26 May 2009

Blogging Tips : Create a Sneeze Page for Your Blog

Today’s task is to create a Sneeze Page for your blog.

What is a Sneeze Page?

The term ’sneeze page’ is one that I came up with for the 2007 version of the 31 Days to Build a Better blog and is a concept that I’ve been using as a key strategy in my blogs for quite a few years.

The idea is simple - to create a page that propels people in different directions deep within your blog by highlighting a variety of posts that you’ve previously written.

Why a Sneeze Page?

The challenge that many bloggers face is that over time the archives of their blogs fill up with hundreds and then thousands of posts. The problem is that by default a blog generally only highlights the most recent posts that you’ve written on the front page while the majority of your posts go largely unnoticed once they drop off the front page.

A sneeze page is all about showing off those archives.

Benefits of Sneeze Pages

There are a variety of reasons that a sneeze page can be powerful:

1. It shows off your archives - I don’t know about you but when I spend hours (if not days) crafting a blog post, I want people to read it! Sneeze pages lengthen the time that people interact with your older posts.

2. It’s great for SEO - search engines not only look at the links that other people make to your posts in order to give them ranking but the internal links on your blog. Linking to old posts can help them grow their search engine ranking.

3. It can help create a ‘Sticky’ Blog - I’ve not seen stats on this but it is my suspicion that a person arriving on your blog for the first time increases the chances of coming back to it the more great posts that they view on it. Get someone to read 10 great posts that you’ve written previously instead of 1 and you’ll exponentially increase the likelihood that they’ll subscribe and become a regular reader.

Types of Sneeze Pages (with Examples)

There are many ways of creating a ’sneeze page (or post)’ for your blog. Lets explore some:

Themed Sneeze Pages - these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme. For example here on ProBlogger I have created sneeze pages around some of the main themes for this blog such as:

These sneeze pages (and others) are linked to prominently around my blog - including the ‘best of ProBlogger’ section of my front page.

Similarly - on DPS I’ve created pages for key topics (like Composition Tips, Digital Photography Techniques, Portrait Photography Tips, How to Photograph and Digital Photography Tips for Beginners) and link to them from navigation areas. I find these pages generate a lot of page views both themselves and the pages that they link to.

One more example that steps away from some of the posts that are purely lists of links is 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules all New Camera Owners Should Know - this post is still a list of links but it is written more as a post with pictures and descriptions of the points made in each of the posts linked to. While the examples above are all ‘pages’ in WordPress and didn’t ever appear as posts this last example just appeared as a normal post on my blog.

Time Related Sneeze Pages - these pages are based around a defined period of time. They are usually a ‘best of’ post that highlight your key posts from that period to either remind readers of previous posts that they might want to revisit or to highlight posts that they might have missed.

The period of time that you choose can really be anything from a year (here’s my best of 2006 at ProBlogger post) through to a month, week or even a weekend (ie a post that summarizes the posts from a weekend that those readers who don’t read your blog on a weekend might have missed). Blogs that have a particularly high frequency of posting often use these quite regularly (for example Lifehacker would often do one at the end of each week to highlight key posts for that week out of the many that they’d published.

Retro Sneeze Pages - Another variation of this ‘time related’ sneeze page is to do one that unashamedly shows off a number of posts from your blog from a particular point in its history. The most common way to do this is to do a post highlighting posts from the blog from a year ago. LifeHacker was another blog that did (and still occasionally does) this (example).

Series Sneeze Pages - many bloggers use the technique of writing a series of blog posts that allow them to explore a topic over a period of time with lots of interlinked posts.

One key with writing a series of posts is to make sure that readers have a trail of links between posts so that they’ll not only read one but the full series.

A great way to help readers discover a full series is to develop a sneeze page. All of the posts in the series should link back to it and it links to them.

Series Sneeze pages can become key pages on your blog. For example here on ProBlogger one of my most popular pages is Blogging for Beginners which started out simply as a list of posts from a series I was writing specifically for beginners.

Promote Your Sneeze Page

Sneeze pages can be an effective way of driving people deep within your blog - but they’ll only do that for as long as you’re able to drive people to the sneeze page itself.

As a result - a sneeze page is something that you’ll want to promote and position prominently on your blog in a place that people will continue to see it. Do this by linking to your sneeze page from navigation menus, sidebars or other ‘hot zones’ on your blog.

Create a Sneeze Page and Share it With Us

OK - it’s time to go create a sneeze page for your blog. Once you’ve done it please do come back and share a link to it in the comments below as I’m sure there are a lot of creative ways to use these types of pages that we could all learn from by sharing them.

Check out what others are doing with today’s task in our thread for Day 18 in our 31 Day Forum.

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