Every WordPress blog should have a dedicated section displaying the most popular content. It dramatically increases the amount of time spent on your site and reduces bounce rates to create lifetime users from organic traffic. The question of how to determine what is a “popular post” and what isn’t is a long-standing question in the WordPress community. Do you go by the number of comments on a post, the number of views, or the amount of social interaction it gets? Even beyond this, there is the problem of processing. In order to discern the most popular posts using a metric like visits for example, you need to have a tracking system in place. This is yet another burden on your site.
Getting Top Posts & Pages to Show Up
Jetpack recently underwent a design change moving to a more “Ajax” style GUI where modules can be activated and deactivated on the fly without requiring a page refresh. After installing the plug-in, navigate to the Settings menu item under “Jetpack” in the WordPress administration dashboard as shown below.
In order to be able to show popular posts, we need to enable two somewhat unrelated modules called “WordPress.com Stats” and “Extra Sidebar Widgets”. The former integrates visitor tracking on your site much like Google analytics. The latter provides the functionality to introduce a new module into the Widgets section. When both of these are enabled together, the “Top Posts & Pages” widget becomes available.
“WordPress.com Stats” and “Extra Sidebar Widgets” don’t fit into the same screenshot since they’re quite far apart from each other, so I’ve cut and pasted sections to fit them together to show them to you in the same screen:
Unfortunately, the widget requires data before it can provide you with the most relevant posts. It uses a running counter from the past 24 to 48 hours to generate the most popular content. So it is recommended to wait for at least a day before enabling the widget on your site otherwise you may get some unusual suggestions based on short-term data trends. To add it, navigate to “Widgets” under the “Appearance” menu on the WordPress dashboard. Scroll down and you should see it towards the bottom as shown below:
Taking a Look at the Options
There are three simple options for the widget – the most important being the look and feel. The first is a simple list of text links to the various posts and pages. If yours is not an image heavy blog, this might be the best option since it fits in neatly with almost any theme.
The second option is an Image list. It’s almost the same as the first one except that it has either the featured image or the first <img> picture in the post as the thumbnail. If almost every post of yours has one of these, it may look nice. Keep in mind though that without an image, it will revert back to the default blog icon which can look pretty ugly.
Finally, the image grid option just places the pictures side-by-side without any stylin or context. In my opinion, this is the least favorable option though it might go well with certain magazine style themes. Check out each of them to determine which one is the best fit for your site.
If you’re looking for a quick and non-sophisticated way to display popular content on your WordPress blog, the Jetpack plug-in is an ideal choice with the Top Posts & Pages widget.