Re-Designing Blog Structure with Airtable

SEO experts tell us that good structure is the key to better SEO scores.  Many bloggers have difficulty with creating the CONTENT that’s creative and evolving with our audiences–and maintaining a consistent structure. Categories and tags may not be enough.  Here I show how I used AirTable to redevelop my blog with better structure, using new categories and establishing sub-categories. Suddenly, we can see our blogs in new ways!

This is a response to the Daily Post prompt Word of the Day: Suddenly

Good Blogs Change, New Blogs Change

Even if we got a great blog, a great audience, and a great niche, we have to make room for change.  Whatever the reason for the change, the first signs are that the number of categories gets out of control. I for one have resisted using subcategories. As a result, I have no less than fifteen categories running amok. I am forced to go re-read my own piece on developing a coherent category structure.  Oh my. Many of these categories are closely related.  Some have only been used a small number of times.

The Solution for this is the creation of sub-categories.  More than six categories–at most, is, oh, I think the technical term for this is crazypants. Three to five is about optimal from the search engine (and audience) perspective. But we’re human and therefore we make mistakes.  Getting a handle on a wandering topic space can be bewildering, frustrating and discouraging–without good tools.

Using AirTable to Triage the Information Space of A Blog

What I like about Airtable is that I can try out different views of data, work with the data, and try out different ways to categorize–without having to fool around with WordPress until I have a plan.  82 posts is, after all, a good many posts to work with.  It’s more than I can get my arms around using a just a spreadsheet.

Create Categories: Not Too Many!

After reflecting on all these 82 posts, I decided on four major categories. I created a new table in my database for my categories–and another table for my subcategories.

Double click on the title of Table 1 and it turns blue–now you can change the title of the table to post.

Click on the little plus sign to the right of the table.  You can create an empty table or import another spreadsheet.   I created two tables: one for Categories, another for Subcategories.

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Now that I’ve got a table for Categories, I add some trial categories, to see how they would work out.   I put in these categories:

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Categorizing Posts — Linking Categories to Posts

Now, I return to the Posts table. Down at the end, there is a plus sign.  When I click on that plus sign, I get to add another, new field.

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What I want to do is add a Category field, using the data from the Categories table.  I customize the field type and choose “Link to another record.”

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Now  have to choose the table I want to link to: Categories.

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After choosing Categories, we have the option to just put in ONE Record or many.  I am trying to clean up my blog, so I’m going to not allow this.  I’ll switch the green (on) to grey (off) by moving the slider.

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Allows for multiple records (or categories) to be chosen.
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After moving the slider, now I can only choose one record or category.

After hitting Save, I’m ready to start assigning categories.

Assigning Categories to Posts

Click on an empty field on the first post to be categorized.  You’ll see a grey plus button on the left.  Click that button.

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Now we see all the choices.  If we truly want to add a new choice, we can select “add a record” at the bottom.

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When I add a new record, I get a pop-out box that looks like this:

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I can put in the new category.  Click the X on the top right and we’re done.

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Now the category appears in the field.

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If we don’t like it, we can hit the little x in the blue category box which will delete it from the field — but not from the categories list.

The logic of the categories I’ve chosen were the result of lots of mulling.  “Blogging as a Business” can cover lots of ground in terms of my interests: SEO and SERP, Affiliate Marketing, Pinterest marketing, and all the choices that people need to make where money is involved. “Blog Design” can cover CSS, HTML, WordPress themes–all good candidates for SUB-Categories–and also creating images.  “This Blogging Life” covers the opinion / editorial pieces that I do.  I love studying the ins and outs of social media–Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat–I want a place to discuss those things, too, so I added that as a category.

And now, the magic.

I can assign one of these four categories to each post.  When I’m done, I can “group” the posts by categories. At the top of the screen, choose “Group”

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Now, I have to choose  a field to group by:

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We’re going to choose Categories.  I don’t choose a second field to group by at this point.  Here’s what I get–all of my blog posts grouped by their primary category.  Here I have 19 posts.   I get a count of the views, likes and comments at the top of each grouping!

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Creating Sub-Categories

Now that I have all my posts “binned” into four big groups, I can consider what sub-categories I want to create.  Subcategories must relate directly to their parent categories, so once again, I can create a new field (Subcategories) by clicking the plus at the end of the field names.  Then, link it to the Sub-categories table.

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I make sure that only ONE record can be added to each field.

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Now,  I can add sub-categories for each category, making sure that they are coherent and don’t duplicate.  I don’t want Pinterest Marketing to be a subcategory of Understanding Social Media, for example.  It belongs in Blogging As a Business.   I create a Sub-Category for Opinion and another Sub-Category: Female Founders Over Forty–which are very popular topics for me.

I can create topics in the Sub-Category table to start, or add new records.   I can look at the sub-categories and make decisions. Should I have a sub-category called Pop Culture?  I have a catch-all sub-category called Opinion—but it is too bland?   Are too many posts binned there?

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Grouping at a Second Level

We can create the second level of grouping by choosing the Group Button again.

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This will group our post first by the Categories and the by the Subcategories.  This creates what Airtable calls a “View.”

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And here is the final structure.  You can get a larger view of the structure by clicking on the link in the box below that has the two arrows and says “view larger version.”

 

Here I’ve created an embedded LINK in my blog to this view of my Airtable database, so you can see the final result.

Keeping Things Straight: Linking Subcategories to Categories

After I finished this, I went back and made links in both of the TABLES for the Categories and Subcategories.  Now I have a handy reference for what Subcategories belong to what categories (and vice versa).   I can also create a table for tags — which I’ll use in the next post on blog redesign for improving structure.

Next Step: Wrangling With WordPress to Apply the new Structure

From here on, I have to first completely re-sort my posts and apply new categories and sub-categories.  This is going to take some time and patience — and I will be referring back to my own notes on how to remove categories and generally fix a broken structure.  Again.  Hah.  Hopefully, now with a new plan and a database to help me keep track, I won’t have this problem again. At least not soon. I hope. 🙂

More soon ~ Lola

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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