Using Contextual Related Posts

Case Study: Contextual-Related Posts in Content, Do They Help?

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

One of the goals of every blogger is to keep people on the website and reading. This is when you’d use something like contextual-related posts. But do these types of lists actually improve engagement?

Generally speaking, that depends a lot on the type of content you create and your target audience. Not to mention the sheer amount of content you have on the site.

You can’t really share anything if you don’t have a lot of blog posts to choose from.

What Are Contextual-Related Posts?

Most WordPress themes have a built-in function to show related posts. This is to help drive additional views to the content on your website. Depending on the theme, this can be done via specific categories or tags.

However, contextual-related posts base the list on the content within the article. This means that a list of posts is more likely to pique a visitor’s interest as it is more relevant to the reason why they’re at your blog.

For example, if someone visits your site to learn how to prepare a keto-based dinner, articles that are similar to “keto” will show the visitor you have more of what they might want to read.

The underlying idea is to keep visitors on your site by showing them what you have to offer. That way, they have access to similar posts without having to do a search on your website.

Using the Contextual Related Posts Plugin

For this particular case study, I’m using the Contextual Related Posts plugin. It’s a relatively popular plugin with over 70,000 active installs across the globe.

I was thinking about using YARPP but wanted to start with a contextual case study. Afterward, I might try YARPP on the sites to see if there is much of a difference.

That actually might be a decent case study of its own. Or, at least a product comparison article.

What’s Involved in This Case Study?

This is probably going to be one of the easiest case studies to manage. Essentially, I’m just installing the plugin, using the same settings on each site, and letting it run.

The hardest part for me is remembering to record weekly data. However, the way I am structuring this one, I can essentially do the entire data set at the end. That means I don’t have to stress if I forget a week or two.

Between Jetpack Stats and AdSense, all of the pertinent data is recorded for me. Essentially, this is more of a comparative case study.

The Overall Goal

The idea behind this study is to see if showing related posts improves the views-per-visitor count on each blog. This, in turn, should increase other elements such as AdSense revenue, which I’ll track as a secondary objective.

I am using the current year’s data prior to the start of the study for each website as a comparison. This includes the average income per day from AdSense during the same time period.

3 Websites, Individual Niches

For the contextual-related posts case study, I’m using three websites with varying niches. It will be interesting to see if there is an improvement based on individual target audiences.

The three niches are: writing, gaming, and health and fitness. Though, I am still trying to fix the health and fitness blog. I have a feeling the data is going to shift a bit for that particular website.

On the other hand, that particular blog is having one of its best years according to views per visitor. So, the data might not be all that skewed.

Showing 5 Posts

The list of posts is set to show five similar pieces of content. That is as long as there are five articles that Contextual Related Posts can detect throughout the blog.

If there are none available, the list will be empty.

One of the things I am doing this year is expanding the amount of content for each topic. So, even empty lists should start to fill out as time marches on.

Disabling Vignette Ads Halfway

At the halfway mark, I’ll disable vignette ads. Mostly, this is to see if ads affect one’s inclination to explore a website, ie. increase views per visitor.

Also, I am curious as to how much of an impact vignette ads make in terms of general income.

Contextual-Related Posts Results for Bottom Feeds

In this particular study, the results are based on adding contextually related posts to the bottom of content using both categories and tags to draw suggested articles.

15-Week Time Frame

I normally like to run longer case studies as that would provide more data for comparison. Longer studies often provide the best results as it delivers a far greater sampling.

Results Breakdown:

In this particular phase, we can see that two of the blogs had no change in views per visitor after adding contextual-related posts at the end of the articles.

However, the health and fitness blog increased slightly. This could also be caused by new audiences subscribed to the blog or otherwise getting more exposure through external means.

In any case, it’s not all that massive of a difference to warrant keeping related posts at the bottom in its current state.

As for disabling vignette ads, the average income per day for all three blogs decreased a great deal.

  • Writing blog: -42.25%
  • Health and fitness blog: -68.00%
  • Gaming blog: -45.74%

Now, some of this loss may be attributed to Google’s constant changes in the algorithm. Since this case study started, there have been a couple.

Yet, these are some huge losses by disabling vignette ads. I’ll know more once the next phase of the case study begins.

Contextual-Related Posts In Feed, Tags Only, No Excerpt

The bottom section of your blog is usually the least seen by the average visitor. That’s because people often just skim for the information they want and move on.

As such, placing anything at the end of an article has less chance of success.

For this next phase, I’m placing the contextual-related posts within the content so more people see the feed. The hard part is determining where to place them.

I would love to manually enter the block on each post for the most optimal outcome. Unfortunately, the Contextual Related Posts plugin doesn’t have the option to override the auto feed from individual posts or pages.

In this case, I’m setting the plugin to show the related content after the 25th paragraph. Though, after the case study, I might simply use heatmapping software to find the best place to put the feed manually.

I’ve also set the plugin to search for tags only, a 0 limit on the publishing date, and no excerpt (post title only).

This particular phase of the case study will run for 24 weeks.

Do You Use Related Post Lists in Your Blog Posts?

Not everyone uses related posts on their blogs, let alone those that are contextual. Yet, I’d be interested to hear if adding the related posts to your blog has helped you in some way.

Normally, I deactivate the lists because it decreases PageSpeed Insights scores slightly. But I am hoping that adding them will help the rest of the blog despite the slight decrease in speed score.

In any case, I love collecting data and seeing what works best for each website. Let’s see if the Contextual Related Posts plugin is worth adding to WordPress!

Michael Brockbank
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