One Way To Make Blog Posts Easier To Read

Introduction *

You may be a fan of those “10 Ways To Do This” or “7 Steps To Do That” kind of article. This particular blog post is written in that spirit, but I’m only going to mention one thing you can do to make your blog posts easier to read.

You can add graphics, jazz up your theme, use a different writing style, or any of a hundred other things, but the one (1) thing I’m going to talk about today is to break up your blog post by using section headings, as I’m doing in this post.

I’ve also wanted a way for my readers to get a quick “preview” of my blog posts. I know how to do it with some hand-coded HTML, but to be honest, I get lazy and simply don’t want to do it for each and every blog post I write. I also have a lot of blogs, and creating them manually would consume a lot of time I’d rather spend doing something else. So I looked for, and found, an easy way to do it.

Incidentally, the “easy” way I found to do it wasn’t very well documented, but I did some research and figured it out. Keep reading to see how to use the plugin; it’s really quite easy.

I also realize that there is more than one way to do this, just like any other task. In the past, I’ve done this by hand-coding the HTML in individual blog posts, but I no longer have to do it that way since I found this plugin. If you know of an even better way to do this or any other task, I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a comment. Thanks!

The Old Way *

The old way of doing this involved actually editing the HTML. It went something like this:

  • Create the blog post
  • Select where you wanted the sub-headings to go
  • Change the style of the sub-heading to “Heading 2”.
  • Click on the “Text” tab of the post editor.
  • Find all of the H2 sub-headings and include the necessary HTML code to make them named anchors
  • Create a “jump to” section at the top of the post with a hyperlink to each H2 sub-heading

Lots of work, right? To be honest, all I usually did was create the H2 sub-headings and that was it.

The New Way *

I discovered a WordPress plugin named “Better Anchor Links” that does exactly what I’ve been wanting to do. All I have to do is create the sub-headings in much the same way I used to, i.e. highlight the sub-heading and change it to “Heading 2” style.

The magic happens when I publish the post. The plugin takes all of those H2 sub-headings and turns them into a nice, neat block of text at the top of my blog post, complete with hyperlinks to the individual sections.

I’m pretty sure there are more advanced options that I haven’t played with. I’ll be happy to “play” with this a bit more to make this post more complete for future readers. Just leave a comment with your questions and I’ll do my best to find an answer.

One thing I’d recommend is that you hit “Return” at the top of your blog post to put a little white space between your links area and the start of your blog post. That’s up to you, of course; I just think it looks better and makes it easier to read. You could also repeat the blog post title at the top of the post and make that an H2 header (or create a header with a different name, like “Introduction” — which is what I did with this post) so that it appears at the top and helps ease your reader into your content.

How To Use Better Anchor Links *

To summarize the above, here’s how to use the Better Anchor Links plugin:

  1. Install the plugin from inside WordPress (Plugins –> Add New –> Search for “Better Anchor Links”, then click on the search result to install).
  2. Activate the plugin.
  3. (Optional) You can change the “List Output Title” — that’s the title that appears above the links at the top of the post. That title defaults to “Contents” — for this blog, I changed it to “In This Article”. Don’t forget to save your changes!
  4. As you write your blog posts, break it up into sections. Give each section a unique title, select the title text, then change the style to “Heading 2”.
  5. Publish your post and check out the results!

I think you can actually go to sub-sub-sub titles, i.e. all the way to Heading 6. I haven’t tested this, though.

That’s all there is to it. Maybe the plugin author didn’t create instructions because it seemed so simple? At any rate, now you have instructions. 🙂

Advanced Options *

I started this section after I published the original blog post. I’ve continued to “play” with the plugin and have uncovered a few things that may come in handy.

Sub-Heading Levels *

The first thing I wanted to try was the sub-heading levels, as I discussed earlier in this article. I figured this section would be the perfect place to “play” with it since I’ll be discussing different advanced options.

In this case, “Advanced Options” got a “Heading 2” style, and “Sub-Heading Levels” got a “Heading 3” style. As you can see at the top, it works just fine.

You can specify the number of sub-heading levels you want in the “Heading” section of the plugin settings. This could come in handy if you want to go “deep” in your Heading styles but don’t want them all to appear at the top of your blog post. The default is to go from Heading 2 (H2) to Heading 6 (H6), but it’s easily changed with a few clicks of your mouse.

Again, don’t forget to “Save Changes”.

Show Backlink Next To Heading *

You undoubtedly noticed the little star (“*”) next to each of the headings in this blog post. You can click on that star to return to the heading / table of contents at the top of the blog post.

Come to think of it, “Table of Contents” might be a good List Output Title!

If you hover your mouse button over the star, you’ll notice a little balloon tip that says, “Back To Top”. You can set this by selecting the check / tick box next to “Check if you want activate backlink with text” in the “Show backlink next to heading” section of the plugin settings. If you choose this setting, be sure to change the default text if you don’t like what’s there already.

The Advantages Of Using Better Anchor Links *

Here is why I decided to start using this plugin:

  • I was already using sub-headings and am always looking for ways to improve the user experience.
  • With all of the sub-headings listed at the top of the blog post, visitors can get a better idea, at a glance, if the blog post is something they’d be interested in reading.
  • Readers can skip to a particular section that is of interest to them.
  • Some say there’s an SEO advantage. If there is one, sign me up!

Another unexpected benefit for me is that I’ve been creating the H2 headers in my blog posts for some time now (at least most of them). Those posts will now have the summary at the top without my having to do any additional work thanks to this plugin. Nice!

A Word About Search Engines and SEO *

Do keep in mind that my view of SEO differs from that of others. Like Google, I want to give people what they are looking for. In this case, if you found this post in a search engine, it’s because you were looking for something like “wordpress links to subheaders plugin” or “wordpress plugin jump links”. I’m hoping that Google will find this post and will rank it well so that people looking for help in this area can find it.

I’m not really interested in “tricking” Google or in getting people to my websites who don’t find them to be of value. Google and the other search engines wants to give people what they are looking for (i.e “relevant content”) and if I want Google to rank my sites high, then I need to give Google good, relevant content that will help people. If Google users find what they want, they’ll come back and click on ads and etc, so if I help Google give their users the content they are looking for, then Google will like me.

Or at least their indexing algorithms will, which is fine with me. Although if Larry and Sergey invite me to Google Central for a private tour, I’ll probably accept. 🙂

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment *

I guess the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. But I also think you should keep a couple of security tips in mind as you do so:

  1. Make sure that the tools you experiment with are solid. If you are trying a new plugin or theme, make sure it’s from the WordPress site or that it came from a reputable vendor that provides support.
  2. If you choose a plugin or theme from the WordPress site, visit the site to see when it was last updated. Sadly, there are some plugins and themes there that have not been updated in some time, and they may not work with the most recent version of WordPress — or even worse, they may have unpatched security vulnerabilities that could unnecessarily expose your website to additional risk that could have been easily managed.
  3. Test, test, test! Install one — and only one — new plugin or theme at at time, then test your site. Make sure it works. If it doesn’t, un-do the change and try again. If you make several changes at once, it will be very difficult to figure out which change “broke” your site.

Best wishes as you work to improve your site, and remember, I’d love to see you leave a comment!

P.S. — About the “300 Words” goal I talked about in my last post? I’ve been doing pretty good with it, but not all of it has been published. Yet. I’m going to switch it up so that I publish 300 words a day. Even more ambitious!

And for those who like to count, this blog post is at 1,434 words. That’s almost enough for five days. 🙂