The 7 Best Popular Post Plugins for WordPress on the Market

Who isn’t interested in knowing what’s popular? It seems we have some built-in psychological need to know what others like.

And so that’s why “popular posts” plugins can be such a smart way to attract visitors to check out more of your content.

Below we go over the seven top free “most popular posts” plugins for WordPress. Be sure to read on for our ratings and comparisons.

featured-most-popular

Individual Reviews

1. WordPress Popular Posts

1-wordpress-popular-posts

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2013
Downloads: 676,103
Overall Rating: 4.1 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 216

One of this plugin’s strengths is the number of features it offers. So lets go ahead and run through the main ones.

  • Control number of posts shown
  • Control time range
  • Thumbnails available
  • Control thumbnail size
  • Sort by comments, all views, or average daily views
  • Shorten titles for appearance sake
  • Custom post type support
  • Exclude specific posts
  • Exclude/include specific categories
  • Exclude/include specific authors
  • Backend statistics
  • HTML markup
  • Open links in new tab
  • Log only visitors if wanted
  • Shortcodes available

Ability to display …

  • excerpt
  • comment count
  • view count
  • author name
  • post date
  • category

This plugin also comes with clear documentation in your admin section, telling you exactly what each setting does.

 

2. Popular Widget

5-popular-widget

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2013
Downloads: 60,737
Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 14

This plugin probably looks the best straight out of the box.

In addition to “most popular posts,” you can also select the widget to show recent posts, recent comments, most commented posts, and tags. It will lists these other sections in tabs if you choose them.

In addition to the wordpress.org support forum, there is a forum on the author’s site, and it seems support questions may be answered there that aren’t answered on wordpress.org.

Again, one of the main strengths of this plugin is that it gives you a clean, ordered look straight out of the box – something a number of the other plugins don’t.

Here’s a look at its main features.

  • Control number of posts
  • Show excerpt
  • Excerpt length
  • Show view count
  • Thumbnails
  • Thumbnail sizes
  • Title length
  • Time range
  • Custom Post Types
  • Exclude categories
  • Exclude authors

3. Top 10

2-top-ten

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: Oct 26, 2013
Downloads: 133,372
Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 23 

One possible issue with this plugin is that when you use thumbnails, it looks messy because the text goes right up against the image. However, there is a Custom Styles section in the backend that will let you apply CSS to the widget’s output. You can see what the CSS classes are in the plugin’s FAQ section.

I put the in the following code in to get some more space between the thumbnail and the text.

 .tptn_title { margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; }

And so it’s nice to have that flexibility, but you need to know what you’re doing with CSS to get things really looking much nicer. At the very least, it would have been nice if small things like space between the thumbnail and the title could already be present by default.

Here’s a look at the plugin’s many features.

  • Control number of posts
  • Excerpt length
  • Show view count
  • Show author name
  • Thumbnails
  • Thumbnail sizes
  • Default thumbnail
  • Title length
  • Time range
  • Custom Post Types
  • Exclude posts
  • Exclude categories
  • Layout Control
  • Stats in backend
  • Show date
  • Open in new window
  • No follow links
  • Exclude on certain pages

4. Popularity Posts Widget

3-popularity-post-widget

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: March 24, 2013
Downloads: 15,227
Overall Rating: 3.7 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 4

If using thumbnails with this plugin, then it’s recommended you make the width of the thumbnail the same width as your sidebar. If you don’t, you’re likely to end up with a pretty messy combination of thumbnails and titles.

Here’s a look at its features.

  • Control number of posts
  • Show view count
  • Show comment count
  • Thumbnails
  • Thumbnail sizes
  • Title length
  • Time range
  • Exclude categories
  • Shows date
  • Shortcodes

5. Most Read Posts Widget

4-most-read-post-widget

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: Jan 7, 2014
Downloads: 25,249
Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 9

In addition to showing most popular posts, this plugin also lets you put a view count in the post itself.

As with a number of the other plugins, getting your thumbnails and links to display nicely can be a little challenging.

While the plugin author does give you the CSS class for the thumbnail images that you can put into your stylesheet, you will need to know some CSS in order to begin to make things looking all right. Out of the box, if you activate the thumbnails, it will look fairly messy.

I added the following in order to get the screenshot I did.

.mlrp_ul img {margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px;  width: 100px; height: 100px; }

Here’s a look at the main features.

  • Control number of posts
  • Show comment count
  • Thumbnails
  • Thumbnail sizes
  • Time range
  • Layout Control
  • Exclude posts by keyword in titles

6. Simple Popular Content

6-simple-popular-content

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: Dec 6, 2012
Downloads: 2,065
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 (*only one rating present)
5 Star Ratings: 1

This is a very simple plugin, and so there’s not really a lot to say about it. It lets you control the number of posts to show, and it also lets you exclude certain posts. You can also reset the stats, so while it doesn’t technically give you a “time range” feature, you can do it manually.

No thumbnails with this one.

Here are the features.

  • Control number of posts
  • Show view count
  • Exclude posts

7. WP Most Popular

7-wp-most-popular

STATS FROM WORDPRESS.ORG at the time of writing

Last Updated: May 18, 2013
Downloads: 23,682
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
5 Star Ratings: 15

This is another very simple widget without thumbnails or many other options. Essentially it has three features:

  • Control number of posts
  • Time range
  • Custom post types

Comparison Chart

As it’s hard to keep up with what’s what, we’ve gone ahead and made a comparison chart for you.

The names of the different plugins run along the top. The features run down the left hand side.

WordPress Popular PostsTop TenPopularity Posts WidgetMost Read Posts WidgetPopular WidgetSimple Popular ContentWP Most Popular
Control # shownyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Show excerptyesyesyes
Excerpt lengthyesyesyes
View countyesyesyesyesyes
Comment countyesyesyes
Author nameyesyes
Show categoryyes
Thumbnailsyesyesyesyesyes
Thumbnail sizesyesyesyesyesyes
Default thumbnailyesyes
Title lengthyesyesyesyes
Time rangeyesyesyesyesyesyes
Custom Post Typesyesyesyesyes
Exclude postsyesyesyes
Exclude categoriesyesyesyesyes
Exclude authorsyesyes
Layout Controlyesyesyes
Stats in backendyesyes

WPMU DEV’s Ratings

Here’s an overview of how the plugins shook out for us in our tests.

  • WordPress Popular Posts: 4/5
  • Popular Widget: 4/5
  • Top 10: 3.5/5
  • Popularity Posts Widget: 2.5/5
  • Most Read Posts Widget: 2.5/5
  • Simple Popular Content: 2.5/5
  • WP Most Popular: 2.5/5

Overall Winner

Overall, it seemed the WordPress Popular Posts plugin had the most features going for it. And so if that’s what you’re looking for, that one will be hard to beat. That said, the Top 10 plugin also had a lot of features.

The problem with a number of the plugins, however, even those with lots of features, is that they don’t always look so good straight out of the box. And while you can fix things up a little if you know a little CSS, or maybe get them looking much better if you know a lot of CSS, if you don’t know CSS, you’re in something of bind.

For that reason, the Popular Widget plugin also gets high marks. The out-of-the-box styling on that one seemed head and shoulders above the rest. Of course things may look different on your theme, but in my tests on the default Twenty Twelve theme, the Popular Widget plugin really stood out.

photo credit: archangel12

Comments (13)

  1. I’m sure that the plugin will still work, but personally I would not have chosen a plugin as the winner that wasn’t updated in half a year and officially does not support the latest WP release yet. Further on it’s a handy overview with good CSS tips, thanks!

  2. Hi Joe,

    Is there a plugin that you could recommend that would display # of comments on my blog posts, from just going to my homepage? Right now, you can only see them if you click on the post itself.

    Thanks,

    Robb

  3. These all seem to be widgets. nRelate, which I was using, appeared at the bottom of each post. Is there a popular posts plug-in that can appear at the bottom of each post?

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