What should you do now that nRelate is shutting down?

This December nRelate, the popular WordPress Related Posts plugin, announced they were shutting down their servers. It’s going to be one hell of a new year for many publishers that don’t realise and start 2015 with error messages on their sites.

nRelate's in-dashboard shutdown notice

Because nRelate are stopping all services, existing related posts, popular posts, links, and images will all stop functioning after December 30, 2014. How can you check if you have nRelate installed?

So, what is the best replacement for nRelate?

There are a multitude of existing popular posts plugins for WordPress, but we have some specific use cases in mind for our clients:

  • They are small-to-medium sized sites, getting less than 200,000 pageviews/month.
  • They value the speed of their pageloads.
  • They’re hosted on our Performance Foundry/Pagely infrastructure, so we know we want something we can cache.
  • We’re not too worried about client-side admin panels, as we’ll customise the plugin to fit their needs via CSS and function hooks.
  • Manual control of what relates to what isn’t a big issue. It should be smart enough to do its own thing.

What we don’t want is:

  • Link ‘juice’ passing onto the third party, instead of our own posts and pages.
  • Related posts processing happening on our own servers (this can cause resource issues).
  • Any delay in pageloads.

Option 1: JetPack

If you already have JetPack by WordPress.com running on your site, go ahead and use that. The same services that power WordPress Stats, popular posts, and a bunch of other services can also power some rather smart and cachable related posts.

JetPack, by WordPress.com

There aren’t many options on the back end: choose one of a few styles (hint: choose ‘extended’ to get your featured images in place), and whether or not to display a title above the listings. But less is more! By creating a site-specific plugin or adding to your theme’s functions.php file you can hook your way through it like a pirate through a swag bag, changing the number of posts, image sizes, title text… It’s highly configurable; and there are even more hooks than appear in the official cheat sheet.

Option 2: Because some hate Jetpack

Not everyone loves JetPack, as it has a nasty habit of auto-activating new functions on every update. Naughty plugin! With that in mind, what’s next? These two options are fast and functional, with their own strengths depending on your needs.

Contextually Related Posts

Contextly does a lot more than just related posts, but it’s good at that too. Their algorithm gets smarter over time, and to track click-throughs it redirects links through their servers. However, they 301-redirect those links to the target page, and that means there should be no bad SEO results.

Content.Ad related Posts

Content.Ad mixes related content from your site with that from other locations. You get to choose the balance of paid advertising spots against that from your own site with a simple setting in the Dashboard.

Option 3: Because some people want to keep it in house

Contextual Related Posts

We prefer to send all the processing to someone else’s server; it means all the more resources available to do what we want: serve pages quickly. But, for privacy reasons, some people prefer to handle processing on their own site. In that case, Contextual Related Posts came out trumps in this related posts performance stress test. I’d recommend looking there first.

Footnote: How do I check if nRelate is installed?

If it’s been updated recently, you’ll have a giant notice in your dashboard!

If not, and you want to double-check, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins in your WordPress Dashboard, then scan down the listing for nRelate.
You can quickly search your page with CMD + F on OS X or CTRL + F on Windows.

How to check if nRelate is on your site

Need help getting it right?

Can’t get it working? Can’t find the best replacement for nRelate for you? Need something customised, or something more than just a related posts plugin? Drop us a line today. We’d love to hear from you.

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