Blog archives are the heart and history of your blog. While your recent blog posts appear on your blog's home page, your older posts are harder to find. Thanks to the archiving feature in most blogging applications, your older posts can be found online at anytime in the future. It's up to you to set up your blog in a way that makes it easy for visitors to find specific posts within your archives as you publish more and more content over time.
How Blog Archives Evolved
Remember, in the early days of the blogosphere, blogs were online diaries where entries were published in reverse chronological order with the most recent entry (called a post) published at the top of the blog's home page. Readers could scroll through pages and pages of blog posts to read the complete diary.
As blogs evolved to become sources of online commentary, news, and business communications, it became more important for readers to be able to navigate through those old posts to find content that matters to them. Suddenly, blog archives became much more important, and blogging application providers launched features that would enable readers to more easily navigate through older blog posts. These older blog posts were referred to as the blog archives.
Why Blog Archives Matter
Blog archives are important to your blog's success for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, they give your blog depth and credibility. A blog with years of archives has an upper hand over a blog with just a few months of archives. That's because with each new blog post, search engines have another way to find your blog, and people have more ways to find your blog through posts shared by their online connections, discussed through entries on other blogs or through Twitter updates, and so on. In other words, more posts equals more entry points, which leads to more ways for people to find your blog and more blog traffic.
Most blog archives are filled with a mixture of timely posts and evergreen posts. In simplest terms, evergreen posts are posts that can stand the test of time. That means the information in your evergreen posts won't go out of date in a couple of months or even a couple of years. Evergreen content is relevant today, tomorrow, and years from now. This is the content in your blog archives that will continue to drive traffic to your blog for years to come. When new visitors find that archived content, they might just click around to read more recent content and could become loyal visitors.
At the same time, blog archives are important to your regular readers (and frankly, all visitors) because they make it easy for people to find content that matters to them. For example, if a visitor is reading a current blog post about a specific topic of interest (for example, a review of a new product), they might click through the blog's archives to get related information such as similar product reviews, product tips, and so on. All of that content is easy to find thanks to the archive function.
How to Configure Your Blog Archives
Keep in mind, all blogging applications don't offer the same level of customization and accessibility for blog archives. If possible, make your blog archives accessible by both post category and date in your blog's sidebar. Furthermore, display post categories (for Blogger users, display labels) at the bottom of each blog post. If your blogging application allows it, display links to related posts at the end of each blog post as well.
Another great way to make your blog archives easily accessible is to display a category feed in your sidebar or footer. Show the most recent 3-5 posts in a popular category to make it quick and easy for people to access those posts. There are also opportunities to display feeds to your most popular and most commented posts. If you use WordPress, adding these feeds is easy through the use of widgets built into many themes or through WordPress plugins.