is great for some reasons but the problems with it are that readers need to have a felt need and to be actively searching and that they need to do so using terms that you’ve used in your posts (I find that a lot of beginner bloggers don’t know the terminology and as a result search for the wrong things).
2. Categories and Tags – another common navigational tool that is built into many blogs is the ability to assign posts categories and/or tags. This enables readers to at least narrow down what they’re looking for information on to a smaller topic within the niche you’re writing about.
The downside of categories and tags is that readers again need to know what they’re looking for (to some extent) and that categories and tags can become very large archives in and of themselves also. For example here at ProBlogger I have hundreds of entries in my AdSense category – some of them are ‘newsy’ others are ‘evergreen’ posts.
3. Highlight Popular Post in Sidebar/Menus – this is something I’ve been doing with some success here at ProBlogger (I’ve written about it here). If you place key posts prominently you can drive significant traffic to your best old post.
The weakness in this approach is that there is only so many posts that you can highlight in this way. At ProBlogger I use my top three boxes for this purpose but even if I used each slot I could only highlight 20 key posts or categories (less than 1% of my archives). You can increase this by linking to pages that themselves highlight different keyposts (for example in my menu I link to my Top 20 posts) however there is still a limit to how much you can highlight.
4. Related Posts Plugins – this is another common strategy among many bloggers these days. Those using blog platforms like WordPress can use plugins like Related Entries that will automatically suggest to your readers what else they might like to read that is related to your post.
I’ve not done any studies on how well this works but it makes sense that it does and it’s something I use at the bottom of each post here on ProBlogger.
The weakness of this approach is that bloggers have no control over which pages they highlight. While it’s pretty good at suggesting related posts it’s fully automated (great – but not completely in our control as bloggers). Of course you can always manually suggest related posts instead or in addition to such a plugin.
5. Internal Linking – once you’ve been writing a blog for a while you’ll find that you do find yourself writing on topics that you’ve touched on before. One way to take advantage of this is simply to interlink these posts within your posts. This means you’re in complete control of where you send readers and can ensure that the links are contextually relevant and fit within the natural flow of your posts instead of having them at the end of your posts.
If there’s a weakness of this post it’s that you have to go searching for the old posts and have to have a good enough memory about what you’ve written previously on a topic (it gets a little hard once you get over 1000 posts or so). There’s also a danger of overdoing it and frustrating your readers by always referring to previous posts instead of writing posts for now.
6. Alternative Blog Architecture – more and more bloggers have been experimenting with new ways of structuring blogs. For example – recently Aaron launched a new architectural structure to his blog. You can view it in a standard blog format (chronological order), in a ‘conversational’ format (where the order of posts is based upon which posts have had comments most recently) or a ‘Best Of‘ type format (where the blog is arranged not chronologically but in an order that Aaron determines with his ‘best’ posts at the top. The conversational and best formats highlight older posts.
This opens up interesting possibilities and I’m sure Aaron will develop it further. I guess the downside is that in each view there is still a top post and only 10 or so on the front page of that view meaning that only a smaller number of old posts will be highlighted.
7. Update Posts – After a year or two of blogging it goes without saying that some of your old posts will be somewhat dated. I can think of posts in my archives that I don’t really agree with anymore or that are just obsolete. On a number of occasions I’ve actually gone back to these posts to do updates (usually adding paragraphs and occasionally rewriting posts).
On these occasions you can either republish the post with a new date (be aware that this can change the URL of your post if you incorporate dates into your URLS – which is problematic) or write a short post telling readers that you’ve updated the post with a link to it.
This is a good way to keep your archives up to date but it does have some problems also. For example some people have an issue with changing previously published posts.
8. Compilation Posts – another similar strategy that I use from time to time is to write posts that highlight a collection of previous posts. This is what my top 20 posts does.
This is particularly effective if your compilation post brings together posts on the same topic and is almost like you’re putting together a series of previously published posts.
Combinations of Above
Of course none of the above 8 strategies are mutually exclusive. Each one can be used in combination with each other and other strategies.
What do you do to highlight older posts and get people into your archives? Have I missed anything?
I myself have started a “a year ago today” category. I don’t repost everything, but I linkback to my article. Not all of them. Of course.
One way to keep evergreen posts up longer is to actually have two sections on the front page: one for newsy posts and one for evergreen posts. That way while the newsy posts get constantly updated and pushed down, the evergreen posts stay put for longer.
I think I read somewhere that you use WordPress. That’s not to difficult to do. Just make two new categories: “news” and “evergreen,” and have a top column with 1 or 2 evergreen posts, followed by another column with all the short-term material.
Something like this:
s df;lk;ldj gx
The newsy stories will get pushed down faster while the evergreen stories will stay right on top longer, and have a better chance of being read and linked to.
I created a 150px by 150px “ad” in my sidebar that I rotate with each pageview, and built “ads” for each of my best posts.
This works really well, and the graphic nature of the ads definitely catches a fair amount of attention from my readers.
I’ve found it to be a lot more effective than just a text link :)
I’m in the process of updating my blog visuals: I will add 4 big pictures in the top header: “introduction”, “sales stats”, “interviews”, and “money”.
Introduction will tell briefly what my site is about, and will have links to different posts depending on the readers level of experience. For example, beginner game developers might be interested in “how to start game development” (depending your blog it might b: “how to start blogging”, “how to start gardening” etc.) while more experienced readers might be interested how to get sales after you have published your game (like after “maximizing your revenue” you continue to “multiply your maximum”).
Sales stats and interviews are interesting to read, but won’t contain that many links to other posts – but nevertheless these links contains much of the “juicy parts” of my site.
The last section “money” will deal… with money: selling, marketing, promoting etc.
By focusing on few pages, that will contain links to other pages I think I’ll build a nice way to get most of the site – whether you are first time visitor or returning visitor.
(Now I just need to get the update done… buy you get the point.)
my problem is that my topic has 1000s of different subjects which makes it impossible to handle with Pmachine since their categories function is less handy when there are unlimited sets of subjects possible (in my case linked to bands). So instead I push people to use the advanced search and search for the stuff they want. In the next version it will be powered by google to give my database some rest :). But it is something I regret since this makes that people will less check out all other band related news…
If I find some student willing to do the whole archives again… :)))
Anyone who found an easier option using Pmachine ?
I think “a year ago today” strategy is not a suitable solution for this problem (although authors like reviewing their own old post on their weblog front page), because visitors are usually interested in new posts and don’t waste time for viewing or reviewing historical (it seems so for them) posts.
Thanks for the info Darren. I’ve been thinking a lot of how to get the most out of my older posts. I’ll definitely take a look at some of the things on your list.
It’s interesting that you mention this now, as I was going to email you about it.
One of the problems I have with your blog’s current navigation is that I find it really hard to get to older posts. You don’t have a “previous” “next” navigation on your “single.php”, which means that I have to go searching instead of actually browsing, which is kind of frustrating.
I find that having the last X number of posts somewhere in the sidebar makes it easier to find content.
There are a number of plugins that can help manage this kind of thing for you easily….
I developed a new category titled “One Year Ago Today” where I highlight a post a day from exactly one year ago. Since I write 5-7 posts a day, there’s always something good to choose from.
I also use the sidebar method you describe above — labeling them top investment posts, top retirement posts, etc.
For our blog, we’ve created seperate subdomains to the URL that archive and feature evergreen posts.
All entries cross the home page like a traditional blog, but ‘evergreen’ posts are rotated and randomly selected to appear on the subdomain home page. A chron job rebuilds the random list a few times per day.
Here’s our reverse-chronological home page:
Here’s a page of ‘evergreen’ product reviews:
I use a Guided Tour. I wrote a post:
*Introducing our contributors,
*Laying out our topics and niche (rural small business),
*Mentioning our four regular features (Resources, Tools, Point of View, and Brag Basket), and then
*Highlighting some of our Best Of posts that aren’t included in those categories.
I link to that in the footer of each post I write, in the sidebar, and in the footer of my index page. It generates lots of clicks from new visitors, looking to get oriented in our space.
Darren, you covered the topic thoroughly! Great tips!
Cary, I really like the graphic link idea! I bet that works very well!
I use the sidebar method. I’m already seeing how you could run out of space. I’m looking forward to hearing what more people are doing.
The related posts plugin you have installed is so addicting Darren! I think it’s generated hundreds more of clicks from me personally, and is very addicting…
I think I mentioned this in a comment the other day. I do quite a few Evergreen posts. They are usually the result of some research or gathering of information together. My solution was simply not to post these high-value articles on the blog but to use a content management system on another part of my website (actualy now my front page.) Of course I mention these articles in the blog and provide summaries but by puttong them in a different CMS, you have more control over their positioning and the ad-content thats on them.
Thanks for this very interesting post.
I realise I have some old and best post that can be use again with some news.
kind regards from France
[…] Problogger […]
Newbie, here, or Wanna-be-blogger, I guess.
Thanks to this site, for all the useful information and tips, as I plan my blog.
I have a question. Can you just have a link to a website where you have all your Evergreen articles at?
Maybe that’s what Steve P. above is saying.
I’m still learning.
Thanks again, for this site, and all the other resources listed.
Darren, I just started a new blog and have a couple dozen posts and I can see where this is going. I am working on the blogger.com platform and I experiment with an archive page with spliced in del.icio.us tags which act as labels and deliberately feature the same titles in more than one category. Here is the current page:
A combination of all your approaches would be probably best. What about an alphabetical-style library-like index with tags/keywords AND titles. This too would feature the same posts over and over but you would greatly enhance the visibility of all the posts. To avoid the “only the foirst page of results gets seen” problem, you could present only the first page and have it randomly update through reloading. Nobody would look at the second page of results but almost everybody will hit reload.
I’ve employed all the above ideas at one time or another. They are all rock-solid and work very well.
Here are another couple ideas:
Create a post from time to time that brings attention to certain archived posts within a single category, which encourages browsing in the category.
If you make predictions in a field in which you are an expert, one thing you can do is link back to your predictions when they come true. This is a great way to showcase your expertise. In the original post, add a note that links to the new post so it works both ways.
I have a blog that has two purposes, one for helping others start an internet business, the other to give those who have established internet businesses helpful ideas. I’ve been feeling like a newbie would get lost in my blog. I’ve been looking at blogs and studying them to see what they do keep the archives so they can be found. One guy has a link on his home page that’s labeled tutorial series. This is something I need to compile on my site is links to all my posts that can be in my tutorial. If you have anything that can be put in a tutorial, you could always compile these posts on a tutorial page
I’ve noticed before you wrote this post that you had related entries under your posts. I felt that would be something good for my blog. I’m glad you posted what the plugin is called because I couldn’t find that plugin.
I’ve actually been tackling this very problem recently. No one browses achives by month these days and even searching by keyword seems tedious.
My two-pronged solution has been to manually organize the search architecture of my site and aggregate related posts on new, search-optimized pages. For example, because I write primarily about birds and birding-related topics, I’ve set up a page to check for my posts on birds, sorted in an order that has relevance to readers. Another page sorts birding locations and trip reports, an asset for anyone visiting places I’ve been. At the same time, I’ve been repackaging related posts on to new pages in order to enhance their value.
I still have a long way to go, but I feel that the steps I’ve taken allow readers to access more of my content than just the last month of posts. Anyone who has ascribed to the philosophy that content is king should strive to keep their content relevant rather than rotting away in their archives.
Just recently I hired an outsource coder to write me a simple php code to group my archive posts and catergorize them accordingly. After implementing it, my bookmarked has gone from 20% to 64%. I’m not 100% sure if it was due to it or purely coincident. Frankly, I’ve never seen such a jump since I’ve been online for almost 3 years.
As said, this site consists 99% of evergreen posts (almost 3 months old) and I only post twice weekly; therefore it might work well for this structure. I was very tempted to use this structure on my older blogs with daily postings but I was afriad it might be too overwhelming for visitors and loading issues.
I’ve looked into the archive problem as I want my next blog to be a helpful resource.
I’m planning on using this method
But styled after Marketingrofs, meaning by category (if I can do it). And of course showing all, or the ability of showing all, no next.
Categories similar (but not quite) as they have here http://katesgasis.com/archives/
Then to top it off, add clouds like this blog
But instead of having a ‘next’, I want all available to be shown as above. Next is too slow to get any use out of.
A powerful search is a must. And using Darren’s ideas of referring back to old posts can only be made easier if it’s easy for myself to find them as well.
I just checked out what you’ve done with http://wow.alexanderbecker.net/archives/ and that’s where I’m going.
Only with one category per article, not several.
Mainly because in four+++ years time the list will be huge.
Also, my subjects ‘should’ be tight so it may (knock on wood) be doable …
But … I’ll have to come up with an additional way to find common posts running in a slightly different theme …
Thank goodness for programmers …
[…] How to Get Eyeballs on Your Archives […]
I like to link to old posts when I revisit a topic, but I often find that these posts will not receive comments at all, probably because the poster thinks the topic is outdated, feels out of place posting on an old topic and/or thinks the comment will not be seen.
On my site, I’ve been making a post every Saturday called the “weekly roundup”, that basically summarizes all the posts that were made during that week. Of course, I’ve only got a little over 200 posts in my archives as of now, but I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it from people who don’t visit my blog every day. I’ve also noticed a lot of people go to the “Weekly Roundup” category to view old posts that they’ve missed.
Thanks for the article. I have written more than 600 posts in the last 5 months. It seems that ever green posts are really good as Google sends traffic daily.
SEO category archive pages, then get some links to those pages. They probably already have decent PR, so it doesn’t take much to get them ranking in their own right.
[…] Problogger has a great article with tips on how to get more people to look at older posts on your blog. One of the tips is to include a list of your most popular posts somewhere on your site. As you’ll see from our sidebar, we’ve already done this. However, we only started this feature in May and the plugin we are using doesn’t include data from before then. […]
The compilation posts is a great idea. Free Money Finance does that a lot. It seems to work well. I’ve tried doing the internal linking…but it didn’t seem like people were clicking through to other posts.
Something I thought you might mention is writing in series. I found a plugin for WP that will allow a series to be interlinked by number.
I just installed it myself, not real easy to get things the way you want, but I think it gives an additional dimention to archives. Once it is set up, people can read the whole series in sequence.
Here is a link if you want to take a look. http://www.skippy.net/blog/category/wordpress/plugins/in-series/
I have no affiliation with them, but think it could be helpful to others.
My post for the list group writing project addressed this very thing…. Keeping “critical content” alive after it falls off the front page is a big deal!
I developed a plugin for WordPress for a client of mine to address this. It randomly selects a number of categories (you can define this in the setup), and then randomly selects a number of posts from within that category. You can see it at work near the top of the page on http://www.spinopsys.com
If there’s interest, I’ll polish it up and release it to the public…
[…] ב ProBlogger בפוסט בשם ”How To Get Eyeballs on Your Archives“ […]
[…] ProBlogger 日前在一篇文章談到 Blog 裏的舊文 (archives) 都是相當珍貴的，也是 blogger 們花了心思及時間寫的，要如何讓這些舊文吸引讀者的目光，作者提供了一些方法。 […]
I myself have started a “a year ago today” category. I don’t repost everything, but I linkback to my article. Not all of them. Of course.