Disingenuous at best
This is a tricky plugin to review since it is difficult to know what it is exactly that is to be reviewed.
The developer has stated that this plugin implements a web service, and I see that two moderators have now emphasized that it is the PLUGIN rather than the SERVICE that is to reviewed here.
To make matters more complicated, some reviewers (especially those giving 5 star reviews) not only seem to be reviewing the SERVICE rather than the PLUGIN, but are reviewing the PAID service, rather than the FREE one which comes with this plugin.
I hope my review helps to both disambiguate and clarify a little for prospective customers.
bizXpress the FREE PLUGIN
As a plugin (neglecting what is on the other end of it), it is difficult to say much because, as others have pointed out, it is essentially a page of links to a service host, and that service can be accessed independantly of the plugin.
Other than to say that the links worked, the only thing I can add is that this functionality is already built into every browser under a menu called “Bookmarks” (or something similar), so we hardly need another way to do it. Besides, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that when I want to visit another site my fingers automatically want to ‘alt-tab’ to another page rather than look for the links in my WP install.
It is also important for all WP beginners to know that you should always try to minimize the number of plugins you use, and this means making sure that each plugin has an important purpose that can’t easily be obtained a better way. Besides the hassle of updates, each new plugin increases the probability of conflicts, which can cause headaches far more painful than regular updates.
Indeed, it appears at least one user in the bizXpress forums has already had this happen. That did not appear to be the fault of this plugin, mind you, but rather another one. And therein lies the point. Why introduce the possibility of stressful conflicts, regardless of who is at fault, unless the benefits are very significant.
This is a very basic principle in the use of WordPress, and I’m surprised a developer offering to teach WordPress to beginners would so flagrantly violate it.
A lot of people have said in their review that this is not a real plugin. As far as I’m concerned the people who decide whether or not this thing is a bonafide plugin are the good folk at WordPress. And if they have approved bizXpress as a plugin, and continued to remain firm on this decision in the face of these reviews, then so be it: it is officially a plugin.
What matters much more is whether there is any value in installing it. Keeping in mind again that I am not talking about the SERVICE here, the answer is a resounding NO. Not only is there no need to install this plugin, to do so is a bad idea.
bizXpress the FREE SERVICE
The free service you can access via this plugin is very disappointing. Here, in no particular order, are some limitations I encountered.
1. Being able to view selected forums without posting is at best interesting for a few minutes of browsing. The first thing you are going to want to do is ask a question, and when you realize you can’t, you have to go searching for somebody else who has already asked the same one. Even in a busy forum, this can be frustrating and often futile task, but these forums are brand new, with virtually ZERO posts. And the few posts that are there seem to be from staff and affiliates, rather than from users with similar questions to mine. Obviously we can’t expect new forums to be very busy, but that fact makes it virtually useless to the user of the free service. A free service is not supposed to be useless, even if its usefulness is limited. The forums therefore, feel to me like nothing more than a teaser. We’ll answer your questions, but only if you fork out $150 a year.
2. The Action Guide is disappointing on several levels. Most immediately, of course, is that you only get the introductory parts, which is really not enough for many beginners to make a judgment. And in my case, what was there was enough to convince me that the model was definitely not one I wanted to pursue. This is because the real heart and soul of the business model is to build a large high-traffic website grounded in organic search. For those who don’t know what that means, it basically means writing lots and lots of what they call keyword-focused content pages to secure traffic from Google searchers. Although organic search has a place in an online business, to make it the basic platform of a business model is extraordinarily naive and risky, and is getting moreso every year. Again, not to say that organic search isn’t a useful adjunct to a business. It is, and they do quite a good job of explaining it, however that knowledge is available everywhere nowadays, and nobody in their right minds should base there entire business upon it.
3. The keyword analysis tool (BrainstormIt! they call it), seems to be where they are really pinning their hopes. There are of course a ton of other keyword tools around, but this one does have some definite novelty. Unfortunately, the most novel feature is the thing I like least about it. You see, the developer incorporates Supply and Demand numbers with each keyword based on a propietary algorithm to help you decide which keywords are really worth going for. The trouble is, nobody really seems to know how to interpret the numbers usefully. The answer always seems to come down to ‘Go with your gut feeling’. If a Demand number is very high, and a Supply number is very low, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the keyword is worth going for. And besides that, you have no idea what numbers constitute ‘high’ and ‘low’. I realize this isn’t an exact science by any stretch, but deciding what to make of the numbers is like throwing darts, which negates the purpose of having them.
Quite frankly, I prefer to have raw estimates of the absolute traffic I can expect from a keyword (which I can get with free tools), and I will do a few Google searches myself to see if I think the terms are winnable based on the competition. This method isn’t 100% reliable either, but it is far more transparent and predictable than using relative numbers generated by an unknown algorithm.
Of course, besides all that, there’s the fact that you only get to do 5 searches before you have to start paying. Again, this is enough to be tantalizing without actually solving your problem, making the upsell virtually neccessary, rather than optional.
bizXpress the PAID SERVICE
Some of the above problems go away, of course, if you’re prepared to part with $150 per year. In particular, you get posting access to the forums, the rest of the Action Guide, and enough ‘credits’ for the brainstorming tool to get the job done.
My criticism of the brainstorming tool would remain however. And so would my biggest criticism of all. The idea of building a business on organic search. Take advantage of organic traffic, by all means, but build your business on it and you will either fail up front, or forever run the risk of overnight catastrophe. And that is exactly what has happened to thousands of would be internet marketers in recent years, right across the board (including, paradoxcially, many many tragic stories inside this very company).
A FINAL DISAPPOINTMENT
When I was browsing the developer’s forums, I came across some background to this plugin which, as a dedicated user of WordPress, I found a bit unsettling to say the least.
The founder of this service, who is clearly responsible for the direction of product development and posts regularly in the forums, made it clear several times that his real aim with bizXpress is to generate revenue from WordPress to fund development of his own pet project, called SBI! Apparently that product line has had to go without a ton of important development in recent years due a lack of sales. He has claimed that his content management system (called BB2) is superior to WordPress, and wants to use WP to fund further development of that system.
As a result, he openly admits to having no real interest in investing any serious money to further develop this WordPress plugin, nor is he likely to create a genuinely useful one (which, oddly enough, seems to be an admission that this one *isn’t*).
I had to read those posts several times to convince myself that I wasn’t misinterpreting him. Still, it goes some way to explaining why someone would bother developing such an innocuous WordPress plugin as this one seems to be.
Call me oversensitive if you like. But as someone who adores the WordPress ecosystem, I felt a bit insulted.
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