What if this were just part one of this article and you had to wait a week to get part two?

There’s a line in Shrek 2 where Shrek has to steal clothes from two innocent travelers. As he rides off over the hillside on his noble steed, he calls back, “Thank you, gentlemen! Someday, I will repay you. Unless, of course, I can’t find you or if I forget.”

I think that’s how almost all readers approach series’ of blog posts.

Yes, I’m going to come back next week and read this… unless I can find this blog again, or if I forget. And normally, people do forget.

But I see it all the time.

Some Really Great Post Title (Part 1)

I’ve done it myself, though I’ve repented and changed course in the last few years.

Even worse is finding,

Some Really Great Post Title (Part 2)

and having to dig around for part one.

It’s a blogging technique pushed by plenty of leading bloggers as a means of growing a faithful readership. The idea is to keep them coming back for more. But with the nature of the internet and the typical ways that people consume content, I’m not convinced that it works. Here’s why…

1. It creates a sense that this piece of content is incomplete.

Where’s the rest of it? How will I go on living if I get to the end and my problem has been highlighted, but not solved? Did you just run out of time in your writing and have to cut it short?

2. It puts a burden on the reader that shouldn’t be theirs to bare.

Go find the previous parts? Make sure I read them in order? Wait for next week and remember to come back to get part two? I’ve already clicked this link in hopes of finding answers to my questions.

3. It assumes that more pieces of short content are better than one long piece of content.

Neil Patel has done an excellent job of tackling the myth of short-form content. His research has provided strong evidence that longer form content performs better in search engines, and also conveys a greater sense of value to readers.

It isn’t that you should never blog in series’. It’s that you shouldn’t communicate that a single piece of content is incomplete.

There’s a better way. And that better way is…

Write individual blog posts that repeatedly treat the same theme while allowing each post to stand alone.

In other words, it’s completely okay to spend time exhausting a big subject through multiple posts. Just realize that unlike the chapters of a textbook, your posts are going to be consumed by different people at different times.

And this is where the tag function of WordPress comes in very handy. I assign three to five tags to every post for cross-referencing purposes. But sometimes, I use tags to identify a series of posts that fit together. Then, at the bottom of each of those posts, you can link to all the others and say something like,

I’ve written more about this topic – click here to read my other thoughts on the matter…

and let that be a link to the tag archive.

(In case the tag feature of WordPress is unfamiliar to you, you can determine what the tag archive link looks like under Settings > Permalinks.)

Wordpress Tag Permalink Settings

The default is yourwebsite.com/tag/whatever-tag-youre-using.

Clicking on a tag archive link will bring up a chronologically-arranged (newest-to-oldest) archive of any blog posts that have had that tag added to them.

What’s the difference between categories and tags?

I think of categories, on most blogs, as the major topic headings. They are hierarchical. Meaning, you can have sub-categories underneath categories.

Tags, on the other hand, are much more broad. They are non-hierarchical. On most blogs, every post is assigned to one or two of a handful of categories but is given a larger number of tags. And while your blog might have a dozen or less categories, it will probably, over time, come to have hundreds or thousands of tags.

So here’s my bottom line:

Don’t write incomplete articles in a series, leaving the burden on the reader to connect the dots. Write articles around a common theme, interlink them, but allow each one to be complete when read alone.

And you’ll be happy to know, there isn’t anything else to wait for. You just finished reading a complete blog post.

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