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Adding a Website Table Of Contents & Gain Improved User Navigation

Do you want to improve user experience and keep your audience engaged? Using a website table of contents not only helps with user experience it helps with website navigation and SEO.

All website owners struggle with retaining users. Bounce rates can be as high as 90% for bloggers. Users who bounce will probably never return to your website.

The benefits of using a website table of contents in your blog articles are:

  • improved user experience (readers find it easier to find information)
  • improved website navigation
  • multiple links to each page targeting different keywords (good for SEO)
  • increased chances of backlinks (because individual sections of your page can be linked to)

Let’s learn more about table of contents and how to create them.

Website Table of Contents

Blog Articles Are Getting Longer

There is a clear trend of increasing word counts for blog articles over time.

Last decade (2014) blog lengths were, on average, 800 words long. In 2021 the average blog length was 2164 words (Source: HubSpot).

That means, it’s more difficult for readers to navigate content on websites. Perhaps the reader is only interested in one or two sections of your content, with a ToC they can quickly find what they are looking for.

In addition, Google will index all the links – including table of content links in each article. These means each subheading in your article could potentially rank in addition to your title. Clicking on the link from a Google search page will take them to the page and then directly to the subheading on that page.

What is a Website Table Of Contents Used For?

There are two main reasons to generate a website table of contents for your blog content.

Improved Website Navigation

Providing a breakdown of the blog article into subsections makes it easier for a reader to navigate through the article.

Search engines can also use the table of contents to better understand the article and what keywords are important and how the article is structured.

Improved User Experience

The user experience is improved because a reader can use the website table of contents to quickly find information. They may only be interested in a subsection of your content, without the ToC they would be forced to read the entire article or, more likely, bounce back to the search results and look for something else.

Saving your readers time and effort is good for user experience and will result in increased time on the site and reduced bounce rates.

Best Website Table of Contents Plugin For WordPress

There are a number of WordPress plugins that generate a website table of contents for you. Manually creating ToC’s is possible but in practise is time consuming and error prone (I know, I tried creating ToC’s manually at first – I recommend against it).

Before I list some of the table of content plugins if you are using an SEO plugin you may have a table of contents feature already.

I use All in One SEO plugin to help with SEO on the website. It includes a block that creates a table of contents by scanning for all subheadings and adding them to the ToC. It auto-updates as you type so is always up to date. The best part is the ToC block is available in the free version of the plugin.

AIOSEO website table of contents block
All in One plugin includes a block for the WordPress editor to easily generate a table of contents

Here’s a table featuring popular WordPress plugins for generating a website table of contents, along with the official website, price, free option available and some pros and cons:

Plugin NameWebsitePriceFree Option?ProsCons
Easy Table of ContentsWebsiteFreeYesLightweight, automatic insertion, customizable appearance, supports multiple content types, compatible with popular page buildersUsers complain of too many plugin updates

Can be buggy
LuckyWP Table of ContentsWebsiteFreeYesInsert via short code, Gutenberg block or widget

Set the depth of headings

Customizable apapearance
Not tested with the latest versions of WordPress
Table of Contents BlockWebsiteFreeYesLightweight
Customizable
Supported
Limited styling options

Basic features
Ultimate BlocksWebsiteFreeYesIncludes a table of contents block, compatible with Gutenberg editor, customizable styles, responsive designLimited styling options, primarily focused on Gutenberg block features, may not suit non-Gutenberg users
Thrive ArchitectWebsite$299/yearNoDrag-and-drop builder, customizable styles, advanced features and integrations, includes table of contents modulePaid plugin, may have a steeper learning curve, primarily suited for Thrive Themes users
Elementor ProWebsite$59/yearNoPowerful page builder, customizable styles, advanced features and integrations, includes table of contents widgetPaid plugin, primarily suited for Elementor users, may not be necessary if you’re already using Elementor Pro
Divi BuilderWebsite$89/yearNoFeature-rich page builder, customizable styles, includes table of contents modulePaid plugin, primarily suited for Divi theme and builder users, may not be necessary if you’re already using Divi Builder
popular WordPress plugins for generating table of contents

Please note that prices and availability of these plugins are subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to check their respective websites for the most up-to-date information.

Website Table Of Contents And SEO

Let’s examine if there is any benefit to SEO from using a website table of contents in your blogging articles.

By creating a table of contents with links to individual sections within your content you create more links to your page.

Google will index all the links not just the main link to the page. Each of these links can rank for keywords, your subheading can rank for different keywords to the main page.

You can get higher click through rates (CTR) because you have multiple links for each page targeting different but related keywords.

You can get more backlinks as each section of your content can be directly linked to.

By giving an overview of your article to readers you are more likely to get them to read your content, or a section of your content, leading to higher time on site and higher average session duration. Both are good for SEO.

How to Add A Table Of Contents In WordPress Without A Plugin

Maybe you don’t want to use a plugin to generate a website table of contents for your articles. Afterall, the more plugins you add the slower your site gets. So can you generate a table of contents without a plugin?

Yes, it’s possible to add a table of contents to a WordPress site without using a plugin. The process involves manually creating the table of contents by adding the following HTML:

  • modify each header you want to link to with an id attribute or wrap a section element around it (see examples below)
  • create a table of contents as a list, each item in the list is a link to a header or subheader

Google recommends using the HTML below to turn a header into a targetable link:

Recommended

<section id="introduction-to-everything">
  <h2>Introduction to everything</h2>
  ...
</section>

Acceptable

<h2 id="introduction-to-everything">Introduction to everything</h2>

Not Recommended

<h2>
<a name="Introduction_To_Everything">Introduction to everything</a>
</h2>

Not Recommended

<a name="Introduction_To_Everything"></a>
<h2>Introduction to everything</h2>

The table of contents HTML looks like this:

<h2>Table of Contents</h2>
<ul>
<li>
  <a href="#Introduction_To_Everything">
  Introduction to everything</a>
</li>
<li>
...</li>
</ul>

The links start with ‘#’ and match the name or id tag used in the headers.

Manually creating table of contents has many drawbacks (I’m speaking from experience as I used to create table of contents manually), here are some of them:

  • tedious
  • error-prone
  • doesn’t stay in sync as you update and edit your content
  • one typo can cause your links not to work

I recommend creating table of contents using a plugin.

Website Table of Contents: Final Thoughts

I hope you found this article useful. Here is a quick summary:

  • blog articles are getting longer making it more difficult for readers to find content
  • table of contents improve website navigation and user experience
  • increased CTR (click through rates) and backlinks because you have more links for each article
  • use a plugin to easily add a table of contents to your content

Don’t try to manually add a table of contents – it’s too hard. Use a plugin like All in One SEO Plugin. The free version supports adding table of contents to your articles, I use it and highly recommend it!

All in One SEO plugin

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