If you’re a blogger, you’ve no doubt heard that you want your readers to be ‘engaged’ with your blog. What does that actually mean? Well basically it means you want to keep people on your site longer, you want them to explore your site, find more posts they are interested in and read more than the one post they perhaps initially landed on. ‘Related posts’ plugins can help with this because in various ways, shapes and forms, they create lists of related content at the bottom of any given blog post, to provide the reader relevant recommendations and an easy next click that keeps them on your site.
The problem with some related posts plugins is that they create these recommendations automatically ,on the fly, every time someone is viewing a blog post. In layman’s terms this just means that your database and server are doing way more work than they have to, and this inefficiency can slow down your site.
One way around this issue is to use a plugin that allows you to manually pick the posts you want to associate as “related”, and while that might be desireable in some cases, it’s also yet another step you have to go through when publishing. I used to use a manual one called Microkids Related Posts, but I found myself becoming lazy when it came to selecting related content.
So the best case scenario is a plugin that does its job automatically, but without dinging the performance of your site. The best one I have found so far that meets these criteria is nRelate.
Prior to this, LinkWithin seemed to be a good option and it looked really eye-catching because it used thumbnail images. Then I discovered that when a user clicks on a related post, it sends that click through a piece of code from linkwithin’s servers, before it sends them to the destination post on your site. So while the user wouldn’t notice anything, it will throw off your Analytics because those clicks then look like referrring traffic from linkwithin, rather than showing a user’s continuing path through your site.
nRelate is awesome because the heavy lifting is done through their servers, thereby not slowing down your site,but it doesn’t do that strange redirect thing that Linkwithin does. It also has numerous customization options and choices of visual style – some that use thumbnails, others that are plain text.
Do Related Posts Actually Work?
I recently added nRelate to a couple of very different blogs, and based on early results after running for just a few weeks, it DOES seem as though it is having an effect.
When looking at the Google Analytics reports for these sites, if the plugin is doing its job, I would expect to see:
- an increase in pages per visit
- an increase in time on site
- a decrease in bounce rate
After a few weeks, this is what I’m seeing:
- In both cases the bounce rate improved by about 5%.
- Depending on the time periods I looked at, the increase in pages per visit varied from about 2% – 8%.
- The time on site increased nicely, anywhere from 48% – 122%!
I’ve only had the plugin running a few weeks, so I’ll have to see how the numbers play out over time because of course there are other factors that could be contributing, but the overall trend definitely suggests that the plugin is having a nice effect. I encourage you to try out the nRelate plugin on your own site and see what the results are.
Report back in the comments, or leave a note if you have already experimented with this or other related posts plugins and what results you have seen.