Improving the navigation in your blog means visitors will find MORE of your content, and return MORE often. Even with the best content and lots of traffic – the most important thing is that people can QUICKLY find what they were looking for from the first moment they enter your blog!

I’m going to give you 10 different ways you can improve the navigation in your blog that anyone can (and should) implement for better usability when you have a WordPress powered blog. You will be surprised how much easier it will be to find content by using these techniques.

10 Steps to Improved WordPress Navigation

  1. Add Breadcrumbs: This is a very easy fix, and one I don’t see on many blogs. Breadcrumbs are the simple link trail on the top of a web page like this: “Home -> Page -> SubPage”. It’s easy to add breadcrumbs, just use a 2.6+ compatible plugin like “Breadcrumb NavXT.
  2. Get rid of Ugly Next and Previous Links: Every WordPress homepage, and any page that has lists of blog posts (search, archive), has simple “next” and “previous” links to navigate older posts. I have witnessed (countless times) visitors thinking that all the posts you had to offer were listed on the homepage and that was it (mainly people not familiar with WordPress). You should have a linked list of pages (like google) that says “this is page 1 of…” and links to “2, 3, 4, 5, etc”. It’s easy to fix this with plugins like WP-PageNavi or WP-Page Numbers.
  3. Bold Pagination on Single Pages: You can’t use the last trick on single pages, but every single (post) page has links at the bottom to view the next and previous page as well. I edit my “single.php” file to change that text to something like “Post before this one” and “Post after this one”, and align them left and right (bolded). You can style them any way you want – the point is to make them stand out. Visitors often come from SERP’s to a single post page, make it easy for them to view other ones as well.
  4. More Links and Excerpts: This is personal preference really, but I prefer to have post excerpts on pages instead of the entire post, because I feel it clutters up pages and makes everything run together (on most blogs). I like to encourage people to visit the single post page to read the entire thing. There are a couple ways to change a running post page (like search results, archives, index.php) to show excerpts. On your homepage, you can use the Homepage excerpts plugin to achieve this. On all other pages, just the “the loop” and change the_content to the_excerpt.
  5. Multi-Paged Navigation: If you ramble on like I do, some of your posts can be dreadfully long. Break them up into multi-pages posts using a plugin like Multi-Page Toolkit. It’s not only better usability, but it creates multiple post pages so you can get more indexed in the search engines.
  6. Related Posts: What better way to get people to stay on your blog than by recommending to them “related posts” that you’ve written?! All it takes is a plugin like Related Posts.
  7. Most Viewed Posts: Like an MVP of the game – you should be showing your visitors your most valuable content! Lester Chan has a great plugin called WP Post Views that has a sidebar widget than can display your most viewed posts! This is a great way to showcase your best posts and keep people on your blog.
  8. Most Popular Posts: Alex King has a plugin called Popularity Contest that displays how popular posts are.
  9. Category Images: Having your categories a post is assigned to listed and linked is a great way to get visitors to view everything else you have posted in that category, but sometimes (like “ad blindness) readers are blinded to post meta info. Solve that by assigning images to your categories, so that they stand out prominently! All you need is the Category Icons plugin.
  10. Sidebar Navigation: There are a bazillion options for pimping out your sidebar, and most bloggers seem to just liste categories, archives, and a blogroll. Check out all of the WordPress Widgets available, the WordPress Codex page for “Customizing Your Sidebar”, the List Authors widget, Parent Pages widget, and especially the WordPress plugin iFrameWidgets. The iframe widgets one is great if you use myBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Entrecard, or other third party widgets that may slow the load time of your blog.

By following these 10 steps to better navigation, your visitors will STAY LONGER and READ MORE each and every time they visit your blog. This article was a synopsis of my in depth article WordPress Hack #5: 10 Ways to Improve Navigation. Happy Hacking!

John Pratt runs JTPratt Media, a WordPress development company specializing in custom plugins, custom themes, SEO, and website security and hardening. Located just West of Detroit in Michigan, they have been building WordPress websites since 2004, and have created and maintained several popular plugins in the official repositories.

  1. Nihar says:

    Great list. Out of 10, i didn’t know about 3-4 ways. I will try implementing on my blog.

  2. Mathieu says:

    Wow, this post is absolute gold for me, I’m planning on a re-design for my blog for Jan. 09 and this is exactly what I needed. Thanks!

  3. Max says:

    I just released a Simple Sidebar Navigation plugin 2 days ago, and I thought it was very relevant to your current plugin list. Simple Sidebar Navigation allows to create custom navigation widgets in a very fast and easy way without any coding.

  4. Paul says:

    Great list, thank you!
    I’m hoping you can help me think through something as some of your recommendations seem in line.
    I’m trying to make the index file of my blog, the page at http://www.site.com static. I get how to do that through the settings, it is the second part of my project that I can’t figure out.

    I want a page to appear as the traditional homepage would. That is, http://www.site.com/news would look just like the typical blog homepage with a series of recent posts with their respective footers.

    Any insight?

  5. Max says:

    Paul,

    create a new Page – call it News (or whatever you need to) and make sure that the slug is “news”. Then go back to the Reading section in the Settings and select your newly created News page for the posts page. This way your /news page will be your normal blog home page and the actual home page will remain static as you set it up at the beginning.

  6. Kari says:

    I ask myself why WordPress has such a bad pagination? and why we need plugins for this? anyway thanks, your article was useful.

  7. Jennifer Gonzalez says:

    Thanks for this post. i’ve been wondering if my site was user friendly and with these tips I’ve found it it pretty much was and how to make it better :)

  8. Mahender says:

    Thanks John Pratt, i do all these navigation settings on my new blog.

  9. Hillary Bost says:

    Thanks for the info, there were a couple thing I had not thought of. Being able to navigate a site easily can make all the difference.

  10. Linto Mathew says:

    Could you please explain how to put recent post and popular post within a single widget.. Initially the recent posts are visible..On clicking the popular post menu, list of popular posts got displayed. I found it on http://unwiredview.com/. (Not my website)

    Is there any widget available or I have to write the code manually ?

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