One problem that faces us as bloggers is how to keep users on the site, how to show them other content they might be interested in. The best way to do this appears to be a “related posts” plugin of some sort; but which to choose?
Start by searching the WordPress plugin archive for nRelate. There should be 3 results that come up. The first – nRelate Related Content – is the base plugin. Install that now. As you read the rest of the review, you can decide whether or not you want the additional features offered by the other add-on plugins. They are not essential.
The basic related content plugin is extremely powerful. Head on over to the dashboard first. Here’s you’ll be presented with some good initial settings, as well as messages about indexation. If you’re not in the habit of setting featured thumbnails, try this plugin to set them all retroactively from the first image found in the post.
On the thumbnail gallery tab, you can choose the display style for your related posts. This is perhaps the most powerful feature of the base plugin, and should really be appreciated by those of you who are less technical with code. There’s a wide variety of styles to choose from, and of course you can always add your own completely custom CSS. Note, the number of posts shown here is for illustrative purposes only.
On the main plugin screen, you can set:
- Thumbnail size and default images
- Number of posts to feature
- Categories to exclude
- Relevancy strictness (a high strictness means posts will be a better match, but there is a chance none will appear at all if no matches are found).
- Show posts from partner sites (found in your Blogroll).
It may take a while for the widget to appear on your posts, as your site needs to be indexed. This usually takes less than 2 hours though.
nRelate also offers a sponsored option, whereby you can highlight content from other paying blogs. I can’t comment on the effectiveness or payout of this yet, but if you’d like to sign up to try it out yourself, you need to register as a partner first.
Most Popular Posts
The nRelate Most Popular plugin adds a widget, which uses viewing stats to display most popular posts over a specific time period. I’ve chosen to use this to display 4 of the most popular posts from the last week, displayed on the sidebar. You also add this to the end of posts in addition to related content. The options page is similar to Related Content, so you should have no problem figuring it out.
If you have problems getting the automatic widgets to work, PHP functions are provided to manually add to your template files – I applaud the developers for including this!
Flyout completes the nRelate package, and performs essentially the same function as Related Content, but with a totally different display style. Flyout will pull in a layered pop-up in from the side of the screen when the user gets to a certain point in the post – typically at the end. It can be effective because rather than being a static page element, it’s a call-to-action – immediately prompting the user to do something. Again, everything is highly customisable and can be used to display more than one post if you like.
The Flyout plugin also has an additional styles selection tab:
YARPP is listed on our Best Of WordPress Plugins page, so I’ll start with that. YARPP is entirely self hosted, so all the “relatedness” is stored in your database. This can make it quite intensive for large sites such as MakeUseOf, with 10,000+ posts, each of which must be cross-referenced with every other one when a new post is published.
In terms of customization options, you can create your own templates and adjust the CSS, but this is all done manually. If you’re not proficient with CSS or HTML, customizing is extremely difficult.
For me, nRelate is a far superior option; that’s ignoring the additional features it offers of Flyout and Most Popular.
LinkWithin is another popular choice, but offers even less customization and development appears to have ceased on this years ago. Given the lack of options, it’s difficult recommending this to anyone. There’s also been some SEO issues with this plugin apparently redirecting visitors instead of using internal links.
There is the possibility of additional traffic by linking to other “partner” sites, but there must be a mutual partnership before this occurs.
OutBrain is another recent offering, with about as much customisation as LinkWithin. OutBrain is focused more on analytics and user metrics though, it seems. It also offers monetization through sponsored post highlights if your blog has more than a million pageviews a month. There’s nothing outstanding about it for the average blog though.
I must say, I was skeptical about yet another plugin to display related posts, but nRelate has proudly made its way onto my personal absolute must-have plugins list, and the Best Of pages will be updated as such. Even if you already have a related content plugin running that you’re happy with, I strongly suggest you give nRelate a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Let me know what you think of it in the comments, I’d love to hear from some fellow bloggers and I’m happy to help out if you’re having some issues getting it working.