Let me start by admitting that I’m guilty of publishing a number of post series myself (even one on this blog – Building a WordPress Site; here’s the last part on how to improve your site over time).
And every time I did publish a series the same main problem kept presenting itself – how to indicate that a given post is part of a series? But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Probably an even more important one is when to publish a series and what actually is a series?
What makes a good series of posts?
This is just my point of view, so feel free to disagree, but in my opinion, a good series has at least 4 episodes/parts.
Anything below 4 can be easily published as one extensive post, instead of turning it into a series. Let’s face it “here’s my two part series on [BLANK]” looks just silly.
For instance, have you ever seen a successful two-episode TV series? Yeah, think about it next time you’re watching How I Met Your Mother.
Just as important as the minimal number of episodes is the series’ consistency. Actually, it’s probably even more important.
The whole point of a series is to present/explain an issue that’s too complex or wide to be tackled with a single blog post. This means that every part of a series needs to present the same big picture of things. There’s no room for going off-topic or discussing some only partly related matters.
One more cool characteristic is to make your series laser-focused. For instance, if you’re planning to publish a series on “learning guitar chords” then don’t end up making it “all things guitar chords.” Instead, focus on the “learning” part.
Managing a series the manual way
This following method is the most intuitive and the most popular way of managing a series of posts.
Each post in the series needs to follow a specific template. Like this one, for example (feel free to create your own, though):
Title of the Series [Part #]: Title of the Episode
Using such a template makes it easy for the reader to notice a new episode in the series right away, and also helps a new reader to notice that there’s something interesting going on in general.
- The first paragraph in each episode should be a unique introduction to that episode. Talking about the topic and explaining what’s coming.
- The second paragraph is a good place to indicate that the post is part of a series, and also to list all the previous episodes.
- The rest of the post is, well … the rest of the post.
- The final paragraph is yet another place to link to all the previous episodes, which can help to get people to stay on your site.
Now, why I don’t advise starting each episode off with a message that it’s part of a series. The reason is simple, this can result in having X number of posts each starting with pretty much the same paragraph.
Such a situation is really bad for SEO (search engines might see it as duplicate content).
Also, this isn’t good for readability either. Your visitors will have the same doubts as the search engines. They won’t be able to tell right away if they’ve read this already or not.
In a nutshell. This method of managing a post series revolves around four things: headlines, introductions, links to the previous episodes, and closing paragraphs.
Managing a series through hub pages
Basically, this is handled almost the exact same way as the previous method.
You have to use all the same elements (headlines, introductions, links, closing paragraphs), but additionally you get to create a hub page to keep this all together.
Your hub page can be just a standard page, or a page created with a custom template.
The copy should introduce the idea of the series and link to all the episodes. In essence, the purpose of the hub is to give people access to all episodes in an easy to use manner.
- For example, here’s what Pat did with his Niche Site Duel (standard page).
- Here’s another example, my hub page for the Get Backlinks series (custom page template).
I guess that the concept of using a standard page is pretty basic and there’s not much to explain. However, let me discuss the custom template approach for a minute.
Setting the design aside, my page works on a very simple basis. It’s organized around a single tag. Each post in the series is tagged with “Backlinks” (among other tags).
This custom page browses the database and fetches all posts tagged with “Backlinks.” As simple as this. What it means in practice is that if at any point in time I decide to publish a new post and tag it with “Backlinks,” it will automatically end up on the hub page.
Managing a series through a plugin
Now we can finally discuss the method described in that post at WPBeginner I mentioned.
The plugin for this is Organize Series (needs WordPress 3.3+ to work).
It organizes any series you create by adding a new taxonomy, calling it “series” by default. So from now on your blog has “categories,” “tags,” and “series.”
Everyday usage of the plugin is really simple. If you want to create a new series, you can do so through a new box in your Post Edit screen. You can either create a new series or assign the current post to any of the existing series.
As a result, you get an automatic hub page too. It’s usually available at: yoursite.com/series/name-of-the-series
Creating a custom page template for this taxonomy would be a good idea, or at least using a custom CSS stylesheet.
The plugin also allows you to write some introductory copy that’s going to be published on your hub page (marked as Description in the Manage Series screen) and even add a custom icon/image.
Now, I still advise you to use a proper headline for each episode, utilize the introductory paragraphs and link to other episodes. Having said that, the plugin has a feature that will display links to the hub page and to the other episodes automatically (if you don’t like linking to things manually).
Which is the best method?
As always, there’s no one best method. It all depends on your blog and personal preferences. I basically encourage you to check them all out.
- If you prefer a kind of automatic way of having this done then try using the plugin.
- If you value the possibility to tweak everything and make your series hub ultra SEO optimized then go with a custom template hub page.
- If you just want to start a series today with no extra hustle then go for the first approach (the manual way).
What’s your experience publishing series in WordPress? Do you have some cool solutions of your own you’d like to share?