Reviewazon Amazon Affiliate Plugin

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I’ve included relevant Amazon product links on a couple of my websites for awhile now, but I’ve never added more than a few individual image links. I often wished there was a way to create bulk product links with my affiliate code already embedded. At one time I had some type of store hosted by Amazon, but the design options were lacking and it never quite looked the same as my site design.

One of my other websites is a Sphider search engine so I thought if I could somehow integrate the search results with my affiliate product links, I could get a lot more clicks and hopefully increase my earnings too. I never followed through on that because I didn’t know how to make that happen with Sphider and Amazon, but there is a way to create hundreds and thousands of product links with a WordPress site and it’s called the Reviewazon Amazon Affiliate Plugin.

I’ve owned this plugin for about a year now and I have to say I am very impressed with it’s extensive feature set and ease of use. After you set up your affiliate options such as your Amazon Access Key ID, Amazon Secret Key, and a tracking ID, there’s a number of configurable options that you can click through and set (or not). The first time I set it up I skipped through most of the settings because I just couldn’t wait to see it in action, but if you purchase this plugin you really owe it to yourself to spend some time and check out every field and what each one can do for you.

I can’t even begin to describe all of the functions of this plugin, so if this concept sounds like something you’d be interested in pursuing, take a few minutes and head over to the Reviewazon Amazon Affiliate Plugin site and check out the Product Publishing features page as well as the Administration & Configuration features page.

My favorite part of this plugin is the product publishing aspect. You can drill down into Amazon categories or search by keyword/phrase right from the Reviewazon Administration Panel within the WordPress Dashboard. Selecting products you want to sell is as simple as clicking a check box to the left of the product. Once your done selecting products and adding them to the post queue, you then get to decide when and how they are published.

I publish my products as individual posts, but product pages are also possible. You can set a posting status (Draft, Pending Review, Published), and post all items under a specific user of your choice. You can decide which category to post under, insert tags or let the plugin automatically create them based on the product title, and you can even integrate YouTube videos for product descriptions and/or reviews.

If you have more than one Amazon tracking ID for the same site, you can choose it under the posting options section as well. This would be a great way to track your testing of different advertisements, products, placements, etc. There is also a scheduling feature that I’ve never used because I typically publish the products I select immediately. You can schedule all of your product posts for a certain day like I do, or you can select the drip feed option that will post your products over a certain time frame. For example, if you select thirty products and set them to post over an entire month, each day the plugin will automagically publish a new product to your site.

I use this plugin here on OpenSourceHack under the Books button in the top navigation menu. I haven’t gone crazy with publishing a million products or anything, but the books I did publish were done within minutes. Here’s an example of a typical product post that the Reviewazon plugin publishes. – WordPress 3 Cookbook

Click the screenshot below for a closer look at the layout and available menu options. Each time you click on a menu option on the left, a new tab opens in the main window where you can make the appropriate changes.

If you’re serious about integrating your Amazon affiliate account into a WordPress site, this plugin is the real deal.


nRelate Content Optimization Plugins

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I’ve only been using the nRelate suite of plugins for a couple months now, but since my first install I’ve probably added them to the majority of my sites. I’ve found they’re a great way to share some existing content in a more distinct way.

The functionality of these plugins is certainly nothing new. We’ve seen the most popular widgets and the related post plugins before, so what makes these so special? It’s all in the presentation. The plugins have the ability to display your posts first image, your post title, and even a short excerpt to keep your readers on your site and engaged in your other content.

My favorite part is the possibility of earning revenue from advertising. For example, if you display five related stories beneath each one of your posts, you can also select to include some nRelate network ads as well that look very similar to another one of your posts. I understand that this somewhat goes against the point of the plugin which is to keep your readers interested in staying on your site, but I figure if they are going to leave, I may as well get paid for visitors exiting through an ad link.

Notice I said the “possibility” of earning revenue. I’m still new to being an nRelate Publisher, so as you can see, I’ve yet to cash in on this potential income. Yep, I make serious nRelate bank. Ha!

The first plugin is the Related Content product. With this plugin you can control the location within a post (top of bottom) as well as where the related content is displayed (posts, pages, archives, etc.), the size of the thumbnails, the number of links, relevancy, exclusions, gallery style, and more. Check out some style options below.

The second plugin is the Most Popular product. The options for it are nearly identical to the related content plugin above, but for the most popular plugin I use the text option instead of the thumbnail choice. If you take a peek over to the right hand side bar, you’ll see a number of this sites most popular posts displayed using the nRelate plugin.

The third plugin in the Flyout box product. This handy tool slides out a banner type display from the side of your screen to entice readers further with additional content. Some of the more notable options are your ability to select the width of the flyout box, which side of the screen it originates from, where in the page it will fly out vertically, and the style of the flyout. At the time of this post, I have the Flyout plugin installed but I’m not currently using it. I figure I’m choosing between six and eight related articles at the foot of every post, so the Flyout might be overkill at the moment.

Maybe I’ll offer the flyout as an available advertisement to pitch to others at some point. It might be a nice way to utilize the plugin while not inundating visitors with duplicate content from the relate content display.

What I just noticed when doing some post reconnaissance at the nRelate site is that there is a fourth product that I was not aware of called In-Text Linking. I haven’t used it, and at first read I’m not too fond of the idea either. It reminds me of those awfully intrusive text ads on some sites that pop up an ad when you hover over them (on purpose or accidentally). I can’t say for sure that’s how they operate without trying them first, but I think I’ll pass on implementing this one for now anyway.

I’ve been pretty pleased with these plugins so far with one exception. Around the time when Sandy touched down and for about a week after, the plugins did not work. I have no idea if the two were related, but during this time the plugins displayed no data on any site. The forum moderators were quite busy responding to frustrated users and stated they were having issues across the board and were working on the issue. This is one of the downfalls of having the plugins do the work on external servers instead of on your local (hosting) server.

I’d still recommend giving one or more of these plugins a try. You can either keep your visitors on your site a bit longer or earn a little revenue for sending them elsewhere. It sounds fairly win-win to me. To check out another example of these nRelate plugins in action, just look below this post a bit for the “Related Articles” block and see if there’s anything else that peaks your interest.

So…did it work?

NextGEN WordPress Photo Gallery

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Chances are if you’ve used WordPress and toyed with displaying a picture gallery on your site, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the NextGEN Gallery. The plugin was launched by Alex Rabe back in 2007 and since then it’s become the most popular photo gallery plugin downloaded by WordPress site owners.

Earlier this year, a company named Photocrati Media acquired the NextGEN plugin and took over the reigns of its future development. Photocrati sells WordPress photography themes, so it’s a fair assumption that a premium version could be in the works. I’m hoping they’ll keep the plugin free and use it for lead generation, but that might be a stretch as it directly competes with their bread and butter.

I have the NextGEN Gallery running on a few of my sites, but it really gets a work out on my family photo gallery site where I’m nearing 500 galleries and over 6,700 pictures to date. I went through a few different designs starting with Coppermine, then a quick Plogger test, and then Gallery before settling on WordPress with the NextGen Gallery. While all of them were decent, there really is no comparison to be able to use the platform I’m most comfortable with and also having flexible and attractive galleries just a few clicks away.

Here is a number of reasons/features why I think NextGEN is the best free gallery plugin available right now.

  • Set your own thumbnail image size
  • Set max image dimensions to resize your photos
  • Set the number of image thumbnails per page
  • Display your images in a slideshow
  • Sorting and reordering options
  • Custom image watermarks
  • Multiple image upload options
  • Quick and simple gallery creation

Don’t take my word for it though. Check out all the NextGEN features for yourself.

How about the cons? Well, in the few years I’ve used this plugin quite heavily, I only ran into one issue with the plugin running out of memory and not creating all the thumbnails during image uploads. The original images actually uploaded fine, and I could click through them on the front end while the full images displayed, but the thumbnails just weren’t present. However, this is not a plugin issue at all, but rather a server memory setting that some people may run into in some (but not most) shared hosting environment.

By the way, if you haven’t started your own family photo website yet, I think it’s time you start. With so many pictures being taken solely on cellphones, not to mention all the single drive computers out there, people are losing years of images when those phones get lost or stolen or those hard drives fail. Sure, with digital images we can point and click until we get the perfect image, but that’s not going to matter if there’s no images left to share.

I began when everyone started having kids around me, and now years later I’ve got a decent collection of the last few years and a good start on getting the old stuff scanned and posted too. Nobody other than my mom cares about it now, but I like to imagine one day when I’m old (or gone), it will be like a treasure chest of photos that most family members forgot about or never knew existed. Not a bad start, eh?

CodeCanyon Premium WordPress Plugins

I love perusing the WordPress plugin repository. There are so many fantastic plugins that make extending the core WordPress functionality a breeze. You want a contact form? No problem. There’s tons of them available. Are you trying to find just the right photo gallery for your site? There’s plenty of them too. How about better comment control? You’ll find options galore for improving or customizing them.

Generally speaking, there’s three classes of free plugins in the WordPress repository.

  1. The tried and true, stable, well developed and reliable plugins that are updated frequently
  2. The fairly trustworthy and functional plugins that are updated on occasion
  3. The fly by night, buggy plugins that are barely updated and often abandoned

So where does it leave us when you need a specific function that you can’t find in group #1? You could take a chance with a plugin from group #2, but you may end up waiting months for a bug to be fixed or an update to be added to ensure compatibility with a new version of WordPress. Sure, it’s better than a plugin from group #3, but it’s still not a viable option if you want to keep your site working properly. Visitors may come for a specific portion of your site, and if that part suddenly stops working, you’ve just lost visitors and even worse, the changes in your sites functionality makes your site disreputable.

What’s our alternative? You need that job board to keep functioning no matter what. You need your image slider to work with any new version of WordPress that is released. The events posted to your site can’t just disappear or your visitors will too. You need a premium plugin.

Some people don’t believe in paying for open source customization’s such as premium plugins, but I think they’re a great idea. I’m not a programmer so I can’t do these kinds of modifications myself. I also like the idea of having support available if I do have an issue with the plugin. With a free plugin, no matter what class it falls in, you’re depending on the good will of a developer and a community of strangers that may or may not choose to help.

This brings me to CodeCanyon; a plugin marketplace with hundreds of enticing add-ons that you won’t find in the free repository. The problem I have with CodeCanyon (and any plugin marketplace for that matter) is the lack of developer responsibility and support.

Here’s one example that was a learning experience for me.

I found a plugin I was interested in at CodeCanyon. Having never purchased a plugin there before, I wasn’t sure how it all worked, so I left a comment for the plugin author with a couple questions about support in the event I needed help or had a question. I received a reply comment back within a day that I could get timely support via the comment area at CodeCanyon. This was a new kind of support for me, but it appeared the author was responding to others asking for help, so I doled out the money and purchased the plugin.

I installed the plugin and for all of a few days was very happy with how it worked. I asked a question, got a response within a couple days, all was well. I asked a second follow up question because the advice I got the first time didn’t fix the issue and this time it took nearly a week to get a response. Again, the recommended action failed to fix (what I deemed as a non-programmer) a rather elementary issue, but the next time I got no response…at all.

Of course, this is only one example and I can’t speak for the integrity of all developers on the site. What I can mention is that a marketplace like this makes it easy to shield the developer from obligation. If the plugin developer doesn’t provide an email, contact form, or website to support its customers, how can you feel any different about these premium plugins than you would with the free WordPress repository plugins?

I realize a premium plugin developer with a fancy website could close up shop at anytime and you’re still up the creek without a paddle, but at least they have more at stake with a website. Chances are if they took the time to create a website for their premium plugin, they’re attempting to take the business seriously and don’t want unhappy customers.

While there are a ton of great plugins at CodeCanyon, and most seem reasonably priced by the way, I would warn you to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into as far as a support model. It doesn’t matter how cheap the plugin is if you can’t get it to work properly on your site and there’s nothing but the echo of your own voice when you ask for help.

Gravity Forms Plugin

I purchased Gravity Forms a month ago for one of my more recent sites. I’ve known about Gravity Forms for quite awhile but I never needed more than a simple contact form that the Contact7 plugin couldn’t handle for me. Since my latest endeavor was actually based around front end posting, I figured it was finally time to take the plunge and try it out.

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I felt pretty confident in ordering this plugin because over the years I’ve read more praise for Gravity Forms alone than nearly all other plugins and premium themes combined. More than a few times my questions in various WordPress related forums were answered with “Gravity Forms can do that”, so it’s clear that this plugin is the de facto standard for forms.

I have to agree that this plugin is the most advanced form plugin I’ve come across and within minutes I was publishing forms with options I never had at my disposal before. It reminded me a lot like the Thesis theme where there was a bunch of simple options for customizing things that a regular user can take advantage of without getting their hands dirty in any code.

Let me preface this next part with the fact that I enjoy both Gravity Forms and Thesis, but after a lot of frustration, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are  best suited for those well versed in css and php. I’ve realized that a lot of the endorsements I’ve read have been from web developers which makes sense now.

If you do not know or understand php or css, you will be severely handicapped in your customization’s unless you plan on using a lot of the defaults. This might sound harsh coming from someone who is digging Gravity Forms so far, but I really believe this to be true. Sure, there’s some documentation on the site, but even that’s written for the individual who has a background in code.

Thankfully Gravity Forms has a pretty decent support forum with mods that go the extra mile and will take you by the hand to help you customize the basic stuff a bit. I really enjoy forums that understand their user base is not full of coding masters and aren’t stingy with sharing their expertise to get you to your end goal (or at least close).

The caveat here is that without these helpful individuals often spelling out what you need to do, a non-programmer is going to be lost, and customization help is not guaranteed either. Luckily they seem very willing to help and I have never been ignored about any question or issue I’ve had, regardless of the topic.

As the title of this site indicates, I like to hack around so I don’t shy away from having to manipulate code to get an effect I want. If your a non-programming tinkerer like me, then the Gravity Forms challenge awaits. But if you don’t understand filters, hooks, query strings, and cascading style sheets  (I don’t) and don’t have any urge to learn (I do), then you may be in for a world of frustration, forever dependent on waiting for answers in a support forum.