Best practice for "other content" link placement
October 7, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Most Read Articles | Related Articles | Recommended Articles: These kinds of things that you see on news websites, what are they called? Is there an all encompassing UX term for this? How do content managers decide what is placed where? Do users even click on these links or are they just used to make sure search crawlers get to deeper content?

So these collection of links that you might see on news websites, they usually appear in the left or right column next to the main content and they provide links to other content. The types of links that they have and their position on the page are what and where they are for a reason.

So what I'm looking for is info on how web content managers or UX wizards decide on placement and the kinds of links that are displayed in such things. Also, I don't know if this is really "a thing", but if there is a standard industry term for what these collection of non-navigation but somehow otherwise content-related links next to the main content are called, I would like to know what it is, because then I would have something to google and possible lead me to a trove of info.

I can imagine that sites with a lot of resources and a large user base could use A/B testing to determine what kind of links and placement results in more clicks. Where can I find info about what works best? Or is that irrelevant because it is different for every site?

Another possibility: Do these kind of things actually engage users or are they mainly helpful for SEO and making sure deeplinks get crawled and indexed?

Is there a science to this sort of thing?

Please somebody point me in the right direction.
posted by chillmost to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
A lot of times the "Related/Recommended" links are automatically generated through a plugin that uses keywords and tags to determine the most relevant items. Here's one for Wordpress but they exist for every CMS out there. Funny, but I don't know if there's a standard term for them, actually. I've always just said "Let's put a related posts box there." I have seen some people that use a field in the "Create A Post" screen to put the related links in by hand, but for the most part they tend to be automatic (at least, in my experience.)

As far as user engagement goes, I've definitely seen that they drive people deeper into sites I've managed. The SEO value is there to a small extent, but any good site has already had its articles indexed and updated through the sitemap. It's external links that help the most in that regard.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:11 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

These lists are often auto generated and relatedness is decided by comparing the current page with other pages wrt keyword similarity, categories/tags/meta data assigned to the page, what other users have read, etc. Some CMSs allow you to manually edit the list but generally this is a fallback option since knowing which articles you have and how they are related is troublesome.

The exact placement differs greatly and I would say it's very much a thing you should a/b test once you decide what your call to actions are both generally (entire site) and specifically (current page).

Example: If I have a how-to guide where my call to action is to have users phone me for a consultation, I might altogether remove related articles because I don't want users to get distracted. On the other hand, if I'm just writing a minor news story then maybe I don't have a specific call to action so at least I can have a list of related content to keep the user engaged.

Another possibility: Do these kind of things actually engage users or are they mainly helpful for SEO and making sure deeplinks get crawled and indexed?

They are pretty important for the user experience because they aid in content discovery. Even a basic mechanism like a list of content that have the same set of tags allows users to discover deeply buried content that might otherwise be very hard to find (users can't search if they don't know what they are looking for). Any type of action that prolongs your user's visit is a good thing because average time spent on your site tends to be something that advertisers are interested in.

Here's a video by Google's SEO guru Matt Cutts where he explains why a list of related posts might matter.

Is there a science to this sort of thing?

None that I know about but you a/b test stuff and usually your previous design decisions naturally limit where you can place a list of related content. For instance, you don't want to place it before the main article because that would be too distracting. Also, the chrome of your site further limits the options you have because maybe you've decided that general navigational mechanisms are more important than elements that are page specific, so the topmost space in your sidebar might not be available or the space most immediately at the end of the page content.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:48 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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