Contextly keeps readers longer

ContextlyContent Marketing is the buzz world for both SEOs, business and almost anyone involved in digital marketing but there are different parts to a successful content marketing strategy. One nifty plugin that has managed to keep a low profile considering it’s features and publishers using it’s platform is Contextly.  This post covers my review of the Contextly platform and a interview with Ryan Singel the founder who has boot strapped the platform development and is bringing in revenue to support it’s growth.

What the product does?

The platform seeks to help publishers and authors by increasing pages viewed per visit but also ensures your readers can be shown stories that are more relevant based on journalists insights than a computer algorithm can ever deliver. The plugin makes it quicker and easier to add in contextual links to your old posts, articles from trusted sources or from the web.The plugin adds 3 new buttons to your WordPress toolbar: Insert Link, Show Contextly Window (screenshot below), Add Contextly Sidebar into Post.

Add Contextly Link
Add Contextly Link

The plugin has the ability to show a fully customisable widget at the bottom of your posts or select to add in a living sidebar to show off your best content. The idea behind their platform is to turn more one-off visitors into loyal readers by giving them your best posts and trusted articles in a simple widget.

Similar platforms to Contextly

I asked Ryan for clarification around his platform and how it compares against Zemanta and Outbrain.  The main difference seems to be that his platform is more designed for journalists and authors to encourage their readers to consumer more content.  Outbrain is obviously a content marketing platform used to buy traffic to increase the number of views. Outbrain is a platform to buy in more visitors from other websites but has also experienced issues with low quality publishers using it’s platform so have been aggressively removing spammers to improve the quality of their platform.

Zemanta is a plugin designed to connect bloggers who are writing about similar topics to link to other bloggers articles, use their rich media and even suggestions text links to include within the posts.  Zemanta is offered as a browser extension that supports all major browsers but also loads on any of the following blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, Posterous, Moveable Type, Drupal) but also offers a downloadable server-side plugin (, Drupal, Moveable Type, Joomla 1.5).

The limitations of the Zemanta platform is that does not have insights around the authority of the content recommendations, while they seem fairly accurate based on the blog you are writing still require more trust in their selections.

Zemanta Plugin
Zemanta Plugin

Links Widget & Design Options

There are two main options for Contextly one is the “read more box” and the other is the “living sidebar”. The platform allows for control of most of the elements including basic features, layout for tabs but also custom CSS controls are allowed if you want to use them.

Contextly Products
Contextly Products

Sidebar Widgets

The sidebar widget has a limited controls on settings such as if you show thumbnails, thumbnail sizes and dates but also control over basic colour, fonts and font size. Sidebar widgets are designed to be simple and retain consistent design across your whole blog.

A/B Testing on display functions

Because the platform is design to improve reader engagement and articles viewed they have built in their own A/B testing platform that allows admins to quickly create a test based on a preset number of visitors.  They suggest a figure of around 5 to 10% should be used for the A/B test and best practice should be that you are only changing one variable such as font or image size. The tests are quick and easy to setup and can be viewed from within the A/B testing dashboard.

Contextly AB Testing
Contextly AB Testing

Visual Reports on Authors instead of using Google Analytics

One of the big insights after speaking with Ryan was that his platform was focused on communicating what articles and authors were generating the most views but also clicks via the Contextly widgets.  This was always possible manually within Google Analytics but often prove so difficult that publishers would use separate profiles or even accounts to track authors content accurately.  These reports are emailed on a daily basis and can give insight to what thumbnails are also generating a higher CTR so authors could choose to update the image used for their posts based on past articles CTR. The task to optimise CTR based on image thumbnails is still a manual process, but hopefully it will be included in a future AB testing function.

Contextly Author Report
Contextly Author Report

Weekly profile statistics/insights on dashboard

The big benefit of any decent plugin is a simplified reporting dashboard and the screenshot below shows how simple it is to track how your articles are performing with Contextly.

Contextly Statistics Dashboard
Contextly Statistics Dashboard

Add Trackable Links in Post

The platform also has the ability to use trackable links within the body of your blog posts, but I’m not currently using this function, but I would expect many people would find it valuable.
Using Contextly Search Tabs

The Search tabs are a great way if there are a number of common sites your reference or if you are part of a network of websites that you want to reference for suitable links to embed in your post.  The search function is also suitable if your blog and your website sit on separate platforms and you need to include links from posts to specific products or pages.
Plugin Download & Install Information

It’s currently invite only beta platform but if you contact Ryan you can apply to be onThe benefit for webmasters using Contextly is that it doesn’t add more strain to your WordPress database as it is a SAAS platform.  The plugin is available to download here and once installed you will need to authenticate via Twitter as most of the settings are handled outside of WordPress. You will also need to ensure you have added in your unique API so your website can communicate securely with Contextly servers.

Contextly Pricing Plans

Like most platforms Contextly offers a free trial for 30 days so you can test how awesome it truly is for improving your content marketing activities.  It’s great to see that they also have a special offer for non-profits and schools that want to use their platform.

  • Personal Users – $19/month and suitable for websites upto 25k pageviews/month plus basic analytics
  • Company Blogs – $49/month and suitable for websites upto 50k pageviews/month plus promotional posts and detailed social media analytics
  • Premium Users – $99/month and suitable for websites upto 100k pageviews/month plus upto 5 websites
  • Enterprise Users – POA and suitable for unilimted number of websites and millions of pageviews/month

Interview with Ryan Singel

I had seen the plugin across Wired and a handful of other sites lately and I reached out to Ryan on the 27th November to see if it was possible to be added to the beta list.  This was followed up by an early morning phone call last Saturday with the Ryan about his background, the platform, consumer privacy and other content marketing technologies.

What is your background?
Ryan Singel Founder of @contextlyAfter a couple years working for natural language search startups, where I focussed on making tools better, in the first dotcom boom, I began writing and editing for I spent a decade there, covering everything from government data mining programs to start-ups, including writing the first article ever about YCombinator.

Why did you launch Contextly?
Contextly came straight out of a very concrete problem that Wired writers faced: we all wanted to link to our previous stories in our newest stories, but we had no decent tools to do so. For a while, we used a text file with default HTML, which we would fill out with story titles and urls after doing many Google searches and cuts-and-pastes. I wanted to fix that.

It turned out that the problem and potential of related links is much more interesting than just building an easier tool, and as I built out the tool, I realized how key that related links section at the end of the article was, especially in the age of the drive-by reader. So after going through a beta with Wired and having very exciting results, I realized that it was no longer possible to do both jobs — and Contextly had become the one that occupied my head when I was in the shower.

How does Contextly help publishers?
From a sheer numbers perspective, Contextly moves the needles that publishers care about: time on site, page-views-per-reader, bounce rate and page-views. From a larger perspective, Contextly helps publishers build a brand. These days the way you gain an audience and loyal readers is putting out great stuff, pushing it to social networks, and building a reputation for good content. But if readers only show up and read that one article their friend posted on Facebook, it’s very possible they won’t even remember what site they read that great story on. Contextly helps publishers show off both the breadth and depth of their content, so that drive-by reader will actually find the great stuff your writers are doing.

What’s the benefit of Contextly for business
These days businesses have realized they can reach their customers through their own content. And while they may not get as many readers as a popular publication, every individual reader is worth so much more to a business than to an ad-supported publisher. If you can keep that person reading, they are going to be more likely to remember you, to sign-up for a beta, buy a product, download a white-paper and/or discover your company’s value.

We have some other features coming soon that are geared towards businesses specifically, but if a business is taking the time to create great content and get readers — but aren’t figuring out how to get readers to more content, that business is missing out.

How can it help author/journalists?
Speaking as a former writer, I didn’t get into the writing game to feed the internet’s insatiable hunger for new content. Writers want to tell stories and tell long-term stories. That’s why at Wired, we used to handcraft related links. We KNEW what stories were related. So if my most recent story is about Google laying fiber in Kansas City, I know that story is related to stories about net neutrality, about cable companies putting caps on monthly internet usage, and maybe to an analysis piece on why it is Google builds things like self-driving cars. We help writers link to those stories in the body of their current story, in sidebars and in the related links widget. And that’s satisfying to writer, good for readers and good for publishers. An algorithm won’t know those connections.

Is the platform cookie-less?
A large amount of my time at Wired was spent covering privacy and its importance. Reflecting that, Contextly does not use cookies. That’s not to say we won’t at some point to add some personalization, but when we do, we’ll do it a way that respects readers and gives them options and controls.

What is the importance of user privacy?
There’s lots of value to publishers and to Contextly, but the most important value accrues to users. People like to have control over when they are public and private. That’s what front doors and curtains provide in the real world. Online, so much happens in the background that many people feel like they dont’ have curtains or doors. There’s a feeling that there’s no control. That makes users suspicious, paranoid and bitter, since too many sites fail to show any respect — often out of the fear that if they give people choices that people will completely shut them out. Tools like Google’s Ad Preferences managers that let you see what Google thinks you are interested in and allows you to remove or add categories, or simply opt-out. As many *add* new categories as opt-out. That’s what control looks like.

What is technology is platform built on? Why?
We use jQuery in the browser to display the related links widget, making API calls to our cloud-hosted servers. The cloud hosting is awesome so that we can scale up easily, even for events like an Apple announcement which can drive a million page views in an hour to a single live blogging post on a single site. We host images and javascript through Akamai’s Content Delivery Network, which makes Contextly fast for readers.

Does that platform support rich media?
There’s nothing inherent to the platform that can’t support rich media. But right now, we’re mostly pointing people from web pages to web pages. If a page’s dominant visual element is a video, we have ways of generating a thumbnail of the video. That thumbnail could be a playable video like Bing does with its excellent video search. That’s something we’d like to have, but I’m just not sure that it’s a feature that’s a must have. There are so many things we want to do and figuring out how to triage is tough.

What features are coming next?
We’re currently WordPress only, but that’s not anything about the product itself. So a Drupal module will be coming soon. We’re also doing some fun stuff with social and adding even more editorial levers and buttons so sites can have even more control. And that’s only the stuff I’m willing to talk about — which is hard — because I think this product is so much fun to build that I keep wanting to share even when I shouldn’t.

Try Contextly free for 30 days

I suggest you have a play around with the Contextly plugin below that I’m using on my blog and if you have a suitable and high quality WordPress blog reach out to Contextly and apply to their beta program here.

One Reply to “Contextly keeps readers longer”

  • I just started trying contextly and I admit that it is really awesome. It is one of the coolest content management platforms out there my only issue is with the pricing. I discovered that they have reduced the price a bit compared to the ones on this post but it is still on the high side and this is going to limit quite a number of people from using it.

Comments are closed.