Saturday, March 01, 2008

Blogger - a new most popular posts widget

As I mentioned the other day, I finally had to ditch my old AffiliateBrand Most Popular Posts widget, because of the inordinate amount of time it was taking to load.

Today I did bit of googling (because I really liked being able to see at a glance which of my blog posts you were reading) to see if I could find a similar widget, and I found Spotplex: What people most read today.

When you first arrive at the site, it's not immediately obvious what the site can do for you, or how to get your widget, but basically it works via a bit of JavaScript on your blog (same as most widgets) which measures which of your posts are getting the most hits within a given period of time. These results are displayed in the widget itself which you also add to your blog.

In addition to allowing you to measure the most popular posts on your own blog, Spotplex also rates the most popular posts on all the blogs that use the Spotplex widget - and it displays these on its own website.

I found Spotplex via a very good post describing how to install the widget - Assess My Blog: Popular Posts Widget for Blogger, so I would recommend that you go there and follow the very clear instructions.

The Spotplex homepage includes no real instructions on what you're supposed to do, and seeing as you have to click on two separate buttons on the homepage in order to get your widget, and there's nothing there to tell you that this is what you have to do, I found Assess My Blog's instructions very helpful.

A couple of points:

Step 3 in the Spotplex process (once you've registered and provided info about your bog) is to get the JavaScript tracking code to add to your blog. The site provides you with a code number and also the line of JavaScript you'll need. There's a button within the form that reads "Install Spotplex Widget" which automatically adds the JavaScript to your sidebar.

It's a little misleading, IMO, to describe it as "installing the widget", because this doesn't actually install the widget itself, only the JavaScript. Actually adding the widget to your sidebar is the next step in the process. You can choose whether or not to include a Spotplex logo with the JavaScript. Personally I prefer not to - I don't like cluttering up my blog with other people's logos.

Instead of automatically creating a new sidebar element that holds the JavaScript (and logo if you want to include it) you can also choose to simply copy the JavaScript and add it to your Blogger template by hand. This is my preferred option, as I have a range of analytics tools on my blog, all of which use little bits of JavaScript. I paste these into the very end of my template, just before the </body> tag.

If, like me, you forget to make a note of your special Spotplex code number and then you close the Ajax-generated window in which it appeared, you won't be able to use your "back" button to get back to it. You can, however, find your code number by looking at your piece of JavaScript - it's the 6-figure number included in the URL inside the JavaScript.

You get the widget itself by clicking a very small button labelled "get widget" on the Spotplex homepage. This opens a new Ajaxy window where you can make choices about the size of the widget, the duration of time being measured, how many post titles to display - and also whether you want it to display the most popular posts across all blogs, or just within your own blog.

Once you've made your selections you can choose to preview the widget. I would recommend doing this, as the first time I tried it, I got a system error message in the preview box. When I added this code to my blog I got the same error message and no widget. I went through the process again, this time I got a proper preview, and the widget worked fine when I added it to my blog.

It might take some time for the widget to start displaying any results - because people have to be visiting your blog in order to generate hits which can be counted. I happen to be writing this post (having just installed the widget) in the evening in NZ, which means many of my American and European visitors will be tucked up in bed, asleep. Hopefully within a few hours I'll start getting some results.

Although this widget doesn't appear to be customisable in terms of design like the AffiliateBrand one was (with a bit of hackery), it has a nice, generic-looking design anyway, with neutral coloring and Apple-like shading. This means it fits well into most blogs, unlike the very blue-and-purple AffiliateBrand widget.

I've been checking the loading time for my blog now that I've added this widget, and it doesn't seem to have slowed it down, which is good. The very slow loading time of my page with the AffiliateBrand widget was what made me eventually remove it.

The Spotplex website also allows me to log in using either my code number or the URL of my blog, and provides me with a graphical display of my traffic trends, as well as a summary of my latest posts. I'll describe this in a bit more detail once I get some results. :)

It's looking good so far. I'll update this post tomorrow once I've seen it in action for a while...


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6 comments:

Manick said...

Hi,

Nice article. Thanks for giving me a link. Appreciate that. So far, I didn't have any issues with Spotplex. Hope it works for you too. Thanks.

webweaver said...

You're welcome, Manick - yup it seems to be working pretty well for me too!

Simos Segiopoulos said...

Hello! This was a great post i read a month ago so i put spotlex in all my blogs. It was a bit slow but ok. But today i noticed that Spotlex is going offline. That's a pity! So I came back to your site to find another solution. I will try feedjit, i hope it is good! In any way, thank you for the information! I hope blogger will create a gadget for the most read soon so as not to use third party applications that run slow. Greek Greetings i am sending you from Athens

webweaver said...

Hi Simos!

Thanks heaps for the heads-up - I wondered why the widget was no longer displaying on my blog...

Doh!

I totally agree with you about Blogger creating their own Most Popular widget - I wish they would.

The Fitness Diva said...

Oh, man! Just after reading your post, I got all excited about going there to install this widget on my blog only to read that they are shutting the site down! I wonder why?

Chiranjib Mazumdar said...

Spotplex is closed...
Rather I used Feedjit... :)