Create index or tables of contents in WordPress and Blog posts
The index of a book allows you to quickly locate the page or pages where the information that may interest us is, but it also provides information about the general content of the book, its structure, and, ultimately, it serves as a reference to acquire it.
Something similar happens with the posts or pages of a website.
When a user comes to a post, usually after doing an organic search on Google, what he wants and needs is to find the point in the text that solves his doubt or question, which led him there.
Without an index, the user is forced to go through the entire web page, which can be several thousand words. This can discourage you and make you stop looking and searching another page.
With a table of contents, we avoid this situation: the user will not only be lost when he arrives at our page or post and will be able to quickly locate the information he was looking for, but he can also find other points of interest in the rest of the content.
In this article, we will see what the tables of contents consist of, what advantages and characteristics it has, and how to implement it in our posts and pages of a Create WordPress easily and quickly, with or without a plugin.
Table of Contents
1.What is a table of contents?
1.1.Structure of a table of contents
2.How to design a table of contents?
3.How to create and add tables of contents in WordPress
3.1.Tables of contents with HTML
3.2.Tables of contents with plugins
4.How to organize a table of contents: good practices
5.Advantages of using tables of contents in WordPress
5.1.1.Improve the user experience
5.2..2.Stand out in search results
5.3.3.Improve the structure of internal links
5.4.4.Improve organic positioning (SEO)
5.5.5.Facilitates the structuring and writing of long posts
What is a table of contents?
Basically, as mentioned in the introduction, a table of contents is equivalent to the index of a book, applied to a web page, which shows the structure of the web page content and a link to each of its sections.
Regarding the book index, in which we have to search and locate the book page from the number in the index, the table of contents allows the user to "jump" directly to the point of interest on the web page, by clicking on the reference listed in the table.
An example of a table of contents can be seen in this example image, in which the following table of contents (or index of contents) is shown and in which its main elements can be identified:
When the user arrives at the web page, the first thing he sees is its description, with a brief introduction of the content of that page, which would be equivalent to the front or back of a book, followed by the table of contents, where he can read and locate your area of interest.
Imagine the difference, from the user's point of view, with a page that did not have a table of contents: the user would have to scroll down with the mouse, locating and identifying each relevant area of content.
If the user scrolls too fast through the page, they may not find what they are looking for, returning to the Google search page and, leaving us with a visit with a low stay time.
Therefore, a table of contents, well designed and organized (we will see how to do it later), improves the user experience when it comes to our website, with the consequent impact on organic positioning.
Structure of a table of contents
Now let's see what elements a table of contents contains or can contain and what each one of them consists of:
1. Table of contents header. Although a table of contents is visually identifiable, it is convenient to add a distinctive and visible heading, with large and prominent letters, with clear text such as "Table of contents", "Table of contents" or similar.
2. Hide / Show the table of contents. Most plugins allow you to add a link next to the header of the table of contents, which shows or hides it.
In these cases, the table should always be displayed by default, when loading the web page, to avoid the user having to click on it.
Still, this feature doesn't really provide any utility: if the user wants to query the table again, they should click that link again.
3.List of the main sections of the content. Similar to a book, the post or page is organized into sections (chapters), each with its heading.
The table of contents contains the text of these headings, as the anchor text of the internal link that leads directly to the beginning of that section.
4.List of the sections of each main section. When the post or page is long enough (more than 2,000 words, like this same article we are reading), some sections may contain several sections.
If the post is well organized, each section will deal with a very specific topic and will have a heading, so including this heading, with its direct internal link, will be very useful for the user to get directly to what they are interested in.
5.Graphic or visual elements. The table of contents can be “adorned” with images or graphic bullets. In general, they are not recommended, they can visually reload the table of contents, they can confuse the user and they do not provide any information.
Traditional bullets, such as bullets or hyphens, are more than enough to organize the information in the table of contents.
How to design a table of contents?
Identifying and highlighted design
Must always be at the beginning
It should always show by default
No more than two levels of nesting
How to create and add tables of contents in WordPress
Now is the time to put everything we have learned into practice and see how to insert a table of contents in our posts and pages in WordPress.
To do this, we will see two methods. One, using HTML within the post, something more laborious for us; another, installing a plugin, which does it for us, although we will depend on the configuration possibilities of that plugin.
Tables of contents with HTML
We can insert the tables of contents ourselves as part of the HTML content of the post or page, using the following HTML tags:
1. <UL>, to generate the non-enumerated list that will contain the entries with the headings of the sections and sections.
2. <LI>, which contains each of the entries in the table of contents.
3. <A href = ”# tag”>, to include the internal link to the point of the post where the section or section corresponding to that entry begins.
4. <id = "# tag">, which we will place in the heading of each section or section, and which will be part of the internal link in the table of contents.
The following video shows an example of how to use these HTML tags with a post in WordPress:
Tables of contents with plugins
Editing the HTML code ourselves to create the table of contents allows us to have full control over its display and arrangement.
However, since it is almost mechanical, it can be tedious and prone to transcription errors.
WordPress has a wide collection of plugins that generate the tables of contents for us, without having to edit HTML or be careful with the correct writing of links and headers, just install and configure them properly.
The following video shows how to install and configure the "Easy Table of Contents" plugin, one of the most used and with multiple customization options for our website:
How to organize a table of contents: good practices
As we have seen, the concept of a table of contents is very simple and, at first glance, very easy to create. However, this apparent ease hides the main purpose of a table of contents: to make it useful.
It is useless to have a table of contents if a user consults it and does not clearly understand its entries (that is, the headings of each section and section) or when following its links, the text does not correspond to what they expected to find.
This and other considerations that we will see below are critical so that inserting a table of contents is not a mere technical formalism (easy to solve, on the other hand), but rather that it provides utility to the user and does not feel frustrated or even more lost when using it.
So, to organize and create a useful table of contents, we must follow these guidelines:
1.Have a good structure of the information contained in the post, organized logically and coherently into sections and these, in turn, into sections.
A table of contents in which the information of two sections or sections overlap would confuse the user, who would not know which of those sections or sections to go to.
2.A table of contents makes sense and useful when the text of the post or page is quite high. Posts that occupy less than 1000 words or less than two screens will have a table of contents with two or three links at most and do not add anything to the user experience, that you can almost see the article at a glance.
It would be like having an index to a two-page brochure.
3.The text of the section and section headings must faithfully represent their content. Although it seems obvious, who has not ever followed a link from a table of contents and has found information that is not according to the heading?
The same care that we put into optimizing the headings for SEO, we must put them so that they represent the content of the corresponding section or section
4.Avoid sections and sections with less than 100-150 words (2-3 paragraphs) and more than 300-400 words (6-7 paragraphs) of plain text.
If they are very short, seeing a screen where the headings stand out more than the actual text confuses the user: too many headings attract their attention.
If they are very long, it can make it difficult for the user to read and understand them, and we should consider subdividing that section or section.
5.If the table of contents is very short (three or fewer entries) or very long (more than 20-25 entries), consider reviewing the structure of the text content.
If the article is very short, a table of contents is useless (as we have seen in a previous point), but if it is long, we should check that we are not mixing concepts within the same section or section.
Similarly, if the table of contents is very large, we must ask ourselves if we could combine similar sections or regroup the sections in another way.
6.Aim to have fewer than 7-8 main sections and fewer than 7-8 headings per section. On the one hand, because with so many sections and sections there is a greater possibility that your information will overlap and, on the other hand, for a simple matter of usability: too many sections or sections can confuse or intimidate the user.
Advantages of using tables of contents in WordPress
We already know what a table of contents is and how to organize it, but apart from the fact that it is useful to the user (which in itself is reason enough), does use tables of contents provide any additional advantage?
In fact, there are several advantages that we will obtain when inserting tables of contents in our posts and pages:
1. Improves user experience
The main advantage that we have already seen before: when the user reaches a post or page, they have direct access to the information they are looking for, which has two effects: it increases their time spent on the page and they get a good image of our site web, having your question easily and quickly.
2.Stand out in search results
If we search in Google for "Paypal Express WordPress plugin installation", we will obtain the following result, where the direct access to internal links of that web page is highlighted:
If we take a look at this article, we will see that the information shown on the results page appears in its table of contents; that is, the user, from Google, can directly access the point of the post that satisfies his query.
In addition, by appearing entries in the table of contents in this search, we make our link stand out from other links that do not have that information, making it more likely that the user will click on it.
3.Improve the structure of internal links
Technically, the tables of contents are internal links to various parts of the same web page, in which we have total control over their anchor texts and, by extension, to associate them with the search keywords on which we are interested in positioning.
This structure, in addition, also facilitates the work of indexing Google's crawlers, which will be able to identify and associate a link to each portion of the textual content of the post or page.
4.Improve organic positioning (SEO)
The previous advantages that we have mentioned are criteria that the Google algorithm evaluates to position a web page. Therefore, if we use the tables of contents properly, our website will also achieve better search results for its keywords.
5.Facilitates the structuring and writing of long posts
Having a table of contents makes it necessary to correctly and efficiently structure the content of the posts in sections and sections, if we want to do it well and that this table is useful for the user.
Therefore, having the table of contents in mind (and even making a preliminary sketch) will serve as a reference while we are writing the content, in order to follow the good practices that we have seen previously.
The tables of contents allow adding a quick reference that directs to the relevant parts of a post or page, so that the user, without having to scroll through the page, can get an idea of the information it contains and jump directly to the point where interests you through an internal link.
To this convenience for the user, it is added that Google's trackers are capable of identifying and interpreting the information in a table of contents; that is, the text of the posts and their internal links.
Thanks to this tracking, Google can display part of that table of contents during a user's search results, our organic positioning improves it and greatly increases the possibility that that user will click on the link and visit our website.
The main objective of a table of contents is that it be useful and practical for the user, for which we must follow various good practices, such as the size of the table of contents, the text of each of its entries, or the organization of the sections and sections, among others.
Finally, we can add the tables of contents manually, by editing the HTML tags ourselves within the text of the post, or by using a plugin, which automatically inserts the table of contents, with configuration options to customize it to our website.