One critical step to helping readers read your content is making it easy to find.
Frankly, one of the greatest problems with blogs is that after a post is about five days old, it becomes buried under all the new posts, and becomes difficult to find.
Sure, if your site is getting indexed by search engines, you will get hits on those old posts, but traffic on posts often drops quickly within a few days of being posted.
There are numerous things you can do to keep posts before the eyes of your readers. We will talk about all of these in the weeks and months ahead (so make sure you subscribe!). One of the simplest, easiest, and most critical, is having a good navigation menu.
In a quick glance, the Navigation menu should tell visitors what your blog is about, and also how to access the information they are looking for. It should be simple, clean, organized, and prominent.
This post shows how to do the initial setup for the navigation menu of your WordPress blog.
WordPress has two ways to create menus.
Theme Navigation Menu
The first way to create a navigation menu is through your WordPress theme.
Most themes (but not all) come with an option for creating navigation menus. These usually have the options for creating menus at the top and bottom of your blog, as well as in a sidebar. You are usually allowed to select which categories and page you want to show. Not all themes are the same, but here is what the setup looks like in Standard Theme.
While this is good if you just want links to your categories of pages, what if you want a menu item to a specific post, or to another website you own? For this reason, I prefer to use the second method of creating a Navigation menu.
WordPress Navigation Menu
WordPress comes with a powerful menu option right in the Dashboard. It is found under “Appearance > Menus.”
The first thing to do is create a menu.
I prefer to just give it a description of where the menu is going to go. In my case, it will be the top menu, right below my blog header. So I am going to call it “Top Menu.”
Once the menu is created, you must select the options about where this menu should go, and what it should include.
You can see from my notations in the image that you must select where in your Theme you want the menu to go. Themes come with preset menu locations, and you are limited to these locations for your menus. I am going to put mine in Location 1, which is at the top of the blog.
You can then create custom links to any URL in the entire internet, and also add links to specific posts or pages.
Right now, I am only going to include a link to my home page, since that is the only real page I have set up. But later, I will add an “About” page, as well as a site “Archives” and some other items to my menu.
Here is a screenshot from before I added the menu.
Below is a picture from after I created the menu. Not much is there yet, but at least the menu is appearing.
One of the things I love about the WordPress Menu feature is that it can easily create nested menus. Let’s say that rather than create a menu item for each category, I want to create menu item called “Categories” and under it, list all the categories.
First, I would create the “Categories” menu item.
WordPress requires a URL to be entered when you create the menu item, and so I just create a url back to my homepage from the main “Categories” menu item.
Now that the category menu item is created, I am going to add all the categories to my menu.
After I select them all, they appear on the menu.
If I were to leave them like this, they would not be nested. They would all appear on the menu:
I just don’t like the look of that. It is too busy and confusing. Simple is best! But thankfully, WordPress allows you to nest your menu items, creating a drop-down menu which looks pretty and helps reveal your blog layout.
Back in your menu setup screen, you can drag and drop the individual menu items. So I am going to drag all the individual categories and drop them underneath the main “Categories” menu item.
You can even nest menu items under nested menu items, but I discourage this. It starts to get messy and confusing again.
If you noticed, I even rearranged the nested menu so that it is ordered alphabetically. Nice, huh? You might say, “It’s not really alphabetical since some of your categories begin with ‘blog’ and others with ‘blogging.’” Well that’s true, and there are reasons I did this (it wasn’t just oversight on my part), but I am arranging the categories alphabetically by the second word.
Anyway, here is how my menu now looks:
Much cleaner right? And when you hover your mouse over the menu item, the drop down menu items appear below. Try it on the menu above!
Oh, and one final thing about menus. You can also create a little “Popup message” for each menu item by typing it in the Title Attribute box.
When a person hovers their mouse over the menu item, a little tip or message appears.
As you can see the WordPress Menu feature is robust and quite helpful for creating perfectly functioning navigation menus. There are other, more advanced methods of creating navigation menus, but this will get us started for now.
Do you have any questions about WordPress Navigation Menus?