I have never quite gotten along with related posts plugins.
I’ve tried quite a few in my time, but ultimately, I have been bothered by the fact that the results returned just weren’t as relevant as I wanted them to be.
Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that related posts plugin help people to remain engaged with your blog, I really only want to keep one on my site if it returns truly relevant results.
And after a bit of a eureka moment this morning, I think I may have just found the perfect solution.
Don’t worry – I’m not claiming that I have just “discovered” YARRP – with over 1.6 million downloads at the time of writing, that would be a bold assertion.
I’ve had YARPP installed on my own blog on more than one occasion previously, but have always ended up deleting it, frustrated with a lack of relevant results.
But now, I have discovered a way in which I can utilize YARPP to return the type of related posts that I think offer true value to my readers.
Before you read on, it is important that you first view this video from Michael “Mitcho” Erlewine – creator of YARPP:
Now you should have a solid understanding of how YARPP rates and ranks posts.
With that in mind, here’s an example of YARPP in action on a particular post on my blog, Freelancing: a Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Rates:
At first glance, this might not seem too bad – you’ve got two freelance-related posts in there. The guest posting guide on the other hand, with by far the highest score, seems like a strange addition. My guess would be that there are plenty of related words in the two posts, even though the subject matter is almost entirely unrelated.
But what you’re not seeing here is the true extent of the issue. In the above screenshot, I had YARPP set to display the top 5 most relevant posts, with a generous match threshold of 3. Here are a couple of posts that YARPP is not showing:
Hm…they are rather related, wouldn’t you say? Certainly far more related than guest posting. There is no doubt in my mind that the reader would have a far greater chance of staying onsite if they were given a greater number of better-related options, and as you can see, YARPP is not doing that for me.
One of great features of YARPP is its adjustable algorithm. You can fiddle around with the settings as much as you like to find a “sweet spot” that returns truly relevant results.
Most people tend to adjust the match threshold as a first resort, but this just tends to return a higher number of irrelevant results. The elegant solution I discovered was something which I am not particularly a fan of – tags.
I could see that YARPP includes tags as part of its algorithm, so I figured if I appropriately tagged all my posts relating to freelancing, it might return better results. So, I tagged up those posts, and here was the end result:
An improvement! Not only can we see an increase in the scores, we also have an extra result nestled in there. It’s still not perfect though – there are four posts on my blog that are directly related, but only three of them are displayed (and the top result is still my guest posting guide).
So I went back to YARPP’s settings, and adjusted tags to be considered “with extra weight”. Now let’s take another look:
This is the kind of result that I am really happy with. Not only are the most relevant results scoring really highly, but all of the top three are directly related. And the fourth result now makes an appearance, at the bottom (and in fairness, it is the least related of the four freelancing posts).
So the key to returning truly relevant results with YARPP is tagging.
However, you must ensure that you tag wisely and sparingly. Only add tags that are directly related to the core focus of a particular post. The key is to allow YARPP to recognize what topics your post covers by the handful of tags you use, so it can then drill down into the content to further analyze and rank it accordingly. The last thing you want to be doing is adding a whole bunch of poorly considered tags – that will probably not give you the end result you desire.
You may be wondering why I don’t use categories instead. The answer is simple – tagging allows me to demonstrate to YARPP that a post is relevant to a more than one topic. For instance, I tagged my freelance rates post with “freelancing” and “freelance writing”. I tagged my tools and apps for freelancers post with “freelancing” and “apps”. Each post may have multiple separate points of relevance, and tags allow me to exploit each one.
So what are you waiting for? Install YARPP and get tagging!
Creative Commons photo courtesy of e³°°°