[Note: I’m doing a lot of work with WordPress at work at the moment, so am accumulating plugins, coding tips, tutorials, etc., like nobody’s business. Something I started (and then quickly stoppped) doing a while ago was a ‘WordPress Wednesday’, writing at least one post a week that talked about an element of WordPress and its associated plugins. I’m going to try and keep it going for a little while longer this time…]
There are a bevy of “popular posts”-type plugins for WordPress around. They will look at various metrics – page views, number of comments, etc., – and use an algorithm to work out which posts to include in a widget or other form of display. Some use information collected within WordPress, others connect to third party statistical information, such as Google Analytics, and others do some combination of the two.
One I’m trying out is PostRank, which was developed by a company that has now been bought by Google. In the words of the plugin authors:
PostRank measures the audience engagement with each story by analyzing the types and frequency of online social media interactions – comments, tweets, diggs, etc. The more interesting or relevant the story is, the more active your readers will be in organizing, responding to, and sharing it.
The collection of popular stories the widget generates (see the sidebar) looks pretty spot on to me. It avoids the mistake that others have made of counting hits from Google Images (a search for quite a common word results in many hits for one post that’s several years old now), instead concentrating on actual user engagement.
As well as the widget, the plugin adds an PostRank column to the list of posts in the WordPress admin area so I can see the engagement of my most recent posts at a glance.
All the information is useful, although the design out of the box is a little garish for me, especially when sitting on a template based on WordPress’s default Twenty Eleven theme. The widget has eight selectable colour schemes to choose from, plus a ninth ‘style-free’ option ready for you to apply your own CSS. If I keep the plugin around, I’ll move to that option, but it will take a little time to work out the relevant selectors.
For more information about PostRank, visit the website. And if you’re using the built-in plugin search facilities within your WordPress site’s admin section, be warned – there’s an unrelated plugin also called PostRank out there. Click on the ‘plugin details’ link before installing to make sure you’re looking at the correct one.