You’ve got a ton of great content. In fact, you’ve got more good blog posts than any reader could handle in one sitting, although she might want to.
So how do you help her?
Your homepage can show 10 or 12 posts at most and since you don’t want your blog to look like the front page of HuffPo (Do you?), you need some way to alert engaged readers to how much depth there really is to your site.
Here are some interesting WordPress plugins to help your readers dig deep.
Cleverly nicknamed OPP, this plugin is in a category by itself as I couldn’t find any similar plugins. Developed by The Blog Traffic Exchange, OPP chooses a random post from your archives and republishes it to your homepage. The post is chosen according to filters you set up in the plugin’s options. For instance, you can exclude certain categories and set the minimum age of the post before it will see the light of day again. The post date is changed automatically when it’s republished, eliminating the SEO no-no of duplicate content. However, the original date of publication can be added to the post in case longtime readers think they’ve caught you napping.
Check out OPP here.
Related Posts Plugins
Related posts plugins are a very common way of unearthing buried content. These plugins display posts related to the current post based on specified taxonomies, such as category or tag. The logic is that if a reader is interested in the post she’s reading at the moment — for instance, in design or themes — she might be interested in reading other, similar posts elsewhere on the site.
Most of these plugins offer the option of including thumbnails culled from the post, usually the featured image. WPMU covered 5 of those here. The most common place to deploy the related posts area is at the end of a post. Many of these plugins can also display related posts as a widget in a sidebar or via a shortcode placed wherever you like.
Most related-posts plugins also pull excerpts from the post. The length of excerpts can usually be specified.
(The related posts featured on WPMU.org are created via custom code. Just FYI.)
Below I’ve listed some popular related posts plugins and noted their unique attributes.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, affectionately known as YARPP
If not the oldest related posts plugin, by its title you can tell it’s the most self-aware, and not surprisingly the most well-developed and feature-rich.
- The presentation of related posts can be customized via templates.
- The related posts algorithm takes into account post titles, post content, tags and categories, as well as, uniquely, custom post types, or any combination thereof.
- Related posts are displayed at the end of a post by default or via a sidebar widget. You can display them in other locations by editing theme files.
- Related posts can also be displayed in the RSS feed.
Click here to download it for free.
LinkWithin is a bit unusual in this category of plugins. Instead of relying on the WordPress backend to generate related posts, the LinkWithin service crawls and indexes your site in order to do the same thing. Apparently, this method has a negative impact on site SEO according to this article. LinkWithin’s homepage has looked exactly the same for at least two years so that’s a bit worrisome as well. Still, it’s a popular plugin used by many blogs and does what it says it does.
Create your custom widget by clicking here.
Outbrain is similar to LinkWithin in that it’s a third-party service that scours your site and indexes it, thereby generating a related posts widget based on the data it gathers. What makes it different is that at least one of the posts displayed on your site will come from somewhere else — an advertiser whose content relates to your own. Publishers can buy into the network themselves, as well.
Outbrain is only open to large sites with upwards of 500,000 visitors per month although early adopters have been grandfathered in for the basic service.
Other notable things about Outbrain include:
- Widgets can either be text-based or feature traditional thumbnails.
- Publishers can remove a post from circulation in the widget.
- Readers can vote a post up or down, giving more weight to the post when Outbrain chooses related posts
nRelate is similar to LinkWithin and Outbrain in that the service indexes your site and displays related posts based on what it finds. Like Outbrain, nRelate monetizes by selling ad space in the widgets distributed throughout its network. That revenue is shared with you when your readers click on ads.
- nRelate also offers a Popular Posts widget for partners based on traffic.
- A trendy fly-out widget, similar to what we’ve all seen on The New York Times‘ website, displays related content via a panel that pops out from the side of the browser window.
- Participating in the ad network is optional.
All of nRelate’s plugins are available via WordPress.com’s repository for free.
Random Posts Plugins
Maybe there aren’t a lot of categories on your site Maybe everything’s tagged “fun” or “photography.” A related posts plugin won’t help your readers dig deeper — in fact, they may keep seeing the same ol’ posts in a related posts widget — and won’t engage the more serendipitous sides of themselves which your blog already caters to. For that, you need a plugin that suggests content with no criteria at all, relying instead on spinning the virtual wheel and an adventurous spirit.
This plugin ignores excerpts of posts completely and instead displays thumbnails only, grabbing either the first image in a post or the featured image. When a reader clicks a thumbnail — because he’ll be helpless not to do so because your images are so enticing — he’s taken to the post to which that image is attached. Alternately, thumbnails can be linked to categories instead of single posts.
For some reason, in my brief test, I couldn’t get the plugin to generate exactly 12 thumbnails, which is what I specified and all there was room for. Obviously, the visual impact of this widget is predetermined by how much space you have in your sidebar.
Click here to download it.
Things to keep in mind:
- Width and height of thumbnails can be customized as can the margins between them and the margins between the left and right borders of the sidebar.
- Thumbnails can be linked to a single post or the post’s category.
- Widget can display category name which can be a link.
- The widget can display specified categories or all categories.
- A default image can be inserted in case a post has no image. (But that would never happen, right?)
- All settings are configured via the widget. There’s no options page.
Image Wall provides a unique way to pull readers deeper into your site, particularly photography, arts or design-focused blogs where image is everthing. Via customizable shortcode, Image Wall displays an infinitely scrolling page of images (like many tumblogs do now and as flickr shows new photos from contacts by default) randomly pulled from your archives. Clicking on an image takes the reader to the original post, providing an engaging and perhaps addictive way to discover more content on your site.
Image Wall can be configured in multiple ways:
- The size of the thumbnails on the wall can be adjusted.
- The number of columns spanned by any one image can be set.
- The admin can set the height in pixels from the bottom of the page before the plugin loads another batch of images.
- The look of the wall — e.g., border color and thickness — can be changed vis CSS.
- Image Wall is free for non-commercial sites. Commercial sites must license one or more of the scripts utilized in the plugin. See the info page for more details.
Click here here for a demo. Click here to download it instantly.
Depending on the importance of Twitter to your social media strategy, Tweet Old Post can help drive your Twitter followers back to your blog, alerting them to posts of interest that they might have missed.
Tweet Old Post is being updated regularly and provides a number of configuration options, allowing you to:
- Set the prefix for the tweet, i.e., [YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THIS POST BUT I THINK IT’S COOL SO CHECK IT OUT].
- Specify how old the post must be before being eligible for a tweet.
- Set the minimum interval between tweets so that you don’t drown your followers in old content, as well as add a random interval on top of the minimum interval so that your tweetstream looks well, less automated.
- Omit specific categories from eligibility
Overall, I’ve found that Tweet Old Post works well in driving traffic back to your blog. Set it up once and forget about it.
Finally, automation is great but nothing beats active engagement. You must like your own content, right, so as you engage in conversations throughout your various social networks, remind folks in real time that you posted about something relevant to the topic at hand.
Do you have any other ways to feature old content? Tell me about them in the comments.
Lead photo, shovelling dirt [sic.] by वंपायर. Creative Commons License.