Building a Consumer Review Website using WordPress 3Ahren Stevens-Taylor
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Building a consumer review website will allow you to supply consumers with the information that they seek and then, once they’ve decided to make a purchase, your site can direct them to a source for the product or service. This process can ultimately allow you to earn some nice commission checks because it’s only logical that you would affiliate yourself with a number of the sites to which you will be directing consumers.
The great thing about using the WP Review Site plugin to build your consumer review website is that you can provide people with an unbiased source of public opinions on any product or service that you can imagine. You will never have to resort to the hard sell in order to drive traffic to the companies that you’ve affiliated yourself with. Instead, consumers can research the reviews posted on your website and,ultimately, make a purchase feeling confident that they’re making the right decision.
In this article, you will learn about the following:
- Present reviews in the most convenient way possible for visitors browsing your site
- Specify the ratings criteria that site visitors will use when reviewing the products or services included on your website
- Display informational comparison tables on your site’s index and category pages
- Provide visitors with the location of local businesses using Google Maps
- Perform the additional steps required when writing a post now that the WP Review Site plugin has been introduced into the process
- Perform either automatic and manual integration so that you can use a theme of your own rather than either of the ones provided with this plugin
Once this project is complete, you will have succeeded in creating a site that’s similar to the one shown in the following screenshot:
Introducing WP Review Site
With the WP Review Site plugin you will be able to build a consumer review site where visitors can share their opinions about the products or services of your choosing. The plugin, which can be found at WP Review Site, can be used to build a dedicated review site or, if you would like consumer reviews to make up only a subsection of your website, then you can specify certain categories where they should appear. This plugin gives you complete control over where ratings appear and where they don’t since you can choose to include or exclude them on any category, page, or post.
The WP Review Site plugin seamlessly integrates with WordPress by, among other things, altering the normal appearance and functionality of the comments submission form. This plugin provides visitors with a way to write a review and assign stars to the ratings categories that you previously defined. They can also write a review and opt to provide no stars without harming the overall rating presented on your site, since no stars is interpreted as though no rating was given.
WP Review Site plugin makes it easy for you to present your visitors with concise information. Using the features available with this plugin, you can build comparison tables based upon your posts and user reviews. In order to accomplish this, you will need to configure a few settings and then the plugin will take care of the rest.
Typically, WordPress displays posts in chronological order, but that doesn’t make much sense on a consumer review site where visitors want to view posts based upon other factors such as the number of positive reviews that a particular product or service has received. The developer behind WP Site Review took that into consideration and has included two alternative sorting methods for your site’s posts. The developer has even included a Bayesian weighting feature so that reviews are ordered in the most logical way possible.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering what Bayesian weighting is and how it works. What it does is provide a way to mathematically calculate the rating of products and/or services based upon the credibility of the votes that have been cast. If an item receives only a few votes, then it can’t be said with any certainty that that’s how the general public feels. If an item receives several votes, then it can be safely assumed that many others hold the same opinion. So, with Bayesian weighting, a product that has received only one five star review won’t outrank another that has received fifteen four star reviews. As the product that received one five star review garners more ratings, its reviews will grow in credibility and, if it continues to receive high ratings, it will eventually become credible enough to outrank the other reviews.
If you’re planning to create a website where visitors can come and review local businesses, then you might consider this plugins ability to automatically embed Google Maps quite handy. After configuring the settings on the plugin’s Google Maps screen you will be able to type the address for a business into a custom field when writing a post and then the plugin will take care of the rest.
The WP Review Site plugin also includes two sidebar widgets that can used with any widget-ready theme. These widgets will allow you to display a list of top rated items and a list of recent reviews.
Lastly, the themes provided with this plugin include built-in support for the hReview microformat. This means that Google will easily be able to extract and highlight reviews from your website. That feature will prove to be very beneficial for driving search engine traffic to your site.
Installing WP Review Site
Once you’ve installed WordPress you can then concentrate on the installation of the WP Review Site plugin and its accompanying themes. First, extract the wpreviewsite.zip archive. Inside you will find a plugins folder and a themes folder. Within the plugins folder is another folder named review-site. Since none of these folders are zipped, you will need to upload them using either an FTP program or the file manager provided by your web host. So, upload the review-site folder to the wp-content/plugins directory on your server. If you plan to use one of the themes provided with this plugin, then you will next need to upload the contents of the themes folder to the wp-content/themes directory.
Setting up and configuring WP Review Site
With the installation process complete, you will now need to activate the WP Review Site plugin. Once that’s finished, a Review Site menu will appear on the left side of your screen. This menu contains links to the settings screens for this plugin.
Before you delve into the configuration process you must first activate the theme that you plan to use on your consumer review website. Using one of the provided themes is a bit easier. That’s because using any other theme will mean that you must integrate the functionality of WP Review Site into it. Now that you know the benefits offered by the themes that are bundled with this plugin, click on Appearance | Themes. Once there, activate either Award Winning Hosts, Bonus Black, or a theme of your choice.
Navigate to Review Site | General Settings to be taken to the first of the WP Review Site settings screens. On this screen, Sort Posts By is the first setting that you will encounter. Rather than displaying reviews in the normal chronological order used by WordPress you should, instead, select either the Average User Rating (Weighted) or the Number of Reviews/Comments option. Either of these settings will provide a much more user-friendly experience for your visitors.
If you want to make it impossible for site visitors to submit a comment without also choosing a rating, tick the checkbox next to Require Ratings with All Comments. If you don’t want to make this a requirement, then you can leave this setting as is.
This setting will, of course, only apply to posts that you would like your visitors to rate. On normal posts, that don’t include rating stars in the comment form area, it will still be possible for your visitors to submit a comment.
When using one of the themes provided with the plugin, none of the other settings on this screen need to be configured. If you would like to integrate this plugin into a different theme, then, depending upon the method that you choose, you may need to revisit this screen later on. No matter how you’re handling the theme issue, you can, for now, just click Save Settings before proceeding to the next screen.
To access the next settings screen, click on Review Site | Rating Categories. Here you can add categories for people to rate when submitting reviews. These categories shouldn’t be confused with the categories used in WordPress for organizational purposes. These WP Review Site categories are more like ratings criteria. By default, WP Review Site includes a category called Overall Rating, but you can click the remove link to delete it if you like. To add your first rating category, simply enter its title into the Add a Category textbox and then click Save Settings.
The screen will then refresh and your newly created rating category will now appear under the Edit Rating Categories section of the screen. To add additional rating categories, simply repeat the process that you previously completed.
Once you’ve finished adding rating categories, you will next need to turn your attention to the Bulk Apply Rating Categories section of the screen. In the Edit Rating Categories area you will see all of the rating categories that you just finished adding to your site.
If you want to simplify matters, and apply these rating categories to all of the posts on your site, tick the checkbox next to each of the available rating categories. Then, from the Apply to Posts in Category drop-down menu, select All Categories. This is most likely the configuration that you will use if you’re building a website entirely dedicated to providing consumer reviews. Once you’ve finished, click Save Settings.
If you, instead, want your newly added rating categories to only appear on certain categories, then bypass the Edit Rating Categories area for now and first look to the Apply to Posts in Category settings area. Currently this will only show All Categories and Uncategorized. The lack of categories in this menu is being caused by two things. First, you haven’t added any WordPress categories to your site yet. Secondly, categories won’t be included in this menu until they contain at least one post.
To solve part of this problem, open a new browser window and then, navigate to Posts | Categories. Then, add the categories that you would like to include on your website. Now, click on Posts | Edit to visit the Edit Posts screen. At the moment, the Hello world! post is the only one published on your site and you can use it to force your site’s categories to appear in the Apply to Posts in Category drop-down menu. So, hover over the title of this post and then, from the now visible set of links, click Quick Edit. In the Categories section of the Quick Edit configuration area, tick the checkbox next to each of the categories found on your site. Then, click Update Post.
After content has been added to each of your site’s categories, you can delete the Hello world! post, since you will no longer need to use it to force the categories to appear in the Apply to Posts in Category drop-down menu.
Now, return to the Rating Categories screen and then select the first category that you want to configure from the Apply to Posts in Category drop-down menu. With that selected, in the Edit Rating Categories area, tick the checkbox next to each rating category that you want to appear within that WordPress category. Then, click Save Settings. Repeat this process for each of the WordPress categories to which you would like rating categories to be added.
If you wish, you can add a comparison table to either the home page or the category pages on your site. To do this, you need to visit the Comparison Tables screen, so click on Review Site | Comparison Tables. If you want to display a comparison table on your home page, then tick the checkbox next to Display a Comparison Table on Home Page. If you would like to include all of your site’s categories in the comparison table that will be displayed on the home page, then leave the Categories To Display On Home Page textbox as is. However, if you would prefer to include only certain categories, then enter their category IDs, separated by commas, into the textbox instead.
You can learn the ID numbers that have been assigned to each of your site’s categories by opening a new browser window and then navigating to Posts | Categories. Once there, hover over the title of each of the categories found on the right hand side of your screen. As you do, look at the URL that appears in your browser’s status bar and make a note of the number that appears directly after tag_ID=. That’s the number that you will need to enter in the Comparison Table screen.
If you want to display a comparison table in one or more categories, then tick the checkbox next to Display a Comparison Table on Category Page(s). Now, return to the Comparison Table screen. If you want a comparison table to be displayed on each of your category pages, leave the Categories To Display Comparison Table On textbox at its default. Otherwise, enter a list of comma separated category IDs into the textbox for the categories where you want to display comparison tables.
The Number of Posts in the Table setting is currently set to 5, but you can enter another value if you would like a different number of posts to be included in each comparison table. When writing posts, you might use custom fields to include additional information. If you would like that information to be displayed in your comparison tables you will need to enter the names of those fields, separated by commas, into the Custom Fields to Display textbox. Lastly, you can change the text that appears in the Text for the Visit Site link in the Table if you wish or you may leave it at its default. With these configurations complete, click Save Settings.
In this screenshot, you can see what a populated comparison table will look like on your website:
If you plan on featuring reviews centered around local businesses, then you might want to consider adding Google Maps to your site. This will make it easy for visitors to see exactly where each business is located.
You can access this settings screen by clicking on Review Site | Google Maps. To activate this feature, tick the checkbox next to Display a Google Map on Posts/Pages with mapaddress Custom Field. Next, you need to use the Map Position setting to specify where these Google Maps will appear in relation to the content. You can choose to use either the Top of Post or Bottom of Post position.
The Your Google Maps API Key textbox is next. Here you will need to enter a Google Maps API key. If you don’t have a Google Maps API key for this domain, then you will need to visit Google to generate one. To do this, right-click on the link provided on the Google Maps screen and then open that link in a new browser window. You will then be taken to the Google Maps API sign up screen, which can be found at Google Maps API sign up. If you’ve ever signed up to use any of Google’s services, then you can use that username and password to log in. If you don’t have an account with Google, create one now.
Take a moment to read the information and terms presented on the Google Maps API sign up page. After you’ve finished reviewing this text, if it’s acceptable to you, enter the URL for your website into the My web site URL textbox and then click Generate API Key. You will then be taken to a thank you screen where your API key will be displayed. Copy the API key and then return to the Google Maps screen on your website. Once there, paste your API key into the textbox for Your Google Maps API Key.
The Map Width and Map Height settings are next. By default, these are configured to 400px and 300px. If you would prefer that the maps be displayed at a different size, then enter new values into each of these textboxes. The last setting is Map Zoom Level (1-5), which is currently set to 3. This setting should be fine, but you may change it if you wish. Finally, click Save Settings.
When you publish a post that includes the mappadress custom field, this is what the Google Map will look like on your site.