The other two plugins are:
- Author hReview (author/editor reviews)
- Customer Testimonials (bonus plugin)
The three plugins in this package go hand in hand and their aim is to increase search traffic by making SERP results more eye-catching.
Author hReview is a fantastic plugin and was the first one from this pack to be released. I’ve been using it successfully on WP Mayor for many months now. You’ve probably come across some of our reviews in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), as they look like the example below.
Notice anything in that screenshot? Of course, it’s those star ratings right? How did I get those? Well, that’s all the result of using the Author hReview plugin, as it enables me to set a star rating from within the Post Editor screen.
The screenshot above is taken from the free version found on WordPress.org. The pro version that is part of the membership package we are talking about today gives you many more features that in my opinion are worth upgrading for.
So in a nutshell AuthorhReview Pro allows you to:
- Easily add rich snippets to your product/service reviews
- Gain more visibility in SERPs
- Differentiate your reviews from normal posts on your blog
Before we get to the object of our attention today (apologies for being long winded but I really love all 3 of these plugins and want you to have a clear idea of what they all do), we’ll have a brief look at WP Customer Testimonials. This is a plugin that most websites could really use to their advantage.
WP Customer Testimonials adds a new custom post type testimonials for customer testimonials, with support for rich snippets reviews and star rating to WordPress. It allows you to display customer testimonials in an elegant way via widgets and shortcodes, and probably display rating stars on the domain front/home page of your site in search results. Visitors can submit their testimonials about you or your product/service from your website, as you can include a handy testimonial form just by including a shortcode in your page.
Here’s how a testimonial looks in the sidebar via widget placement, good eh?
On the frontend, user ratings are gathered via comments. As you can see in the screenshot below, we have new additions to the default WordPress comments template, so a visitor can now give his rating on different aspects of the product.
WP Reviews Pro – Usage
Enough about the other two plugins in the package, lets talk about WP Reviews Pro now!
What WP Reviews Pro allows you to do is build a complete reviews and ratings website. It’s the bigger brother of Author hReview. With WP Reviews the reviewing process is no longer restricted to the site’s editor, but open to any visitor who visits your pages.
Once you install WP Reviews Pro, you just need to activate the plugin from your Plugins list:
Once activated, the plugin will prompt you to enter the API key which you get when you purchase the plugin.
Here’s where you can find your API Key (on your account over at authorhreview.com):
The plugin has its own menu item which also includes handy links to documentation and support.
With the plugin installed, activated and ready to go, lets take a look at the settings screen (Reviews > Settings).
It’s quite a long page, so I’ll be looking at one section at a time, starting with the General Settings. From here you can set whether the star ratings are shown on the home page and below a single post or not. You can also change the currency (one of the required inputs when making a review).
Next you can also enable reviews on custom post types other than posts and pages, which come enabled by default. In my screenshot there’s nothing next to this option since I hadn’t created any other custom post types on my test site. But lets say I’m building a database of WordPress developers, and want their clients to be able to submit reviews about each developer. That would be really easy to accomplish. I would create a CPT named ‘developers’, then assign reviews to this CPT, so each developer can now display his reviews on his page.
Since many bloggers like to maintain total transparency with their readers, they like to include a disclaimer if they’re doing a paid review for someone. With WP Reviews, this is taken care of automatically, you just need to create your disclaimer page and enter its URL in the settings field, and the disclaimer will always be displayed for paid reviews (you can enable the disclaimer on a per review basis, as you’ll see in a few minutes).
Next we scroll down a bit on the settings page, and we encounter the User Ratings Settings. This is section which will be new to those of you who have used Author hReview and are upgrading to WP Reviews Pro.
As you have probably deduced, from this section we control what site visitors are allowed to do in terms of reviewing. You can enable the user reviews system, allow site visitors to rate, and enable cookies. I recommend enabling cookies as it will make it harder to manipulate ratings maliciously. The cookie expiry length of 90 days makes sense, but you can also modify it if you wish. There’s also an IP address check which I would enable. Someone might delete his cookies and then resubmit a rating, over and over again, skewing the ratings. With the IP address check it makes things harder for him as there is a double check in place. From the snippets source dropdown you can choose whether to serve author or user snippets to Google (to show in SERPs).
Moving along, the next section is Rating Box Settings.
This is mostly about how your rating boxes are displayed. You can hide some of the details if you don’t require them, including hiding the rating box altogether (and still serving it to Google for SERPs). There’s a handy option to choose the button color (although you can also change it via CSS) and also the button text. Opening links in a new window can help prevent visitor loss to an extent.
Finally there are the Technical Settings, which I won’t go into as they’re outside the scope of this review, and you will probably never need to use them unless directed to by support personnel while troubleshooting.
Lets switch to the ‘Add new Post’ screen now, to see the metabox that is added thanks to WP Reviews.
The Main tab shouldn’t need any explanation to be honest, you just enter your rating, product name and review summary, then tick the other two boxes if you want.
As you can see, the plugin developer Hesham Zebida has done an awesome job in adhering to the WordPress UI standards when creating the interface for his plugin. Everything seems native to WP and there isn’t anything out of place. Tabs have been used to organise content into digestible chunks, keeping everything nice and tidy. Although you might take these things for granted, I’ve noticed that this kind of tight UI integration is often the result of an experienced developer and a well thought out process, rather than a cheap and rushed job to release a plugin and make some money off it.
The Details tab lets you enter as many details about the product as you wish. The price is the only compulsory item here. You can also enter the version as well as pros and cons for the product. The nice thing that I’d like to highlight is that you can add your own criteria, and they are also sortable. Within this tab you can see the interface that lets you create the custom criteria. Another very nice touch of UI.
Moving on to the Display tab, we have some customisation features for the rating box display. You can even upload an image to include within the rating box.
The next tab is the Link tab, where you can enter your affiliate link and also set the button text. There’s a handy dropdown to set the button’s alignment as well.
Finally, in the Author tab you can change the author of the review. This can be handy if for example the post is written by yourself, but you’re including a review prepared by your colleague.
Documentation & Support
Comprehensive instructions for WP Reviews Pro and the other two accompanying plugins can be found on the documentation page. I found the documentation quite easy to follow, although I prefer it when there is a list of topics always visible in the sidebar. As it is at the moment, you have to keep going back to the main page to read the next topic, which is not so ideal. However, as I said you shouldn’t have any problem understanding how to make this plugin work after making your way through the documentation.
For support, you can use the plugin’s forum. It’s an open forum so you can go ahead and take a look right now, as you will see Hesham is always very prompt in his replies, so we can definitely say that support for this plugin is top notch, no issues whatsoever in this area.
Pricing is very straightforward. Remember that you buy membership and it includes the three plugins mentioned above.
Here’s the pricing structure:
- Single site license: $99
- Multi-site license: $199
At the moment there is a 30% discount running, so you can get the package will be for:
- Single site license: $69
- Multi-site license: $139
The support and upgrades access is for 6 months, so after the 6 months ends, members can use the plugins as long as they want, and can renew support and upgrades access within their accounts whenever they need it.
This is explained on the pricing page:
“When you purchase our membership, you make only one payment (no automatic payments) you get 6 months of access to Support and Upgrades. After 6 months you can still use the plugins for as long as you want. You can purchase another 6 months of support and upgrades for only $29 from your account only when needed.”
With regards to pricing (keeping in mind the full price rather than the discounted price), I think it’s a very fair price for the functionality this package offers. Usage of this plugin can contribute to you making money directly from affiliate promotion of products/services, or also through people booking your service after viewing the testimonials on your site. The 30% discount that is currently running only makes the offer even more good for you, so no qualms from my side on pricing.
I love this plugin (all three actually) and use them daily on my sites, so you can have my word that I’m a very satisfied customer. I particularly like the UI of the plugin, in fact I’ve added it to my list of Role Model plugins which I featured in a separate post.
Here are some things that might be improved:
- One thing I’d like to see improved is the update procedure. At the moment plugin users are required to download new updates and replace the plugin files on their site to update the plugin, which is a cumbersome process and not in line with the WordPress automatic plugin update system. Moreover it’s hard for users to keep tabs on new updates, so they might be running old versions without even knowing that updates have been released. This is especially true if the plugin was installed by a WordPress consultant who then handed over the site to the end user.
- The main issue that users seem to have when using this plugin is that of getting the review box displayed in the way they want it to. Unfortunately due to the thousands of themes out there it is impossible for the developer to build a template for the box to display well in every theme. Of course, if you try the plugin on a straightforward and well coded theme like Twenty Twelve or one of the StudioPress themes, you won’t have any problems. But on other themes things can get tricky mainly due to the CSS that they use. In any case once you file a support request Hesham is always very helpful and will work with you to make sure that the box displays well on your theme. I wonder whether there is a better way of dealing with this issue so it would be easier for users to customise the rating box.
- From a business point of view, I think the plugin developer should moderate the usage of discounts on his products. Discounts should be used for very special occasions, else users will be trained to always expect a discount, and in that case you might as well lower the price. A very good post by Chris Lema deals more in depth with this subject.
- I have a personal preference towards 1 year licenses rather than 6 months. I think 6 months is too short of a period for users, apart from adding extra costs they need to keep tabs on all the plugins they have purchased, and it’s a bit of an extra hassle to renew every 6 months.
All in all I love this plugin because it does many things right, and it’s absolutely straightforward to use. It gives you the right tools to build a review site without ever getting in the way.
In my opinion this is the best plugin out there for building review sites from scratch, and also for including just including a review here and there on your site/blog. That’s the beauty of this plugin, you can either depend on it to build a whole website based purely on reviews, or else just integrate it seamlessly into your existing website and start publishing attractive reviews that are easily picked up by Google.
WP Reviews Pro comes highly recommended from us at WP Mayor!
Would you like to feature your plugin or theme on WPMayor? Check out our sponsored post and paid review service page.