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The Geek Speaks...

...another Geeky article by Cenay Nailor

Customize Tag Cloud Appearance To Help Visitors Find Your Content

I know you thought you’d never hear me say this, but a plugin isn’t always the best way to handle a small change in your WordPress Theme. Especially since each plugin adds it’s own load time to the overall page load time. Fast = visitors stay longer.

Come on, we are a generation of short-attention spanned humans, struggling to assimilate the thousands of bits of information that flow like a river into our awareness. The longer a page takes to load, the less inclined we are to look at other content on a site. One slow page, especially the main page, and most folks will pack up their little red wagon and move on.

So, keeping page load time down is critical for your web success these days. You want those visitors to peer into every corner of your site and stay as long as possible.

Intuitive navigation is also extremely important. They shouldn’t have to look hard for what they want to know. It should almost jump off the page at them.

A Tag Cloud can be an effective search tool for your visitors, and should be something you add to the mix. What this means is that when a visitor clicks on any particular tag a page displaying the tag cloud and all posts tagged the same will be displayed.

You want them to find the content you have added, right? A series of words that represent other topics on your site shown on the sidebar and lead a visitors into parts of your site they might not otherwise find quickly. (The default WordPress settings for a Tag Cloud are shown here)

So, if changing the appearance of your Tag Cloud is your goal, don’t add another plugin, make a small change in your theme. If you can cut and paste, you can do this.

Most themes, free or otherwise, use the standard WordPress call to pull in the tags assigned to your business blog posts. It’s a little snippet of code that looks like this:

<?php wp_tag_cloud(”); ?>

Depending on where your tag cloud is located on your blog, will determine which theme file you need to open and edit. It might take a little poking around to find, but just click each file name down the right border at Dashboard | Appearance | Editor and do a search (Edit | Find) for the phrase.

Once you found it, change the line (shown above) to look something like this.

<?php wp_tag_cloud(‘smallest=7&largest=20&number=25&order=RAND’); ?>

Now save the change by clicking the “Update Changes” button. Refresh the page of your small business blog.

In this sample (the code shown above, the photo shown below), I limited the number of items in the cloud to 25, changed the minimum and maximum sizes and placed them in random order.

You can change any of the options shown below. In this list, the default values (if you don’t specify a change) are shown:

Modified Appearance of Tag Cloud

  • smallest – The smallest tag (lowest count) is shown at size 8
  • largest – The largest tag (highest count) is shown at size 22
  • unit – Describes ‘pt’ (point) as the font-size unit for the smallest and largest values
  • number – Displays at most 45 tags
  • format – Displays the tags in flat (separated by whitespace) style
  • orderby – Order the tags by name
  • order – Sort the tags in ASCENDING fashion
  • exclude – Exclude no tags
  • include – Include all tags
  • link – view
  • taxonomy – Use post tags for basis of cloud
  • echo – echo the results

You can learn all about each of these options at the WordPress Codex pages for the Tag Cloud here, but the little snippet above should give you an idea of what to do.

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