Related posts are a way to keep a visitor on your website. People use related posts to reduce the number of visitors that leave your website after reading an article. A related posts section is the glue that binds posts together. Does that mean you have to install a plugin that takes care of this for you? And that you can trust on this to cover your related post optimizations? We don’t think so.
How related posts plugins work
Related posts plugins calculate the relationship between posts based upon a certain number of elements. Some plugins state that the related posts section is based upon “an advanced and versatile algorithm: Using a customizable algorithm considering post titles, content, tags, categories, and custom taxonomies […].” I’m sure this all makes a lot of sense, and you’ll probably get some related posts that fit your need. Some plugins allow you to add a particular value to for instance the title or content, or group posts by tags.
But what you want might not even be a related posts section.
What we do at Yoast
Site speed is one of the reasons we decided to take a different approach here on yoast.com. Test your website without that related posts section, then add the section and test it again. There is probably an increase in loading speed. But that is just one reason.
At the end of this post, you will see a suggestion for another article to read. We picked that one manually. We have chosen not to use a plugin for this but to see what would be one of the most relevant articles we’d like you to read next. Even if we find no similar posts at all (which still happens, even with almost a 1,000 posts), this gives us the opportunity to add that next exciting thing to read. That’s an extra reason for you to stay on our website. Perhaps we should say a ‘complementary’ post.
But we do so much more than that. Most articles include links to other pages on our website, like this one. Unlike the link in the last sentence, we usually use relevant anchor texts. And if possible, we link one of our cornerstone content pages for a certain subject. Unlike a related post section, the links in the actual text of a page are surrounded by relevant content. Therefore, these links hold way more value for Google than that small, separate section at the bottom of your article. That section is probably cluttered with social share buttons, a bio, and a newsletter subscription. This makes it just that tad bit more useless for Google.
The right approach for related posts
Don’t get me wrong: use related posts. The point I am trying to make isn’t that you should stay away from related posts. Far from it. What I am trying to say, is that there are better ways to make use of posts that relate to your article.
Instead of suggesting related posts to readers, we should perhaps suggest them to writers: to create better internal links. We as writers might just need that: some relevant, complementary link suggestions that you can easily copy to your clipboard. So you can use the link in your text, or manually insert the link at the end of your post. That would be awesome.