How to Add a Related Posts Section on Your Blog
It’s a well-established fact that the internet has changed the way people read. At least it did when it comes to online texts — people tend to scan those instead of reading them fully. That’s what the popular “F”-shaped visual representation of the phenomenon shows, how the topmost row gets the most attention. The further down the article they go, people tend to read less and less of it.
But the tendency to avoid reading goes even deeper. It’s incredibly easy to create a WordPress blog and populate it, leading to an overabundance of online content. People know this, so as soon as the attention they have allotted to your website is spent, they’ll move on.
But you don’t want to see them go. The best way to make them stay would be to offer them something that will grab their attention after they’ve finished with the article they were on. And what’s better for the role than content similar to what they’re already reading?
How Can the Contextual Related Posts Plugin Help?
The only problem with this idea of presenting people with the content similar to the one they’re reading is that WordPress, by default, doesn’t have that option. You can’t just go into the admin area, find an “enable similar blog posts” checkbox, and have all your troubles sorted. That’s not how it happens.
“Related post” sections are enabled with some help from plugins like Contextual Related Posts. This is an easy-to-use plugin, and it enables you to add a related posts section to any page, post, or sidebar. You can also use it to display excerpts from articles, thumbnails, custom post types, and many more things. Here’s how the Contextual Related Posts looks in action.
To get there, you first need to install it and set it up. After the installation, you’ll find the plugin’s settings here:
Once you enter the “related posts” menu, you’ll see that the options are divided across several tabs. You’ll be able to go deeper into the settings by choosing one of the tabs and finding the options you want to adjust:
Let’s see some of the more interesting things you can set under each tab of Contextual Related Posts’ settings.
The General Tab
Under this tab, you’ll find the basic plugin options. This is where you can manage where the plugin fetches the related posts from, for example, or what happens with your preferences when the app is deleted.
There are, however, a couple more interesting options that are more worthy of your attention:
- Automatically add related posts to: This is where you choose where the related posts section will appear. Usually, it’s on the posts and pages, but there’s no reason why you wouldn’t have it in other places instead. And because you can change the heading of the section, you don’t even have to use it for related posts. It can easily become the section for the posts with the most views, or the highest rates posts.
- Insert after paragraph number: Here’s an important setting if there ever was one: it determines where the related posts section appears. So if you set the parameter at “0,” the section will appear just above the text. Setting it at “-1” will move it below the text, or at the end of the page. And if you set the parameter to “2,” the section will appear after the second paragraph.
- Disable on mobile devices: If for any reason you don’t want the related posts section to appear to people viewing your website on mobile devices, check this box. Keep in mind, however, that this might not work if you’re using caching plugins.
When you’re done setting up the general options, you can move on to customizing the article list you’ll display on the website.
The List Tuning Tab
This section of the settings is full of options you’ll need to look over when populating your list. For example, you’ll get to choose which post types you want to appear in the list and whether you want to limit the related posts that appear to the type of post they’re displayed with.
A couple of options you should keep an eye out in this section include:
- Number of posts to display: There are a couple of ways you can set how many posts are displayed in the widget. This option sets the maximum number of posts if you don’t set the number in the widget or the shortcodes.
- Randomize posts: Definitely an option to check out, as the ability to randomize posts can come in handy when you have more related posts than the number that can be displayed. This enables your website to display different related posts combinations for the same page.
- Post/page IDs to exclude, exclude categories, exclude category IDs: These exclusion rules can come in very handy when it comes to setting what you don’t want to appear in the related posts section.
By the time you’re done with these options, you should have a good idea about what’s going to appear in the related posts section, and how many items are going to be there.
The Output Tab
The output tab lets you further customize the appearance of the section and the posts that are in it. It holds some of the most important settings for the appearance of the related posts section and its content.
Within the output tab, you’ll be able to find the following awesome options:
- Heading of posts: This is the title of your related posts section, and by changing it you can basically change the function of the section. You can title it “latest posts” for example, or maybe “most popular posts.”
- Show when no posts are found: When it happens that you don’t have enough posts queued for display, something still has to be displayed. You can choose between a blank output and custom text.
- Show post excerpt: The plugin can post an excerpt from your post even if your post doesn’t have one. If you check this box it will either pull the one you’ve made or create a new one for you.
This isn’t the end of the awesome things you can set in this options tab. You can choose whether to show who the author is, whether to open a link in a new window, but also set the length of excerpts and the limit of the posts’ title length.
The Thumbnail Tab
The related posts section wouldn’t be what it is without thumbnails. In this tab, you’ll be able to decide important things such as the thumbnail size, whether you want them hard cropped or not, and which thumbnail you want to have as default when none is selected.
Here are some other great things you’ll be able to set under this tab:
- Location of the post thumbnail: These options help you specify whether you want the thumbnails to appear before or after the title, and whether you want the text displayed or not.
- Get first image: Enabling this option will allow the plugin to pull the first image from the post and use it as a thumbnail. Enabling this option might increase the loading time of the page.
- Default thumbnail: This is where you enter the URL for the default thumbnail that appears if there’s no other thumbnail and you’ve enabled that option.
After setting these couple of options, you’ll be one step closer to creating the perfect related posts section for your website. Just remember that every change you make needs to be saved before you move on.
The Styles and Feed Tabs
Between the two, these tabs offer a handful of options. There aren’t that many styles to choose from — only two — and the feed option only matters if you decided to add related posts to the Feed way back in the General tab.
If you’d still like to know what’s in these tabs, here’s a short breakdown:
- Related posts style: You’ll get a choice between “no styles,” “text only,” and three options for rounding thumbnails.
- Number of posts to display: How many posts appear in the blog feed at most.
- Location of the post thumbnail: Where you can choose where to display the thumbnail and whether to show it with text, without it or to show just text.
With that, you’re pretty much done with setting up the plugin. However, the plugin also comes with a widget and some other options you’ll need to pay attention to if you want the plugin to work really well.
The Contextual Related Posts Widget
You’ll find the widget for inserting related posts under the “widgets” option of the “appearance” setting. The options you’ll find there are the general ones you’ve seen in the plugin’s options. You can choose which information will appear with the posts, how many posts we want to show, and which thumbnails. If you managed to handle the plugin’s settings, the widget won’t give you much trouble.
How to Connect the Related Posts
The thing about the Contextual Related Posts plugin is that it has no way of knowing which posts are actually related to each other, or whatever category of posts you want to display. So when you install the plugin, you’ll get to choose related posts for each page, as well as whether that page should show up in other pages’ related posts.
These options appear at the bottom of every page, and they look like this:
There are some pretty important things you can do with these options. Here’s an explanation:
- Disable related posts display: Check this option, and you won’t have related posts appear on this page.
- Exclude this post from the related posts list: If you check this box, you won’t be able to see this page as a related post.
- Manual related posts: This is where we manually enter the IDs of the posts we want to appear as related posts for this page.
- Location of thumbnail: You should enter the URL of the image you want to appear as the thumbnail for this post. If you don’t, the plugin will choose the featured image, then the first image from the post, and if neither of those is there, it will pull the default thumbnail.
You’ll have to go through these options for every new page you add. With time, however, it will probably become a part of your routine.
Let’s Wrap It Up!
The related posts section is a great place to showcase interesting and eye-catching content. However, it’s a feature that doesn’t come by default with WordPress, which means that you’ll have to find your own way of adding it. The Contextual Related Posts plugin is a great choice if you want a good plugin that won’t bother you too much, but will give you all the options you need to create a fine-tuned related posts section.
We hope this article was helpful. If you liked it, feel free to check out some of these articles as well!