Trying Out Contextly

Contextly is a WordPress related content plugin that can help your readers find other posts on your site that they might enjoy. This is a helpful service for your visitors which can encourage them to stay on your site longer and to visit more pages.

Contextly has something special that we haven’t seen in other related context plugins we’ve tried: while it will choose related posts for you, you can also specify the posts you want to have suggested. We love this.

One of our clients, for example, has a series of posts on a particular topic being published intermittently over a long period of time. While people visiting their site may arrive at any one of those posts, Contextly can help them direct their visitors back to the beginning of the series.

Here are some more ways you could use that feature:

  • Directing people who read a post to a related product
  • Directing people who read a post to other posts by that author (something which nRelate did, but we haven’t seen that happening automatically with other plugins)
  • Micromanaging which posts are shown, because you like that level of control

Contextly is simple to install. Download and install it as you would any plugin, and it will show up in the Settings menu in your left hand navigation bar in the Admin area of your site. Click the customize button and it will walk you through the process and offer you a button to click to put in the API key — plus the key in case you have to do it manually.


The walk-through of customization is very friendly and even entertaining. The screen below features a little robot movie for you to watch if you have nothing else to do during the 90 minutes it takes for Contextly to get started on your site.


Within much less than 90 minutes, Contextly was providing some suggestions for visitors, using our logo as the thumbnail for earlier posts it hadn’t yet indexed:


There are options for configuration (click to enlarge) that let you put the widget just where you want it, and you can remind your bloggers to choose related posts if you want.


Specifying which related posts you’d like to feature is also easy. There’s a “Choose related posts” button near your “Publish” button on every post. You type in a keyword and Contextly will search for you, or you can simply type in URLs. Oddly, we found that it does a better job on some of the sites we tried it on than on others, but it always worked well overall.


Here’s how Contextly’s module looks on our website as of this moment:


Rosie feels like there are too many options and that it is too visually crowded. We previously used nRelate, which had only three, with bordered thumbnails and more space for the titles. This depends on your site: on our test sites with less going on in the images, the look is better — and the click-through rate appears to be better, too.

Rosie is also concerned that the size of the module may keep people from scrolling down to the comments. And she notes that not all the related content offered is truly related, even though we have thousands of posts to choose from. The example above even shows the same post twice.

I don’t disagree with her on these points at all. I think the solution is customization, so by the time you read this, those issues might have been solved. Contextly offers a lot of control and many customization options… but not a single row of boxes below the post.

There are other options besides the below-post module, too, including a sidebar and an in-story block. I find those in-story blocks irritating as a reader, but chacun à son goût. Also, Contextually creates the blocks on the side of the post, not bang in the middle where it would stop a reader.

Contextly will send you a daily report with several different metrics.


We’ve been interested in the click through rates and the author-specific metrics. Click through rates have, in the brief time we’ve been using Contextly, reached nearly fifteen percent at some of the sites where we’re trying it out — those might be readers who would have read just one post without Contextly’s temptations. We’ll be watching our analytics to see whether the number of pages visited increases with Contextly in place.

As for the info on which author has been most popular on a given day or week, that’s not data we’ve set up our Google Analytics to capture, so we found it intriguing. I suppose we could use it to give out bonuses, or even to hire and fire. Both Rosie and I show up as “R Haden,” so there’s less value for us. However, we have five current authors and have had some guest posts in the past, so I look forward to seeing what we can learn.

All in all, this seems to be a very good plugin. Right out of the box it offers lots of customizaton and control, and it works nicely. Analytics and some further options are offered with paid versions.







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