Last week, Katrina from nRelate contacted me by email to ask me to try out their related post plugin, nRelate. I had previously been using Linkwithin, but had recently been on the lookout for a different option for a good related post plugin with thumbnails. So, this email came at the perfect time.
Previously, I had already tried out multiple related post plugins. Amongst the list of plugins that I’ve tried were: YARP, Smart Related Post Thumbnail, Linkwithin, out brain, etc… Each of these had different qualities that I liked and didn’t like. Prior to discovering nRelate, I had used Linkwithin for several months.
The problem I found with Linkwithin was that I saw that visitors were redirected to the Linkwithin site before coming back to the related post that they clicked. So, if you ever look at the statistics page when you see people clicking on the related post, those people show up coming from the Linkwithin page. I loved the look of their plugin and I could see that the bounce rate was lower and people were staying on my site longer, but I didn’t like the way they were re-directed off my site. Even though I couldn’t say definitively if it had any effect on SEO, I was a bit apprehensive about having every page on my blog containing multiple links off site.
This prompted a decision to try out other plugins to see if I could find a better alternative. Over the next few weeks, I could literally see my bounce rate dip and …er bounce as I tried different related post plugins. When the suggestion came in to take a look at the nRelate plugin, I approached it with an open mind. My response was that I would install and try out the plugin before I would write up my review of nRelate.
nRelate First Impressions
One of the first things that I like to do when I look at a new plugin is to take a look at the description of the plugin and take a look at their touted features as well as see if there are any obvious problems that I can spot right off the bat.
First off, you can find the nRelate plugin at the wordpress repository here.
Just briefly, I could see that the plugin has been downloaded over 65,000 and has 4 stars, so it appears to be well received in the community. Heading over to the screenshots, I could see that nRelate gives the user quite a lot of options in controlling the look and feel of the plugin. This seems to be a bonus in my mind, but I’ll discuss that later in my hands on review.
Here’s a quick description of their plugin from the wordpress website:
nrelate is not just another related posts plugin. Our patent-pending technology continuously analyzes your website content and displays other related posts from your website. This ultimately leads to higher page-views for your site, and a better user experience for your visitors.
Finally, I could see that the company is very responsive to the community in their FAQ’s. I also got a favorable impression of their responsiveness when I read reviews of the plugin from other websites.
After reading about them on wordpress, I headed over to their website and also looked for some reviews around the web. Overall, most people had favorable impressions of the plugin.
I also read another review that gave a point by point comparison between nRelate and Linkwithin. What impressed me in that review is that the author went point by point through some of the items that he thought needed improvement with nRelate. He actually contacted nRelate about his suggestions and he writes up their responses in his post. You can see that the answers are well thought out and in almost every case the issue had been addressed by the nRelate team. Indeed, when I installed the plugin I kept an eye out for these issues and saw that they had all been addressed.
Now that I had done my background research, I felt ready to install the plugin and get my own hands on impressions. So, let’s move on to the actual nRelate review.
The installation of the plugin is simple. You install it as you would any other wordpress plugin straight from their repository. Beyond that, it’s not required to do anything else. Although, I would suggest that you go to the nRelate website and consider registering for a free account as there are some additional features that require you to register for nRelate. (Don’t worry it’s all free)
Once you install the plugin, it does take up to 2 hours to index your site before it starts displaying the related post thumbnails.
I took this time to take a look at the different options available to me on the backend.
nRelate User Controls
Unlike, Linkwithin, nRelate gives the user robust options to control the look and feel of the plugin. You can control the layout, the number of related posts that you want to show, the css styling, the size of the thumbnails, etc…
Here’s a look at just a portion of the options available to you.
I was just amazed at the amount of customization this plugin allows.
Beyond just selecting the size of the thumbnails, you also have a selection of different styles for your related posts.
Take a look:
I though this plugin was particularly well thought out as it also gives you the ability to preview these different styles by simply clicking on the image.
For example, here’s what Trendland style looks like:
Also, if you didn’t like any of the default styles that are available from the plugin, it also gives you the option to create your own css style.
Frankly, I don’t think I’ve seen any other related post plugin that gave me as many options. When you see the amount of control and choices that you have, you’ll go absolutely giddy at the features.
However, beyond just the multitude of controls, there are also a number of features that really puts this plugin ahead of its competitors.
Like I said earlier, I found this to be a well thought out plugin.
For instance, you have the ability to control the level of relevancy of the related posts. Why is this useful? It allows you to control the number of posts that the plugin retrieves. That way if your blog is newer and doesn’t have as much content to display, you can broaden your search for relevant articles.
Beyond that, there are some other additional features that I really liked:
SEO Optimized version
This is a feature that you likely won’t find in other plugins. Partner settings allows you to display content from other sites brought in from your blogroll. So these are other sites that you actually can control. If you have a network of niches sites that you want to promote, you can easily add those other site’s articles to your own related posts section. This is an awesome feature for those of you who own multiple blogs. Now you can promote your other blogs using this plugin. The best part is that you have complete control over the other websites that will show up as partners.
This is a completely optional setting, but one that’s well worth checking out. Like I said earlier, there are some features that require registration with the nRelate website. This is one of those features. Advertising gives you the option to display advertising mixed in with your related posts. If you chose to turn this feature on, you can chose the number of ads to display and the position of the ads in your display. Now, why would you want to display advertising in your related posts?
Well, nRelate actually shares advertising revenues with you. That means that you can earn money by turning on the advertising displays on your website. This could be a decent revenue stream for a high volume website. Now if you don’t want to distract your readers with advertising, don’t worry. This is a completely optional feature. In fact, the default settings has this feature turned off, so you don’t even need to worry about opting out. It’s just a supplemental feature that you can turn on if you choose.
As far as the look of the advertising display. It appears naturally amongst your other related posts displays. You can set it to appear at the end of the list or mixed in amongst your other posts. You can also set it to show a disclaimer as well.
Here’s a sample of what it would look like:
Related Post Analytics
We often see analytics used in examining other portions of our website, but until now, I never gave much thought about in depth analytics in my related post plugin. This is a feature that you’ll find if you register and log into your account at nRelate. So at first glance, you wouldn’t see the analytics from your wordpress dashboard. This may be something that could be improved in the plugin, however if you register and log into your account at nRelate, you can see the complete analytics of your plugin’s performance.
Here’s what the analytics page looked like on Riches Corner after the plugin had been installed for just over a day.
You can see that this keeps track of impressions as well as clickthroughs. In addition, if you are using the advertising feature, you can see the clicks on the ads and also track your earnings on a separate page.
nRelate in Action
Beyond all the available features, the most important thing of course is how the plugin works in action. At this time, it’s probably a little too soon to tell the overall affects on my bounce rate and analytics. However, I can spot a few things that already look favorable.
First off, the plugin links directly to the related article. I thought this by itself to be an improvement over Linkwithin. I don’t have to worry about bleeding off my PR to some other website. If you have any concern over SEO, this plugin will allay any fears you have. In fact, it appears to be good for deep linking your articles.
The plugin itself looks good on my website. As you can see at the bottom of this post. I could choose a number of different css stylings, including making the display look exactly like Linkwithin’s if I chose. Attractiveness is a big plus in my mind when I am looking at a related post plugin.
When I look at the analytics of my site, I do see that visitors are staying longer and my bounce rate as decreased, however, I can’t rule out a standard deviation for this affect, so at this point I can’t attribute any credit for the analytics. What I can say is that there don’t appear to be any negative affects right off the bat. Overall, I am very optimistic about this plugin as the display is attractive and the articles that it displays appear to be all relevant to the content.
nRelate Final Thoughts
I am impressed by nRelate. This plugin has the most features and customization options for the user of any related post plugin that I’ve seen to date. Not only that, but I can see that they are responsive to the community and making great strides to continuously improve the quality of their plugin.
The ability to customize, bring in related posts from your other websites, as well as even monetize your related posts really makes this a superior related post plugin.