You have this awesome blog that you spend way too much time writing, but how do you get people to read your content? Once you have written a post and it slips quietly away off the first page, what can you do to help people find it again?
Today we are talking about navigation on your blog. We are going to cover six main areas that you can look at to improve the navigation of your blog so that your readers can find all the things you want them to (easily).
- Menu Placement
- Categories and Tags
- Splash Pages (landing pages, sneeze pages)
- Search Box
- Related Posts
1. Menu Placement
There are many different menu options and how you use them will depend on the type of blog you have and what information you are trying to share with your readers.
Here are some of the most common menu options that I present to my design clients:
- above the header
- below the header
- in the sidebar
- in the footer
Sometimes they choose one of those options and other times they choose a combination.
If you have many pages or categories that you want your readers to be able to find, you may need to use a combination of menus to help them find your content more easily.
The above header menu and the footer menu are most often used for important bits of information that your readers may need to find quickly, such as:
The below header menu is most commonly used as the main site menu or navigation bar (often called the nav bar). This area will generally hold links to pages, categories, or special landing pages, depending on the needs of your particular blog.
The sidebar menu is often a category list or a tag cloud, but it can also be an archive or a custom menu. We will cover sidebar navigation options in a moment.
The footer menu is a wonderful way to give your readers access to some important information after reading your amazing posts. This simple menu may include some information already available in other menus or just more information that you want your readers to be able to find quickly and easily.
Websites often use the footer area as a place to display more navigation information for their readers and I think it is something that more bloggers need to consider. Your readers get all the way to the bottom of your blog and then they have to scroll up to the top to engage. I think it can be helpful to present some important links again.
2. Categories And Tags (or Labels)
Categories and tags are another great way that you can direct your readers to find all that amazing content on your site. Do you have a category list in your sidebar? Do you have categories listed under each post? Do you have any categories in your menus?These are all important things to consider when looking at your blog design.
Two things to note:
- Categories are broad and tags are more specific.
- If you are still using Blogger, they use something called labels.
3. Sneeze Pages
Sneeze pages are similar to landing pages and they are often created to host a collection of links (to blog posts on your site) of a similar nature for a variety of different purposes. If you have many posts about a single topic, you may consider creating a page to hold them all together.
This is a different way for readers to view these posts from the usual reading in a category. When a reader reads your posts in a category they read your most recent post first and then continue backwards. When you use a sneeze page, you can direct the reader to the blog posts you want, in the order you want. This can be a very effective way to get your readers to view specific content on your site.
4. Search Box
Every blog needs a search box. My personal opinion is that your search box should not be too close to your subscribe box and it should be clearly marked. For my clients I love to create custom search boxes with graphics that match their site because it makes the search box stand out.
5. Widgets (Sidebar Navigation)
This information is specifically for all of you with WordPress self-hosted blogs, but some of it may be applicable to the rest of you.
I know that all of you want to keep your sidebars uncluttered, but it is okay to have useful navigation widgets there IF they are helpful to you or your readers. You do not need to have all of these items. There may also be other ones that you need that I have not listed here.
- search box
- category list
- tag cloud
- calendar archive
- popular posts
- recent posts
- recent comments
- series buttons
- list of important links (custom menu)
We have already discussed some of these, but I wanted to share some thoughts about the rest of them.
Archives can be useful to your readers. There is the default archive widget, but there are also different options available depending on what you need for your particular blog.
Having a calendar archive in the sidebar is one way that readers can find posts by the dates you posted them. It can also be helpful to you if you know that you posted that blog post about toothbrushes two Tuesdays ago. If you don’t want to search by date via the calendar, you can always use the search box and then scroll through all those posts that you have been writing about toothbrushes. I am not suggesting or assuming that all you write about is toothbrushes, but I think you get the idea. Not that there is anything wrong with having all your posts be about toothbrushes.
Popular posts and recent posts, what did you choose and why? On Sunflower Schoolhouse, I chose to display popular posts, but I have it set to most popular in the last 7 days. The reason I chose this option is because it displays different posts all the time depending on what people are reading at the time.
I love displaying recent comments in the sidebar because it lets my readers shine for a bit. I will let you in on a little secret though, that is one of the ways that I use to navigate my site to respond to comments.
Have you written an amazing post series? Did you create a fabulous little button and link to the series in your sidebar? Well, consider that option for your next great series. If you ever get to the point where you have too many series buttons on your sidebar, consider giving them their own page to live on.
If you have important links that people simply must be able to find easily, why not add them to a widget in the sidebar?
6. Related Posts Plugin
Again, this is specifically for WordPress self-hosted blogs, although there are other options for different platforms.
Related Posts Thumbnails is a plugin that pulls related posts into neat little boxes in the bottom of your blog posts. It pulls up different blog posts for your readers to go and visit. This can help new readers find content that hasn’t been brought before them yet.
One downside to this plugin is that it uses featured images. If you have not used featured images in your posts up to this point, the plugin will use a default image.
There is also another widget called Linked Within that you might want to look into.
There are some paid themes that include this option.
General Site Navigation
Presenting many options for site navigation to your readers is like giving them a detailed map of your city with good directions. If you provide a good road map and clearly marked destinations you can direct your readers all over your blog with very little effort.
Critique Your Own Site
I encourage you to take a moment and look over your site. How easy is it for your readers to get to your content? Is there content on your site that you would like to be more readily available? What can you do to make it easier for your readers to get around your site?
What forms of navigation do you use on your blog?
Do you use other methods of navigation than the ones mentioned here?