Review sites convert well. This is a common knowledge.
Just like most of us, I have been building the review sites the hard way. Often time, getting the format straightened and the stars lined up take half of the time of building the site.
A week ago, I decided that I had enough of the manual labor and tried to look for automatic tools. I’m a fan of WordPress. Naturally, the search started with WordPress plugins. And I found quite a few. Some dated back to early 2007. God knows, these plugins could have saved myself 18 month of pain.
After checking out them all, I believe that I’ve found the One. And here’s my experience, written in hope of being useful to others and saving your some research time.
- WP Review Site Plugin by Dan Grassman: http://www.wpreviewsite.com/ : This is probably the first attempt building a plug-in to make review site building easier. It dated back to early 2007, now in its version 2.0. Even after version 2.0, this plugin is still pretty much coder oriented. It makes the assumption that you’re building a site dedicated to user reviews. It doesn’t support integration with Google Maps, importing data from CSV or database, and no comparison Tables. It’s also expensive too ($99 for single site $199 unlimited).
- WFReview plug in http://www.reviewpluginforwordpress.com/ by Nick Mattern, who had someone build it for him in Dec. 2008. This would be the ideal choice except that Nick sold it in May 2009, see this link; http://www.nickmattern.com/why-i-sold-wfreview-the-best-damn-wordpress-review-plugin/ . Without the passionate creator, most of those software wither. Given Google’s new Rich Snippets and hreview microformat just came out in May, I’m not holding my breath that the new owner will catch up. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/05/introducing-rich-snippets.html
- RatingPress http://ratingpress.com/ seems to be a well modularized and well priced ($99 for unlimited together with CSV importing tool TurboCSV). However when I contact the owner about supporting the Google initiative, I was told that there’s no plan support it and the project is to be winded down. We had a great conversation and I felt sorry that his project was not taking off as expected.
- WordPress Review Engine is my last potential. Interesting enough, it just announced version 3 on July 14th 2009, with support to Google hReview coding. The key features of integration with Google Maps, importing data from CSV or database, and comparison Tables are part of the package. The price is good too. $100 for a single and $170 for unlimited. And if you use the coupon code ‘30release’, you get 30% off for a limited time. That’s how I made my choice.
I’ve been playing with WordPress Review Engine for a few days. It’s been a pleasant experience. Here are the features I like the most.
- By just looking at the fully integrated Wordpress layout (see image below), you know immediately this is done by a professional, not an armature. The review elements are deeply embedded in the entire writing process. Review image, affiliate link, feature details in custom fields are all nicely laid out, making writing a pleasure.
- This plug-in integrates with any theme seamlessly (tongue twister intended). If you’re a newbie, it works out of the box. If you love coding and tailoring, you can too.
- The configuration is simple and straight forward, see below.
- Louis claimed that he builds http://www.golfinventura.com/ in 10 minutes (excluding content). I timed myself. It took me 15 minutes, by following the 7 step guides. Not bad. I’m pretty sure I can do another one in 10 mins.
- Google map and comparison table make my review sites look professional.
- Two enclosed themes are well targeted to an standard review site. The graphics are modest. If you want to use premium themes like I do, you can too.
- The bonus CSV file importer (CSV2WP) is a life-saver. If you have a database of addresses, they can be imported in a matter of seconds.
- Another unmentioned bonus Link Cloaker helps to manage your affiliate links. It creates a director ‘go’ under your web server root directory and uses PHP header redirect. One regret is that the Link Cloaker doesn’t create a custom log so that you know how many times the links are clicked.
- The support is excellent. Louis handles the questions in person, fast and professional.
Besides, it runs fast too. So far, it’s been a great software. If you build any review site, I’d highly recommend it.