Don’t Become a Slave to Your Archives: Highlighting a WordPress Site’s Best Content

The challenge of operating an aging and content-rich WordPress blog is to never let content be fully relegated to the archives, which most users aren’t likely to peruse on their own free time. Confining entries solely to the backdated pages of an archive section is a great way to turn them into forgotten content, with users unable to find those entries and therefore prone to believing that a website never discussed the topic, doesn’t have expertise on the matter, and isn’t relevant in Google searches for the content they’re looking for. It’s a pretty bad scenario but, luckily, it’s a scenario which is very easy to avoid by using either WordPress plugins or independently-developed tools to highlight older entries.

From “sticky” posts to featured post tabs and jQuery-based slider boxes, authors are increasingly creating a designated area near the top of their website’s index page which is exclusively used for featuring a site’s best content. Users are invited to use these areas to view specific entries, peruse whole categories of entries, or enjoy an administrator-generated list of the best posts and topics a website has to offer. It takes old content out of the tiresome archives and brings it to the forefront–placing it directly in front of the user at the top of the page. Here are a few great ways to use WordPress, and a little ingenuity, to bring old content front and center on a website’s homepage.

jQuery is a Great Way to Highlight Content with Slick Styling and Animations

Advanced WordPress developers have increasingly gravitated toward the AJAX-inspired jQuery JavaScript library to accomplish their content production goals. This vast library of animations and Flash-like design elements is perfect for highlighting new content, as it can be made to automatically rotate through “slides” of content, displaying either textual content or a relevant image which is associated with the featured post. Navigation controls can be added, and users can page through these featured entries and categories at their own speed. Combined with auto-rotation, featured content is easily seen by new and returning visitors alike, and the website administrator gets to control the message by hand-selecting those entries which should be included.

Slider Example

The process begins by creating a new category within the WordPress Dashboard which will be used solely for featured entries within the slider. This category’s numerical ID is then written down and saved for later use within the WordPress templates. After it has been created and saved, the featured post category is specifically highlighted by using a secondary WordPress Loop in the index.php template. This is done by invoking the WP_Query operator which interfaces directly with the WordPress database and pulls the relevant variables and information for display within the template.

Essentially, WordPress administrators make a series of tabs, control the display of the content using WordPress Loop variables, and then assign the Bassistance.de “slider” library to the entire construction so that it can be automatically rotated or controlled by user input. There are other jQuery libraries designed to accomplish this task as well, but Bassistance.de is by far the most widely-used library for displaying images or content in slides and enabling user-navigation as well as jQuery automation of that content.

This is perhaps the most advanced implementation of featured content, and it’s certainly the latest fad to sweep the WordPress design community. While there are several tutorials on just how to accomplish the creation of this jQuery slider, many WordPress themes now come with the functionality built-in from the time of upload. Additionally, that community of more than 15,000 developers has been hard at work developing numerous plugins to accomplish the same task with minimal programming experience required. Novice and advanced WordPress developers alike will appreciate how easy this is to implement, and how slick the featured post “slider” is when it’s been fully implemented.

Here are our Top 10 Content Slider Plugins for WordPress.

If One Post is More Important than All the Others, Make it Sticky

A few years ago, the developers behind the WordPress software began to understand that their longest-installed users were looking for a way to highlight content that might be older and otherwise relegated to the archives. Their solution to this problem, and one that was actually vocally requested by the WordPress community at large, was to create “sticky” posts. This type of post is so named because it “sticks” at the top of the page no matter what is posted after it. That means it appears before any newer posts that may have been published since it was originally created, and it will stay that way until the site administrator removes the “sticky” display option from the post within the WordPress Dashboard.

A post can be assigned as sticky by using the WordPress Dashboard. Simply navigate to “Posts” in the Dashboard sidebar and click “All Posts” or “View All.” In this area, search for the post which will be declared sticky, and click its title in order to edit the post and its options. In the sidebar next to the post’s content, options will appear to designate the post as either a normal or sticky post. Choose “Sticky” in this sidebar box and save any changes that may have been made to the post in the process. Repeat this step with any other posts which should be displayed above newer content on the site’s index page.

Sticky Posts

One thing to note is that the “sticky” functionality is not available for custom post types, such as those used for creating a micro-site or a micro-blog separate from the main site itself. This is probably not an issue for most users, but it’s worth noting.

Sticky posts will not display on the index page above all other content unless a new variable is added to the “index.php” template file where the regular entry content is generally displayed. This variable is pretty simple and straightforward, and it looks like the example shown here:

<?php $sticky = get_option( 'sticky_posts' ); ?>

Using the code above, all posts designed as “sticky” will be displayed on the index page (or wherever this tag is placed) before any traditional content is displayed to end users. Several alternate variables and arguments can be placed into the tag itself, and those modifications will restrict the number of sticky posts, the order of those posts (whether the newest or oldest is at the top), and will permit the site administrator to specifically query only the website’s posts which are designated as sticky, rather than querying the entire table of content within the WordPress database.

Show Related Content at the Bottom of Every new Entry

One thing that many WordPress administrators forget is that the bottom of a new entry is as useful as the top section of an index page itself. Instead of merely featuring posts at the top of an index page, WordPress users can obtain a “related posts” plugin (such as the wonderful Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) which will actually use a combination of the entries tags, categories, title, and body texts, to generate a small list of previously-posted entries that are similar to the one which has just been published.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

The great thing about these plugins is that they can be intricately customized by the WordPress site administrator to only use certain elements of the new posts when digging for older, and related, content. This allows authors to focus their energies on linking certain posts to certain categories, directing users toward certain tags or relevant titles, and on increasing the site’s search engine rankings by increasing the number of clicks, the amount of “digging” down into a site’s content, and by emphasizing the high level of expertise maintained by a given website.

Of course, if you would rather not use a plugin you could use this snippet:

<?php
$tags = wp_get_post_tags($post->ID);
if ($tags) {
	$tag_ids = array();
	foreach($tags as $individual_tag) $tag_ids[] = $individual_tag->term_id;

	$args=array(
		'tag__in' => $tag_ids,
		'post__not_in' => array($post->ID),
		'showposts'=>5, // Number of related posts that will be shown.
		'caller_get_posts'=>1
	);
	$my_query = new wp_query($args);
	if( $my_query->have_posts() ) {
		echo '<h3>Related Posts</h3><ul>';
		while ($my_query->have_posts()) {
			$my_query->the_post();
		?>
			<li><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to <?php the_title_attribute(); ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></li>
		<?php
		}
		echo '</ul>';
	}
}
?>

All told, featuring related posts at the end of every single entry published using WordPress is a great way to show that a website’s entries are all somehow linked, somehow related, and are all a great resource on the same topics. It’s the perfect way to show continuity of content and focus, and linking users to related posts will help show off a site’s best work without the very obvious “featured” content that some users might consider invasive or unwanted during their online travels.

One Last Thing: Don’t Forget In-Entry Linking to Older Content

If a website has previously discussed a topic or provided new information about one specific area, it might be worth creating new entries periodically which “follow up” on that topic or content; those entries can serve to link to older content within the site’s archives. Starting sentences with words like “As previously mentioned on this website just a few months ago….” with the link being embedded within that text. Users will have their curiosity piqued, and archives will serve not just as a resource for aged entries, but as proof that a website was–and is–at the forefront of their content area.

No matter which method of highlighting content is eventually chosen by a given website administrator, the important thing is that old content is brought to the forefront to remind users that a website is more than just the first five entries placed on its main index page. Indeed, most websites are treasure troves of expert articles, well-reasoned editorials and opinion, and helpful tutorials that will guide users toward the knowledge they came there to find in the first place.

Remember that older content took just as long to create, and is just as valuable as new content. That means it should never live on a “back page” or within a subdomain. Using WordPress plugins, jQuery, or old-fashioned XHTML is a great way to turn old posts into new assets.

Author: (40 Posts)

Vladislav Davidzon is the principal of US-based online marketing consultancy Vladislav Davidzon & Associates, developing integrative solutions through high impact search engine optimized WordPress websites for socially responsible customers of all sizes around the world.

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