Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.
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:
- yet-another-related-posts-plugin: 2M, 300,000+ installs
- wordpress-23-related-posts-plugin: 2.5M, 100,000+ installs
- contextual-related-posts: 1.2M, 60,000+ installs
- related-posts: 1.5M, 40,000+ installs
- related-posts-thumbnails: 219k, 30,000+ installs
- related-posts-by-zemanta: 1.4M, 20,000+ installs
- 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
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.
|addthis-related-posts||2800||float popup||y||y||07/05/16||300||7 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|
Creative Speed Strategy using free plugins and free themes.