How to show related posts links and thumbnails in WordPress posts

Keep visitors on your blog or website longer by showing them related posts. Here are some of the best plugins for WordPress to automatically insert related post links and thumbnails.

One of your aims as a blogger or webmaster should be to work out ways in which you can hang on to visitors longer. If people stick around and browse some of the other pages on your site, it not only increases the sessions and reduces bounce rate, two important search engine performance figures, it means they are interested in your content. You must be doing it right.

Some people might discover content by accident if they click a menu or they may enter your site through a link to a post and then when they have read it, they go to the home page to discover more posts.

That does happen but you would be surprised at the number of people that read one article and leave.

You can reduce the number of people that leave straight away by showing them some of the other great articles on your site. A few might be tempted to read them and this is just what is needed – visitors that stay longer and read more than one post.

You might have seen related posts on of sites either as a grid of thumbnail images after a post content or as a list of links. How do we show these on our blog?

1 Use Google AdSense

This is a great feature from Google and it displays a grid of eight related items consisting of a thumbnail image, title and link to an article. Create a new ad unit in Google AdSense and then look for the option to create Matched Content. AdSense provides the code to place at the end of articles and how you do this depends on your theme and what plugins you have.

AdSense matched content ads

Some themes have a widget area at the end of posts that you can add an HTML widget to. The code can be pasted into the widget and then it appears on every post. A Theme may have an advertising spot within the theme and it may appear in Appearance > Customise or below the post editor when you are writing a post.

There are also advertising widgets that can insert code anywhere you want in a post and these can be used too.

AdSense gives you a choice of whether to include ads in the grid of related content thumbnails and if you do, it tends to be 5 links to other posts on your site and 3 links to other sites. If people click a link to a related post on your own site, then great, you have kept that person on your site longer. If they click one of the ad links you get paid. It is a win-win situation.

There is always a hitch and with AdSense Matched Content not every site is eligible. Presumably there are content and traffic minimums that must be satisfied. If you don’t see this option in AdSense then you can’t use it.

2 Use the Jetpack plugin

Jetpack is a huge multifunction WordPress plugin that contains dozens of features. It aims to provide a bit of everything and it does the work of many plugins. Read Pros, cons and secrets of Jetpack plugin for WordPress because there are advantages and drawbacks to using Jetpack.

If you do want to use it, go to Jetpack in the sidebar, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Debug. On the next page click Access the full list of Jetpack modules available on your site.

Mouse over it and activate it. Mouse over it again and click Configure. It takes you to WordPress Settings > Reading where there is a Related posts section. There are four options, which are straightforward and don’t need any explanation. Show a header, show thumbnails, show dates, it is up to you.

Jetpack plugin related posts settings in WordPress

It is the simplest way to add a set of thumbnail images and/or links to the bottom of a post. It works and it could not be easier. However, it lacks features compared to other plugins.

3 Related Post Thumbnails

Related Post Thumbnails is a step up from Jetpack in features and complexity, although I would still rate it as one of the simpler ones to use. If you can’t use Google AdSense and need more features than Jetpack (or don’t want Jetpack), get the Related Post Thumbnails plugin. Just go to Plugins > Add New and search for it.

A new Related Posts menu is added to the bottom of the WordPress admin sidebar and selecting it enables the settings to be configured on four tabs, General Display Options, Thumbnails Source, Style Options, and Relation Builder Options.

The default settings will work find for most people, but there are some tweaks that you can do to make it even better. For example, you can choose whether to show it on posts and/or pages, whether to show it on all post categories or just selected categories.

Related Posts Thumbnails plugin for WordPress

You can choose the number of related posts to display and how they appear depends on the screen space. You may get one, two, three or four thumbnails across, so try different numbers and see what works. At some point, three with my theme, it starts a new row. So three related items shows one row, six displays two rows and so on.

You can choose to have titles, excerpts, fonts, sizes and colours. You can choose how the plugin picks the related items and five different methods are available.

This is a useful plugin with enough features for most people.

4 Contextual Related Posts

Once again, this is a step up in features and complexity from the last plugin and this does a lot more, but you need a bit more technical knowledge to use it. It is not very complicated, but you do need to think about all the options and spend time configuring it.

One of the many nice features of this plugin is that you can choose where to place the related posts. It can be before the post content, after it, or in the middle and you can choose after how many paragraphs to insert it. If you insert it in the middle of a post then more people will see it and they are more likely to click items.

Contextual Related Posts plugin for WordPress

As you can see, the title is overlaid on top of the image, which doesn’t work if the images have text themselves. However, there are many configuration options, so you may need to tweak the default settings.

You can choose to ignore old posts by settings a cut-off date, so no related items over two years old for example. How the plugin finds related content can be tweaked and it can be based on the title or content. Certain posts can be excluded from the related posts. Titles, excerpts, authors, can be included, thumbnails or a bullet list of links can be displayed, and there are many more features.

5 More plugins

There are many more related posts plugins and the one you choose depends a lot on what features you need. I have highlighted just a few here and a search for ‘related posts’ in Plugins > Add New will turn up a lot of alternatives.

Pick one and use it, it will boost the number of pages read on your blog/website and retain visitors longer.