Your blog archives are the list of months some bloggers keep in their sidebar that link to monthly chronological collections of their blog posts. In the early days, a site with such a monthly listing in their sidebar meant this was a personal blog. Without it, it was a website or professional site.
Are you still displaying your blog post archives? What benefit do bloggers get when the offer a long series of months and years in the sidebar of their blog? Do visitors and readers really use them? Do you?
With all the worry about duplicate content and Google’s PageRank, if your blog is generated similar or duplicate content within the categories and tags, then why do you need to clog their databases with archives?
Have you ever found archives in a search result? I do all the time. I click though hoping to find the answer to my question and find nothing. That information might have been on page 4 of that month’s archive of posts, but now, the natural chronological push from the present to the past of the blog structure may have pushed the information I need onto page 6.
How would I know?
If the site’s archive page I just landed on looks like there is a lot of related content, I’d probably hit the blog’s search form, hoping it would lead to the information I need. If the archives weren’t in the search engine results, I might get to the information faster.
This chronological pushing and moving of timely content isn’t confined to archives. It happens with categories and tag pages. The difference is that (hopefully) the results are related content, with a greater chance of finding the answer within the results. With archives, what you write today might be different from yesterday or last week.
When you published isn’t as important as what you published. The content has priority over the date.
Archives Establish a Blog History
Many like the long listing of dates in their sidebar as proof they have been blogging a long time.
Why not put “Blogging since 1994″ in your tagline or purpose statement, or in a note in the sidebar? You can add it to your About Page or anywhere to convey the same information without cluttering up the sidebar.
The calendar was an add thing to me when it arrived in blog sidebars. Click on a date to find out how many posts you wrote and what you wrote on which day. Who cares when? People care about what! Calendars are for appointments and events, not posts. Thank goodness most people saw blog calendars as I did and stopped using them.
The calendars and archives are also deceptive. You could have published only one post in April and 50 in May, but you only get one listing for the month. If you don’t publish for that month, your blog program and Theme might not display the missing month, giving you a very odd gap in the schedule, and evidence to the world that you weren’t paying attention to your blog for that month.
Honestly, if the length of time you’ve been blogging is important, make it prominent, not clutter.
Easy Reading and Searching of Your Blog Archives
Archive post lists do not make for easy searching of your blog content. Return readers might want to find something on your blog that they read last month, but they might not be sure of exactly when, so they’ll click through April, May, March, and get frustrated looking through post after post in the archives. The search function is much faster.
For blogs that want their blog posts read in chronological order, from the first the most recent, then create a Site Map that lists your blog posts in chronological order for reading. There are WordPress Plugins that may help you create this list, or you can put the links in manually, controlling the order yourself. Readers can go from link to link easily, reading the story of your blog.
Increase Your Blog’s Navigation Without Archives
If you are currently relying upon your blog’s archives list for reader and visitor navigation, hopefully you have learned how little they use them. So why not replace the archives with valuable navigational aids?
Are your blog categories listed prominently and clearly labled as to the content within them? These are the most used navigation features on a blog, so make sure they represent your blog’s content well.
What about tags? Do you have a tag cloud featuring the most popular tags on your blog? Do all your blog posts feature tags to help visitors find related content?
Is your search form near the top of your blog’s page in the sidebar or header, easily found and used? Have you checked the search results page to ensure it shows excerpts, not full posts, to make the searching process faster?
Make sure there are next and previous posts listed on every post, so readers can move in chronological order. If you want them to move from next and previous posts only within that category of posts, there are WordPress Plugins that will add that feature.
Want to help your readers even more? Add a related posts feature to each blog post to direct them to content specific to the subject matter they are reading. You can do this with a Plugin or manually.
Think about how your blog’s readers and visitors use your blog and design for them.