Top Free Ratings and Testimonials Plugins for WordPress
Proving your social worth. What do I mean by prove your worth? I’m talking about social proof. Leveraging social proof, specifically. And I know, it just sounds like one of those marketing buzz phrases that’s all over the zeitgeist. And it is! But keep reading!
This kind of marketing is actually a no-brainer, especially with the goldmine of free plugins available. Best of all, implementing social proof as part of your marketing strategy rewards you just for being your awesome self to your clients and customers.
This kind of social media integration goes one step beyond connecting and sharing plugins—that, while critical to your social marketing plan, serve a slightly different role. Back in September, there was a huge round-up of great social media integration plugins on the blog that included comments and options for publicizing your content. You’ll probably want to use that guide as an auxiliary to this one, because together, curating connection and reputation management (social proof) are a more robust way to approach your social media marketing plan.
These plugins will help you collect and display customer reviews and ratings, testimonials, and subscriber count and following numbers to boost your clout, client confidence, and show off that stellar reputation you’ve earned.
For better or worse, people are going to talk about your service online. Whether it’s through Yelp reviews, Tweeting praise, writing blog posts, or any of the other infinite feedback loops your clients are engaging in. If you’re good at what you do, you actually want that kind of buzz to build around you. LinkedIn recommendations, for example, can be a powerful form of social proof for job hunters in the corporate world. A testimonial page full of client raves and praise on your website is worth its weight in gold for a freelancer. And hey, since you can’t avoid the impact social media has on your business reputation, you might as well take advantage of it.
But social proof goes ever farther than product and service reviews. Clout counts for something, and showing your audience that you’ve got a large following is a way to establish yourself as an authority, an influencer in your industry. Unconvinced? Take a peek at those numbers over on the left. Any ideas why they’re so proudly and prominently displayed?
How to Leverage Social Proof in WordPress
You don’t need to spend a dime of your marketing budget to get this arm of your marketing machine up and running. I’ve put together a pile of free WordPress plugins to optimize your customer ratings system, streamline your client testimonials, and getting loud and proud about your social reach.
Five Stars Still Means Something (Ask Anyone Who Sells on Amazon)
The first set of plugins we’re going to look at give your customers the ability to rate products and posts on your blog, and leave reviews and testimonials.
There’s actually some psychology behind the whole ratings system thing. Humans happen to be social creatures and the opinions of our peers matter a great deal to us. Sales between competing products on the ubiquitous retail giants can hinge entirely on the rating–in fact, a product may not even get the clicks if it hasn’t been rated. If you’ve got a shopping cart or ecommerce system set up on your website, and you’re not giving your customers the ability to rate and review products, there’s a good chance you’re leaving money on the table. Depending on the product, service, or experience we’re selling, a five-star vs. thumbs-up/thumbs-down system may be more appropriate.
Free WordPress Ratings Plugins
YASR spits out a shortcode which inserts a five-star rating system into your posts or pages. After your write the review, YASR gives your visitors the opportunity to vote on a star-rating as well. How might you use this? Well let’s say you review WordPress plugins or themes on your blog. After you very thoughtfully pen an overview and detail your experience, your visitors get to vote as well. Interaction is a form of social proof.
You could absolutely use this plugin to collect and display product ratings from customers also, but to really take advantage of all the features, you’d want to implement a more curated approach to ratings and reviews.
Rating Widget – Star Rating System gives you the ability to embed either a stars-system or a thumbs up/down rating in your pages, comments, or posts (even custom post types). It also integrates with WooCommerce and BuddyPress users, activities, forum topics and replies. There’s a functional free version (that includes the developer branding), but be aware that better functionality comes with a monthly premium. While I loved the idea behind this plugin, and thought all the features and functionality was pretty awesome, I was less than thrilled to see yet another premium service sneaking into the free plugin repository.
Easy E-commerce Reviews Lite is the free version of a premium plugin (starts at $29 for the single site license), but depending on how complex your ecommerce site is, might be enough to get you started. It works with WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and a few other e-commerce plugins to give your customers the ability to review (and rate with a star system) their purchases.
It works with the WordPress commenting system to give your users a seamless experience, and according to the plugin page FAQ:
Is it awesome?
Hells bells yes. It’s very awesome.
Thumbs Rating lets your visitors thumbs up or down the content on your site–be that a blog post, page, or custom post type, and then gives you the ability to display the highest voted (most popular) bits of content. WHY might you use this? Because highly rated blog posts are yet another form of content marketing that hinges on the social proof strategy–and it works. The binary system of rating (think YouTube) is either more or less helpful than a five-star system, which is why I wanted to find a plugin for this purpose. And Thumbs Rating accomplishes this task in one easy to modify, lightweight plugin.
Free WordPress Reviews Plugins
Beyond leaving a rating, a customer or client might like to review a product or service. What is that old adage? The pen is mightier than the sword? That’s absolutely true and scathing reviews can be difficult to recover from. If you can convince your clients and customers to leave a review or write a testimonial, try to convince them to leave their full, real name. And a photo increases the effectiveness of a review also, making it appear more authentic.
If your ecommerce solution doesn’t have a native customer review feature, here are three free plugins that might fit the bill (also, Easy E-commerce Lite above also has review functions, but I stuck it with the other ratings plugins).
Creates shortcode so you can include review forms, collect reviews, and display them on appropriate posts and pages within your WordPress site. One interesting feature this plugin has is that it uses the Google reviews microformat so these rich snippets would be included in search, in theory, a boon to local search engine marketing efforts.
Authors and Amazon affiliates can use this plugin to display Amazon customer reviews for a specific product in a blog post or page via shortcode. You’ll need to join both the Amazon Affiliates program and have access to the Product Advertising API to use it, but it’s totally worthwhile to take advantage of the fantastic feedback your book is getting and display those reviews inline.
WP Customer Reviews creates a shortcode you can use to drop in a form for review submission or display product and service reviews on your pages and posts. The form is completely customizable and you can moderate the reviews before they’re live on your site. One feature I liked on this was the ability to add an admin response to the reviews–so you can publicly thank your customers for their kind words.
Free WordPress Testimonials Plugins
Good Reviews for WordPress was designed for restaurants, but is flexible enough for most service and products. Customers can add a star rating, a short review, a photo and link to their website (it increases credibility). Reviews are displayed in SEO friendly Schema markup and can be added to any page, post, or sidebar on your site.
Testimonial Rotator creates a custom post type for your testimonials and creates a shortcode that outputs a rotator of your cherry picked reviews. In addition to a review, the plugin can create a star rating and display author information–including a headshot. I like this one because you can create multiple rotators with different testimonial categories. Super useful if you do or sell more than one thing.
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This handy little plugin let’s you drop a submission form into any page via shortcode, edit and categorize the submissions, and creates shortcode to output a specific or random testimonial either on a page or post, or in a sidebar widget. Your clients can decide whether they want to include a photo or contact details. It’s called Clean Testimonials because it doesn’t include any styling–that part’s up to you (and could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective).
Testimonials Widget is pretty cool because it gives you more sophisticated display options. Create reviews and testimonials and display them in a carousel, fade, or slide format, complete with transitions. You can choose which testimonials to include in each show, or display them randomly with a shortcode or in a widget. The pro version will let you add star ratings and has some more advanced functionality, but for a free plugin, this one does exactly what it says it will do, and does it nicely.
Taking Advantage of Google, Yelp, LinkedIn and More
While you’re actively collecting reviews and ratings from your clients and customers yourself, you also want to make sure that you’re carefully curating the nice things they say about you across the different social networks. And it just so happens there are some clever free plugins to help you with this as well.
Third Party Integration Reviews/Social Proof
Are your customers leaving reviews for your business on Google? This handy widget gives you a simple plug and play way to display those on a widget. The free version is pretty feature-rich, but if Google is a place your adoring fans are regularly leaving glowing reviews, it might be worth the upgrade to unlock the extra features, including the ability to display up to five reviews and drop them into pages and posts via shortcode.
Yelp Widget Pro is the Yelp version of the above plugin (same developer even!), and it works in a similar way. You can choose any business profile to display as a widget. There’s an upgrade available that has some increased output functionality, and gives you the ability to integrate your Yelp review displays with Google Maps.
Do you find clients and job prospects on LinkedIn? WP LinkedIn is a pretty handy free plugin that gives you shortcodes to display a good deal of your profile on any page or post–including a rotator of your LinkedIn recommendations. Pure social proof gold for your portfolio or agency page if you’re a consultant, coach, freelancer or jobhunter
Embedding tweets is fairly straightforward anyway. This plugin makes it almost too easy. Once activated you simply drop the URL of a tweet you want to embed into any page or post and voila — it appears as if by magic. All that’s left for you to do is to collect those little endorsements in 140 characters.
I’ll be honest, finding and curating great social proof on your biz page or fan page on Facebook is hit or miss, but if you have a wall that your fans are leaving thoughtful, Custom Facebook Feed will let you display that on a page or post on your website with relative ease. This feature-rich plugin does a ton of other stuff way beyond the scope of this short overview, so it’s absolutely worth taking a look at.
Show Your Subscriber and Share Count
And the last bit of social proof we’ll talk about is what I mentioned at the top of this post–displaying your subscriber and share count on your blog feed and posts. This falls under the category of marketing psychology that appeals to the mob mentality–in other words, if you can demonstrate that a ton of people are reading and sharing your content, your content will have a greater perceived value.
Digg Digg by the team at Buffer adds a floating social bar to the side of your blog posts. Included with the ability to share across all the big networks, the bar displays a count of how many shares, likes, tweets, etc., each bit of content has garnered.
This plugin outputs a shortcode you can add anywhere on posts or pages to give your guests the ability to share content. You can customize the available networks if you’re trying to focus your marketing efforts in one direction, and it displays that all-important count of how many shares your content has received. Display is inline or vertically (with scrolling support). I like this one because it’s flexible and minimalist, and if you want to embed it into your theme, you can do so via a function call.
This handy, lightweight plugin just displays your social metrics, and updates those every day (or when a new post is published). The output is via shortcode if you want the count in text form, or you can display the count and network icons in a widget. Of all the plugins for this function I’ve talked about, this one is most clearly geared toward proving social reach.
Shareaholic creates a social share bar at the bottom of each post that includes the number of times the content has been liked, Tweeted, etc. It’s easy to use and customize, and includes a ton of features that don’t necessarily have much to do with social proof–but you might find useful. The plugin is probably overkill for just sharing and displaying count, but it’s worth looking at if you have a more robust content marketing plan of action with your blog.
Taking advantage of these free plugins and your already adoring client and customer base only makes smart business sense. When you show your worth and the value of the services, products, or content you put out there, you’ll be more likely to convince those buyers who are on the fence and capture those leads who are looking for the best of the best to work with.
How do you use social proof on your website? Do you have a favorite plugin to automate the process?