Automatically Link to your Latest Articles from your Blog Site
One of the strategies many InfoBarrel members use to drive traffic to their articles is to link to them from one or more personal blogs. This creates a means of driving blog visitors to your writing, and also provides good backlinks that are valuable for your search engine rankings. As I progress in my InfoBarrel efforts, I'll be adding links from posts in a companion blog to my articles where appropriate; but I also want an automated means of making sure visitors to the blog can always see a list of my most recent articles, even if I haven't yet added permanent links in the blog text.
To do this, I first turned to the RSS widget that's included in the version of WordPress that's running my site (3.2.1 as of this writing). This was a simple process - I simply logged into the administration page on my blog, went to Appearance -> Widgets, and dragged the one labeled "RSS" over the right side fo the page and dropped it into the spot where I wanted it to appear. At this point, I was presented with a list of options:
I found my feed URL by logging into InfoBarrel, clicking my user name on the top menu, and then clicking "My RSS Feed" in the user status box; I copied the URL from the resulting page and pasted it into the feed URL box above. I added a title, clicked save, and visited the main blog page, and viola! A huge list of the exactly two published articles I'd amassed so far! I tinkered with turning on the "Display Item Content" setting - which shows the "Summary" information from your articles - but it took up more space than I wanted to dedicate to it, so I turned it back off.
So now I had a working, automated display of my articles... but I wasn't quite satisfied. I noticed that the title over the RSS widget linked back to the main InfoBarrel page, and immediately thought, "wouldn't it be better if I could substitute my referral link instead?" I tried manually entering HTML into the title field with my link, but WordPress stripped it out.
I searched for alternative RSS plugins and eventually decided to try one called simply "Better RSS Widget". I installed it by selecting Plugins -> Add New, then entering "better rss widget" in the search box. I clicked "Install" on the appropriate widget and clicked "Activate" when the install finished. (Note: I received a warning that the plugins had not been tested on my version of WordPress, but as it had been confirmed to work on an only slightly less recent version, I gave it a try, and it's been fine so far.)
Back on the Widgets page, I dragged off the RSS one I'd set up and dragged on a new Better RSS Widget in its place. My list of options was now more extensive:
Using this new widget I was able enter my feed URL in the "Show Items From" box and my referral URL under "Title URL". The "Cache Duration" feature controls how often your list gets refreshed; by default, if someone visits your site and it's been an hour or more since WordPress fetched the latest updates to your InfoBarrel feed, it will do so now. Shortening the refresh time or disabling the cache means more frequent updates, but potentially a slower loading page as it's forced to go to an external site for information. I left the defaults on but will likely try to tweak them over time.
Now when I refreshed my blog's main page I got exactly what I wanted: My article list, with my referral link above it. What's more, when I moused over the article links, a tooltip opened up to show the Summary field!
I'm more than satisfied with the results - all that's left is to write some content so my new widget won't look so empty!