|In-Series Under New Management
REM State has taken over support and management of the In-Series WordPress Plugin and you can find their latest version at the REM State In-Series WordPress Plugin page. They’ve added a GUI interface and a few other bells and whistles.
ProBlogger’s 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on Your Blog is an excellent outline of the steps and issues you need to consider when writing a series of articles on your blog.
I’d like to tackle a few of the technical issues related to writing a series on your WordPress blog (or other blogging platform or tool).
The most important element to a series is the connection between the posts. After all, a series by definition means “more than one”. It’s vital for the life and success of a series for the posts to connect together via links. Not only to help the reader navigate from one series article to another, but it helps search engines to find all the pieces of the series. It also offers some challenges to the blogger on how to create those links without a lot of extra work.
Let’s say you have a series of 7 posts across 7 days in a series. Post one is the introduction, spelling out the topics you will be writing about, and possibly hosting an outline of the titles of the specific posts. Post seven is the summary post, making a final point then summing up everything you’ve written over the past 6 days. This is a fairly normal article series layout.
Whether you are working on posts that release immediately, or future posts written in advance that automatically release on schedule, the issue of how and when to create the intra-series links gets fuzzy.
Choices and Options for Building Intra-Series Links
If I write everything in advance and post it using the future post feature, I can include all the links to the other posts, even if they haven’t posted. Unfortunately, the links appear in the posted posts. When clicked, they take the reader to a 404 Page Not Found Error until that post releases. Not good form. I wish there was a WordPress Plugin that allowed you to include links in a published post to unpublished posts that wouldn’t show until the post published. Until then, it’s a manual labor job.
For each new post that publishes, I can go back and manually apply the intra-series links within the older posts for published post that day. This can be a lot of work.
Some skip the whole intra-series linking and put a list of the series posts with links on post one and seven, hoping that the reader will at least begin or end with these pages. However, with search engine search results not knowing the difference between part one and part five, the reader could end up anywhere in the series.
A way to reconnect these people to the series would be to include a link to the first post in the first paragraph of each post throughout the series, like a short introduction:
In Part Three of this series of articles on Writing a Series on Your Blog we take a look at how a series can help boost traffic to your blog and encourage readers to return…
This helps to connect the visitor to all the posts in the series, if you at least update your first post in the series with links to the published post each day. Then you’d only have to update one post’s links per day.
To use post one as your article series table of contents, I recommend that you begin with an outline of the topics to be covered during the week and list them, like a table of contents:
In this series on Writing a Series on Your Blog, I will discuss:
- Introduction to Writing a Series on Your Blog
- Developing a Topic Across a Series
- Researching Material for a Series
- How to Include Quotes, References, and Sources in Your Series
- Encouraging Comments During a Series
- Responding to Comments During a Series
- Series Summary: Putting a Series All Together
Each day a new post in your series publishes, go back to this post and add a link to that day’s post:
In this series on Writing a Series on Your Blog, I will discuss:
By the end of the series, you will have links down the entire list, which you can copy and include in post seven as part of your summary, bookending your series links.
At the end of the series, I still recommend that you go back through each of the posts and put in the various links to the other posts in the series where they are appropriate. This will help readers follow the series in the future, and help search engines find all the posts within the series, leaving no orphans behind.
Article Series WordPress Plugin
While I did put on my wish list for a WordPress Plugin that would automatically recognize links to non-published posts within the content of a post and keep them hidden until the post publishes, there is a WordPress Plugin that will hep you connect the dots of your series, though not within the post content. It creates a series list at the end of the content on a page.
Skippy’s In-Series WordPress Plugin is one of my favorite WordPress Plugins. I write a lot of series articles on my blogs. Skippy saw my need (and tears of linking frustration) and worked overtime to put this together, realizing how important it is to help article series bloggers or writers to connect their articles together.
Like any WordPress Plugin, install and activate the Plugin normally. Then in the template file where you want the series information to display, including the following, as I did in my
single.php template file in the post meta data section:
$series = get_post_meta($post->ID, 'series_name', TRUE);
if ('' != $series)
echo "<p><b>Article Series - $series</b></p>\n";
echo '<p class="series">';
next_in_series('<b>Next:</b> %link', '%title');
echo "<br />";
previous_in_series('<b>Previous:</b> %link', '%title');
</div> <!-- end inseries -->
This seems like a lot of code, so let’s break it down.
The DIV sets a style reference for the entire section so I can make it look exactly how I want it to appear. The section within the
echo codes is the structure and text around the list of series posts. I’ve titled it “Article Series” but you can call it whatever you want. It will be titled thus on every post within a series. You can also change the text titles for Next and Previous, and the
series_table_of_contents() code is what displays the posts in the series in a numbered list.
The next section is the Next and Previous in the series, which is wrapped in a paragraph tag with its own style called “series”. This is so I can style the next and previous links in the series differently from the rest of the section, if I wanted.
The first “IF” statement checks to see if you have designated this post as one in a series. If you have, the following will appear. If you haven’t, this this entire section will not appear on the post. Why should you have something titled “Article Series” and then have nothing there if the post isn’t part of a series? Right? Now you see them, now you don’t.
When viewing a series of posts, the posts already published will have links visible in the list. The rest will not be listed until they publish. The post in the series that you are viewing will not show the link, just the text of the title, indicating which post you are on in the series. Nice touch!
To designate a post as part of a series, you will need to use the Custom Fields section of your Write Post Panel, in a two step process:
- Under key, type in
series_name. In the value box, type in the title of the series, such as Writing a Series on Your Blog. Click Add Custom Field.
- Under the Custom Field again, type in the key as
series_orderand the value as the number that post should be in the order of the series, i.e., 1, 2, 3, or 4. Click Add Custom Field.
Now you have two Custom Fields in the list above which help to designate that this post is part of a specific series and it is post number 1 in the series.
On the next post, you can use the drop down selection menu to choose
series_order so you don’t have to type them in again. Remember to write and spell the title of the series exactly on each one as that is the way it knows that this series is part of the whole and not a new series.
Bingo, instant well-behaved series links!
I’d love to have this plugin be more user friendly by offering up a list of the post titles and series numbers already in use, as I often have trouble getting the series name exactly right, or remembering if this is post 3 or 4 in the series. I’d also love to see a similar feature built-in WordPress as many, many people love to blog in series, connecting posts together.
Using Skippy’s In-series WordPress Plugin doesn’t stop you from adding links manually throughout your published posts and on the posts one and two to help emphasize the series links, but it does help to connect the series easily while working on it.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network
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