If you’ve ever dabbled in the world of Content Marketing or SEO, you’re all too familiar with the numerous hacks and proven strategies that marketing “experts” are constantly proposing. By following an influencer’s 5-step strategy, you might think you’ll be on your way to success. But beware of the SEO snake oil salesmen!

At the end of the day, most of what others suggest is an educated guess. They might base their strategy on their past behavior — an improvement in rankings that they attribute to some hack. Yet Google remains eerily quiet, only occasionally sharing insights.

Whether your site is hosted on WordPress or any other platform, here are some things nearly every SEO can agree on:

  • Quality content is key: Writing quality content leads to better organic performance
  • More visitors = awesome: More visitors is almost always a good sign for your blog
  • Higher engagement rates help: Increasing time-on-page helps your SEO & a lower bounce rate is great for your site

At the end of the day, what you really want is a strategy or piece of software that helps you hit KPIs. And if you’re like me, you’re looking for tools that actually work.

One of the best ways to improve the performance of any content site is to keep your visitors satisfied by consistently providing them with other relevant content — once they’ve consumed that initial piece of content.

So what’s the best way to do that? Through a WordPress related posts plugin, of course.

What is a related post plugin?

A related posts plugin is a piece of software that surfaces a relevant next article for a visitor. Its goal is to keep a visitor on a site (reducing bounce rate, increasing time on site, increasing pages/session) by suggesting another piece of relevant content that hopefully, the visitor will like.

Traditionally, these suggestions have been surfaced through three methods:

  • Displaying recent content (i.e. what was published on the blog this week)
  • Surfacing the most popular content (i.e. what already is getting the most visits on GA)
  • Showing some statically defined piece of content (i.e. a guide that converts well)

Luckily, there are several WordPress related posts plugin tools that can help you easily launch content recommendations on your own site. We’ll walk you through our favorite tools, and exactly how each tool works.

The 5 WordPress related post plugins you need to know

1. Smart Content by Proof

Proof’s Smart Content product allows you to visually map and launch content recommendations on your site in minutes.

This recommended content module is quite different than the other tools on this list. Rather than adding a new module to your site, Smart Content takes an existing recommended content section on your page — and makes it a whole lot more intelligent.

What do we mean by that? Let’s use a scenario to explain.

Imagine Lucy, a b2b marketer, is reading an article on our site titled Cost Per Acquisition Guide: Everything You Need to Know — and you’re wanting to guide her to other content she might find interesting. Most content recommendation plugins would push Lucy to read the most recent post from the blog (regardless of the topic) or another article from the same section (in this case: Marketing):

Instead of doing that — Proof’s Smart Content tool looks for similar visitors and bases recommendations off of their shared behavior.

Based on Lucy’s traits (demographic, firmographic, contextual data) and browsing behavior, it finds a similar profile, Jack. Both Lucy and Jack are both B2B, SaaS marketers at companies with 50+ employees.

Lucy reads Cost Per Acquisition Guide: Everything You Need to Know and then she reads another article titled The Saas Growth Metrics You Need to Track Every Day.

Jack has similar behavior. He reads Cost Per Acquisition Guide: Everything You Need to Know, The Saas Growth Metrics You Need to Track Every Day, and then finally, Why Personalized Content is The New Standard in Marketing.

Due to their similar profiles and behavior, Smart Content identifies the articles that Jack has read and Lucy has not read yet and uses that make a recommendation. In this case, serving Why Personalized Content is the New Standard in Marketing to Lucy.

Here’s a full rundown of how it works:

With Smart Content, you easily map the recommended content modules on your site, and Proof automatically uncovers the most relevant content to display for each visitor.

2. Related Post by AddThis

AddThis provides a whole host of WordPress plugins you’ve likely seen across the Web. These include tools such as Share Buttons, Follow Buttons and email collection modules.

But one of their more interesting products, and one that’s especially relevant for this article is Related Posts. This product allows you to add recommended articles as a module on your site — and start surfacing relevant next posts for readers.

In their app, you can choose between 3 placements for the tool: as a Slider, a Footer, or Inline. The module is mobile-friendly, and you are able to change the design, position, and behavior of the module.

3. Yet Another Related Post

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, despite having one of the worst names in software, is the most popular and successful WordPress related posts plugin with more than 200,000 active downloads.

It uses a built-in algorithm to suggest similar posts based on titles, tags, and categories. Some great features include the ability to limit displaying posts from outside of a time range (i.e. don’t display your posts that are more than 2 years old), the ability to toggle between post thumbnails and list views of related posts, and a feature that allows you to include blog posts in RSS feeds.

If you’re looking for an out of the box solution that’s been doing wonders since 2008 — this might be the plugin for you.

4. Related Content by Shareaholic

Shareaholic, like several other companies on this list, makes a set of tools to help you engage with your audience on-site.

Some of the benefits of the Related Content plugin include its quick installation time (they claim that it takes less than 2 minutes to get started), the fact that it’s hosted on their own server (doesn’t slow your site down surfacing content), and several themes (so that you can match your site’s design).

While you have functionality in being able to choose whether the content is recommended by author, tagging, or age — you have to manually select one of these variables — and there’s no clear indication whether that selection helps you move a key metric in a positive direction.

We also don’t love that they try to push monetized content from other sites. On most sites, this comes off as spammy to users and reduces your brand equity.

5. Contextual Related Posts by WebberZone

Out of all of the related content plugins currently available on the market, Contextual Related Posts is one of the most feature-rich plugins — at least in terms of functionality you get on the product dashboard.

There are two included inline stylings available: a thumbnail-rich post (included in the screenshot above) or a plain text version. In the WordPress panel, you have the ability to exclude certain URLs, style via CSS, and automatically cache as visitors go across the site.

One thing that disappoints us about the plugin is that you can only related blog posts by the title or content of the post. While this is better than displaying the most recent post, it doesn’t necessarily mean a visitor is seeing the ideal next post.

Wrapping it up

There are three main considerations you should make as you choose a plugin for your site:

  1. Do you want a true WordPress plugin?
  2. How do you want to make your recommendations?
  3. Is speed an issue?

These are only a handful of options available in the related post plugin space. All of these plugins are compatible with WordPress sites. The difference between Smart Content and the other items on the page is that Smart Content isn’t a direct plugin — you set it up via a visual editor and it automatically replaces an existing recommended content section on your site.

Another key difference between the products is the way they base their algorithm. Most of these plugins differ in how they categorize and relate content, but the only smart algorithms mentioned seem to be Smart Content and Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the method each WordPress related posts plugin uses for caching — and whether it runs your recommendation from their own server or your server. Happy shopping!