Build a Book Review Blog

Building A Book Review Blog Using Free Resources

Build a Book Review Blog with any Free Theme and 2 Free Plugins: I’ve had an enjoyable week because I got to do something I really love doing – build a blog! I’ve been working on a little project that’s been on the side-burner for a long time and that’s a Book Review Blog. In this post I’m going to go over some of the steps I took to get the blog up and running and, hopefully, save you a little bit of the hiccups and headaches I experienced. I’ll try to be brief because I have a lot to share; review blogs require a few extra steps than the basic blogs most of us build.

Why A Review Blog?

I love the many ways you can monetize a site like a review blog. Times have changed and it’s going to take a lot more work that it did just a few years ago but I can see there’s some real potential in it. No matter the niche, a review blog is going to take consistent effort and everything is going to hinge on community and reputation. Building a great reputation and gaining influence is key to any blogging business and a review blog is no exception.

With Success Reads, I’m using a very simple model using Amazon Partner Program, AdSense, and an Audible affiliate relationship. That’s three forms of potential blog profit (so far) and with the amount of books I consume, it should make for a nice fit. Don’t get me wrong, Hot Blog Tips is my baby and this new blog will just help me find new challenges to conquer with you and, hopefully, give me some nice success strategies to share.

Success Reads

I originally came up with the idea for Success Reads back in April of last year (2014) and put up a few quick book reviews on a horrible looking WordPress theme. Seriously, this thing was butt ugly. And that’s where it sat until I decided to make it a priority in 2015 and start sharing the great books I’ve been consuming. Now for the last week or so I’ve been playing around with it and I think it’s ready for some serious content. Check it out and let me know your thoughts:

Related Productivity Journal Entry: (Always Skippable) Back-story – There was another reason for the book review blog and you can see more on that if you wish on my productivity journal: Future of How To Win Friends And Influence People.

Book Review WordPress Themes

First, after the initial setup we do with every blog, I thought there would be some amazing WordPress themes designed for book reviewers. Well, I don’t want to bash anyone but I was a little disappointed. I was surprised at how few book review themes there really are; at least what I can find.

So after searching high and low, I finally picked a theme and got to work on it. It wasn’t long before I broke my blog! Seriously? Come On! I believe it was the theme and, after an already shoty HelpDesk reply, I decided to keep my $37 and find a simple theme and mold it the way I wanted.

Related Productivity Journal Entry: (Always Skippable) In the mean time, I had a very tough time getting the blog back up and you can read that story if you want in this entry: I broke my Book Review Blog – BAD!.

Book Review WordPress Plugin

Once I found a clean theme to use, I needed a decent book review review to use.

I started out with a book review plugin called Book Review Library but that replaced the standard “post” with a separate entry called “Books“. That’s exactly the way the first (ugly) theme I used worked. I don’t care for that method because once you switch themes, you have no blog posts, only “books” and you’re in a real bind if your new theme doesn’t support that custom creation.

I ended up going with a WordPress plugin called Book Review. Book Review uses the default post system but adds the review options to the blog posts, including the book details and a super simple rating system. I’m really satisfied with it so far.

Book Review plugin working its magic

The Book Review plugin working its magic.

The plugin, Book Review, also supports using a Google API Key to automatically populate the book details. You can set it up to auto-populated the book details directly from Google Books with just the ISBN# and book title (easily found on Amazon) – including the book cover thumbnail. How cool is that.

Oh, but nothing that cool is going to by simply, right? You have to create a Google API Key using Google’s Developers Console. Donna Peplinskie (the plugin developer) has a decent tutorial for setting everything up. Fair warning, the tutorial is a little out of date because Google has re-designed their interface since Donna created the tutorial but I managed to get through it with minimal hair loss.

Now I just have to enter the ISBN# and book title, and with the click of a button the book details are magically entered for me. There is a little bit of a learning curve for this plugin so brand new bloggers might have to hire a little help, to be honest.

One drawback to the Book Review plugin is it doesn’t add the Rich Snippets code for you. I honestly don’t know if any of them do but it would make a nice project for a plugin or theme developer. No worries, the next section shows you what Rich Snippets are and how to get those beauties working for your review posts.

Holy Snippets Batman, this is getting complicated

Now we’re getting the the next stage, one that I am learning and have yet to fully impediment. I’m talking about rich snippets and structured data (HTML5 microdata) which, put into non-webhead language means…

Rich Snippets SERPs Example

Notice the Star Rating, Author Name, and Review Date

I want my book reviews to look like book reviews in the SERPs:

And they do now, thanks to a plugin I’m using. Hold on, I’ll get to that. 😉

I ran one of my reviews through Google’s structured data testing tool and it showed a lot of missing data that could help drive quality traffic to my new blog. That got me scrambling to learn more about rich snippets and how to get them integrated into my review posts.

Ultimately, for now, I’m getting the minimum amount of data accomplished by a WordPress plugin called All In One Rich Snippets. With the help of this tool, my Google search results are showing (according to Google’s structured data testing tool) the star ratings, author, and dates, which in turn should help CTRs (Click Through Rates).

Rich Snippets Plugin

The Rich Snippets plugin in Action

Learning About Rich snippets

Skippable: If you’re looking for answers, feel free to skip this short section because I have more questions than answers when it comes to rich snippets.

Rich snippets and structured data seem like they are becoming more important so, personally, I want to learn more about it. Sure, it will take a while, and a boatload of work, but I figure that it’s better the get it right in the beginning than find myself re-vamping old content again.

Since I’m outside my element on the topic of HTML5, rich snippets and microdata, I’ll leave links to a few of the pages I’m studying and you can decide for yourself how far you need to go.

Wrapping up

There you go, any free theme and two free WordPress plugins (and some computer time) will get you a great looking and functional book review blog that your readers will love, along with Google, and will hopefully bring in some blog profit. I hope you found this post helpful and don’t forget to download your free guide to setting up your own “Info Boxes” you’ve seen in this post.

Image Credit: The cool looking book cover I used in the featured image was generated by Creative Indie Covers, a cool free online tool I use often.
About Brian Hawkins

Blogging superhero by day and internet super villain by night. Blogger, future online millionaire and an all around great guy.


  1. Brian,

    Thanks so much on the shout-out on my Book Review Plugin. I’ll do some work to get that tutorial for obtaining a Google API key updated. I know it’s a pain point / scary for some.

    Re: rich snippets. I’d actually added support for awhile back, but it’s not working and I haven’t been able to figure out why as of yet. Everything looks fine when I run my own book blog through Google’s Testing Tool. I’ll check out that other plugin you mentioned to see how they do it so that I can hopefully address this issue once and for all, and then you won’t need to have 2 plugins installed to do the job.

    Any other suggestions to lessen that somewhat steep learning curve you mentioned?


  2. Thanks Donna, I’m just excited to find your plugin. I had to share it because your plugin gives us the flexibility to use any theme we like rather than rely on one of the handful of book review themes out there.

    That would be amazing if your plugin started taking care of the rich snippets for us. You might even be able to make that a premium version to get paid a little for your great work. Thanks for taking the time to update us. 🙂

  3. Ideally, I’d like to roll rich snippets into the free version. Theoretically it’s there now, just non-functional. 🙁

    I am currently working on a premium extension for the Book Review plugin that will allow you to monetize your blog via the Amazon affiliate program. It’s pretty much built but I have to get the infrastructure in place to sell it.


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