Your website’s home page, contact page, and about us pages (as well as some others) are the “bones” of your website; they’re seldom changed and become the structure that your website is initially built to hold. However, as I might have repeatedly mentioned to you, these pages contribute very little to your website’s discovery by searchers and Google likes websites that are dynamic and ever-growing and rewards them with higher rankings on SERPs (search engine result pages). The expansion of your website is, therefore, critical to its success and I’ve probably provided you with the means to enable this: The Blog.
Whether you call it a blog or refer to them as posts, articles, case studies, or blog posts – they’re really all the same thing. This area is where you get to expand the content of your website, enhancing the its SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities and perhaps giving your website visitors what they want in the way of information. Regardless, a website with 20 pages has twice the probability of being found through an online search than a 10-pager because there’s just more content there for a search engine to index.
One of the great things about the WordPress platform is that its original roots are in blogging; WordPress was originally exclusively a platform for bloggers and it has extensive built-in features for that purpose. My aim is typically to provide you with the structure of the blogging section of your website and to then have you fill it with content for as long as you are able. The primary purpose of search engines like Google (other than to make money!) is to provide the content that searchers are looking for. And the more words there are on your website about your business or organization and the products and/or services it provides, the better chance you are of being found.
The point of me providing this document to you is for you to understand what features and functions are available to you so that we initially structure this section of your website properly. There is no single way to build or present blog posts on a website and you’re going to have to think of both the present and the future as together we design this area.
The General Structure
When dealing with blog posts, consider two primary page layouts/designs, each with a different but very related purpose:
- The post layout.
- The archive layout.
The Post Layout
The post layout is repeated for every post that is written for your website. That is, there are specific spots for specific information that are part of the post (for example, the title) and each has a predetermined format. Here’s an example blog post from my website:
Note that I’ve shown the top and the bottom of the post separately left and right because there’s really no point in showing you what’s in between for this discussion.
Described from top to bottom, my blog post layout begins with a graphic image that’s associated with the post. Then, there’s a small picture of me with my name beneath. The title of the post is then below, followed by the content of the post. This content might include words, or media such as graphics, photos, or even a video. Any of these elements might have embedded hyperlinks (“links”) that, when clicked, take the visitor to somewhere else on my website or to another website page.
When we get to the bottom of the blog post, there are some specific links to related posts on my website, then there is a batch of icons. Each of these, when clicked, might allow the reader to share this blog post on various social media outlets, or write an email with the link to the page automatically embedded in it. You may have used links like these on other websites and they make the post easy to share or pass along — and we like that!
Everything I’ve described to you is there by design and there’s an underlying layout that will be applied automatically to all of the blog posts I might write in the future that are posted on my website. So, when writing the post, I just need to enter or indicate the specific aspects that are unique to this post. For examples, the text that forms the body of the post and the graphic that’s displayed at the top. The post template takes care of everything else, like formatting the title to the proper font type and size and popping in those share icons at the bottom.
The Post Archive
Typically, I’ve arrived at a particular blog post because I chose it on a post archive. This is a page that typically holds a whole bunch of synopses of blog posts. On my website, my post archive looks like this:
I’ve arranged my archive in a grid-like fashion. The other common format for post archives is with each element being arranged in a row. Either way, the page might be infinite (i.e. reveal more and more post archive elements as we scroll down) or might be limited to X elements before the user needs to click to go to the next page of more displayed post archives.
Typically, each element on this page contains a short synopsis of the blog post. Like on the blog post itself, any field that’s been recorded (blog post fields are discussed later), such as the title and feature image, can potentially be displayed on each of these elements. The typical strategy is to place some enticing words – which may or may not be the opening words of the blog post – here to inform and compel the reader to click and open the blog post.
Maintaining a grid or row structure on the entire archive page is not a necessity. Often, an archive page might have two or more sections. For example, a featured blog post archive might be shown separately and larger at the top of the page, indicating the newest or most-read article, with the remainder of the posts being arranged in rows or a grid below.
Also, if lots of blog posts are in the archive and they had subject tags associated with them, a clickable control at the top of the page might allow the visitor to choose a subject and have only archives relating to that subject be dynamically displayed on the screen.
Beneath all WordPress websites is a database and there are many database tables within. At least one table will relate to your blog posts and any or all of the available post fields might be employed in the design of your post layout or archive layout. What follows is a list of all of those fields along with further information about what they contain.
- Title – The title of the post.
- URL – The link to the post on the website.
- Excerpt – A custom-written summary of the post’s content. (This is not, by definition, just the first X number of words in the post.)
- Content – The actual content of the post, including all embedded images and other media and employing a hierarchy of headings (H1, H2, H3…) to give structure and context.
- Author – The name of the person who published the post.
- Username – The WordPress username of the author.
- Author image – The photo or avatar image associated with the post author.
- Author biography – The biography of the author.
- Featured image – A specified single graphic image that is associated with the post. Note that the featured image should be of a standardized proportion and size so that it formats properly on both post and archive pages.
- Type – It’s possible to group posts by type.
- Status – Published, draft, scheduled to be published in the future, etc.
- Menu order – A numeric value used for ordering posts on a page.
- Previous post link – A link to the post that was published before this post.
- Next post link – A link to the post that was published after this post.
- Date – The date of the post’s publishing or last edit.
- Time – The time of the post’s publishing or last edit.
The date and time fields bear some further discussion because often they are significant in search engine results. Google et al typically desire to serve up first the most recent content to searchers and having a recent date associated with a blog post might boost it somewhat. However, a competitive website with a newer article with similar content might “leapfrog” your content in rankings, compelling you to manually revise the publication date of your blog post to a more recent date. But if the content of the post hasn’t changed significantly, as it would if you’d truly done a revision of it, you might find the rankings of your page degraded — or even obliterated — by the search engine!
Know that it is relatively easy – and entirely possible – for me to create custom fields to be associated with your blog posts that don’t come standard with WordPress. For example, a subtitle field or other graphic image (e.g. logo) are possibilities. When writing your posts, you’d simply “fill in” these fields and they’d appear in their predetermined location and format in the resulting published post.
All WordPress blog posts can possibly be “opened up” to allow for comments. That is, you could have visitors to your website who’ve read your posts offer comments and perhaps even begin discussions with you regarding your posted articles. While at the outset this might seem alluring and an informative benefit for your website visitors, I typically strongly advise against doing this. The obvious reason is the prevalence of online “trolls” whose primary purpose is to disrupt civil discussions and inject vitriol into public forums. The other is the prevalence of “bots” which, likewise, are only there to disrupt and annoy and do their dirty work automatically. Even the best and most civil comments must have an assigned human moderator and maintaining such things can consume many hours of maintenance time and provide little benefit to you.
Having a way to dynamically add content to your website is important – very important if you want Google to raise your rankings and have more people find you. The way to do this is through a blog – or whatever you want to call it – because it’s the quickest and easiest way for a website layperson to add content. Having predetermined templates for both your archive page and your blog pages means that, whatever content you create, it’ll just flow nice and neatly into a design that’s universal across your website, supporting your image and brand.