This post is the third in a three-part series that covers how to subscribe to this site, share posts on it, and navigate it. Recently I have been working with some clients to attract readers to and retain them on the clients’ websites; these articles reflect some strategies we’ve implemented. This series isn’t just to encourage the use of those features here, but also to help other bloggers add them to their sites.
The two best ways of encouraging visitors to stay on your website are by having engaging content and making that content easy to find. This post covers the latter.
Tags and tag clouds
The list of keywords that appear after each entry on this blog and many other ones are called “tags.” From Wikipedia:
A tag is a (relevant) keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (e.g. a picture, article, or video clip), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification of information.
Tags are usually chosen informally and personally by the author/creator or the consumer of the item—i.e. not usually as part of some formally defined classification scheme. Tags are typically used in dynamic, flexible, automatically generated internet taxonomies for online resources such as computer files, web pages, digital images, and internet bookmarks.
By selecting a tag on this site, and most other ones that use them, you’ll get a list of all of the posts on the site that have been tagged with that keyword. If only the current post appears, it means it probably is the first time that keyword has been used on that site.
Many sites have tag clouds to help visitors browse the topics on the site and see which ones are the most common ones. Again, from Wikipedia:
A tag cloud (or weighted list in visual design) can be used as a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.
On this site, the 10 most-popular tags appear in the right sidebar under the Common Topics header.
(Using tags also can improve a site’s ranking in search engine results; they usually generate pages for each keyword. And, if nothing else, they lead to an additional instance of the word appearing on a page.)
I used the Ultimate Tag Warrior 3 plugin for WordPress to add tags to this site. That plugin also has the option to repeat the tags as meta keywords, which can help a website’s ranking in some search engines too.
Most sites have a search box in the sidebar (as this one does on the right) or in the header. Search boxes are built into many templates (as is the case with this site), but they are easy to add via widgets or text boxes too. Sometimes the box will give users the option of searching that site or the entire web (typically via Google).
Search boxes on blogs and other websites typically work in a similar fashion to search engines. The biggest difference, however, is that the returned results usually are in order of the entry’s post date (from newest to oldest), whereas search engines return rank results based on many factors.
This site and many other blogs highlight the most popular posts (mine are in the sidebar to the right). That lists isn’t an exercise in vanity, or at least it’s not meant to be here, but rather as a place for users new to the site to determine the best starting point.
I’m sure there’s some widget or plugin that can determine that the most-popular pages automatically. As for this blog, I just list the pages that get the most traffic and comments.