Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WotW: Keep your readers reading with related posts

Happy Wednesday! Last week reader Linda asked about the related post widget that you see both here on Housewife Eclectic and over at just Lu. Both Debra and I use the LinkWithin widget, the most common related-post widget I've seen for Blogger blogs (Wordpress blogs are a horse of an entirely different color). It looks like this:

Why use a related posts widget at all? Because it keeps your readers reading. The widget, like other widgets, won't show in a feed reader, but if a reader is already visiting your blog, they are probably there because they are 1) leaving a comment (hooray!) 2) browsing around or 3) new to your blog and browsing to see what you offer. So, odds are that they won't mind sticking around since they are already engaged (commenting) and/or ready to browse. The LinkWithin widget features both a thumbnail and the post title, so readers are doubly drawn to click and read another post.

I've been using the LinkWithin widget for about a year, and here are some of my observations:


The widget works -- visitors to my site are clicking those links. How do I know? The LinkWithin widget is consistently my #2 referring site in my Blogger stats (learn more about Blogger stats here):

The design is minimal, not annoying, and ad-free. You can customize how many thumbnails to show depending your preference and the width of your posting area. And the only ad-like link is the very small LinkWithin in the bottom right corner to link back to the creator of the widget.

Installation is easy-peasy. After Linda asked me about the widget, I just told her which widget I used and she was able to install it quickly and easily on her own, following the instructions from LinkWithin. Just enter your email address and blog URL and select your blogging platform and 3, 4, or 5 thumbnails; click Get Widget and follow the installation instructions.


The search results seem to only be about half absolutely the best links they could be, in my opinion and for my blog. LinkWithin says that featured stories are chosen based on "several factors, including title, tags [labels], and content" (here on the FAQ page). So, if there are similar phrases in all three of those areas, the story is more likely to be featured.

That means that for a post in a series, such as this WotW series, the featured posts would be other series posts. Generally, that is true -- posts that are part of a series that contain both the name of the series in the title and a label generally show related posts that are also part of the series.

The shortcoming seems to occur when posts have only two (or only one) of the three factors in common, such as tags (labels) and content, but not title. Sometimes this just pulls up less-related posts and sometimes, in my experience, this just duplicates a post in the widget. For example, I recently posted about button jewelry. The post title includes the word button(s), and the post includes the words earrings, buttons, necklace, pendant, and bracelet. These are the listed related posts:

Yup, all related... but one duplicate. Bummer :(

Now, this might not necessarily be a fault of the widget. It could be (and probably is) me, or it could the fact that I have four thumbnails instead of three. Here on Housewife Eclectic, Debra has the widget show only 3 thumbnails and I have browsed around quite a bit and not seen a single duplicate thumbnail in the related posts.

However, Debra also has MANY more posts than I do to pull from (over 600 compared to over 200) and she also has more standard topics that she features regularly, too: Tasty Tuesdays, Wednesdays on the Web, Photo Thursdays, plus Letters to my World, confessions, reviews, and arts and crafts. My blog is a bit more... random. :) Having more posts and having more regular topics (with corresponding labels), as well as putting categorical-type information in the post title, will obviously help the widget find better results without duplicating any.

So, long story short: the LinkWithin widget works and is easy to use. Help it along by using similar words or phrases in the titles of posts about similar topics, as well as labeling similar posts similarly.

What widgets do you love? hate? feel ambivalent about? ;)

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.
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