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Last week I started using a WordPress plugin to track the most popular posts. Naturally it’s called Popularity Contest. I’m using version 1.2.1 which was last updated Nov. 5, 1006. I turned off some of the features in the plugin until I can get a feel for how it works in a production environment. A couple of the features can’t be well tested in a test environment, plus it seems like a good idea to let it collect data for awhile before displaying the results.
The plugin puts some intelligence into determining the popularity of a post by allowing weights to be assigned based on how the post is viewed or used.
The screenshot below shows the possibilities along with their default values.
As you can see, views from the feed carry the least weight since there’s no way to know if someone actually read the article. The same with Homepage and Archive views, they carry a bit more weight but not too much since there are multiple posts of the page. Trackbacks really bump things up because someone else referenced the post. Permalink Views are when someone views the article on it’s own page. Either because they came via a search engine or clicked the article URL on the Archive or Home page. These values are fully configurable so that they can be customized to the structure of the site.
You can see the current rankings for my site in the bottom of the right sitebar. The most popular posts of all time along with the most popular for the month so far are shown. Unless there’s a lot of trackbacks or comments there’s a bias to new posts in the beginning since they collect points with homepage views. The plugin also includes the ability to recalculate trackback/pingback/comment values which is useful if you have to delete spam. This calculation can also be scheduled using cron so the values can be automatically re-calculated every night.
The plugin also includes several template tags. The widget in the sidebar uses the tag for the most popular of all time along with the tag for most popular in a month. A tag for most popular in a category is also available. The plugin creates a “Most Popular” page in the WordPress Dashboard which shows the most popular posts in categories and views and serves as an example of what can be done.
The plugin also displays the popularity of each post, in relation to the most popular, within each post (at the bottom). I have that feature turned off for now. I want to see what it does to feeds (if the popularity changes does the feed change?) and collect more data before displaying it.
You can follow future updates and information about the Popularity Contest plugin on my WordPress page.