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The Agony of Link Hunting

Blog writing tips and articlesFinding links to blog posts to write about is easy. But finding links from blog posts I remember and want to link to, but can’t seem to find, is exceptionally frustrating. Have you suffered from the Agony of Link Hunting?

Searching Without a Search Form

I’m working on an article and I want to reference how WordPress.com’s list of the top blogs and top posts on WordPress.com aren’t in sequential order by traffic numbers. Andy Skelton came up with a brilliant bit of code that changed how the posts were rated, pulling posts from different percentiles rather than sequential order. This allows blogs that wouldn’t normally make it into the top 10 list to pop in from time to time, adding a sense of fairness in the competition to be “at the top” of a list which features some of the hottest blogs on the web.

I know it was published on the WordPress.com Blog, so I head there first. Did you know there is no search form on the WordPress.com blog? ARGHH!

Unwittingly, they have decided to not include a search form, one of the most criminal web acts any website can do to themselves, in my humble opinion.

I can click through the previous posts for hours looking for the post which describes this algorithm, but I know it’s a time wasting, futile endeavor. See, I’ve done this before. So I turn to the search engines.

Using a search trick on Google, I enter in the keywords for the post, restricting the search to only the WordPress.com blog.

popular posts algorithm site:http://wordpress.com/blog

I end up with a list of posts from the WordPress.com blog, but also from too many other sources. I try all types of angles, hunting here and there, trying different keywords (andy skelton blog of the day, skelton popular posts ranking, and variations thereof), and finally, over 30 minutes later, I stumble on a post titled Fresh Hot Stuff.

I’ve seen it come up before, but it never felt right. The title threw me. It couldn’t be right.

In the post, the first thing Andy does is ask forgiveness for the post title:

That title isn’t meant to be vague. It refers to the Hot Posts and Hot Blogs lists on the front page.

Well, that’s the one and the vague post title totally threw me.

I face this problem on many blogs which arrogantly think no one must want to search their blog content, I guess. Why else would they not have a search form?

WordPress Search Sucks

The other problem I face on my own blog, as well as other WordPress blogs, is the lousy search function.

WordPress blogs have a very simple search method. It does not recognize grouped words, searches grouped in quote marks, thus limiting your search. If you search for wordpress blogging tips it will search for all instances of wordpress, blogging, and tips, giving you a mishmash of too much information rather than restricting your search results to only those blog posts with the three terms.

WordPress also lists search results by chronological order, which isn’t helpful if what you are seeking is on page 14 of the search results. Google and other search engines list results by relevance, the most likely candidate for your search at the top.

So this makes searching WordPress blogs like mine a painful experience.

On many of my blog posts I include a list of related articles. The search for these comes from a master list I created over a year ago, and then I manually search for the posts on my blog. There is no trick nor WordPress Plugin for this. It’s manual labor all the way.

Again, the chronological order makes it incredibly frustrating since I know I published the post I’m hunting for a few months ago, but I have to page through two or three pages of search results to get to that time period. If I could use keywords in a phrase, I could narrow down that search time dramatically.

There is the Search Everything WordPress Plugin and other Plugins which improve search capabilities, but the default WordPress search, the one I’m stuck with on WordPress.com, definitely needs improving.

So I turn to Google and Google Blog Search to help me track down the posts on my own blog.

With Google, I can shrink down the search results by using grouped words and the relevancy of search terms usually brings my blog post closer to the top of the list. I don’t have to group the search terms with quote marks. I know that Google will put the web pages with the search terms closest together in proximity to each other at the top of the list. The farther down the list, the farther apart the search terms.

This usually helps me find the posts I’m hunting for, but it still means more time with more tabs in my browser and flipping around between browser tabs and my text editor where I write my blog posts before publishing.

Post Titles Without Links Can Lose Links

Most WordPress Themes feature the post title in a link, even on single post page views. This is brilliant for many reasons, but most important to my link agony, it speeds up my ability to link to a post when I write my blog posts.

A Firefox Extension that has saved my life is Copy Link Text (CoLT) Firefox Extension. It adds a Right Click menu option to copy a link as a full HTML anchor link, with the link, title, and anchor text, and paste the whole thing into my post content. Wow!

Instead of using the buttons in the Rich Text Editor to copy and paste the link and then manually type in the link title and text, or manually typing out the whole HTML code, with a right click and left click on a blog post, then switch to my text editor or WordPress editor and press CTRL+V where I want the link to appear, it’s done. FAST!

It may seem redundant but saving time and my poor tired hands a few keystrokes makes me a happier blogger.

Do You Have Some Linking Agonies?

As you write your blog posts, what agonizes you? What is the most frustrating part of gathering information and resources, linking and quoting from blog posts, and trying to write and publish your blog posts?

And what has helped you to overcome your suffering?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

14 Comments

  1. Posted July 20, 2007 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    Very true, finding the posts that you had read earlier and failed to save them somewhere, is very frustrating. I use a combination of bookmarks, Google Reader save and WordPress draft posts to save interesting links. If it is from one of the blogs I regularly read, it is still possible to retrieve it. But there are quite some of them that slip through all these and haunt later.

    One of the disadvantages of using search engines like Google to search for posts is that the one that interests you might not get indexed, or might get indexed later or might not come in the top 10 or 20 results. Technorati and likes push that post further below because there are so many echo chambers.

  2. Posted July 20, 2007 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t help your problem as WordPress.com still doesn’t have a search box. However WordPress.com DOES run on wordpress (perhaps unsurprisingly) so if you type…

    http://wordpress.com/search/your+search+terms+here

    Then you can search the wordpress.com blog. Not perfect but will do as a workaround until they realise.

    Personally I want them to make a better search system in general, I appreciate how hard a task like this is but I think it would be worth spending time on.

  3. Posted July 20, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, full agreement on WordPress default search sucking hard.

    I put an “advanced search” link under my search engine that goes to a Google Custom Search engine for my site.

    I had to play around with the list of excluded sites to come up with consistently good search results with it. (skip over feeds, tag pages, etc).

    It broke when I changed my domain name, I should fix it.

  4. Posted July 20, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    GCSE are neat because they give you stats for search terms people use them for, and how often they are used.

  5. Posted July 20, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for another helpful post Lorelle.

    I instantly made my headlines into links, downloaded and implemented the better search plugin as well as the firefox extension. When you like making link post as I do then all that copying and pasting almost took all the fun out of it. No more! Gotta love good advice that all can be put into practice within a few minutes.

    I hope SF is doing it’s best to live up to your expectations!

  6. Posted July 20, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I vote for a better search box in WP.com, also. I finally had to add a Google site search link in the sidebar on my blogs. There seems to be a maximum number of posts the existing search box goes through (not all that many) and I have not seen pages searched.

  7. Posted July 21, 2007 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    I decided to add Google [Ads] search box after I read your post. I hope wordpress will do it better soon.

  8. Posted July 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always used Google Custom search on my blog. Even the Search function on the ‘Manage Posts’ section on the WP Dashboard sucks so prefer to use Google even while looking for my own posts :)

    I usually use different anchor text within the content of my current post to reference to my previous posts so frankly the title of my previous posts don’t really matter. At least not in the sense that they have to EXACTLY match the text I am using my current post.

  9. Posted July 23, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle,

    I am interested in the Copy Link Text (CoLT) Firefox Extension you wrote about here. Do you know if anything similar exists for IE users?

  10. Posted July 23, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t use IE any more so I don’t know what is available, though I did do some research on the Blog Herald for my web browser guide for bloggers. See Web Browser Guide for Power Bloggers – Add-ons and Extensions for Bloggers.

  11. Posted July 26, 2007 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Personally I use Google Blog Search. and it has worked really well. It is incredibly accurate and resourceful, and you will usually find what you are looking for. Not to mention I enjoy the extra (a beit small,) income from the search ads.

  12. Posted August 11, 2007 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Wow. How right you are. I was just searching your blog to see if you had any tips on importing my old Blogger blog to WP. I searched for “import” with the WP search box at the top of the page, and just couldn’t find anything.

    But I did find this article and thought I’d read it through. Afterward, I searched Google for “import site:lorelle.wordpress.com” and the result I was looking for was top on the list.

    Thanks a lot!

  13. wmholt
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I use a tool called Onfolio to capture the web pages I want to remember and organize them as well. All of the web pages are searchable, so it is easy to find things. The tool even has a built-in feed-reader that is very capable.

  14. Posted September 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I am desperately looking for a plugin that automatically does CoLT when a reader copies my stuff, so that if they paste it in to their own blog I am linked as the source.

    I’ve seen it done on a blog but now can’t remember which one and I can’t find a way to do this at all. Any ideas?


6 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] The Agony of Link Hunting [...]

  2. [...] The Agony of Link Hunting me encontr con este glorioso plugin para Firefox (algo que estaba buscando desde hace rato): Copy [...]

  3. [...] The Agony of Link Hunting [...]

  4. [...] The Agony of Link Hunting [...]

  5. […] The Agony of Link Hunting […]

  6. […] The Agony of Link Hunting: I share my frustration with link hunting, trying to find web pages on my blog and others while researching articles. This is a good rant against the poor search capability of WordPress, and lack of obvious search forms on blogs. […]

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