When A WordPress Plugin Review Is Not a Review

A cursory search on Google (or your favorite search engine) for WordPress Plugin Reviews is going to yield a massive number of results.  I entered “wordpress plugin review” in Google and got over 17,000,000 results.  Narrow that down with a specific type of plugin and you might tighten things up a bit. Changing to “wordpress membership plugin review” still yielded more than 1.2 million results.  You might get similar results looking for a security plugin, backup plugin, and the list goes on.  That’s a good sized mountain of search results. 

So what’s the point?

Most of these results are worthless.  In looking at a lot of these plugin reviews, a great many of them are linkbait for affiliate programs.  As I’ve gone through quite a few of these researching this post, I found that most of these posts tend to do nothing more than aggregate feature lists for various plugins.

Maybe I shouldn’t be griping too much – 3 of the top 10 results for “wordpress membership plugin review” are for my own membership plugin, WP-Members.  But those results aren’t actually reviews.  What got me to thinking about this particular issue is the fact that when there are “reviews” of WordPress membership plugins, no one reviews WP-Members.

Why do you think that is?

That’s a somewhat rhetorical question.  WP-Members does not offer an affiliate program.  When I developed WP-Members back in early 2006, there were no WP membership plugins.  Yet is has quietly racked up almost half a million downloads (over 350,000 since moving to the wordpress.org plugin repository) since then.  So it is clearly one of the most popular.  But without an affiliate program, you simply are not going to get people to include it in comparisons like “The Best Membership Plugin.”

This probably is not the most egregious example since it is really nothing more than a feature comparison with some affiliate links.  The really bad ones in my eyes are the comparison posts where the author compares features of this plugin vs. that plugin, this one does this quite well, etc.  Yet, they haven’t tried any of them.  They are generating their information from the feature lists, making it sound as if they have tried them all and are giving you an unbiased opinion.

Credibility Matters

That brings us back to my original postulate – most of these reviews are worthless.  If someone is creating a “review” or even a comparison table, most of the information is neither unbiased, nor inclusive of legitimate candidates.  Worse than these two elements, it is also likely that the “reviewer” has not actually tried all of the plugins they are comparing.

Certainly there are people who write legitimate reviews of plugins for which they are affiliates. I’ve done that here myself.  These types of reviews are legitimate, and often are actual endorsements for a specific product.  Essentially, the blogger is saying to you, “I purchased this product and tried it out, this is what it does well.  I love the plugin – you will too.  By the way, I’ll make a little extra cash to keep this blog going when you buy it via my affiliate link.”

By way of example, the first result in the membership plugin Google search I referenced above is from Chris Lema.  His review actually has this type credibility.  How do I know that?  Because looking at his results, it is not jammed with affiliate links.  There are a few, but not every plugin in the list that has an affiliate program has an affiliate link.  And he reviewed some free ones as well (not WP-Members, but hey, nobody’s perfect).  Not making every link about the affiliate program makes me believe that he is speaking with first-hand knowledge about each product.

I recently read a great post on Carrie Dils blog, “How to Run A Successful Affiliate Campaign Without Being a Douche.”  And if you do affiliate promotion through your blog, you probably should give this article a read.  Carrie’s post does a great job of driving home some of these points.  Essentially, there is a right way and a wrong way to utilize affiliate links.  Being a successful marketer of affiliate programs generally takes credibility, at least if you are to be successful for the long haul.

The difference is that simply slapping together a comparison list of some similar plugins does little to build credibility, and it certainly doesn’t provide useful information.

Personally, I try out a lot of plugins – both free and commercial.  I like to do reviews and I’ve considered doing that on a regular schedule.  But I would never want to recommend someone buy something that I didn’t try myself and feel it was worth it.

Do you do affiliate marketing?  What are some of the things that you find bridge the credibility gap? What makes you run away from a less than credible review?


  1. Chris Lema says

    I downloaded wp-members earlier this year to test it and compare it to see if I should put it into my infographic and/or posts. And you’re right that I have tested each of the ones I write about. And used them in real situations. And I always purchase them on my own (not based on someone giving me a free copy).

    I didn’t include it because it’s default actions felt like it was too much work for me, in comparison to other free options. If I recall, you do blanket covering or uncovering or single post/page control. But nothing in-between – so I can’t blanket cover 200 posts at once (of 600).

    It’s why I preferred Paid Memberships Pro (which is also free).

    • says

      Thanks Chris, glad to hear you looked at it. I liked using you as the good-guy example because it is evident that you’re not recommending the stuff that gives the best affiliate commission; something so many other posters do.

      Off the subject of the post, you’re not the first person to mention blanketing a large number of posts. I am finding larger numbers of users come to the table with content already and need to do something in bulk (either switching membership solutions, or changing to WordPress altogether). So it is a feature that is on the project list.

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