Related Posts Plugins are an amazing way to keep a visitor engaged on your site. By doing some magic on the backend of a site, they can make tailored post suggestions according to the content on-page. Tailored recommendations will boost average time on site, average page views, and the like. Related posts are also awesome ways to add advertisements to a site.
Unfortunately, related posts plugins can also destroy a site’s performance, or bring it down entirely.
Many related posts plugins work by creating a “FULLTEXT index” on the “posts” table in MySQL. This is a mechanism to make complex queries against the content of posts. For example, “posts which contain A and B but not C or D.” Usually, this means indexing categories, tags, specific keywords, and a number of other data points and querying them later.
It’s a cool way to search, but MySQL wasn’t built to make queries like this.
In MySQL, FULLTEXT indexes consume high loads of resources at run-time, particularly for larger sites with proportionally large databases. Under heavy traffic loads, this will slow the entire site down, or crash it entirely.
To make matters worse, when changes are made to (large) tables with FULLTEXT indexes, rebuilding that index can take hours and hours. Sometimes rebuilding will even fail, producing a corrupted MySQL table. This can happen when you do something like upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.
Now, I don’t want to be too hard on related posts plugins. They will work if your site isn’t getting a ton of traffic. However, many aren’t good practice if you’re building a site to scale. We’ve actually disallowed them at WP Engine because we don’t want to unnecessarily slow sites down.
That was a lot of bad news. Here’s the good news!
There are TWO PLUGINS that achieve “related posts” functionality, but do it off-server, so that you don’t bog down MySQL.
Nrelate has 3 different plugins based on whether you want your most popular content or related content to display, as well as if you want the related post to “fly out” at the reader. All three are available in the WordPress plugin repository. LinkWithin will make recommendations to related posts based on several factors, including title, tags, and content.
How they work
Nrelate creates its own, secure, RSS feed, and feeds your content directly their servers. This means their pinghost is added to your Update Services. So each time you update your blog with new content, nrelate gets the feed and can analyze it for related posts. Then, they use Natural Language Processing inside a database designed for search to analyze your content and make related recommendations.
LinkWithin similarly analyzes your content off-server. They have a context engine that looks at categories, tags, keywords, and a few other aspects of your content in order to make recommendations. LinkWithin used to redirect traffic through their site, but no longer. You get all the SEO juice from the links.
Both plugins accomplish the related posts functionality off-server. I’m personally a big fan of nrelate’s strategy of using the RSS feed to get the content and then processing it with NLP. I was also able to speak on the phone with both developers from nrelate in the writing of the article, which indicates the support they’re providing their plugin.
LinkWithin has secure processes to pull your content, and there are zero known security issues with their plugin.
When I spoke with nReleate, they talked about how their RSS feed can only be accessed with a random key that is generated when you install the plugin. They hired Mark Jaquith to build this part of the plugin with airtight security.
With nRelate, you can either show your content as one of six sizes of thumbnails, or as very simple bullets. The plugin automatically creates a thumbnail from the featured image, but you can also specify which image to use. If you don’t have any images on your post, nrelate will actually pull one from their image library. You can see examples of their ads on Huffington Post and Endgadget.
LinkWithin relies heavily on featured images from your page in order to provide thumbnails. If you don’t set featured images, the plugin won’t show any. It also provides very customized sizing of images that are optimized for your site.
You can add your advertising networks to nRelate (they have their own ad network) and serve your ads along with the recommended content. Linkwithin does not currently support advertising.
Your css is automatically adopted by nRelate, so the thumbnails and font styling will automatically look like your design, but you can still customize things as you like.
Nrelate is also in the following languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
Check out both of those plugins to see which one works for your needs. Both of them offer significant speed and scalability benefits to your site.
Are you using a related post plugin for your site? How has it affected your traffic? Have you noticed any performance issues?
This will be my second post in as many weeks about related posts plugins, but after reviewing the related posts by category plugin last week, another plugin was brought to my attention.
This plugin is called the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, but it is much more than that. I mentioned in my last post that my favorite related posts plugin has not been updated in several years and doesn’t contain features like adding related posts to your feed. YARRP separates itself from the rest with their advanced features, including:
- Improved algorithm for finding related posts that also takes into consideration categories and tags
- The ability to set a threshold on the relevancy of the posts that you want to show
- The ability to display the related posts in your RSS feed
- The automatic integration of the related links below your posts
As with any good plugin, you get a number of options which you can control from the WordPress dashboard:
I’m currently experimenting with this WordPress plugin on one of my low traffic sites and if I’m impressed, I will probably use this on all of my WordPress installations. Do any of you use this plugin? Are you pleased with it or do you prefer a classic like Related Entries?
Over the past few years a number of WordPress plugins have been created to generate and display related posts for single pages of your blog. The original Related Posts plugin is still my favorite because it uses the post titles to determine which posts are related, but this plugin requires you to log in to CPanel and make some adjustments there (instructions on how to do this in the linked post above).
Another very comparable related post plugin is Related Posts 2.3, which was created after WordPress 2.3 added tags to the core software. In addition to matching up related posts by your tags, it also displays related posts in your feed (the first one I mentioned doesn’t do this on its own). This is of course only useful if you tag your posts responsibly, so it may not be a viable option for most people who treat tags as (meta) keywords.
If neither of these plugins fit your needs, there is a new plugin available which displays related posts by category. It does require WordPress 2.3 or higher to use.
According to the author of this new plugin:
The WordPress-Plugin Related Posts by Category lists similar posts within any article. As a search string the plugin does not use the title of the article nor weighs the content. In fact the category, which was assigned to the post, serves as the source of accordance. The reason for that: Posts from an equivalent category have most of the time identical topics and can therefore be seen as absolute relevant. Is an article assigned to more than one category, all of those categories will be used for the database query. Obviously this leads to more results.
This plugin requires the same responsibility as the tag one, though people are generally more disciplined with their categories than they are with tagging posts (because tags double as meta tags usually), hopefully making the resulting posts more relevant with this plugin.
Improving the navigation in your blog means visitors will find MORE of your content, and return MORE often. Even with the best content and lots of traffic – the most important thing is that people can QUICKLY find what they were looking for from the first moment they enter your blog!
I’m going to give you 10 different ways you can improve the navigation in your blog that anyone can (and should) implement for better usability when you have a WordPress powered blog. You will be surprised how much easier it will be to find content by using these techniques.
10 Steps to Improved WordPress Navigation
- Add Breadcrumbs: This is a very easy fix, and one I don’t see on many blogs. Breadcrumbs are the simple link trail on the top of a web page like this: “Home -> Page -> SubPage”. It’s easy to add breadcrumbs, just use a 2.6+ compatible plugin like “Breadcrumb NavXT.
- Get rid of Ugly Next and Previous Links: Every WordPress homepage, and any page that has lists of blog posts (search, archive), has simple “next” and “previous” links to navigate older posts. I have witnessed (countless times) visitors thinking that all the posts you had to offer were listed on the homepage and that was it (mainly people not familiar with WordPress). You should have a linked list of pages (like google) that says “this is page 1 of…” and links to “2, 3, 4, 5, etc”. It’s easy to fix this with plugins like WP-PageNavi or WP-Page Numbers.
- Bold Pagination on Single Pages: You can’t use the last trick on single pages, but every single (post) page has links at the bottom to view the next and previous page as well. I edit my “single.php” file to change that text to something like “Post before this one” and “Post after this one”, and align them left and right (bolded). You can style them any way you want – the point is to make them stand out. Visitors often come from SERP’s to a single post page, make it easy for them to view other ones as well.
- More Links and Excerpts: This is personal preference really, but I prefer to have post excerpts on pages instead of the entire post, because I feel it clutters up pages and makes everything run together (on most blogs). I like to encourage people to visit the single post page to read the entire thing. There are a couple ways to change a running post page (like search results, archives, index.php) to show excerpts. On your homepage, you can use the Homepage excerpts plugin to achieve this. On all other pages, just the “the loop” and change the_content to the_excerpt.
- Multi-Paged Navigation: If you ramble on like I do, some of your posts can be dreadfully long. Break them up into multi-pages posts using a plugin like Multi-Page Toolkit. It’s not only better usability, but it creates multiple post pages so you can get more indexed in the search engines.
- Related Posts: What better way to get people to stay on your blog than by recommending to them “related posts” that you’ve written?! All it takes is a plugin like Related Posts.
- Most Viewed Posts: Like an MVP of the game – you should be showing your visitors your most valuable content! Lester Chan has a great plugin called WP Post Views that has a sidebar widget than can display your most viewed posts! This is a great way to showcase your best posts and keep people on your blog.
- Most Popular Posts: Alex King has a plugin called Popularity Contest that displays how popular posts are.
- Category Images: Having your categories a post is assigned to listed and linked is a great way to get visitors to view everything else you have posted in that category, but sometimes (like “ad blindness) readers are blinded to post meta info. Solve that by assigning images to your categories, so that they stand out prominently! All you need is the Category Icons plugin.
- Sidebar Navigation: There are a bazillion options for pimping out your sidebar, and most bloggers seem to just liste categories, archives, and a blogroll. Check out all of the WordPress Widgets available, the WordPress Codex page for “Customizing Your Sidebar”, the List Authors widget, Parent Pages widget, and especially the WordPress plugin iFrameWidgets. The iframe widgets one is great if you use myBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Entrecard, or other third party widgets that may slow the load time of your blog.
By following these 10 steps to better navigation, your visitors will STAY LONGER and READ MORE each and every time they visit your blog. This article was a synopsis of my in depth article WordPress Hack #5: 10 Ways to Improve Navigation. Happy Hacking!
One of my favorite things about premium WordPress themes is that they give theme authors the opportunity to truly show off their talents. Because the theme will be purchased rather than given free, they don’t hold anything back and truly create some incredible work.
Michael at Solostream is no exception. He has created a number of free themes in the past, but has since been concentrating on creating and selling a variety of premium WordPress themes for bloggers and businesses looking for a magazine-style theme.
His most recent premium theme WP-Magazine 1.0 is his best work to date (in my opinion). Here are some screen shots of a few pages:
Once purchased, you have access to five different home page layouts and four different category/archive page layouts. You can find more information about the layouts available here.
Other features include:
- Widget-Ready, User-Friendly, and Optimized for WordPress Versions 2.2 and Above
- Home Page Featured Article Glider Box
- Built-In Banner Ad Blocks
- Built-In Site Guide in Right Sidebar
- Customized Recent Comments in Sidebar With Gravatar Support
- Author Biography Information and Gravatar Included on Single Post Pages
- Alternating Color Comments With Gravatar Support
- XHTML Valid
In addition to these great features, this theme also supports several plugins “out of the box” including the following: