How WordPress Related Posts Plugin Can Hurt Your SEO (and What to Do About It)

If you are big fan of related posts plugins and currently using one in your wordpress blog, you should hold tight. I’ve collected some serious facts that will not go along your seo prospective.

First of all to clarify, I personally would love to see them under articles that I read. From the technical side, they are very helpful for:

  • Increasing user experience.
  • Reducing bounce rate.
  • Creating more internal links.

But even so there are some risks involved!

related posts can hurt your seo

Google is getting more and more smarter, and making their way to spam-proof their search algorithm. Google ranking system is based on algorithms, so what you want to do may not always be recognized by them whether it is a good deed or not.

This topic is just a sample of that. You are helping site usability by adding related posts to your blog, but Google can often recognize it as manipulation of search ranking if it goes wrong.

The main problem: Related post links are generated automatically

Above all odds, Google is against the automated stuff. That means they do not love things at all that are made or generated automatically.

The reason is clear: automated things can not retain its likable quality.

This rule applies to the content creation, link building, and your internal links as well. And it includes your related posts plugin what is creating the majority of your internal links.

If you think all types of internal link will help, even so with your related posts plugin, you will make the same mistake like the following person, who started this discussion on WebmasterWorld forum:

webmasterworld discussion

Internal links are helpful to spread link equity to other pages, but not all of them are effective. If you are forcefully creating it, you are hurting it more than helping.

From other side, you have less control over the related post results. You are not setting it up manually, so there is no guarantee it will be 100% relevant to the main content (though you took necessary measurements).

In fact, you can barely diversify the anchor text of those links. They can be responsible for leading an unnatural internal links profile for your site.

The result of this problem could be a loss of ranking (generally what happens in this case), algorithmic penalty, manual penalty and even the de-indexation of your site if it goes full out of control.

The best solution: Consider doing manual interlinking

Opposite to this problem, I found a good solution and consider doing it myself. That is manual interlinking from post contents.

It is the most effective and safest way of interlinking since I’m aware of what I’m linking, how I’m linking and how many of them I’m linking.

From the technical sides, interlinks from main contents are best for ensuring user experience, reducing the bounce rate and increasing the number of internal links.

You will get all the benefits from manual interlinking that you can expect from your related posts block. So I doubt that you will still want to use one of these plugins for showing related posts knowing these facts.

What if you still wish to use a plugin?

As I said before in this post, I’m not wholeheartedly against using these plugins. I am just concerned about how not to make it affect our seo efforts.

There are still many people who are quite good at using a plugin for related posts and want to stay with it. What about them and what should they take in their consideration?

Well, there are some ways for plugin users to reduce the risks, not sure but if not remove the risks. Here are a few of them:

1. Choose an advanced and semantic plugin

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team raised an article about Which is the best related posts plugin for wordpress?”. He recommended to choose a plugin that is easy to install and has advanced options to give full control.

So if you still want to depend on a plugin to show related post, you should select that plugin what comes with the advanced functionality to make results more semantic and for obvious, what is actively maintained.

Here are three plugins I recommend, but always test after installing whether it is showing the most relevant results or not:

  1. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
  2. WordPress Related Posts
  3. Jetpack by WordPress.com

Power Tip: In your plugin configuration, switch your base of showing related posts from categories to tags. It will make the results more relevant.

2. Reduce related posts amount

While there is already a question raised about this regarding seo, it is the best choice that you minimize the related posts number.

Too many internal links in a row can make a bad signal, so you better keep it between 3-4 as it is the best average number.

3. Manually pick related posts

There are some plugins that allow you manually select articles to be showed in the related posts area. So this is another way you can reduce the risks of linking to irrelevant articles.

Though it will cost you some extra time and efforts, you can always consider selecting 3-4 most relevant articles to be showed along your main article and stay safe.

You can use the following plugin to set related posts manually from your wordpress post editor:

  1. Manual Related Posts
  2. Related Posts for WordPress (No longer maintained)

P.S: If you use these plugin, you will need to set related posts everytime you write a post. They will not automatically or randomly choose posts for you.

4. Why not nofollow related post links

A wordpress user once asked Jetpack by WordPress.com team, “Why Jetpack related post links were nofollowed?”.

In its answer one of their authors said, those links are generated automatically, and they don’t want to be a reason for someone’s Google penalty. So they nofollowed them to stay safe.

jetpack nofollows related posts

Google recommends if you are not sure about a link whether it will help or not, you should nofollow it. I think that is a good takeaway in this case.

If you are concerned if the plugin is showing right results or not, or you often see irrelevant results, you should nofollow the links.

Nofollow links for internal pages is not a good practice but in this case it would be a life savior for you.

Summary!

In these days, seo is the game of serving better user experience and making sure Google is getting it right according to their guidelines.

Internal links are important to pass link equity to other pages and keep them up to value. But I prefer manual interlinking more than related posts plugin as an interlinking strategy concerning the risks involved.

What do you think about it? Let’s put more weight on the comments and reach into the root of this problem.

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15 Comments

  1. Adeel Sami May 20, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 20, 2015
      • Adeel Sami May 20, 2015
  2. Lisa Sicard May 20, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 20, 2015
  3. Naveen Kumar May 20, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 21, 2015
  4. Vinay Kachhara May 21, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 21, 2015
  5. Nathan Ambrose May 25, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 25, 2015
  6. Swadhin Agrawal May 29, 2015
    • Abrar Mohi Shafee May 29, 2015
  7. Bright Joe January 22, 2016
  8. Steve Woods September 19, 2016

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