If you’ve been writing for a while and have a lot of content on your blog, your readers have to dig through your archives to find your best content. The simple reality is they may not take the time to do that, and could leave before they find that amazing post which everyone else loved.
Give your readers a helping hand by highlighting your most popular posts. Guiding your readers (especially newer readers who are not familiar with your site) to your greatest hits can help keep them on your site longer. Luckily for you, there are lots of plugins to simplify the process of promoting those posts.
This article will review the best WordPress popular post plugins, looking at the pros and cons of each, as well as the most suitable scenarios for their use.
The 9 Best Popular Post Plugins
1. Jetpack by WordPress.com (Free)
We can’t start this list without looking at the elephant in the room. Jetpack by WordPress.com is installed on over 1,000,000 websites, and by default, those sites all have access to the Top Posts & Pages Widget – one of its many features. The Top Posts & Pages Widget can display either the most liked posts, or the posts with the most traffic in the previous 48 hours.
Jetpack comes with an Extra Sidebar Widgets feature that can be enabled under Jetpack > Settings in the WordPress admin. Once that is done, the widget will show up under Appearance > Widgets, and can be dragged onto any sidebar you choose. You can configure the widget to display up to ten items (which can be posts, pages, or media) as a text list, image list, or image grid.
The widget can be displayed in posts and pages by using a shortcode, which includes parameters to change the options. Additionally, if you are comfortable with code, it is possible to further customize the widget.
2. WordPress Popular Posts (Free)
Next on our list is the very popular WordPress Popular Posts plugin, which is installed on over 200,000 websites and has a 4.5-star satisfaction rating. “Easy to customize” and “easy to use” are the terms that get used most often for this plugin.
WordPress Popular Posts enables several widgets to be added, each with its own settings, which is especially useful given the range of options available. You can display popular posts within specified time ranges (e.g. last 24 hours or last seven days), including custom post types, and with or without thumbnails. Posts can be displayed based on number of comments, number of views, or average views per day.
If you don’t want to use the widget, a shortcode is available to insert the most popular posts within your site’s content. Alternatively, you can use the template tag to embed the most popular posts anywhere in your theme.
3. WP Tab Widget (Free)
WP Tab Widget provides you with a selection of tabs you can use in your sidebar. Over 80,000 websites have it installed, and a 4.8-star satisfaction rating suggests people are pretty happy with it. You can display any of the tabs offered by the widget, which are Popular posts, Recent posts, Comments, and Tags.
You can set the number of posts to display, whether to enable pagination, and what post information to display (post date, post thumbnail, comment count, and excerpt). You can also customize the CSS to better match your theme if required.
This plugin is designed to be very lightweight, loading content on demand, and has an built-in caching system.
4. Top 10 (Free)
Next up, we have the Top 10 plugin, which counts the number of page views of your posts, pages, and custom post types, and enables you to display a list of the most popular ones. Over 30,000 websites have active installs of this plugin, and it has garnered a 4.6-star satisfaction rating.
Top 10 counts the page views on an hourly basis, which are then used to display the most popular posts for total counts, or over a custom period. The sidebar widgets are highly customizable, with options for the number of posts, the types of posts to include, the post information to display, and the time period.
This plugin has a wide of site-wide settings available, including categories to exclude posts, and the ability to add custom CSS styles. There is a shortcode available to insert the popular post list in posts and pages. The plugin can also be extended by developers through filters and actions.
5. WP Most Popular (Free)
This next plugin keeps things simple. WP Most Popular was designed to do nothing else besides rank your most popular blog posts by number of views, and display them in the sidebar or elsewhere in your theme. With over 10,000 active installs and a 4.9-star satisfaction rating, it seems to do that one thing well.
When you add the widget to a sidebar, you can configure the number of posts to display, the post type to list (regular posts, pages, or custom post types), the time range to include (all time or the past day, week, or month), and whether to display post thumbnails.
If you are comfortable with code or want to insert the list of popular posts somewhere else in your theme, you can add a custom function to your theme and use filters and actions to further customize the output.
6. Popular Widget (Free)
Similar to the WP Tab Widget, Popular Widget displays popular posts, recent comments, and tags in a tabbed widget. Over 10,000 active installs and a 4.6-star satisfaction rating make this plugin a popular choice.
The Popular Widget can display popular posts by most commented or most viewed, and the posts can be filtered by date range, author, or category. Display options for the widget include whether to display thumbnails, excerpts, and counts.
7. Post Hit Counter (Free)
The name and description for the Post Hit Counter plugin are very straightforward – it is a counter to track how many times your posts are viewed. Of course, it is in our list because it does more than just count – it also enables you to display a list of the most viewed posts. With over 5,000 active installs, it is not as popular as the others we have covered so far, but it has a 4.8-star satisfaction rating.
The sidebar widget is very straightforward and simply displays the most viewed posts (with or without the view counts and post dates). However, the plugin options also enable you to select which post types should be counted, and prevent specific user roles (such as admins) from triggering the hit counter.
What is useful with this plugin is that it adds a visible hit counter to the posts list table, the admin bar, and the post edit screen in the WordPress Admin. The most viewed posts are also displayed in a dashboard widget so you can keep an eye on them without diving deep into your site analytics.
8. Most and Least Read Posts Widgets (Free)
This plugin provides an interesting twist on the popular post plugin by giving you a list of your least read posts as well. This could be a good way to help boost some of your less read posts. Most and Least Read Posts Widget is an easy to use plugin that tracks post hits, excluding those by popular web crawlers (like Google) and by admin users. It has over 3,000 active installs but only four reviews, so take the five-star rating with a grain of salt.
The plugin provides you with two widgets – one for most read posts and one for least read. When you add either widget to your sidebar, you can customize the number of posts displayed, whether to display the number of post views, and how far back in time to include posts. The plugin also offers a shortcode to be used in posts and pages, with all the same options available.
An interesting option enables you to exclude posts with specific words in the title. So if you have some non-narrative posts you usually identify with text in the title (such as [VIDEO]), you can keep those out of your ranking.
9. Super Post ($10)
The final plugin on our list is also the only premium option we’ve included. With all the free options we’ve listed, why should you consider paying for a popular posts plugin? Well, Super Post does a whole lot more than just list your most popular posts, and with nearly 1,000 sales and a 4.3-star rating, it seems several site owners agree.
Super Post actually gives you a way to create post queries of various types. You can display posts from specific categories, tags or other taxonomies, and query specific post types. A shortcode editor enables you to add the query results to any post or page.
You can use the provided widget to display your most commented posts in the sidebar with or without thumbnails, excerpts, or comment counts. You can optionally add custom CSS to completely customize the appearance of the widget.
Choosing a Popular Post Plugin
We’ve given you a wide range of options, but not every popular post plugin will be right for you. The perfect plugin for your site will depend on the types of posts you have, how you prefer to rank the posts, and the amount of customizability you want.
For an easy to use option, you can’t go wrong with Jetpack (which may already be in use on your site). If you’re not a Jetpack user, WordPress Popular Posts and WP Most Popular are both solid alternatives that provide the additional option of a time range from which to select posts.
If you are a fan of sidebar tabs, both WP Tab Widget and Popular Widget will give you what you need. WP Tab Widget may be a better fit, though, if you want to customize the appearance of the widget through CSS. Popular Widget is more suited if you want to be able to filter the popular posts by date, author, or category.
If you want to work with custom post types, WordPress Popular Posts is a solid easy to use option. Top 10 can also work well, and provides much more flexibility and customization options. If you want complete control over the posts displayed in your listing, Super Post has got you covered with the ability to create custom queries.
Your readers – especially ones new to your site – don’t have time to dig through all your old posts to find those hidden gems you’re so proud of. You need to showcase the posts that have performed the best – whether through views or comments, for example.
Whether you’re looking for a simple widget you can drop in and not fiddle with, or one that you can tweak and customize, you should be able to find a suitable plugin above to showcase all your best content for your readers.
If you’ve used any of these popular post plugins we’d love to hear how they worked for you. Share your experiences and tips and tricks, and subscribe to the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by Ho Yeow Hui / shutterstock.com