(For more resources on Wordpress, see here.)
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.
(For more resources on Wordpress, see here.)
Adding your first post
Adding a post to WordPress is usually a pretty straightforward process. When using the WP Review Site plugin, however, the process of writing a post becomes a bit different. To give you an idea of the differences involved, a walk through has been provided to guide you through the creation of your first post
Navigate to the Add New Post screen by clicking on Posts | Add New. Once there,things will start out as usual since your first task will be to enter your post title and description. Next, select a category and then add tags, if desired.
Now is the part where things become a bit different. As you can see, there's a Rating Categories area that contains all of the rating categories that you created earlier. All of these rating categories are currently deselected. This means that if this post were published right now, there wouldn't be any criteria that your visitors could use to rate this product or service. You must, therefore, tick the checkbox next to each of the rating categories that you want to appear along with this post.
Next, in the Post Image textbox, enter the URL for an image related to this post. Use the "Visit Site" Link textbox to enter the URL where you want visitors to be taken if they would like to receive more information about this product or service. This can be a direct link or, if you're engaging in affiliate marketing, it can be an affiliate link.If you do place an affiliate link in this field it won't be masked so visitors will know that they're not clicking on a typical URL.
If you previously enabled the setting to add Google Maps to your posts, you will now need to scroll down until you reach the Custom Fields portion of the screen. In the Name textbox enter mappadress. Then, in the Value text area, type the address where this business is located. Finally, click Add Custom Field.
You may also want to include additional information such as price, size, color variations, and so on. If that's the case, then you can use custom fields for that as well.The process for doing this will depend upon whether you've already used a custom field on your site. If you haven't, begin by entering the name that you would like to give this custom field into the Name textbox. For example, you might enter Price.
If you've already created a custom field, then the Name textbox will have been replaced with a drop-down menu that contains the names of all of the custom fields that you've created prior to this. In this instance, you need to click the Enter new link located under the drop-down menu. Once clicked, the Name textbox will reappear and you will then be able to enter the name that you would like to give this field.
Now, you need to type information relevant to this custom field into the Value text area. Once again, as an example, if you're creating a price-related custom field, you would need to enter the amount of this item. Finally, click Add Custom Field before scrolling to the top of your screen where you must then click Publish.
Integrating WP Review Site into an existing theme
As you know, the WP Review Site plugin comes with two themes. You might, however, wish to set your consumer review website apart from all the others using this plugin, by using a different theme. If that's the case, then you need to integrate the functionality of the WP Review Site plugin into the theme that you've chosen. There are two ways that this can be done. One is automatic while the other requires you to add various functions to your theme's template files. Both options will now be examined so that you can choose the method that's right for you.
Integrating WP Review Site automatically
Automatically integrating the WP Review Site plugin into your own theme is, by far, the easiest way to approach things. The only downside to this method is the fact that you will have absolutely no control over where the various features of the plugin are placed on your site.
Because of the way that some themes are designed, they aren't compatible with the automatic integration method. If you discover that the rating stars that accompany the comments form appear underneath the Submit button, then you will either need to manually integrate WP Review Site into your theme or select a different theme that's compatible with automatic integration.
To begin you will need to return to the General Settings screen, so click on Review Site | General Settings. Once there, you first need to decide if you're going to enable the Display Post Image/Icon Before Post Content option since it's optional. The Display Average Ratings on Posts & Pages setting is next. This option should be enabled, so that visitors can see the overall rating given by reviewers to your website. The Ratings Location in Post/Page Text option is next. By default, this is set to Top, but you may change this setting to Bottom if you prefer. The checkbox for the Display Ratings in Comment Lists option should also be ticked, so that your visitors' star ratings will appear along with their comments. Ratings Location in Comment Text is set to Top, but may be changed to Bottom depending upon your preferences. Next, Automatically Add Clickable Rating Stars to Comment Form must be enabled in order for your visitors to be able to submit ratings. Use Tables or Lists for Ratings Display is the last setting. If you want the ratings to be displayed vertically, then leave this set to Table. If you would prefer that they appear horizontally, then select List instead.
To finalize these configurations, click Save Settings. The features and functionality of WP Review Site will now be automatically integrated into your site.
Integrating WP Review Site manually
Manually integrating the WP Review Site plugin into your theme will, of course, require more effort than using the automatic method. You may find, however, that automatic integration just doesn't cut it. Various elements might not integrate properly using that method which will leave you with no other alternative than to integrate this plugin manually. To do this, you need to use the functions provided by the plugin's developer to integrate its various features into your theme's templates.
A plugin function reference guide, along with examples, can be found on the WP Review Site website at WP Review Site Plugin Documentation.
Displaying the average ratings
You should begin by adding either an average ratings table or list to your posts, so open your theme's single.php template. Next, look for the beginning of The Loop. You will need to place one of the following lines inside The Loop, wherever you want the average ratings information to appear.
If you would like the average ratings to be displayed in table format, then place the following line of code within The Loop:
<?php if (function_exists('ratings_table')) ratings_table(); ?>
If you would prefer to display the average ratings information for each post as an unordered list, then enter this line inside The Loop instead:
<?php if (function_exists('ratings_list')) ratings_list(); ?>
Now, open the index.php template and, once again, locate the beginning of The Loop. Determine where you would like the average ratings information to appear within The Loop on this page and then enter either of the previously shown functions into this template as well.
Displaying a Visit This Site link
Currently, visitors to your consumer review website will be unable to visit the link that you provide with each post. That's because a function doesn't exist within any of your template files to retrieve and display that information onscreen. To have that information printed onscreen, you need to add the appropriate function to your single.php and index.php templates. Once again, you must place this function with The Loop found in each of these templates in the location where you wouldlike this link to appear:
<?php visit_site_link('Visit This Site'); ?>
Displaying user submitted ratings
When WordPress 2.7 was released the comment system used by WordPress was completely changed. From that version forward, the <?php wp_list_comments(); ?> template tag was used to display the comments that have been submitted to your site. As a result, it became more difficult to edit the area of your website that contains the user submitted comments. This is important because the way that you go about displaying the ratings submitted by your visitors will depend upon which WordPress commenting system your theme was designed to use.
It should be noted that the user submitted ratings function won't display properly if your theme doesn't use the $comment variable. If you find that your theme lacks this variable, then you can try the automatic method to integrate this function. If that doesn't work either, then you will have to choose a new theme that uses the $comment variable.
Adding user submitted ratings to a theme that uses the old WordPress commenting system
In order to display the ratings submitted by each of your visitors, along with their comments, you will need to add a function to the comments.php template.
Once again, you can choose to either display these ratings as a table or an unordered list. The option that you choose will depend upon your personal preferences, and the overall design of your theme
Open the comments.php template and then look for the section of code that's responsible for displaying comments on your site. This is known as the comments loop. If you would like the user submitted ratings to be displayed as a table, then enter the following line inside the comments loop where you would like them to appear:
<?php if (function_exists('comment_ratings_table')) comment_ratings_
If you would prefer to display the user submitted ratings as an unordered list, then enter this line inside the comments loop instead
<?php if (function_exists('comment_ratings_list')) comment_ratings_
Adding user submitted ratings to a theme that uses the WordPress 2.7+ commenting system
If your theme was designed to be compatible with the new commenting system introduced with the release of WordPress 2.7, then you will find that manually integrating this function is a bit more difficult.
The comments.php file included with themes that have been built to be compatible with WordPress 2.7+ isn't quite the same as the one included with themes built prior to the release of this version of WordPress. It differs in that it includes the <?php wp_list_comments(); ?> template tag which is responsible for generating the section of your site where submitted comments appear. That means that it's impossible for you to add the user submitted ratings function to this file, since all of the code that's used to display the submitted comments section is contained within a different file.
Now, here is where things get a bit tricky. If the <?php wp_list_comments(); ?> template tag contains a callback, then you will be able to proceed with manual integration of this function.
If it doesn't include a callback, then the manual integration process would become so involved that it wouldn't be worth all of the trouble that would be required. In that instance, you would really just be better off automatically integrating this function into your site.
A callback is a custom function that's used to customize the display of each comment. When a callback is included in this template tag, the internal WordPress functionality that would normally be used is overridden.
So, how, you might wonder, do you know if your theme's <?php wp_list_ comments(); ?> template tag contains a callback? Well, the best way to determine this is by looking at an example from the Twenty Ten theme.
<?php wp_list_comments( array( 'callback' => 'twentyten_comment' ) );
As you can see, this template tag includes a callback to twentyten_comment. If the <?php wp_list_comments(); ?> template tag included in your theme's comments.php template looks similar to this, then you can proceed with the manual integration process.
If you've discovered that the template tag includes a callback, then the next step is to determine where that callback function can be found. The most likely place that you will find it is in the functions.php file. If it isn't located in that file, then investigate all of the other files included with your theme until you find it. Once you've located the callback function, add either of the following pieces of code somewhere within that callback.
If you want to include the user submitted ratings as a table, insert the following:
<?php if (function_exists('comment_ratings_table')) comment_ratings_
To have the user submitted ratings displayed as an unordered list, enter this line instead:
<?php if (function_exists('comment_ratings_list')) comment_ratings_
Collecting ratings from visitors
If you performed the edit to comments.php detailed in the previous section, you must now enter the function responsible for displaying each of the criteria that you want reviewers to use when rating the products and/or services found on your site. If you didn't perform that edit, then go ahead and skip to the next section.
As was previously the case, this function can either display the output as a table or a list. For table formatting, enter the following line between the <form> and </form> tags.
<?php if (function_exists('ratings_input_table')) ratings_input_
This line of code can be used to format the output as an unordered list. To be used on your site, this function must also be placed between the <form> and </form> tags.
<?php if (function_exists('ratings_input_list')) ratings_input_list();
Displaying a comparison table
If you would like a comparison table to be included on a particular page of your site, then you will have to add the function that generates the table into the appropriate theme template. The comparison table includes three parameters that will allow you to specify how many posts should appear in the table, what link text should be used, and which categories should be included.
To add a comparison table to the home page, open the index.php template and then locate an area outside of The Loop where you would like the table to appear. Now, paste the following function into your theme's template file:
<?php rs_comparison_table(5, 'Visit This Site'); ?>
That will add a comparison table that displays the top five rated posts from all of the categories on your site. You can, of course, change the number 5 to anything you like so that a different number of posts appear in the table.
In addition, if you only want to display the top posts from a particular category, you can accomplish that by adding a category parameter to the function. The specific category ID that you add to this parameter will, of course, depend upon the construction of your site. For example, if you wanted to display only the top rated posts from the category with the ID 7, then this is the function that you would need to use.
<?php rs_comparison_table(5, 'Visit This Site', 7); ?>
If you're using custom fields on your site and you would like them to be included in this table, then you will need to click on Review Site | Comparision Table to visit the Comparison Tables screen. Once there, simply enter the names of the custom fields that you would to include in the table into the Custom Fields to Display textbox.
Displaying positive and negative reviews
The functions that you've added to the various template files of your theme are the ones that it's of the utmost importance to have in order to manually integrate the features of the WP Review Site plugin into your website. There are, however, two more functions that you can also place within your template files if you so desire. While these functions aren't required, they do add a nice informational element to your reviews. With these functions in place, the total number of positive and negative reviews that a product or service has received will be displayed onscreen.
You can add the following line of code, within The Loop, to the single.php template to display the number of positive reviews received.
<?php if (function_exists('positive_reviews')) echo positive_
reviews(); ?> Positive Reviews
To display the total number of negative reviews received, enter the following line of code inside The Loop found in single.php:
<?php if (function_exists('negative_reviews')) echo negative_
reviews(); ?> Negative Reviews
Don't forget to save your files after you've finished performing all of the edits detailed in the preceding sections
Blending WP Review Site's functions into your theme's design
These functions may technically be integrated into your theme, but you will undoubtedly find that some of them haven't exactly meshed visually with the design of your website. If that's the case, then you will need to edit the CSS that's being applied to these functions in order for them to blend in seamlessly.
Open review-site.css, which can be found in the /plugins/review-site folder. Edit the styles that are contained within this file and then save your changes. Once that's finished, you should find that the output of this plugin has now been integrated both technically and visually into your website.
Your website is now online and just waiting to be filed with reviews. Luckily, generating content of this type couldn't be easier, since everyone has an opinion that they're more than happy to share. The biggest obstacle that you will face is the fact that very few people are going to want to be the first one to post their opinion. This problem can easily be overcome, however, with the help of your family and friends. Simply ask them to visit your website and then submit honest reviews of the products and/or services that they've used.
Since you can't rely on your family and friends to write all of the content on your website, you're going to need to draw in visitors so that content is being continually generated. One way that you can do this is by performing keyword optimization on those first few posts. This can be done by providing your family and friends with a few keywords that you would like them to weave into the reviews that they will be submitting to your site.
Once you've got some keyword-rich reviews in place, visitors should begin finding your consumer review website via the search engines. Once these visitors arrive at your website, and see that it's populated with content, they shouldn't have any hesitation about adding reviews of their own.
In this article, you learned how to use the WP Review Site plugin to build a site were visitors can share their reviews on products and/or services. You were also shown how to either build your site using one of the two themes provided with this plugin or, instead, integrate the functionality of WP Review Site into the theme of your choosing.
- WordPress 2.7 Complete [book]
- WordPress for Business Bloggers [book]
- Advanced WordPress Themes [article]
- Building a Job Board Website using JobPress [article]
- Displaying Posts and Pages Using Wordpress Loop [article]
- Activating the BuddyPress Default Theme and Setting up and Configuring BuddyPress [article]