Help Me Solve A Book Blogging Dilemma
In the spirit of following the advice I gave recently about ways to spruce up your book blog, I’ve been doing a spring clean of my own blog over the past few weeks.
Some of this was very quick and easy to complete. It took me only a few minutes for example, to update the “About Booker Talk” page and simplify the navigation in the main menu. Some other tasks such as adding alt text to images used on my older posts and simplifying all the categories and tags, are going to need more time and effort so are not likely to be completed for a few months.
In the meantime I’ve been looking at updating pages where I keep track of reading projects like the Classics Club and Emile Zola or feature authors from Wales.
My dilemma is over my Book Review Directory page where I list all the books I’ve read/reviewed since starting the blog nine years ago.
This page has been through a few iterations as I’ve tried to find ways to make it more easily manageable. At one time, each book had a hyperlink to the relevant review. But when I changed the URLs of multiple reviews late last year, the links got broken and I ended up with so many broken links, I removed all of them, intending at some point to reinstate them.
It’s time to fix the issue. But I’m starting to question why this page exists and whether it’s worth keeping on the blog. Does it serve a useful purpose in other words.
When I created the page my thinking was that it would be of value to visitors to the blog. It would give them a sense of my reading interests and also what kind of content they’d find on the site.
But my stats indicate this hasn’t proved to the case. The Book Review Directory doesn’t get many views: just a few hundred visitors over the last 12 months. Even those few visitors don’t linger on the page very long.
It’s clearly getting some traffic so I’m reluctant to ditch it completely. but it clearly needs improvements to make it more valuable an asset.
I don’t think the name of the page is the issue: it clearly signals what the content will be. So is it the lack of hyperlinks? I have a strong suspicion this is a big factor; after all if I visit a blog or a website I get irritated by dead ends myself. But I also wonder if part of the problem is the way the list is organised: perhaps it’s too onerous to have to scroll through a long alphabetical list of authors?
I can fix both those problems.
Adding back the hyperlinks will be a boring task but doable. I’ll just have to remember in future that any time I change the URL of a review, I have to update the link on this page. now wondering if there is any point to this page, with our without links.
What I’m less sure about is how best to organise the content to be more user-friendly. Looking at other book blog sites I see different approaches being used.
Lisa at ANZLitLovers has her Index Page organised alphabetically by book title with fiction separated from non fiction. Jackie at NeverImitate has a similar alphabetical approach in her Book Review Index. Simon at Stuck In A Book organises his list as I do, alphabetically by author surname while Susan at A Life In Books scores the highest points for a user-friendly approach with a table that visitors can sort and search. Raven Crime Reads takes a completely different tack with a separate page for each year within which the books are listed by month.
I’m not sure why way to go. So I need your help.
If you are a book blogger: do you have a review directory type of page on your own site? How did you decide on the best way to organise the content?
If you read book blogs: When you visit a book blog do you look for a page or pages where the blogger lists all books reviewed on the site? Do you find this kind of content of interest or helpful? What do you find the most useful and helpful way for this content to be displayed – by author name for example or by book title in one big list? Or separated by year?
I’m looking forward to getting your help with my dilemma.
76 thoughts on “Help Me Solve A Book Blogging Dilemma”
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I’ll read the comments later, but my page is called Index: Authors, and it’s in the top 25 of all time hits for me. It’s alphabetical by author, with with a clickable index at top so you can go straight to the letter of the alphabet you are interested in. Not sure if that helps, but I like my list and use it myself sometimes!!
I need to investigate how to get the bookmark function working so people don’t have to scroll a long way down the page…..
I think hyperlinks are a must, and keeping them up to date is fiddly and annoying but critical. I think I over-do it a bit, but I actually offer three different indices: if you click through to my Book Reviews page, there’s a page that lists all the books I’ve reviewed by author surname, another that lists all the books by title, and a third that lists all the books by category/genre. That way, I figure anyone can find anything they want in any way they’d prefer to find it.
I don’t honestly think I have the energy to do as much as you do. Just the one index would be enough to maintain! Do you find that you get more visits to the author one or the title version?
It seems to be much of a muchness, about 50/50 between them – the category one is most popular of all!
How interesting, I would never have guessed that
First off, I almost never look at other people’s so from that aspect I’m not sure if the effort is worth it. But on my own blog I split by genre, then list alphabetically by author name and by book title separately and include links. They do get visited but not often, although occasionally a visitor will spend a couple of hours trawling through past reviews in a particular genre. However I find them extremely useful for myself to look back and find a review easily, and as a record of my reading.
Gosh you have put a lot of work into this because it isn’t only the split by genre, but you also have your version of a star rating for each one…..
Yes, I have an A-Z directory with a link to every book I’ve reviewed, sorted by author surname and with the function to jump straight to each letter of the alphabet without having to scroll through the whole list. I also have a separate index showing everything I’ve read each year since I started blogging. I’m in the habit of updating both lists as soon as I post a review, so I don’t forget and it doesn’t take much time. If I had to start from scratch it would be a massive job and I probably wouldn’t bother!
I really just like to keep the directories updated for my own personal use, for example if I want to remind myself of everything I’ve read by a particular author or when I’m compiling my end of year favourites lists. When I’m visiting other blogs I’m more likely to just use the search box (if one is available).
I can see the value of having the info easily to hand when you want to do end of year round ups . I think I would just use my Goodreads shelf for that.
I don’t have that kind of page. All the posts about a writer can be found with the “search” bar on the home page. I don’t bother doing another index.
As a reader, I never use these pages either.
I have a page where I upload a pdf of the books I read each year. It’s easy to maintain and these lists get downloaded sometimes.
You read so much more than I do Emma, that it would be a huge task to keep an index page up to date. I have the search bar too on the home page. I’m wondering if I can add it to other pages
I don’t that I read more than you. 13 books since January, it’s not that much compared to other book bloggers.
I don’t think I read more than you. A book a week isn’t much compared to other bloggers. Have you seen the “read in February” book piles on Twitter?
I try not to look at them because it just makes me wonder why I can’t seem to read more….. I thought you were reading much more than I seem able to do. So reassuring to know I am not alone Emma
I should add that I do read these pages on blogs – particularly for a new blogger I am checking out because I can quickly see if they read things I’m interested in, and then I can quickly go to a few posts to read and comment on them, and thus introduce myself to the blogger, showing I am interested in them. I would not like it sorted by categories/genres etc because then you have to guess which one. I am mostly interested in authors.
I’d find it too confusing personally to have to put things in categories. Separating fiction from non fiction would be easy of course but there are other genres that seem rather slippery.
If I’m searching a blog page, it’s usually under authors name or book title. If I can’t find it under the first way, then I search the other way. If I go by month, it’s just to see what they’ve read recently, to see if we have common interests. As a blogger, I put books into categories that work for me ( historical-fiction, middle-school, cultural, adventure, etc) incase I’m looking for a specific group of books or recommending a book and don’t remember the title but know the stories features.
Thanks for sharing that insight Sandy on how you use an index function. I think i would find the genre categories too hard for me to do – I struggle sometimes to know what category to put books into
Given the power of metadsta, I’ve never seen the need to put the work into creating an index like this. A search function is all that is needed provided the post title contains both title and author. I use the author as a category and provide a category widget. Scrolling theough this gives a good indicator of rhe content on my blog.
Thanks Lizzy, I have the search function set up and visible in two locations on the home page. I just had a look at your home page – I can see you have a tag cloud as well as a category drop down. I used to use a tag and a category cloud but it got very cluttered.
When you say you use author name as a category, is that the only category you use? I tend to have just one – Book Reviews for example and then to put the detail in the tags
The category dropdown is mostly organised by author, but includes other subjects close to my heart, such as literary festivals and German literature. I minimise entries in the tag cloud by limiting tags to reading projects. As such it gives a good indication of my reading interests. Additional widgets such as “Read 2021” are the equivalent of notebook entries, and are removed once the list has been moved to the Books Read Index. Again that is the equivalent of a personal notebook – I make no effort to alphabetise, sort or evaluate. I’m all for minimalism when it comes to blog maintenance!
Thanks for that additional explanation Lizzy. I need to get to grips with tags and be more consistent in how I use them
I don’t have such a page but when I look at other blogs I really welcome one of two things:
1. An easily accessible search function for, in particular, authors. Not all WordPress-hosted blogs have this (or they’re tucked away out of sight) and bloggers using other platforms seem mostly to ignore them.
2. Alternatively, sidebar links to particular categories draw me: children’s literature, say, or other such genres or nonfiction topics. Just a long alphabetical listing of authors or book titles on one page I would find exhausting to trawl through…
Hope that helps!
It certainly does help Chris.
– I do have the search bar on the home page in the right sidebar and also in the menu bar. I’ve not come across a way of setting it up just do a search for author name though.
– When i eventually clean up all my categories i’ll look at re-instating the cloud I used to have on the site bar. It got far too cluttered looking because I think I was using more than one category for each post.
As long as a blog has a search feature, I don’t find a review index all that interesting or useful. But, if this is something you want to keep, and you have the ability to install plugins, you could always choose a link directory plugin to help you manage it all. And yes, if you ware going to have a directory/index of books you have read and reviewed, they all need to be linked to the post imo. Good luck!
Thanks Stephanie. I rarely look at the review directory page on any other blog I follow which is partly why I’m questioning whether there is any value in having one on my own
Re question A: I have a directory like yours, and having been a librarian all my life, I of course list the reviews according the the writer’s surname, and I link to the reviews. I don’t know how much it is used, though. But I have a top 10 of most visited reviews/articles, and frequently very old stuff appear, so they must have found it there. I have an index of book reviews, articles, book lists and upcoming books by month.
I also list the books, I read, by year and link to the ones reviewed.
Re question B: being a librarian I should use the directories, but I don’t always. I subscribe to favourite blogs (like yours) and I keep a blog roll on my front page to keep up with favourite blogs – like yours.
I also do the basic thing, find reviews on Google ☺️
I think the hits you get for old content is likely to be coming from someone doing a Google search (you can check your dashboard stats to see if that’s the case).
You have a lot of lists to maintain 🙂
Before I launched my blog, I checked out other book blogs and would occasionally look at the index. But since then, I’ve never checked it out, so for me it isn’t important. However, if I were to look at it, I would prefer sorted by author, rather than title and if there are a huge number of book reviews, to have an alphabetical index (to be able to see all authors with a specific letter) which makes it quicker to find specific author.
A list by author makes most sense to me too – I currently have them all on one page but with a sub heading of the letter of the alphabet to break them up. it would be easier for the reader I think if there were separate pages – so authors A-C on pne page, D to F on another for example
I have what is known as a “heat map”. It’s on the right hand side of my blog. I invest time in my tags, and the heat map shows what *type* of book has been read. I think its rare that people know the exact name of a book, and can therefore go through a list looking for it. I think they are as likely to go looking for a “Romance” or “Crime” book, if they are looking for a recommendation.
I spend time each year tweeting out links to posts, specifically working on older or lower performing posts. Several times a year I will tweet about a low performing page, no matter the tag. I dont necessarily get a huge increase in traffic straight through twitter, but i’ve noticed that the page gets better organic traffic in the overall SEO.
I used to have a category cloud (the heat map you mention) but stripped down that section of the home page when I thought it was getting too cluttered. I don’t think a tag cloud would work for me because I don’t use only the genre as a tag – I also use author names and publisher names…
Thanks for the mention, Karen. In case anyone’s interested, I use a handy little plugin called Tablepress.
I’ve used this for a table on my Reading the World page – very useful
Good to hear!
Okay so… yes, I have an A-Z index of my reviews on my blog, and yes, they’re alphabetical by title of the book. I also wanted to do an author index, but that’s fallen by the wayside (laziness). As for the hyperlinks, yes, I would put them back in, if I were you. Yes, it is sometimes hard to keep up, but I think it is worth it. But… why do the URLs change? Mine don’t change, that I know of.
I don’t know why so many of them got broken – I know I have re-published some of the earlier reviews and that changed the url but it doesn’t explain why others got broken.
if I decide to keep the page I will definitely put the links back in
Thanks for the mention! This too is a real dilemma and I have wondered whether to change my system to some kind of alphabetical arrangement. Not everyone uses the search facility in my blog so I may have to begin the tedious process of changing it! Who knows? 😉
I think I’d find your system requiring a lot more time than I have. You say people don’t use the search facility – I’m curious how you know that? I have no idea whether the search tool on my site is used but if there is a way to discover, I’d love to know
Well, I can’t be much help because I have no index as such, just preset links to month and year, plus links to specific pages. It’s something I feel i should do but the work would be phenomenal….
it would be a very big undertaking given the amount of content you have Karen. So my question would be – why do you say you feel you should do it?
BTW, as a visitor to blogs I see a number of them have an archive list by month, but i’ve never found that to be particularly useful
It would, and I only feel I should do it so readers could browse my posts by author or titled. But I think I haven’t got enough hours in the day to do it…
As for the monthly thing, I think it was there by default when I set up the blog. Not really much point to it, and if I’d had any idea what I was doing or planned ahead, I would have tagged and indexed from the start…
Oh dear, I’m a real librarian I think and love to search and use search strategies to find what I want. So, I use Archive lists – for various reasons, one being to find when a blog started, and read the first post or so. Without that list it can be really hard to find the first post.
I hadn’t thought about the idea of using the archives to discover when the blog started although that would work only if there was a date (or year at least ) for each item in the list .
I have a directory page, and mine is listed with links to the original and by month, but this page exists for my own purposes, not necessarily as something for readers of my blog. I use it a lot, as I look back at what I read recently or over the year or even further. It’s where I extract my data for the end of year summary, it’s where I look when creating any sort of list of favourites, a quick scan shows me how many translations I’ve read recently, or whether I’m reading more from one country etc. I’ve recently begun to add in the book title the author country and genre, mainly for my own purposes. I wouldn’t change the way I set it up because it’s not about the needs of readers.
Ultimately it’s about reflecting on the purpose of the list and it’s not personally useful to me to have any kind of alphabetical list, I think the search box is more useful if searching for an author or title, it’s what I use. I read a lot of blogs but I don’t think I’ve ever used their directory only the search function.
I do look occasionally at what someone has read during a year, but to be honest I’d prefer to use Goodreads visual summary for that, not a list.
Because if the value my directory holds for me personally, I derive immense satisfaction in keeping it updated, it’s a kind of reading journal in a sense.
You’ve made a good case of the value this approach has for you Claire so thanks for sharing that with us all. I suppose one of the considerations as we think about the question I asked, is whether you already have a mechanism to keep track of your reading. I have mine in Goodreads and on a spreadsheet. Would it be easier if I had this info on the blog is something I need to think about
I tend to look for the title of a book in a list – knowing what year it was released. Not sure if this helps your dilemma though.
Thanks Judith – most people seem to look by author so its interesting you have a different way of searching
I’ve never looked at my all time stats page before – I usually just check the daily ones. I have two Index pages – an Author Index and a Title Index. The Author Index is 8th on the All Time summary and the Title Index is lower down at number 20. Over the last year they are higher up the list but only have 429 and 201 views.
I’m not bothered about how much my indexes are used as I compiled them for myself primarily, but it is nice to see that they are used. My Indexes are organised with a hyperlink at the top to each letter of the alphabet so that means you don’t have to scroll down the whole list to find what you want, which is tedious.
I think they must have hyperlinks. My indexes are not complete as I’m often in too much of a hurry to update them each time I review a book. And when I moved my blog from Blogger to Word Press I have found lots (sigh) of broken links!
When I want to see if a blogger has written about a particular book/author I use the Search Box if they don’t have an Index.
An author and a title page must take a lot of effort to keep updated Margaret. I would be likely to end up with the two lists not being in synch.
I like your idea of having the bookmark function to be able to jump quickly to the next letter in the alphabet – it does avoid an awful lot of scrolling….
I was a librarian and worked for a while as a cataloguer and enjoyed compiling indexes (odd, I know) so once I’d done the basics of the indexes (as I didn’t start them when I first began my blog) it’s just a matter of adding entries for the books as I read them.
Once you have the structure in place then yes I can see how – with some discipline – the task of keeping it updated becomes much easier
I would think the page would depend on how many books you read. I don’t have such a page, but I do have a ‘search’ option on my sidebar if someone wanted to look up a book.
One suggestion might be that of you also review on say Goodreads where you use their genre categories, quick links to either your GR profile or your GR genres from an index page might be a way to go.
I have rarely considered searching for a specific book on any bloggers site, but if I did I would first use their search option. Most times I am already directed to the specific post from either an email notification or a link from another social media post.
It would be a full time job for you to keep an index page current given how many reviews you post every week Rosie!
I think an index page would be of most use if you are visiting a blog for the first time – if you then decide to follow it, you’ll get the notifications coming as you say. In situations where I remember that a blogger reviewed a particular book and I want to refresh my memory on what they had to say, i do exactly as you indicate – just use their search tool. By far the quickest way
I have one, with 850 reviews listed so far: https://wordsandpeace.com/authors-list/ I don’t care how many people see it or not it’s very valuable to me, when I’m looking for something. Actually you made me curious and I went to look: after 10 years, that page is #10 of my most viewed pages. It has 4 times less views than my Contact/About page. I’m glad I started doing this years ago, otherwise, that would be a massive work to list everything with links. And I don’t see the point if there’s no hyperlink. By alphabetical order of author seemed the most logical to me, and then by chronological date of their works, when I have reviewed more than one book for an author.
I also did an inner hyperlink, as my list is long, so when you click on a letter, you get there more quickly
I’m wondering if the bloggers who say their list is valuable to them, are people who don’t use Goodreads to track their reading since the latter would serve the same purpose wouldn’t it?
Now you’ve got me thinking Karen. I checked the stats on my old blog (the stats on my new blog are rather depressing in comparison *sigh*)
I alphabetise by title and put an (A) in front of the Australian books. I also had a separate adult, YA, teen, junior readers, early readers, and picture book page.
Over the last year, the adult & YA pages came in 5th and 6th most viewed pages.
In the past month it was picture books in third place, with teen 7th and junior readers 10th.
The all-time stats reveal that picture book A-z came in first, early readers 4th, YA 5th, adult 7th, junior readers 8th and teen 9th. Considering I have a lot of pages, the fact that all the a-z options are in the all-time top 10, says that they are pages that people seek out. Perhaps I should have stuck to my original blog idea about children’s books as a teaching/parenting resource!
Even on my new blog, more people are checking out the old A-Z adult page than my new A-Z (but it only has about 10 books on it so far…)
I used to use the adult a-z page on my old blog all the time to find old reviews. But on other people’s blog I tend to use the search box. I usually search by title rather than author. But if I need to do an author search, I use the search box.
I’m intrigued by Lisa’s method and will not to look at it more closely to see how I can use it.
Hope this helps…and thanks for the provocation!
I think you are bucking the trend here with those page views – most of the people commenting here say their index page/pages don’t get much traffic at all. Perhaps having separate pages means the content can be viewed more as a resource for people who are looking for recommendations or suggestions in particular genres…..
Interesting question! My first thought is that any amount of views a page gets is significant because you’ve met the expectations or needs of that reader. BTW..I have no idea how to check how many views my index page receives…where did you find that info?
Next, I have an index page I guess because I thought I was supposed to! Lol 😂 Mine is organized alphabetically by title. I don’t think having it separated by year helps anyone except the blog owner.
When blog hopping I get curious if a certain book has been reviewed….Sometimes i access the index page if I can’t find a search bar. A blog should always have one or the other. Once, I was going to link to a review I read on a bloggers site and couldn’t find either. So discouraging because I had no way of finding the old post.
I probably use the index myself more than my followers! For example, I have stopped using titles for posts that don’t include the book title because I’ve had to go to my index to open the link to see what the title of the post is so that I could link it to my current content!
As far as updating old posts…ugh….I started this process in January of 2020 and I’m still plugging away at it! I keep a spreadsheet so that I can track my progress. I update one post per week and republish the updated post (book review) for a throw back Thursday feature. It’s a routine that really works for me because I get extra content out of the process. I’ve been amazed at the broken links I’ve found! Adding alt text is supposed to be good for SEO…in fact my DA has increased by 10 points in the year that I’ve been updating!
Overall, I think an index page is a nice feature…I usually update it at the end of the month. I love to see how others design theirs so thanks for sharing!
I always love “shop talk”!
P.s…. I would expect a list of books in an index to have hyper links. If it didn’t and you wanted to read the review, you would need to use the search bar which is an extra step for the user.
Yes the links are important, without them the page is meaningless
My index page also got created because I visited lots of other blogs in the early years, saw what features they had, and thought that was the way to do it!!!
I’ll dig out the info on how to find those page views – I know it took me down a few rabbit holes before I got there.
Agree with you about the frustrations of missing functionality on certain blogs having tried with several of them to find certain content that I know is there but can’t find again.
LOL I think that no matter what we do, it’s going to be a long list because … we read a lot.
I think an index is useful for anyone searching for a particular title, and there are some (e.g. single letter titles like N, G and O which no search box will ever find for you if you can’t remember the author’s name)
I dithered over whether to go by title or author, but in the end I went with title because I remember that even when I can’t remember an author’s name.
No offence intended to Raven Crime Reads, but I would find having to look through X number of years to find a title exasperating. It’s like those blogs that list what they read year by year in the menu. Perhaps it serves some purpose for them, but it’s not much use to anyone else, and besides, the WordPress Archives widget provides that info anyway. Why duplicate it?
Now, a little tip. See how on mine I’ve got a bit at the top that says when it was last updated? “Last updated 31/12/20 (catching up on a long neglected task) up to 31/10/20”. That tells me where to start with the Archives. You don’t have an archives widget on your blog but you can put it there when you’re working on this and remove it when you’re not. When you select the month/year that you’re working on, up comes a page with all the blog posts you did for that month, nicely linked to where it is. Copy and paste that link — you will need to swipe from the right to make it work — and voila! A one-step solution to a tedious task…
The only thing that might sabotage this tip is if you have named your posts with something other than the book title and the author’s name… but there is a workaround for that. Suppose you have named a post about Pride and Prejudice as ‘A New Take on an Old Favourite’ and that’s what your link copied from the archives page calls it which means nobody can tell which book it’s about. Put your cursor inside the outermost letters of the link (i.e. A and e) and type in ‘Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.’ Then delete all the inner letters, and very carefully so as not to break the link, the outermost letters last of all.
No offence taken x ☺
Ooh, lots of great tips here Lisa. I don’t see the need to have the list by year and month either since i can also access that on Goodreads or in a spreadsheet I keep. There is also a third option – If I click on “all posts” within the WordPress admin function I can filter by year and by month.
I haven’t put archives widget on the side bar because I couldn’t see what value it would have (I don’t post as often as you do) but I like the idea of using it as a way for me to keep track of what I would need to update on the index page if I decide to keep it.
Thanks for including my example! To be honest, I keep my review list mostly for myself – and I use author tags to make my dropdown browse menu. I dont think either are much used by visitors to my blog, but they help me 😀
to help me keep track of what I’m reading i use my spreadsheet of owned but unread books and then just update that with the month and year I read the book. I also have a shelf of Goodreads that tells me year by year what I read. So I don’t need the index for that purpose.
I wish I could help but I feel like I have the same problem! I often forget to move posts into their prospective categories. I don’t know how many people look far back enough to bother with all that. I know that I have followers that look at my menu but how far are they looking back. Is there a shelf life on a post?
My favourite is Sue/Whispering Gums’, which is authors alphabetically, with their books on sub menus. But yes, must have hyperlinks.
I have that for authors too, in a widget in the RH menu. But I don’t put their books in sub menus. The titles are on the Index page, as explained above.
Is there a shelf life on a post? What a great question! I think it has a natural life when it is first posted because you’ll get the most hits within the first few days it goes live. But if its a book that is on a school reading list somewhere in the world you’ll find you get hits to it many years later (all those kids wanting help with writing their assignments). To get a longer life for your posts you need to make sure you are applying good search engine optimisation techniques.
I wonder about the shelf life
Well for some of my posts I am still getting traffic after 8 years. Others had visits the first few months and nothing since
8 years! Wow! That is amazing!!