Related Articles – Good or Bad?

Many blogs use the related entries plugin (or it’s equivalent) – along with anti-spam plugins and smart URLs it has become an integral part of a blogger’s arsenal.

I’ve recommended the plugin myself a countless number of times but yesterday while working on one of my blogs I started wondering if, in some cases, showing related posts would actually be less effective?

Consider this – the most common spot to show related entries is at the end of a blog entry. However, that spot is also a prime advertising spot, that’s where you put the comments and if you want people to digg/reddit/delicious/stumble/etc your post, that’s where you put your social bookmarking links as well.

All that clutter means that when the reader reaches the end of your article, he doesn’t have just one thing to do – he’s presented with an array of options. More often then not, I’ve found out that the fewer choices you give to the reader in terms of what to do next, the better results you will get.

So for example, if you’re looking to maximise your AdSense CTR, don’t put other ‘exits’ – outgoing links – around the ad block. If you want to maximise comments, emphasize the comments section and reduce the clutter between the post and the comments area (i.e. ads, plugins, other links).

So what happened yesterday is that I’m thinking of replacing the ad block at the end of the post with a graphic ad promoting a forum, and while I’m OK with losing the extra revenue I don’t think that the ad will be that effective, especially with the related articles, the social bookmarking links and the other fluff that comes in at the end of the article.

Is this a case where you should a) ditch the related entries plugin or b) shift them to the sidebar, or as an aside inside the post itself, or something like that?

For a couple of years now I’ve taken it for granted that you ‘must show’ related entries at the end of each post because ‘it’s good for increasing pageviews, SEO, etc’.

On a successful site that already has good rankings and a good visitor to pageviews ratio, do you still need the related entries plugin? And if yes, what’s a good place to put it (apart from the end of the post)?

9 thoughts on “Related Articles – Good or Bad?

  1. I have been experimenting with running a feed on categories. I then buzzboost the feed headlines to a fixed page (non-blog) that focuses on the product in question. So for example, I offer up an affiliate link for Dragon Naturally speaking and then run buzz boost with my articles and tutorials on Dragon Naturally speaking. The titles then feed below the Dragon banner. Its kind of a low tech / feed tech solution for the same thing. It allows me to be selective and I do not have to run related articles for everything. Through a category feed I get the same result.

    The number of posts in the feed however have become a slight issue. I initially set the number of posts to 10 ( a default number), but now I think it would be better to provide permalinks on the page to all of the articles.

  2. I use the related posts plugin for two reasons: 1) to show visitors other relevant posts, and 2) to automatically create links to older content that might not otherwise be found. Since the ‘related links’ are relevant to the topic, I’m guessing Google sees that too.

    Funnily enough, I’m finding the ad block underneath my posts actually converts pretty well anyway.

  3. I think that sometimes certain niches the related article tag is good. On a music site with lots of entries having the realted tag shouldkeep your reader around and exploring the site. I think that certain niches its almost a requirement.
    Also any blog that reviews tech gadgets relatewd psots for add-on products are great (iPod reviews, carrying cases etc. one example).

  4. From experience (limited, mind you), putting the related entries in the sidebar / footer / end of comments doesn’t convert as well as putting them at the end of the article.

    I also wonder if the usefulness of the related entries plugin depends on the subject (more useful on resource-oriented websites than news-oriented websites) and type of audience (do you want to entrench the support of regular readers or attract search engine readers? I’d go for the former and show heavy ads to the later).

    I think that the way Nick and Chris have discussed time-sensitive advertising, we could probably show related entries using the same techniques.

  5. I do not use this plugin yet, I’ve been thinking about trying it out on a few different blogs, but just haven’t added it into my mix yet.

    I would agree with Ryan in that making the site stickier is good (even if that is only driving cpm) exhaust your readers with your content before you send them packing.

    That said, I think the related post section should be at the bottom of the page, just above the footer (if you have a footer with something in it). Running it in addition in your sidebar (fairly low down on the page might not be a bad secondary/additional place to put it as well.

  6. That’s exactly what I was thinking about today and figured a nice wordpress plugin to take care of this issue might help… look forward to this very shortly…hopefully sooner then later

  7. Personally. If your sole form of monetization is click-through, then I think it’s best to place your “related posts” plugin below the comments. If you have other forms of monetization, and your overall strategy is to increase pageviews, then related posts should be right after the content.

  8. the longer you can keep people on your site, the better

    I disagree with that – it’s not always true. Not only do we put AdSense in our blogs designed to take people ‘away’ from the site, if we followed that logic no one would ever link out to another website (why send the users away). Remember this blogging hangup?

  9. Funny, I was just screwing around with this issue this morning… Personally, I think that the longer you can keep people on your site, the better, so I don’t see sending them to another post, with another opportunity to click an ad as a bad thing. Plus, if you’re getting paid per impression rather rather in addition to per click, it’s a no-brainer!

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