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How Do You Show Off The Best Material In Your Archives?

One of the most challenging aspects of publishing a blog is finding ways to showcase the material that deserves to be seen, but risks getting lost in your archives.

This was one of the things that was uppermost in my mind when I was redesigning the Confident Writing site.

I thought it might be useful to share some of the tips I picked up at the time, and some of the technical solutions I’ve found… as well as asking how you work your own way round it.

Old Files by Vi Fr on Flickr

Old Files by Vi Fr on Flickr

Maximise your categories: Pull the best and most relevant material into categories that will stand out.  This is work in progress - I don’t think it’s possible to devise the right category system at the outset.  It will always evolve as you go.

Make sure you’ve a decent archive page: Lots of themes come with a good archive system built in. (One of the reasons I love Woo themes).  If not, check out the plugin options that will do it for you. Do check the archives every so often to make sure it’s still working okay (one that I was running here gave up the ghost, probably because I blog too much!)

Recirculate through Twitter: I’ve seen a few people recirculating posts on Twitter, such as ‘a post from this month last year’.  Apply with caution - it can be irritating if overdone (like most things on Twitter ;-) )

Highlight relevant posts in your newsletter: This was a tip I got from @beckymcray on Twitter - she’s working older but still relevant and helpful articles into the newsletter that goes out from Small Biz Survival.

Recognise limitations of ‘popular posts’: There are plugins and theme features that will show off your most popular posts.  This is a useful way of having a user-generated dimension to your ‘best of’ features but you need to recognise there are limits.

As Lillie Ammann points out, pointing to popular posts pretty much inevitably means they will stay well visited and therefore almost forever unchanging on the list.  They aren’t necessarily the most popular - simply more visible as a result of once having been considered so.

Show off with side posts: The side posts plug in allows you to show the most recent posts from a particular category in your sidebar (via a widget.) These are created as ‘asides’, so they don’t appear on your main blog page, but does provide an easy way of showcasing some of your best stuff from particular categories.  It also generates a page showing all the posts in that category, and an RSS feed for the same, which is pretty nifty.

Know what your best stuff is: last but not least, there’s no point looking for technical solutions to showing off the best stuff in your archives if you’re not clear in your own mind what your best stuff is.  Take a bit of time to read through your own archives so you know what it is that you want to show off.  (More on finding the treasure in your archives here.)

What other tips and techniques are you using to show off your best stuff?

Photo credit: Old Files by Vi Fr on Flickr

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  1. Carolyn Cordon
    Twitter: holksch

    I love this idea - I’ve stumbled it and you’ve got me thinking about ways I could use to better off my own stuff. Thanks for this!

  2. Tweets that mention How Do You Show Off The Best Material In Your Archives? | Confident Writing -- says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joanna Paterson, Megan Micciulla. Megan Micciulla said: How Do You Show Off The Best Material In Your Archives? #writing [...]

  3. Avil Beckford says:

    Thank you Joanna. This is a very timely post. I am going through all the content on my blog in preparation for a site redesign. This post is very helpful.


  4. Melanie Jongsma says:

    Joanna, your mention of tags reminded me that I don’t seem to “get” tags. Can you offer any illuminating explanation? I think I use categories well, because I have a natural inclination to keep my posts organized—for my own clarity and my readers’ convenience. But when it comes to tags, I don’t understand the strategy behind them. Is my goal to simply include as many relevant words as possible, in the hopes of attracting someone who might be searching for a particular term? Should the tags be actual words that appear in the post, like index entries? How do readers/searchers use tags? I don’t really use them myself, so I’m not sure how to make them as useful as possible for others.

  5. Jens P. Berget
    Twitter: berget

    I have been thinking of adding a best of widget to my sidebar with what I believe are my top 10 blog posts, and maybe also add a top 10 most read blog posts (according to google analytics). But so far I only have an archives page that looks fairly decent.

    I used to have a “related blog posts” plugin installed that showed five related blog posts at the end of each post, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought (many of the blog posts wasn’t that related).

    I usually don’t recirculate my blog posts via Twitter, but that’s a great idea.

  6. HeidiCohen says:

    Joanna-This is important for writers and bloggers to remember. You need to cherish some of the gems in your archives and give them light to shine again. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @Carolyn Cordon: glad you found it useful - I like to try and pass on what I’ve learned ;-)

    @Avil Beckford: something v satisfying about an overhaul like that - have fun!

    @Melanie Jongsma: great question Melanie! I’ve never used them scientifically up to now. In the early days I thought they’d help in getting posts found but I’m not sure it made much difference. The way I think of it now is a cross-referencing system. Say you have a lot of posts on… leaflets. You might have the posts about them categorised under ‘publishing’ ‘design’ and ‘better content’ but want to have another way to be able to search for / highlight all posts that were to do with leaflets. You could tag them ‘leaflets’ then display the output. (In wordpress it’s

    Also some themes use tags to highlight content or to generate the magazine effect.

    Hope that helps…

    @Jens P. Berget: they’re all good suggestions. I find related posts are fairly random too - although that can in itself be quite useful for readers as a way to dip into your back material…

    @HeidiCohen: great point - one of the main benefits of this kind of approach is that it reminds you the blogger / writer of the good stuff you’ve already created :-)