At it’s heart, related posts are the drive to help people find more content on your site. They serve no other purpose than keeping people on your site by piquing their interest in your words.
But what if I told you there were multiple types of related posts for WordPress?
Categories and Tags
The first type of related posts are really just organization. I have three main categories on this site: How It Is, How It Works, and How To. I also have a million tags, like everyone else. If you wanted to read my thoughts on how things are, or rather why they are, you’d scroll through the category of “How It Works.” If you wanted to see everything I wrote about SVGs, you would check out my tag of ‘svg’ or possibly ‘images.’
The point here is that categorization is a type of related posts. It’s entirely manual, but it’s the best way to say ‘These posts are like each other.’ And they have a fatal flaw. You see, if I wanted to read all the “How To” posts about SVGs, WordPress doesn’t easily cross relate. That is, I can’t list all the items in a category and a tag.
Which is why we have …
Related Posts Plugins
There are two main types of plugins for this. There are the services, like Jetpack’s related posts, that scrape all your posts, toss them into a database, and use some complex algorithms to sort out what is and isn’t related. The other sort scan your posts locally and figure the same thing out.
So which is better? Well. Jetpack requires you to trust Jetpack, or whatever service you pick, with your data. For some people, this can be a deal breaker. On the other hand, if you run it locally, you’re at the behest of how fast your site runs. For example, if it scans your posts live and you have, say, 300k posts, then that could be really slow. Or if it makes it’s own database table, how often is it going to update and cross relate?
By the way, the 300k posts is not an exaggeration. That’s a site I looked at recently.
There’s a secret third option, actually.
I called it Semi Related Posts, and while I did it across post types, you could use the general logic. The concept is that instead of letting your site try and divine relations, you could manually connect them. It does require more upfront work, but cross relating posts by hand gives you the ultimate control.
Of course, you’ll note that I did automate this as much as I could. I’m not crazy you know. If you can find a way to do that, maybe code a way to list 4 other posts in the same category and tags as this post, then you’ve automagically automated the simple.
Until you hit that 300k post limit. Then you’ll have to rethink things again.