Related Post plugins and mobile speed.

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Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: July 2017

5 minute read

Related-posts plugins are a functional category. And there are a bunch – 38 plugins at the time of this writing. Perhaps more before you finish reading this post!

Suggested related content improves the user experience. Plus improves your bounce rate, page views, and time-on-website statistics, too. Selected “related posts” vary from an automatic, complicated algorithm to mere identical WordPress categories.

The factor determining if a reader will come back to your site is whether they read more than one post. If they do, they are likely to return. If they don’t, they won’t. How much does “related posts” increase internal traffic: a mere 10 percent. We’ll take it.

The most popular plugin is Yet-Another-Related-Posts plugin or YARPP. But is it the fastest? We thought this plugin a bit complicated. We don’t appreciate having to watch a video to understand a plugin. But sometimes it’s necessary.

WordPress hosting providers block or blacklist YARPP (like GoDaddy and WPEngine). “Heavy database usage” or database search incompatibility is their reason. This may be true. Web hosts claim related posts plugins overuse your database. They propose it’ll crash your site if you get a lot of traffic. We doubt it. Theoretical bluster as an excuse to protect the host – not you.

The next most popular related-post plugin is JetPack. We don’t even include it on this list. Because it’s a Swiss-army-knife, multi-function plugin.

Plugin popularity varies depending upon what review you’re reading. We have specific speed goals in mind first.

38 free related-posts plugin candidates from the WordPress Plugin Directory

We immediately eliminated any plugins with floating popups, API keys, animation, and grid formats. Also, we wanted automatic selection features and not a manual selection of related posts. Thirteen plugins claim speed benefits. 8 had shortcode functions and 4 said they were responsive.

This left three categories: widgets, end of post, and both places. We wanted a text-based plugin for a sidebar widget. And a responsive one with end-of-post thumbnails using featured images. Some plugins actually made speed claims as a differentiation. We also looked at creation dates. (We find this in the read.me file release notes.)

We considered the number of installs and when the plugin was last updated. We used unzipped file size to rank all 38 of the download plugins.

The oldest 2 released in 2012. Two more in 2013. Eight in 2014. Ten in 2015. And 16 in 2016. An upward trend.

Top 7 most-installed and their weight:

  1. yet-another-related-posts-plugin: 2M, 300,000+ installs
  2. wordpress-23-related-posts-plugin: 2.5M, 100,000+ installs
  3. contextual-related-posts: 1.2M, 60,000+ installs
  4. related-posts: 1.5M, 40,000+ installs
  5. related-posts-thumbnails: 219k, 30,000+ installs
  6. related-posts-by-zemanta: 1.4M, 20,000+ installs
  7. yuzo-related-post: 5.6M, 20,000+ installs

Notice how popular plugins are the heaviest – in the megabyte range. Typical. The rest were between 44k to 500k weights.

OUR TWO SPEED PICKS

WordPress Related Posts plugin
100,000+ active installs.
unzipped: 2.5M !!! Incredibly heavy.
last updated: 3 weeks

WordPress Related Posts plugin inserts related posts after your content. It’s lightweight because it has few “activated” features. It supports different styles, thumbnails, caching, and other customization options. Why it weighs 2.5M? Well, 1.5M of the files are styling options that once selected aren’t used. They are static or inert. Not active.

It’s a simple yet fast plugin. It doesn’t damage your site and adds related posts at the end of your content. We aren’t looking for advanced features. WordPress Related Posts plugin – amazingly – won’t slow down a site. Excellent performance.

Like many plugins, it loads globally. This adds 203 milliseconds site drag for every page and post. Our home page is a post directory with no related posts links shown. So we disabled the plugin on that URL with Plugin Logic plugin. The related-posts plugin only works on posts. Not pages. But we’re most concerned about optimizing the Home page (post directory) for now. We’ll catch the rest when we’re bored.

The plugin authors encourage using a feature called “linking out” to other blogs. We don’t recommend it. We’re suspicious. It slows things down or takes traffic elsewhere. We don’t need it. They claim it grows community and traffic. Self-promotional hype.

OUR WIDGET CHOICE

Pro Related Post Widget plugin
unzipped 28k
introduced in 2014

This plugin adds undetectable page weight and no HTTP requests. No site drag. The plugin author no longer supports the plugin – but it works great. It only has 200 installs and no updates for over 1 year. We can live with that. P3 Performance Profiler plugin testing says the widget adds 4 millisecond load time. Invisible in speed tests.

Settings in Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets > Sidebar

We made this plugin choice by testing lightest weight plugins first (all introduced in 2016!) and worked our way up the list. The first 5 broke the site – or didn’t work. We finally came to #6 Pro Related Post Widget. It worked great. No need to look further.

plugin name unzip thumbs speed creation installs updated
media-related-posts 5 02/09/16 20 8 mo
perfect-related-posts 6 y 02/10/16 10 8 mo
smart-related-posts 8 n 04/21/16 10 1 yr
nifty-related-posts 13 end y/n 09/30/14 30 2 yrs
the-related-posts 23 end n 08/20/16 70 1 mo
flexi-related-posts 24 widget y 06/16/15 10 1 yr
simply-related-posts 27 widget n 10/23/16 500 2 yrs
pro-related-post-widget 28 widget 12/26/14 200 9 mo
lab404-related-posts 35 end y y 05/10/15 100 1 yr
nelio-related-posts 44 12/12/14 20 5 mo
related-posts-mwip 44 n 07/25/16 10 2 mo
efficient-related-posts 45 end y 02/20/16 6,000 7 mo
super-simple-related-posts 62 widget y/n y 02/15/16 400 7 mo
related-post 77 y 11/08/14 4,000 1 mo
all-related-posts 95 widget n 08/11/16 500 1 yr
igit-related-posts-widget 114 widget y 08/06/15 200 1 yr
cp-related-posts 131 y 08/29/16 1,000 4 wks
quick-related-post 132 end y/n 04/27/16 60 4 mo
related-posts-by-taxonomy 141 end/widget y/n y 08/12/16 8,000 1 mo
modern-related-posts 166 end 04/23/15 600 1 yr
ark-relatedpost 170.9 10/08/14 100 5 mo
related-posts-thumbnails 219 end y 07/14/16 30,000 2 mo
related-posts-for-wp 484 end y 12/30/14 7,000 2 mo
amity-related-posts 495 10/16/15 30 11 mo
easy-related-posts 861 end/widget 09/15/14 2,000 2 yrs
os-related-posts 915 y/n/slider 12/08/16 10 10 mo
relatify 1800 end y/n y 03/21/15 100 2 yrs
contextual-related-posts 1200 y/n 05/30/12 60,000 4 mo
related-posts-by-zemanta 1400 end y y 01/21/13 20,000 1 mo
related-posts 1500 end y 04/09/14 40,000 1 mo
related-posts-lite 1600 end y y 10/02/15 900 1 yr
wordpress-23-related-posts-plugin 2500 end y y 11/05/13 100,000 3 wks
addthis-related-posts 2800 float popup y y 07/05/16 300 7 mo
relevant 2900 end/widget n 08/26/16 2,000 4 wks
yet-another-related-posts-plugin 2000 end/widget y 11/25/12 300,000 8 mo
contextly-related-links 3500 API key y 08/13/15 1,000 5 mo
related-posts-list-grid-and-slider-all-in-one 5200 grid or list y 08/08/15 1,000 2 yrs
yuzo-related-post 5600 end y y 07/24/15 20,000 3 wks

A blog is nothing without great content. You can spend all the time you like configuring social media, adding advertising, and sharing your content. But if that content isn’t great, you won’t get an audience. Author: Rachel McCollin

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

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