Going back to the reader’s side this time, I will look at some plugins that help you keep posts in front of their eyes. The most important thing about the post is that the writing and content are good. But if it is from very far back in time how to get it somewhere your readers can see it. Well, the trusty plugin developers of the WordPress world are up to the task.
First up is Recently Updated Posts, an easy to install, easy to use plugin. It gives you a widget for your sidebar that will display a number of your posts that you have recently updates. You can change the title, the number of posts shown, and you can exclude certain categories from showing. All of this is on the widget, there is no option page for the plugin.
If you are comfortable dealing with php, the author of the plugin has included some of the parameters he uses so you can edit the plugin your self to customize it a bit more. You can include pages, or switch it to show new posts that haven’t been modified. Still not a huge amount of control, but some. And not at all easy to make use of if you do not do code.
TDD Recent Posts is almost identical to the Recent Posts widget included with WordPress. It places a list of your posts, from most recent to older, with a link to them. But it also includes the date of the post and a short excerpt from the beginning of the post. You can change the length of the excerpt shown, and the number of posts shown, but that is about it for easily controlled options.
Again, if you are comfortable with coding, the author gives instructions for including pages in the listing and how to increase the maximum character limit for the excerpts. There is no styling, although if your theme styling does things with unordered lists, the widget output may be included. If not, you will have to do your own CSS to make it fit in. The author has included one class name so far for styling purposes, although he says he may include more later. Nice change to the basic recent posts widget.
WordPress.com Popular Posts uses the stats from the WordPress. com Stats plugin to give you a sidebar widget that shows your most popular posts. All of the controls on on the widget, making for easy installation. You can show popular posts, pages, or both, and can choose to limit it to only posts within a certain number of days. You can also choose to have an excerpt, length up to you, posted. And it can show the number of view each post has received.
This is a nice plugin, easy to install and use. Having to install the Stats plugin also is somewhat irritating, but not too much since having some kind of stats tracking is always a good idea. If you are relying on Google Analytics already, then it would be more annoying to add the second. The documentation on the available options could be a bit better, it is not real easy to figure out how to add the excerpts, but they are just additions to a plugin that is good from the start.
Must Read Posts allows you to put a list of posts on your sidebar that you think your readers will like. You can set the number of posts that will be in the sidebar, and the author includes a class for styling the list. Aside from putting the widget in your sidebar, the only other thing you need to do is add a custom field in your post. Posts with the field can show up in the list, making it easy to control what will be there. It does not do much, but what it does do, works well.
Old Post Promoter also allows you to keep older posts up for your newer readers to find. But it does not use your sidebar to do it. Instead, it updates the timestamp on older posts and puts them back on your front page and back into your RSS feed.
You set how often old posts are promoted, how old they have to be before they can be promoted (minimum 30 days), and whether they are put in front of your most recent post. The only other control you have over what posts are promoted is by excluding categories. The lack of fine control over what is promoted is not the best, and something about changing the dates on the posts to bring them back to the front doesn’t really appeal to me. But for blogs that are offering advice or how-tos that are not time sensitive, this can be an effective method of keeping good ideas in front of your readers. Of course, you also need to keep writing new posts, or you will end up doing nothing but recycling the same posts over and over.
Serial Posts Plugin is a way to send people to other posts in a series. It is much more powerful than the typical related posts plugins, with exact control over what posts appear, where the list appears on each post, and what information about the series is given to your readers. The documentation is much better than average, including a nice tutorial, although that lacks the shortcode information.
Set up is remarkably easy. You need to add a custom field to the posts you want included in a series (Note: Make sure you put Serial in just like that. Lowercase will not work.) with the name of the series as the value of the field. Then place the shortcode in the posts where you want the list to appear. You can have multiple series going at the same time, just use different values for the custom field. And there are several ways to control the styling of the list if you do CSS, so you can make it stand out from the rest of the post. There are improvements that can be made, like specifying the order of the list or making the styling easier for non-coders. But really, it is a very nice plugin as is, well worth using if you do series of posts.
Hackadelic Series does almost exactly the same thing as Serial Posts, but slightly differently. The plugin generates a menu of related posts, defined by a custom field added to the post (Sound familiar? Great minds think alike.) the places the list in a collapsing menu at the top of the post. It has many of the virtues of Serial Posts, as well as adding a very nice back end for controlling your series and the meta fields. And the collapsing menu means even larger series, like these are starting to be, can be added to your posts without taking up too much room.
When the developer found out that the Serial Posts plugin was out, he even created his so that you can use his back end for admin of that plugin, without using his frontend and placing his menu at the top of the post. This is very nice, and it means that if you have already started using Serial Posts you do not need to stop.
The downside of the plugin are not major, but they are real. In order to use this plugin, you have to install the authors other plugin, Sliding Notes. This is a nice plugin by itself, and does not take any set up if used for the Series plugin, but it is one more thing to install. And there is no control over the location of the menu, it automatically shows up at the top of the post. The styling is very vanilla, but can be made to blend to your site if you are comfortable with CSS. All in all, a nice plugin that you will definitely want to consider.
Upcoming Posts goes in the opposite direction from most on this list. Rather than trying to interest your readers in older posts, it gives them a glimpse of what you have coming up. Again all of the controls are in the widget you place in your sidebar, but there are quite a few options available there.
You can set the number of posts, whether to have a timestamp, the category of the post, and whether an excerpt will show. You can have either scheduled posts or drafts on the list, and can put a message up if you have nothing planned. And you can specify specific categories to be shown. Nice options, easy to install and use. One problem, the styling out of the box is not very good, and you need to do it in the css in the plugin folder. But that is pretty much the only downside to the plugin.
So there are some ways to keep people reading your old posts or get them interested in what is coming soon. If you think something is really good, you should be able to find something here that will let you share it with your readers and keep them coming back.
Edited to remove error about Hackadelic Series plugin.