How to Show the Most Popular Posts and Pages Using Jetpack

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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.

I’ve often had occasion to recommend the Jetpack plug-in for WordPress as it has a lot of tools in one place. When configured correctly, it has a new option to show Top Posts & Pages and has integrated tracking ability. Perhaps more importantly, all of the heavy lifting takes place on remote servers so no additional load is placed on your site. All that is necessary is for an additional piece of JavaScript that can be taken care of with caching plug-ins, minification, or CDNs. Here’s how to configure Jetpack to show the most relevant content on your blog.

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.

jetpack settings

In order to be able to show popular posts, we need to enable two somewhat unrelated modules called “ 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.

“ 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:

enable jetpack

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.

text list

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.

image list

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.

image grid

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.

3 Comments on “How to Show the Most Popular Posts and Pages Using Jetpack”!

  • I am using top posts & pages. And I have images in my posts. However, most of the time the image shown in the widget is my gravatar.

    I thought the reason was maybe that my images are posted beneath the text, but that is nog right.

    Do you have any idea what the reason could be?

  • Why does the sidebar display a message that says I do not have any top posts and I should try to generate more traffic. Even if my blog is quite small there are certainly some posts that have had more hits. Why would it not pull those? (A message that says I do not have enough traffic is NOT what I want readers to see!)

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