A Few Blog Navigation Plugins

What do the top search marketing blogs not have at the top of their sidebars? More often than not, they don’t list just exactly what I’m going to tell you about here: lists of recent posts, popular posts, recent comments, top commentators…

Of course there are exceptions, but the top spots are more likely than not reserved for advertisements. Scroll a bit and multi-author blogs show a list of authors, a list of categories, and maybe individual links to something in particular. Much of the navigation stuff in the top blogs is not generated by a stack of plugins, and as often as not sidebars contained fewer deep links than I expected.

This kind of thing makes me curious, which leads me to a topic or three for another day. Today I’m going for the beginner nav, plugin variety. I’ve gone foraging through pluginland and installing a few of the blog navigation biggies, described below. As a value statement, I’m making a choice to start where I am, and leave off trying to look like the big boys. If this blog ends up having navigation like theirs in the future, it will get there because of what happens in this blog and with my own sensibilities.

After a while, if (more like when) I make changes, I’ll give you a peek at stats and feedback. If you don’t want to wait until then to chat about blog navigation evolution, feel free to leave a comment on this post.

I Like Site Maps

A well done site map is first my choice of how to find something quickly on a site I don’t know well. Though I’ll give a site search a try, I appreciate that a site map can show me all there is, not just what pages are chosen in a search result.

Dagon Design Sitemap Generator

The Dagon Design sitemap generator is one of those set it and forget it plugins you’ll wonder how you ever lived without. There’s even an option to include a link to your XML site map. It works, it’s configurable, and the output is not bad to look at, either. You install, make a page named whatever you want to name your site map, and paste in one line of code. A minor sticking point for users who are not used to doing WordPress without the WYSIWYG will be getting the code to stay as-is. The answer is simple. Don’t try to use the WYSIWYG for that one page. Click the “html” button to get to the code view.
By Dagon Design
Configure at Options > DDSitemapGen

Generates a fully customizable sitemap

Plugins for Blog Sidebar Navigation

Displaying recent comments and the most popular are the two that seemed most basic, so here goes.

Get Recent Comments

I tried a few and decided to keep Krischan Jodies Recent Comments widget, because it displays the author name, links to the post and lets me choose how much of a snippet I want to show from the comment. Some others link to the author of the post, or do not show a post snippet. The options and instructions available with this plugin are remarkably complete and thoughtfully written. Kudos. One disappointment is that it includes a function for showing Gravatars, but not MyBlogLog avatars or favatars or whichever version is found first. Krischan, if you see this and have time on your hands, consider yourself nudged by a dedicated avatar junkie.
By Krischan Jodies
Configure at Options > Recent Comments

Display the most recent comments or trackbacks with your own formatting in the sidebar. Visit Options/Recent Comments after activation of the plugin.

Popularity Contest

Popularity contest is one of many carefully crafted plugins by Alex King. This plugin will tally up points and assign a percentage value that compares each post with the blog’s most popular post. The most popular post gets a score of 100%. If my most popular post has 1,000 points and this one scores 100 points, this post would get a popularity score of 10%. That percentage is installed at the end of each post. The stats-curious who install this one should not forget to take a look at the “popularity rankings” link at the top of Options > Popularity. Coolness. Wait a few weeks and see it change. More coolness.

By Alex King
Configure at Options > Popularity

This will enable ranking of your posts by popularity; using the behavior of your visitors to determine each post’s popularity. You set a value (or use the default value) for every post view, comment, etc. and the popularity of your posts is calculated based on those values. Once you have activated the plugin, you can configure the Popularity Values and View Reports. You can also use the included Template Tags to display post popularity and lists of popular posts on your blog.

JAW Popular Posts Widget

The Popularity Contest plugin above gives instructions and code examples for how to put top posts links in a sidebar, but it does not come with its own widget. As my other sidebar stuff is widgetized, I was glad to see that Thomas Steen has provided a nice, simple Popularity Contest widget.
By Thomas Watson Steen
Configure at Presentation > Widgets

Adds a sidebar widget that shows the most popular posts. Requires the Sidebar Widgets plugin from Automattic and the Popularity Contest plugin by Alex King.