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A couple of weeks ago I decided to create a custom WordPress archive page for this blog (my archives). This wasn’t just one of those moments when I had too much time and desperately needed something to kill it with.
This change had a purpose, and in this post I’m going to tell you exactly why you too should consider creating a custom WordPress archive page for your site.
The problem with WordPress
At some point, every online business owner realizes that WordPress wasn’t primarily designed for entrepreneurs to be the base for their websites.
I mean, essentially, there’s nothing wrong with WordPress and you’re surely better off using it than investing in a custom made system. However, you have to be aware of one thing: WordPress was first designed to run traditional blogs.
A traditional blog is usually a personal log where authors share their thoughts on a daily/weekly basis, and then the posts fade into archives because (most often) they don’t hold any long term value. That’s how traditional blogging was meant to be, and WordPress fits perfectly in such a scenario.
These days, however, things are a little different. Even though there are thousands of personal blogs following the exact schema I’ve described, all the “pro” bloggers, online business designers, and entrepreneurs (i.e. YOU) follow a different path.
In their path most posts hold a serious long term value – they are evergreen, so to speak. The last thing the author wants is to have their content fade into archives and be forgotten.
Of course, SEO helps with that. If you have content that’s well optimized you can count on search engine traffic coming in long after the post disappears from your blog’s home page. However, apart from the ability to put the basic SEO elements in place, WordPress doesn’t support any other way of showcasing older yet still valid content.
Keeping your content alive
Since you’re treating your content seriously, and put big effort into creating it (which I’m sure is the case) you’ll want it to be perfectly accessible for your audience, not just this week but for years to come.
There are a couple of ways of doing this, and a lot of arguing around the internet on which is best. I’m sure that my approach is not the ultimate one, but it is a start.
The whole issue seems rather simple, actually… The only thing you have to do is make sure that your content is evenly showcased on the website. And by evenly I mean that every post/article can be accessed with the same ease as the next one.
However, it can get a little more complicated when you realize that your new content deserves an equally visible spot if not an even better one. The main reason is that you want it to be noticed by both visitors and search engines.
The whole issue gets even more interesting after a couple of years of blogging when you have hundreds of posts, and realize that showcasing all of them is going to be next to impossible.
So here’s a part of my own strategy on how to deal with all of this…
Using custom pages to showcase your content
My strategy depends on a number of custom pages that take care of organizing all posts and static pages.
These custom pages are:
- Homepage of the blog.
- WordPress archive page.
- WordPress categories page.
I’ve begun putting it into life by creating the archives page first. I had a look at a similar page on Pat Flynn’s blog (SPI archives) and decided to create something similar.
I’ve started by using some basic blocks and giving them a little time for the analytics data to come in (via Google Analytics); before I begin tweaking.
The current version of my WordPress archive page consists of six main blocks:
- The block – where I showcase the links to some of the most important pieces of content on this blog.
- The topics block – which is the category listing.
- The tags block.
- The RSS and email subscription block – containing two links; I’m going to place an opt-in form there in the future.
- The last posts block – currently showing the last 15 posts.
- The monthly archives block.
As you can see, the monthly archives are displayed at the bottom of the page. That’s because they are not particularly useful for a typical visitor. Usually, visitors either search for a particular phrase (via the search field) or browse around within a particular topic.
Monthly archives simply don’t provide any graspable insights on the type of content one might stumble upon when they visit, let’s say, the archives of Jan 2011.
The remaining blocks have been carefully thought through, so (I hope) they do a good job at focusing the visitor’s attention on the most important pieces of content on my blog, and give a clear suggestion on what kind of topics I’m writing about the most (via the tag and category listings).
Of course, this isn’t the final version, and I’m going to be tweaking it soon once I have some analytics data to rely on.
Quick bonus for you
This WordPress archive page runs on custom PHP code written by me. If you want to create a similar page and don’t want to invest in the development just shoot me a comment and I’ll send you the source code (ready to install).
I also have plans for the homepage and the categories page, but let me hold on to that for future posts. Once I launch these two pages I will surely write a post describing the structure of the pages, and answering all the hows and whys.
Until then, feel free to shoot me a comment if you want the source code, and share your opinion on custom WordPress archive pages. Do you think that this sort of fine-tuning WordPress is worth the effort?