Wargaming Tradecraft: Indexing Your Blog

Indexing Your Blog

If there's one thing that 99% of the blogs I see are missing, it's some method for people visiting their site to find information. If you're reading this and have a blog, there's a good chance I'm talking about you. Blogs have evolved beyond websites for people to create journals of their lives or complain about stuff. Blogs are now places full of all sorts of useful information, but for some reason, nobody tries to make that information easily available.

I look at indexes in three different ways - there are indexes to display short term (or recent) information and those to display older (or archived) information. Both of these indexes are used to create another style I call "The Hook" - or the way that you want to display to NEW readers what's going on at your site. (Because existing readers are already familiar with what you've talked about recently) In the age of information overload, you want to make it easier for people who come across your site to decide if they want to follow you. Archived information is all that stuff that you've ever talked about - painting tips from five years ago are still relevant today, don't let them disappear into obscurity.

Thor, over at Creative Twilight also has a similar topic this week as he talks about Improving Your Homepage.

Recent Information

These are usually the only methods I see people using to organize their blogs. All the effort you go to to write detailed posts full of useful information - you don't want that to go to waste, do you? Sure, people currently subscribing to your blog will see everything you talk about, but wouldn't you want someone new to your site to find it later on, or have a way that current readers can come back to older data?

As I'm interested in hobby articles instead of tactics and lists, I can usually flip through a bunch of old post titles and labels and get an idea what a blog is about.

Chronological Index (bad, by itself)

All blogs seem to have the timeline widget, displaying posts organized by year-month-day. This is a chronological index. An index organized by time is a terrible way to organize information. Picture it this way: You walk into a library and instead of entering the "Non-Fiction" section, you have to go to the year the book was written and sort through every other book written at the same time. "But what if you don't know when it was written or even what book you want?" - Exactly.

It's still not a bad idea to have an archive like this as it's a quick way to see what's been going on recently or at a certain time, but more needs to be done so your readers can find your old posts.

Labels (not a bad method, but something more is suggested)

Many blogs usually have a label section. Whenever you submit an entry on your blog, you have the ability to add labels to your posts. These should be a word or two that become categories for all your entries. Don't get carried away creating categories - keep them simple, short and don't just go creating tons of labels for every one of your posts.

If the topic section is too large, they all blend together and become overwhelming. This should be a quick way for someone to see what your blog is about and choose a category to read that grabs their attention.

Recent Articles (not bad)

This is as easy as putting in an RSS widget to subscribe to your own feed, displaying the last five posts or so.

Since it only shows recent articles, it doesn't make for a good index, however, like the two methods above they're good hooks to get new readers interested in your site by showing them what you're about quickly.




Hooks

While information on recent posts show new readers what you've been up to lately, there's other information you might want to display that has no value at all to long term storage, but is still a great way to show new readers what's interesting at your site.

Popular Posts (not bad)

While it doesn't display short term information, I list it here because it's still a "Hook". When trying to get new people to follow your site, what better a way than to show them what posts really stood out to others as well?

This is a "Popular Posts" widget from Blogger, though other platforms may have their own plugins - or, you can create your own HTML list of links to what you feel are your best articles.





Recent Comments (not bad, depending on the social nature of your site)

via Creative Twilight
via 3++ Is the New Black
If you have a very active blog with lots of discussion going on, then showing that you've got a strong community is a great way to get new people interested in your site.

New readers who see bits of conversations currently going on about your posts may want to jump right in and start sharing their thoughts as well.


Archives

Every site needs these options, and most sites haven't added them. These are the reasons to keep people coming back to your page, to ensure things you write aren't forgotten or lost and the most helpful to new and old readers alike.

Self Made Topical Index (really good)

The best way to archive you old posts is to create your own index(es). This is a two part process - first you need a page(s) to create your index on, then you need links somewhere to these pages.

Google Blogger gives you access to 10 pages for your own use and a "Pages" widget lets you create a nice bar of links, like my "Recent, Step by Step, Techniques, etc".

Other sites might allow more pages and you can always use a blog post as a page. (Just create a dummy post and go back and edit it whenever you want to do an update - clicking the title of a post will take you directly to it so you can get it's web address.)

Rather than using the "Pages" widget, or if you're linking to additional pages or dummy posts, you can create your own HTML links somewhere. (such as the bar at the side of your site.) For example, on my site, I added a "gallery" image to my sidebar that links to my DeviantArt account

Once you have these pages created, fill them with useful information that links to old posts. It's really easy if you update your indexes every time you post something. You can see my "Techniques" tab in the image, showing how I've organized my older posts by category. Because of my indexing system, someone can come to my blog, click on Step by Step, Techniques, Supplies, Musings, Resources, whatever information they're after or interested in, and quickly find what they're looking for.

This is something that really begins to make your blog stand out as more than just a place to talk about stuff that a week from now, nobody will remember. Now you're adding features of websites to ensure your information is always relevant.

Search Box (helps)

A search box is another quick way for someone to find data on your website and has the benefit of allowing people to create their own search terms, rather than read categories and other links of what you assume they might be after.

Reference Old Posts and Link (very useful)

Reference old posts whenever you have the chance. If you're talking about how awesome your new light is for your work area, throw in a "...and it makes photographing my miniatures a lot better too!" (obviously with a link) People are reading your blog because they're interested - if you have articles that go hand in hand with what you're talking about, send people there. This also keeps people at your site longer, and gets them more interested in who you are and what you have to say.

Additionally, link to other people's works. More perspectives are a good thing, even if they do it different than you - everyone learns and works differently, so don't discount the opinions of others and keep in mind that some people need visuals (lots of pictures) while others learn better from detailed notes. (which is why a mix of both is good) Either way, it shows you're part of the community and aware of what's going on - people will recognize what you're doing and probably start linking to your stuff as well.

Underline Links (very helpful)

To make all your references stand out better, make sure your links are underlined. For the longest time I didn't, and adding underlining to links really does make them stand out. If you're on Blogger, click "Design" then "Edit HTML" and search for the following:

a:link {
  text-decoration:underline;
  color: $(link.color);
}

Just find "a:link", "a:visited" and "a:hover" then modify the section "text-decoration:" to look like it does above. (Leave the "color:" line alone, even if it is spelled wrong)


7 comments:

  1. I'm still working on pages. I need a weekend of uninterrupted time to do the arranging of links, etc... but I know I would benefit from a WOD page, an RPG page, a 40K page etc.

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  2. Ah, cool. Have been wanting to do some tabs for a while, good to have a basic intro. Thanks!

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  3. Great article and I appreciate the link, and the image of my comment box. This really pairs off well with my post the other day. I'll be pimpin' this tomorrow.

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  4. @Loq: I noticed you've been starting to build the dummy posts, glad to help on that. Sky really is the limit on how many sections you can add that way.

    @Sons: Thanks for the feedback and glad to help.

    @Thor: No prob.. there's not enough chatting going on here for me to add a box like that, but figured you wouldn't mind - oh, and stop reading my brain.

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  5. Fantastic advice - again. I recently started updating my template, so this post is most timely. Thanks!

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  6. You've made me think about this again. Thanks for going into it in so much detail. In the short term I'm going to experiment with underlining links.

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  7. Awesome stuff as always, perfect for a fledgling blogger like myself. Thank you!

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