Site publishers often don’t think about how to archive a website because they are too busy with other priorities.
Content is more than just publishing. It also requires management from the first word on the page to months and even years after the content goes on the site.
Content management requires thinking like an editor but also like a librarian. Over time, medium and large sites often acquire a massive amount of material. Much of it simply won’t fit on the homepage of the site or any other index page.
If the older content becomes so buried that no one can find it, a great opportunity is lost. Building a website archive of content also will build a much bigger audience.
Yes, the search engines may index those older articles. But what about the people who comes directly to the site and can’t find the right links to get to the articles they want?
5 Ways to Archive a Website
Navigation to an archive is as simple as a link on the site homepage that says Archive.
Visitors who click on the link and search engines that index the link will find five methods that answer the question of how to archive a website. All five methods on the same page will make the search much easier for visitors. The methods are:
- Archive by date
- Archive by subject
- Archive by author
- Archive by pagination
- Archive via search
1 – Archive by Date
Some content management systems such as WordPress have a built-in ability to display content by date via a widget.
In the simplest version, users click on a year and sees the titles / headlines for all of the articles published that year, links for individual months or a combination of both. Clicking on the title link takes them to the full article.
A common variation on the main archive page will show links of the most recent months up to X number of months. That approach has a downside because it makes articles older than X months harder to find.
2 – Archive by Subject
Content management systems often use channels, categories or tags to organize content by subject matter.
Imagine the main archive page with a section dedicated to subjects. Each subject link goes to all articles organized under that subject.
For this method, it is critical to keep a limit on the number of subjects, word them carefully and avoid going into labels with limited potential. A subject that ends up with five articles is not much of a subject.
3 – Archive by Author
An archive by author seems to have less value than one by date or subject. But it still proves useful in some situations.
The method does have a danger lurking in it. If the author is an employee, and if that employee leaves, the access level usually needs to change for security reasons.
Some site owners delete that employee’s registration altogether and wipes out the author’s association with the content.
4 – Archive via Pagination
Pagination is both an archiving method and a navigation method. It is a way of flipping through a site one page at a time.
It is an archiving method on an archive page and a navigation method on all other pages.
A typical pagination displays a horizontal line of page numbers at the top of site page, bottom of a page or both.
A site visitor who goes to a channel or section front, such as News, may see 10 recent news stories. At the bottom, clicking on the number 2 will take that visitor to the next 10 most recent news stories, and so forth back in time. The visitor usually isn’t planning to click more than a few pages into that subject.
On an archive page, pagination helps with great amounts of content over long spans of time.
The search clicks on the year 2016 and sees a page with 1,000 titles and no pagination or a page with 50 titles and pagination listing 20 pages. A page with 1,000 titles is obnoxious. Twenty pages with 50 titles each is manageable.
5 – Archive via Search
The most important archiving function of all is a search function for speed and ease of use.
A dedicated archive page for sites with heavy content will make archiving easier on everyone if it has a search box in an obvious location.
But simply placing a search box on a page is often not enough. Regular testing will prove whether or not all content from the beginning of the site’s existence is available to visitors.
Libraries Offer Important Lesson
Important lessons in the online environment keep repeating themselves. One of them is how to keep growing content and audience on a website when there isn’t enough money to hire more help.
That lesson can be found at the public library.
When a newspaper publishes a story, it gets thrown away with the paper. When a website publishes that story, it often gets buried so deeply that it rarely is seen again.
In fact, it often is deleted, especially when a site changes its servers or content management software. When a library buys a new book, it stays on the shelves for years, even decades, before finally going away.
Are stories from 10 years ago still on your website? How about even a year ago?
Newspapers are valuable for the quality of their content. The Internet is valuable for the quantity of its content. Libraries are valuable for both.
Newspaper websites are gaining audience, but they are losing market share because other sites are growing faster. One important reason why is because of the vast quantity of content on the Internet.
Now anyone can be a publisher. So newspapers have to expand the quantity of their online content much faster while maintaining the quality of it.
If the profit, revenue and audience of a site grow 20 percent next year, how do you grow the size of the site by 40 percent?
It can be done with effective archiving. Plan on keeping every story as if it will be on the site for 10 years. Give it good keywords and put it in an appropriate section.
Build site navigation and architecture that names every section and subsection by subjects the way a library would do it. Ask your friendly local librarian: If you could organize our site, how would you do it?
The end result is a vast website archive that search engines will index thoroughly, bring more audience and grow that audience exponentially over time.