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How to Display Popular Posts by Views in WordPress without a Plugin

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How to Display Popular Posts by Views in WordPress without a Plugin

In the past we have shown you how to create a popular post tabber in WordPress using a plugin. That plugin works great out the box for tabbers. However, we wanted more customization in our layout, so we decided to do it without a plugin. In this article, we will show you how to track and display popular posts by views in WordPress without using any plugins.

An example of our custom popular post display is shown in the screenshot below:

Popular Posts Example

First thing we need to do is create a function that will detect post views count and store it as a custom field for each post. To do this, paste the following codes in your theme’s functions.php file or better in a site-specific plugin:

function wpb_set_post_views($postID) {
    $count_key = 'wpb_post_views_count';
    $count = get_post_meta($postID, $count_key, true);
        $count = 0;
        delete_post_meta($postID, $count_key);
        add_post_meta($postID, $count_key, '0');
        update_post_meta($postID, $count_key, $count);
//To keep the count accurate, lets get rid of prefetching
remove_action( 'wp_head', 'adjacent_posts_rel_link_wp_head', 10, 0);

Now that you have this function in place, we need to call this function on the single post pages. This way the function knows exactly which post gets the credit for the views. To do this, you would need to paste the following code inside your single post loop:


If you are using a child theme or you just want to make things easy for yourself, then you should simply add the tracker in your header by using wp_head hook. So paste the following code in your theme’s functions.php file or the site-specific plugin:

function wpb_track_post_views ($post_id) {
    if ( !is_single() ) return;
    if ( empty ( $post_id) ) {
        global $post;
        $post_id = $post->ID;    
add_action( 'wp_head', 'wpb_track_post_views');

Once you have placed this, every time a user visits the post, the custom field will be updated.

Note: If you are using a caching plugin, this technique will NOT work by default. We are using W3 Total Cache, and it has the feature called Fragmented Caching. You can use that to make this work just fine. Here is what needs to be changed:

<!-- mfunc wpb_set_post_views($post_id); --><!-- /mfunc -->

Now, you can do all sort of cool stuff such as display post view count, or sort posts by view count. Lets take a look at how to do some of these cool things.

If you want to display the post view count on your single post pages (often next to the comment count or something). Then the first thing you need to do is add the following in your theme’s functions.php file or the site-specific plugin.

function wpb_get_post_views($postID){
    $count_key = 'wpb_post_views_count';
    $count = get_post_meta($postID, $count_key, true);
        delete_post_meta($postID, $count_key);
        add_post_meta($postID, $count_key, '0');
        return "0 View";
    return $count.' Views';

Then inside your post loop add the following code:


If you want to sort the posts by view count, then you can do so easily by using the the wp_query post_meta parameter. The most basic example loop query would look like this:

$popularpost = new WP_Query( array( 'posts_per_page' => 4, 'meta_key' => 'wpb_post_views_count', 'orderby' => 'meta_value_num', 'order' => 'DESC'  ) );
while ( $popularpost->have_posts() ) : $popularpost->the_post();



To add other WP_Query parameters such as time range, refer to the WP_Query page on Codex.

We hope that you enjoyed this post.

Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress experts led by Syed Balkhi. Page maintained by Syed Balkhi.

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  1. 6b says:

    Really great instruction no need of perfect.

  2. Paritosh Arya says:

    What table does this custom field get stored into? Is it the posts table or the postmeta?

  3. Marcos says:

    Hello. Huge thanks for that. Works very well in my theme.

  4. John says:

    Hello, great tutorial but I have one question.
    After following all of the steps the template isn’t paginating. It’s only showing the default 10 posts. Should this happen or is there a way to get it to paginate?

  5. Varange says:

    Folks, please help. Just cannot figure it out.

    How do I change the args to the wp-query to show the most popular posts for the last week? Or month?

  6. Denis says:

    can I do this with comments? I dont use any comments on my site so I could use this comment count to check my most popular page without adding a comment?

  7. Kes says:

    How do i make this work with w3 total cache? I’ve tried the fragment cache suggestion but changes nothing

  8. Kes says:

    I’ve found a number of tuts covering this topic but none seem to spell out where the line goes.

    I’ve tried it inside PHP tags and it breaks the page. If i place it in the HTML it just renders as a comment when you view source and no php is generated.

    Any ideas? I’m w3 total cache and my page views aren’t getting updated

  9. jarc100 says:

    Thanks, this works as charm, but i didn’t get how to use it with the W3 Total Cache. :P

  10. Jorge says:

    Hello! How can I show the most popular posts for the current week?? Is there any possible? Thanks in advance.

  11. Bigdragon13th says:

    I’m using this code for months and it’s works great! That’s before I start using W3 Total cache and the code stop counting view for me.
    I struck at where and how do I need to put the mfunc code. Can you point that out for me?
    FYI, I put all of the codes in site-specific plugin.

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