Have you been blogging with WordPress for a while? Enough to build out a solid content base?
Great! Now, how do you get visitors to read your stuff?
One common obstacle among frequent bloggers is that new readers may not know where to begin, and can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information. You’ll need a way to channel these potential readers to your most valuable content and gain their trust.
There are multiple ways to accomplish this, but one common and effective method is by listing your most popular articles in an accessible place, like the homepage.
For example, you could add a section for your top posts of the week or month. Or, you might find that a handful of pieces bring in the majority of your traffic, and displaying these to new visitors can boost your readership. Then, after directing visitors to your top posts, you’ll benefit further by directing them to related posts. This is just one of many content strategies for bloggers, but it works pretty well.
By showcasing your best work, you direct readers straight to the best content you have to offer. Hopefully, they’ll find value in your articles, then share them with others, and maybe even convert (if that’s your goal).
While WordPress doesn’t have a “popular posts” feature out of the box, there are a handful of free WordPress plugins that can add this feature to your site. In this post, we’ll look at the best solutions available.
Best WordPress Popular Posts Plugins
- WordPress Popular Posts
- Top 10
- Trending/Popular Post Slider and Widget
- Display Posts
- Recent Posts Widget Extended
- PostX – Gutenberg Blocks for Post Grid
- AJAX Hits Counter + Popular Posts Widget
- Tabs Popular Posts and Latest Posts
WordPress Popular Posts is a leading plugin for displaying popular posts on WordPress sites. At its most basic level, this free plugin lets you display a list containing your posts with the most views or comments. But, there’s plenty of room for customization too.
WordPress Popular Posts lets you set a date range for your popular posts, so you can show the top posts from the past day, week, month, and so on. You can also customize the appearance of your list with custom CSS and post contents (e.g., featured images, authors, and view counts), and list posts by average views per day instead of view count or comment count.
This plugin supports multiple widgets placement, which means you can add more than one popular posts widget to a page. This is useful if you want to, for instance, display one list for the most popular posts of the day, and another list for the week’s top posts. You can also place lists with shortcodes.
2. Top 10
Top 10 is another free and feature-rich plugin that lets you showcase your most popular posts, pages, and custom post types. It includes a sidebar widget to display the posts and a built-in counter, which keeps track of each posts’ view count and arranges them by popularity.
You can customize the widget in the WordPress dashboard to match your site’s look and write custom CSS for the list. Top 10 also lets you specify a date range and filter out specific content from your list. If you want to add thumbnails to your list, it uses the first image of the post by default, but you can also insert your own image as the thumbnail.
Along with widget support, the Top 10 plugin also offers two shortcodes. There’s also a built-in caching system to reduce load time for your popular post module — it works with other WordPress caching plugins too.
While it doesn’t have the catchiest name, the Trending/Popular Post Slider and Widget plugin is a simple solution for showcasing posts by view count or comment count. The plugin includes a list widget and three shortcodes for slider, carousel, and grid block views. For the widget, you’re provided a range of parameters to customize the list’s appearance, contents, and functionality.
You’ve probably heard of Jetpack by now — it’s an all-in-one solution to handle the most common needs of a typical WordPress website.
Jetpack is composed of over 30 modules, one of which is the Top Posts & Pages Widget. This widget lets you show either your most liked posts or most viewed post in the past 48 hours. Though it’s probably not enough reason alone to purchase a Jetpack plan, the Top Posts & Pages Widget is a nice perk among the plugin’s many useful solutions.
The free Display Posts plugin provides a piece of shortcode to list posts from your site, and you can modify the code to sort by comment count and social shares. You can’t sort by post traffic, but comment count and social shares can be reliable alternative indicators of popularity.
With additional shortcode parameters, you can display posts in a grid format, toggle thumbnails, filter by many different post attributes, and a lot more.
While less popular than the other options we’ve covered, Relevant provides comparable functionality and features. With it, you can display related posts, featured posts, and popular posts from your website using shortcodes or widgets. Popularity is determined by either post views or comment count.
Relevant also lets you show posts related by category, tag, title, and keyword, and filter your popular lists by these properties. You’re granted a fair amount of visual customization options as well.
Recent Posts Widget Extended allows you to insert a post list using either a shortcode or a widget. While the plugin’s name makes it seem like the focus is on recent posts, you can sort posts by the number of comments — which can signify popularity.
This plugin is a great choice for established blogs with consistent comments. If you don’t receive a lot of comments on your posts yet, you’ll want to skip this one, because it doesn’t order your posts based on views only.
Additionally, if you’re interested in custom coding your popular posts widget or block, this plugin gives you the ability to add customized CSS. The developer provides the current CSS, so you don’t have to go hunting for the widget’s CSS classes.
Another pro: if for some reason you make a change that you don’t like to the CSS, you can access the original code on the plugin’s WordPress listing.
One of the most customizable options on this list, PostX is the perfect plugin for Gutenberg users. It comes with a series of premade blog post blocks, allowing you to list your most popular posts in a grid, slider, or carousel format.
This plugin is a great choice for those with a magazine or news website — or a website where blogging is the primary purpose. You can easily create an entire page built out of post grids and lists using this plugin. You’ll also have access to hundreds of ready-made designs and templates to create a dynamic website with a popular posts list. The blocks are fully responsive and editable live.
While you can download this plugin for free, you’ll need to upgrade to get access to the popular posts option. If you don’t upgrade, you can still list posts based on comment count, which can be a signal of popularity.
This lightweight plugin will count your post views and allow you to embed a popular posts list based on hit count. No need to worry about duplicate views — the AJAX hit counter detects bots and crawlers and dismisses their views.
You can display the list of popular posts anywhere on your site using a shortcode. You can also use a line of code that the developer provides on the plugin’s WordPress listing.
If you want to customize exactly how the post listing will show up, you’ll need to code it using simple HTML. Because of that, this plugin is a good fit for website owners with some knowledge of HTML or those who are willing to learn. You can still try it if you don’t know HTML. If you find it difficult to customize, opt for another option on this list.
This simple plugin easily allows you to add a list of popular posts to your blog’s sidebar. With just a few customization options, it’s the most limited option on this list — but its simplicity makes it a great fit for new website owners who want to set up a list of popular posts as quickly as possible.
To use this plugin, head to your “Widget” area under “Appearance,” drag the widget into the desired area, and choose how many popular posts you want to show. You can also add popular posts anywhere on your site using the shortcode provided on the plugin’s documentation page.
It's Not a Popularity Contest
It’s important to note that your most popular posts shouldn’t be the end goal for readers, but a jumping-off point. You should implement various post promotion and internal linking strategies to give your visitors a user-friendly way to explore and digest your blog content. By keeping this in mind when designing your blog, you’ll lower bounce rate, build a readership, and elevate your search engine rankings and site conversions.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 12, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated May 12 2021