February 18th, 2009
You may have noticed from our previous post about user contribution points & ranking that Review App now supports user avatars. We’re using a system managed by Gravatar.com that allows members to create portable avatars that can be used on sites and software with Gravatar support (like WordPress). The Gravatar tools are really the best we’ve seen for creating and serving avatars and we’re stoked to offer integration through Review App.
If you don’t already have a Gravatar account it’s simple to sign up. Just enter your email address, confirm your account, and upload a hot pic. Your avatar will appear on sites where you use your Gravatar email address to sign up (including Review App sites).
Simple. Like Review App
February 12th, 2009
We just launched a new feature in Review App today that should help motivate members to add more content to your website: User contribution points. Point values are easy to set up and you can change them at any time. Managing similar systems over the years has taught us that listings should generally be worth about 3 points while photos and reviews are worth 2 and 1 points, respectively. Of course those are just guidelines – you can choose to reward contributions based on their relative worth to you!
Once you’ve configured how many points you’d like to reward for various actions you can set up user point levels to make things interesting. Over at Serious Running they’re calling members with no contribution points “couch potatoes” while only those with more than 100 points are “Serious Runners.” Whatever it takes to get your members motivated, right?
With a user point system in place the possibilities for content contests and promotions are endless. In the past we’ve found great success rewarding members who reach a certain level with free t-shirts or stickers but you may want to use this functionality to scout out experts in your field for additional responsibilities.
More cool stuff is coming soon, keep checking back for the latest Review App news!
November 11th, 2008
There haven’t been many updates on the blog recently but rest assured – that’s just because we’re working hard adding new features to Review App! One of the most requested features Review App users have asked for is new content stats and trends and we were happy to oblige!
If you’re a webmaster you already know that when it comes to the web, content is king. With Review App user-generated content is king and it’s important to track how much new content is being added to your site on a monthly or even daily basis. New content stats let you see, at a glance, how many new listings, reviews, and photos have been added to your site in a given time period. Using the form shown on the right you can filter the results by individual sections or view your stats on an annual, monthly, or even daily basis.
In addition to the new content reporting tools we’ve also included a report that shows the number of new members who have signed up in for your site a given time period. This is just one more way for Review App administrators to see how effective their website is at attracting new users and new content.
New content stat reporting is just one of the latest features we’ve added to Review App over the past month. Stay tuned here to see what else we’ve been working on!
October 6th, 2008
Last month we tackled a massive relaunch of tripleblaze.com, an outdoor website focusing on camping and hiking, and we were pleasantly surprised with how well Review App handled the task. With access to powerful backend functions and user-friendly data import tools we had the new site up and running within days without a moment of down time!
The tripleblaze project was particularly ambitious since we weren’t just converting the site to the Review App platform – we were also tackling a graphical redesign at the same time. The designers weren’t given any Review App constraints in terms of the way the forms, listings, or category pages should look which meant none of the stock templates included with Review App would work. Fortunately Review App was up to the challenge and with a little custom programming we brought the design to life. It’s amazing how good design can catapult a site from simply useful to truly engaging.
Of course using the backend Review App functions to create a website’s design involves more effort than using one of our stock templates but we think the results speak for themselves. It’s nice to know that no matter what you envision for your site, Review App can make it happen.
Since tripleblaze.com already contained thousands of registered members and just as many campground and hiking listings we needed to transfer massive amounts of content to the Review App platform. Using the spreadsheet import functions on Review App we moved everything over in just a day and most users didn’t even notice the switch. No data was left behind – even the campground wishlists made the leap!
We’re super stoked about how the tripleblaze project turned out and it gave us another chance to hone and enhance Review App for future projects. Give us a shout and tell us how we can help with your website redesign!
October 3rd, 2008
You may have noticed that our regular posting streak was broken a couple weeks ago and things have been quiet here ever since. We ended up taking our own advice about focusing efforts on our other blogs and that’s meant the Review App blog is no longer seeing daily updates. Clearly we were running out of good material as our last post was about Office Max for goodness sake.
We’ll continue to post new stuff here when we have useful information to share. Like today – we’ve been busy improving Review App over the past month and have some cool new features to share. The first is actually a minor change to a Review App plug-in called AdZone.
For those who don’t know AdZone is a lightweight ad server that’s integrated into Review App to allow you to rotate ads, track stats, etc. on your website. Anyway, we noticed that some ad network servers can be slow at times which means your pages will be slow to load, particularly for ads placed near the top of your pages. AdZone now allows you to selectively place ads into iframes so your pages load completely even if an ad loads slowly or fails to load at all. Some ad servers use iframes exclusively and we considered making this the default behavior but it turns out Google Adsense has trouble with iframes since it serves contextual ads (and an iframe page has zero context).
The second feature we added is one we’re really stoked about: default category sort settings (primary and secondary). On the surface this might sound fairly boring but wait – this is pretty sweet. For most webmasters a primary default sort is a no brainer – you generally want your category listings to be sorted alphabetically by title. But what if you have an e-commerce site and you want your products sorted by highest rating to lowest? Just set your primary sort field to rating (descending) and your secondary sort field to product name (alphabetical) and your best products are front and center but still easy to find!
Here’s another way you can use this feature: Say you run a vacation rental website where property owners can purchase ‘sponsored listings’ that place their properties at the top of their category page. Just create a hidden numerical field on property listings called ‘promotion’ and for paid listings set ‘promotion’ to anything greater than zero (say 1). Now set your category to first sort by promotion (descending), then by property title (alphabetical). You just created a new revenue stream!
Look for more new Review App features this fall as we deploy our software to even more consumer review sites!
September 17th, 2008
I prefer Office Max and to get to the nearest one I drive past a Kinko’s and an Office Depot. The prices are about the same but my Office Max has:
- Free coffee (though I don’t drink coffee myself, it’s nice to know it’s there)
- Free wi-fi and seating area with tables and chairs
- Free office supply usage (stapler, hole punch, scotch tape, scissors, etc.)
- Quick service – most times they make the copies while I wait
Another tip: sign up for the mailing list. It seems like I get 20% off print service coupons about once a month which is about how often I come in for $50+ print jobs.
Office Max has been a great asset to me as an entrepreneur running an online business and I can’t imagine what I’d do without it. I suppose I’d sooner buy a color laser printer and laminating machine myself than go to Kinko’s
September 16th, 2008
Next week we’re heading to the annual cycling industry trade show to report for our mountain biking website and I thought I’d share this tip with you: trade shows are worthwhile, even for webmasters. Sure, the whole idea of a trade show where retailers place orders with manufacturers seems a bit antiquated what with telephones, email, the Internet, etc. but it’s still a great opportunity to build your online business while creating connections within your industry.
First things first: cost of attendance. Most industry trade show give out free ‘media passes’ to webmasters and even bloggers – in many cases all you need is a website and a business card. Part of the promise to trade show exhibitors is that they will get free media coverage so organizers are motivated to allow as many media representatives as possible into the show. Of course travel expenses can become cost prohibitive but often attending just a single day of a trade show is more than enough. If a trade show isn’t being held in your city, consider sending one of your local readers to report on the show.
Industry trade shows are also great sources of new content for your website or blog. The first time we attended an industry show we were overwhelmed with the number of stories we needed to report – literally a dozen or more for each day of the show. As a webmaster you’ll also be bombarded with press releases leading up to the show along with invitations to speak with company reps. Just be choosy about what you report, keeping in mind what your audience cares about the most.
Finally, trade shows offer an enormous opportunity to connect with industry players who may one day choose to become advertisers on your website. In meeting with company reps remember your conversation is as much about learning about new products and services as it is about introducing your online brand to industry insiders. Be sure to have plenty of business cards on hand and consider wearing a shirt with your web site logo as you walk the floor.
Industry trade shows aren’t just for pushy salesmen and hapless retailers any more – today bloggers and webmasters can gain a great deal by engaging in industry conversations. No matter what niche or industry your website represents, you’re sure to find a trade show worth attending to grow your online brand!
September 15th, 2008
An important part of ranking webpages comes not just from keywords and incoming links but from actual user feedback. Google collects user feedback on search quality in a two basic ways: counting clicks and observing on-site user behavior.
Search engines have long used click counts to improve search rankings and Google certainly wasn’t the first to employ click counts in its algorithm. The basic premise is this: using keywords and other factors, Google puts together a list of results for a particular keyword query. As users view these results, some links get clicked more often than others and over time those lower-ranking results that receive more clicks than higher-ranked results should move up. It’s simple for search engines like Google to track click counts since the action is taking place on their own website and click counts are a pretty good indicator of keyword result quality.
The second way Google gathers feedback to improve search rankings is through user behavior tracking. Now before you get nervous about Big Brother watching your every online move, it’s not as scary as it sounds. You see Google gives webmasters free tools to analyze aggregate visitor data (average # of page views, time on site, etc.) through Google Analytics and you can be sure that Google is looking at that data as well. Not only can Google see what is happening with visitors on its own site but in many cases Google can see what users are doing on other sites. So, for example, if a particular site sees a high bounce rate (visitors viewing a single page and leaving immediately) this could indicate a poor keyword query match. These days average bounce rates generally hover around 50% for most websites meaning there’s still a ton of improvement to be made in search results (put another way, one in two web queries sends users to the wrong page).
Consider the feedback you and your site visitors are giving to Google and how you can use the feedback loop to move your page listings to the top of keyword queries!
September 12th, 2008
Since for many families Friday is movie night I thought I’d talk about one of my favorite internet-enabled companies: Netflix. Netflix delivers movies to customers through the mail under ongoing subscription plans starting at just $10 a month for one movie at a time. There are no late fees meaning customers can keep movies as long as they like and return shipping is included with each movie delivery.
Like most folks I used to rent movies from the local video store but I found the process frustrating – but not for the reasons you might think. In terms of convenience the video store can’t be beat: my last two homes were less than a mile from at least 3 or 4 Blockbuster franchise locations. I don’t watch a lot of movies (maybe two or three a month) so the cost of renting videos wasn’t an issue – I’m paying about the same amount with my subscription plan. Availability at the big video rental chains was generally good, especially following the innovative video lease agreements pioneered by Rentrak in the 1990s. But I digress..
Nope, for me the issue has always been FINDING good movies at the video store. Like most folks I would cruise the outer wall for looking for new releases and often leave with nothing when I didn’t see any familiar titles. Finding specific movies was even more difficult – is Indiana Jones in the adventure or comedy section? And when would the newest Indiana Jones movie make the switch from the new releases wall to its proper category section? (it seemed some movies were new releases for more than a year).
The point of all this is to say that Netflix has revolutionized the way I find and rent movies (though the finding is the real killer app for me). Finding a particular film is as easy as using the search box on the site and sorting movies by highest rated (rather than alphabetical) is a great way to find new releases you may have overlooked. The recommendation functions at Netflix are even more revolutionary since each movie recommendation is based on what Netflix thinks I might like rather than on a pimple-faced teenage worker’s recommendation at Blockbuster.
Of course online video rentals will be (are) the next big thing but it doesn’t really matter. Netflix used the power of the internet to transform an industry using existing technology (mail, plastic DVDs) rather than wasting money on pioneering the next technology. Sure, streaming video technology is coming along and broadband penetration is finally at a point where this starts to makes sense – but today it’s a lot cheaper and easier to do that it would have been just a couple years ago. In the meantime Netflix has built a huge user base and honed its recommendation engine to work well no matter the delivery medium.
Sometimes entrepreneurs need to take short-cuts to get to the ultimate goal; other times existing technologies still haven’t been fully utilized and optimized. Either way, we’re talking opportunity – the fuel of entrepreneurial dreams!
September 11th, 2008
We’re putting the final touches on the latest Review App plug-in called Best Listing. With Best Listing you can create a custom algorithm to find the best of what your site has to offer: whether it’s restaurants, mountain bike trails, or even books and products. With Best Listing, you set the factors you’d like to include in your ranking plus the weights of the factors themselves and Review App will dynamically build your ‘best’ list instantly. As members add more reviews and place products or items on their lists your best listings page will be updated every 24 hours with the latest rankings.
Adding a Best Listing page to your site is a proven way to increase search traffic. On our camping website we’ve included a ‘best campgrounds’ lists for the entire US and state-by-state and it’s our number one source of natural search traffic! The best part is that once the list is created you can change the weights used to calculate the rankings and your list will remain dynamic as users add more content to your site.
Stay tuned to ReviewApp.com over the next few weeks as we’ll be posting a new section for all the available Review App plug-ins, including Best Listing.