Archives: Blogs’ Achilles’ Heel

Do you know what one of the hardest things to get right in a blog, and one of the most critical? (Not to mention one of the most overlooked…) Archives.

Every post you write is stored in the database permanently, and is always accessible via it’s direct link. But what if you don’t have the permalink URL and you’re trying to find a post? You use the ever-important search box. But what if you don’t know enough of the title, or what if you just want to browse through old posts? It’s in your best interests to make it easy to do both, afer all, it will increase your page views.

A default blog on Blog*Spot or doesn’t have much in the way of archive navigation, and most self-hosted blog installs aren’t much better out of the box. They often have huge monthly archive lists in their sidebars, maybe a category listing as well.

That’s not the way to handle things. It makes sense to have a category listing, but do not list date-based archives in your sidebar. They take up a lot of space, and they’re not very helpful to the user.

A better strategy is to put category links in your sidebar, or somewhere in the template. Then have an Archives page to help people look through your older posts. You could handle this in a variety of ways. You could have a huge list of every post you ever wrote (as seen on Daily Blog Tips), a category-based listing, or you could put together a hybrid page that allows you to navigate by date, tag, category, or other criteria.

At the moment, I have a scheme like that on my Archives page. There’s a search field, a tag cloud, date-based archive links handled with the Smarter Archives plugin, as well as my featured posts setup, which helps show-off some of what I consider to be my better content.

Anyway, my point is you should definitely put some thought into the navigation of your archives. You’ve probably authored some interesting content in the past, it would be a shame for your newer readers to miss it.

  • Michael Martin

    Well said Matt. Archives are really hard to get right in a blog because we have so much content. :(One problem I know I still have on PBD is that if you load a category page, and then try to view the 2nd page in that category, it gives an error.Never known why, but since I don’t use categories anymore, I’ve pretty much just ignored the problem. :D

  • Matt

    I’ve had the idea for this post for awhile, but now seemed the time to actually write it, since I’ve been trying to puzzle out how to handle my archives along with the redesign here. I’m trying to work out how to improve my archiving system. Do I want to stick with my lack of categories, using tags primarily, or do I want to set-up some more rigid categories to allow readers to browse archives by category? Some of the tags with the most posts in them, “WordPress,” for example may be better suited as categories, with secondary taxonomies listed under tags.

  • Rahul

    Well I too was looking for the best “Archieve” pluggin for wordpress. I hope that this Smarter Archieve will do good for me.Thanks for this post.