How to Build an Effective Article Recommendation System

You browse an article on a website, finish reading, scroll to the bottom, and see several related stories. Before you know it, you’ve clicked on each one. What would have been a quick detour has led to an hour of web surfing. Sound familiar?

This is the power of an article recommendation system. If you have a website or blog, creating a list of recommended articles within your posts can increase engagement and attract more visitors.

Not sure of the best way to create an effective article recommendation system? Here’s a quick guide.

Why recommended articles are important

Recommendations have power. We’re more likely to buy a product or service if someone we trust recommends it, and we’ll probably click on an article link in our social media feed if a close friend or family member has shared it.

Think of recommended articles as the same thing. It says to readers, “Now that I have your attention and your trust, here’s some other cool content you might be interested in.”

Aside from this, an article recommendation system can boost your site’s metrics. It can increase page views and time spent on your site, as readers move from one post to another. It can also reduce bounce rates, drawing readers in and keeping them on your site for much longer. Recommended articles might also convert one-time visitors who come via search into repeat visitors, if they find your content valuable and engaging.

How to add recommended articles to your posts

You have three options for adding recommended articles: do it manually, use a third-party plugin, or go for the auto-populated “Related Content” feature.

Doing it manually is pretty straightforward, but more time-consuming. For example, if you write a blog post titled, “A Move-In Checklist for First-Time Homebuyers,” and you’ve produced other content for first-time homeowners about the home search process, qualifying for a mortgage loan, and saving for a down payment, then you can manually add the links to your post. To do this, simply create a bulleted list at the end of the post with the title of each related article and then hyperlink each story. The major advantage of this approach is that you control what’s featured. The downside is that the process isn’t automated — you either have to use the search bar to find related content or already know what stories you’d like to feature.

A second option is to use the auto-populated “Related” feature, powered by the Jetpack plugin that comes with all Premium plans. You can enable this feature from your admin dashboard. Just go to Settings and then the Traffic page. Once you’re there, toggle the box that says “Show related content after posts” so that it is turned on. Based on categories and tags, related content will automatically be added to the end of your posts, with an accompanying thumbnail photo, title, and link to each story.

Using a third-party “Related Posts” plugin is another option if you want more customization. With a Business plan, you can access dozens of these plugins, many of which auto-populate related posts in the sidebar or at the end of your articles based on the content title, tags, categories, or keywords within the posts. With some of the plugins, you also have the option to feature related posts as thumbnails, links, excerpts, or full posts; you can even manually install the module (if you know some code) to control where related posts appear on the page. Just keep in mind that some plugins may affect your site’s performance because they may place an additional load on your server by searching though all your previously published posts.

Whether you choose to go the manual route, use the Jetpack plugin, or opt for an external plugin, related posts can drive more traffic and engagement on your site. If you want to build an effective article recommendation system, make sure every post on your blog has good visuals, and fill out all the metadata for each post by adding tags and properly categorizing it. These small things don’t take too much time, but they can have a big impact on attracting more visitors to your site.

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Satta Sarmah Hightower

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