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Github Pages Jekyll Previous/Next Arrows For Categories

by Mike Levin

Monday, June 20, 2022

One of the most profoundly differentiating and SEO-lovely things I could do on my site is to have 2 different meanings for the previous/next arrows on my site. One at the top of the posts which is cross-cutting across the entire blog in the order they were published. Another at the bottom of the posts which contains the previous/next arrows to just within the category in which the post was published.

There are a couple of issues here. First, that’s not so easy as regular previous/next arrows within the Jekyll and Github Pages publishing system. I am hopeful I will be able to get this to work, but there are issues that must be worked through. First and foremost is the multiple-belonging issue. If I’m putting alternative prev/next arrows on the one master copy of the published content (no duplicate content) then there will only be one alternative set of previous/next arrows, so each blog post must only be able to belong to a single category, or else I would need multiple alternative prev/next arrows or a win/loss scenario.

We start with the official Jekyll documentation on posts.

That page has this line:

Unlike tags, categories for posts can also be defined by a post’s file path. Any directory above _post will be read-in as a category.

Now that’s interesting. If I were to allow duplicate content, that’s how I would do it. I could also easily support the multiple belonging data structures made possible by the many-to-many relationships of both tags and categories. It’s a bit troublesome. I don’t want duplicate content and I don’t want the many-to-many relationship in categories. Tags I can understand, but there should be more differentiation between categories and tags. They’re giving flexibility I understand, but my approach must not allow this.

Just do some general research into arrow solutions. I’m not the first person to scratch this itch. See what others have done. There’s a number of solutions out there, but this is my favorite:

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/61287058/jekyll-link-next-previous-sorted-posts-within-a-category

I am afraid it may require a plug-in:

https://rubygems.org/gems/jekyll-category-aware-prev-next

Okay, think! What kind of experiments can you do? Well, not of the blog posts even have a category yet. There are 2 ways to create categories. It can be written into jekyll frontmatter or the _posts folders can be under category folders.

It has to be a plugin-free solution in order to avoid rabbit hole complications. Here’s one: Tag-aware Previous/Next links for Jekyll

Try showing their tag solution here:

{% for tag in page.tags %}
  {% if tag == "pyesl"%}
    <ul>
      {% assign posts = site.tags['pyesl'] | sort:"weight" %}
      {% for post in posts %}
        {% if post.url == page.url %}
          {% assign last_inx = forloop.index0 | minus:1 %}
          {% if forloop.first == false %}
            <li class="prev"><a href="{{ BASE_PATH }}{{ posts[last_inx].url }}" title="{{ posts[last_inx].title }}">&larr; Previous</a></li>
          {% else %}
            <li class="prev disabled"><a>&larr; Previous</a></li>
          {% endif %}
          <li><a href="{{ BASE_PATH }}{{ site.JB.pyesl_path }}">PyESL</a></li>
          {% if forloop.last == false %}
            {% assign next_inx = forloop.index0 | plus:1 %}
            <li class="next"><a href="{{ BASE_PATH }}{{ posts[next_inx].url }}" title="{{ posts[next_inx].title }}">Next &rarr;</a></li>
          {% else %}
            <li class="next disabled"><a>Next &rarr;</a>
          {% endif %}
        {% endif %}
      {% endfor %}
    </ul>
  {% endif %}
{% endfor %}

Wow, that rendered out to my site just fine. Interesting! Okay, that’s a first tiny success. Get a second tiny success.

There’s issues. My skite & slice system will overwrite all the files in _posts, but that’s where I need to put the category in as front-matter. So I’m going to do a few git commits and pushes without slicing & dicing. Think! Go the frontmatter route for a test. Do a particular page that will be easy to keep showing… like this one! And so make the plan here, do one skite-gen then put the category arrow code in… in where? Okay, the plan:

Commit and push without skite.

On a related note, I will also be interested in previous/next arrows in normal Jekyll pages, or maybe collections whatever those are. Here’s some folks talking about that: https://talk.jekyllrb.com/t/previous-and-next-links-with-a-collections/3171/6

{% for category in page.categories %}
<h4>Category: {{ category }}</h4>
<div class="spacer">
  <div class="post-nav">
    <div class="post-nav-prev">
    {% assign posts = site.categories[category] | sort:"weight" %}
    {% for post in posts %}
      {% if post.url == page.url %}
        {% assign last_inx = forloop.index0 | minus:1 %}
        {% if forloop.last == false %}
          {% assign next_inx = forloop.index0 | plus:1 %}
          &larr;&nbsp;<a href="{{ BASE_PATH }}{{ posts[next_inx].url }}">{{ posts[next_inx].title }}</a>
        {% endif %}
        </div>
        <div class="post-nav-next">
        {% if forloop.first == false %}
          <a href="{{ BASE_PATH }}{{ posts[last_inx].url }}">{{ posts[last_inx].title }}</a>&nbsp;&rarr;
        {% endif %}
      {% endif %}
    {% endfor %}
    </div>
  </div>
</div>
{% endfor %}

I will have to maintain a one-to-many relationship between categories and posts manually (versus many categories to many posts which Jekyll supports) in order for this solution to not have funky side-effects. I’m iterating through a loop, but expecting one and only one category to return (if any) for any given post.

Category: My Static Site Generator (Skite)

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