As we move into the New Year, it’s good to take a moment and look back at the road that got us here. 2019 was the best year for Starfish Reviews so far, and we wanted to share some of the highlights with you. It was a year of growth, new customers, lessons learned, and finding more ways to add value for our users and their businesses.

Growth: Revenue & New Users

Total revenue for 2019 was $16,874. This is approximately a 380% increase over 2018. It’s approximate, because we switched from WooCommerce to Freemius early in 2018, so our numbers may be missing some revenue at the beginning of that year.

The number of active sites using our plugin grew by more than 118% in 2019. Thank you! More and more small business owners, podcasters, authors, and online marketers are discovering the power of reviews and using Starfish Reviews to help them do it.

Check out our case-study on how Spray ‘n Coat leveraged happy customers to generate more reviews and more satisfied employees. Let us know how you use Starfish Reviews – we’d love to feature you on our blog.

Hosting & Partnering with Kinsta

After a year of record growth we knew we needed a hosting service that could reliably keep pace with the rapidly growing number of Starfish Review users. As of November 2019 Starfish Reviews is an official partner of Kinsta, the web’s leading managed WordPress hosting provider. Kinsta specializes in two of the most important things you could want for your website: safety and speed. Kinsta checks every one of the websites it hosts every two minutes. As a business owner you know your site will be safe and ready to handle anything. Their service runs on “speed-obsessed architecture”, including PHP 7.3 and Google’s cloud service hosting.

Starfish Reviews is proud to join other WordPress companies like 10up, WP Rocket, GiveWP, and Elementor as a Kinsta partner. And check it out: Kinsta recently listed Starfish Reviews first in their list of best WordPress review plugins!

Plugin Overhaul & Improvements

2019 was also a year of big changes for the Starfish Reviews plugin. At the end of 2018 we partnered with Matt Galloway as our new lead developer and in January, we released version 2.0. The new version had several major updates, including merging the codebases of the Free and Premium versions of the plugin. The consistent codebase provides a solid foundation for adding great features in the future.

Over the course of 2019, Matt re-architectured nearly the entire plugin, adding new features and functionality along the way like a new reporting section that will allow us to add more robust analytics and reporting in the future. Here are some highlights of the improvements we’ve released in the past year:

  • New reports section built with Angular.
  • Improved “Disable Review Gating” functionality to comply with Google and other platform’s terms.
  • Record funnel feedback at every stage so data is recorded even if the funnel is not completed.
  • Drag-n-drop reordering of multiple-destination funnels.
  • “Reviews” (the funnel results) renamed to “Feedback” in preparation for ability to import external reviews and display them.
  • Funnels rewritten as a form-stepper for better stability and compatibility.

Adding Value with Our Blog

Starfish Reviews isn’t interested in just growing our business, we want to share what we are learning to help you grow yours. In 2019 we decided to focus on using our voice to help business owners both generate online reviews and then what to do next with them. We more than doubled the number of posts we did in 2018, offering tips on how to respond to positive and negative reviews, ideas for developing your own review marketing strategy, and explaining how reviews help improve your local SEO. We even did a feature on strengthening mental health for people who work remotely.

What do you want to know in 2020? What questions do you have about review marketing or social proof? Need tips on working in WordPress? What functionality would you like to see in Starfish Reviews? Send us your ideas by commenting below or on your favorite blog post. We look forward to talking with you!

Support Numbers

With the growth of active sites using Starfish Reviews, and the adoption of the Rich Reviews plugin (see below), our support grew exponentially. Our total conversations increased by 153% in 2019 over 2018. Our overall response time went down by 17% to 1day, 14hrs, but our first response time increased by 20% to 1day, 1hr.

Our overall happiness score (based on people’s ratings of our support) went down slightly to 95% overall. Screenshot of Help Scout’s numbers below (not sure where the extra 1% comes from? Maybe rounding to get whole numbers?).

screenshot showing 95% rating support as "Great"

We also had significant traffic to our documentation with 3980 visits. People appear to be finding it useful and often helping themselves find solutions. However, nearly 45% still created a ticket, showing that our documentation is limited enough that many people aren’t finding the answer they’re looking for.

Rich Reviews Adoption

This past year we found ways to serve the online business community with more than blog posts. In October we adopted the long troubled Rich Reviews plugin, patched up its security issues, and released an updated version for the plugin’s more than 16,000 users. Originally launched in 2013, Rich Reviews allowed users to add reviews of their product or service to their website. In 2017 vulnerabilities were discovered in the plugin and in March 2019 WordPress removed the plugin from the repository because they were still unpatched. But any site still running Rich Reviews was open to malware or other attacks.

Sites that cover security and WordPress issues picked up on the story, including naked-security by Sophos. Starfish Founder Tevya Washburn read about it and decided to adopt Rich Reviews. Our developer Matt completely rewrote the code for the options portion of the plugin, tested it, and pushed out an updated and secure version in just two weeks. We then worked with WordPress.org Plugins Team to get Rich Reviews relisted on the plugin repository. Starfish Reviews drew kudos from some of those same media sites including Wordfence for adopting Rich Reviews and making it secure for thousands of users.

Telling the Starfish Story

We also tried this year to do more to share our story and our values about business, life, and helping others. Check out these podcasts featuring Tevya talking about Starfish Reviews:

Plus these excellent YouTube reviews of our plugin:

Our Goals for 2020

Thank you to all our new users, and our continuing ones too! 2019 was a great year at Starfish Reviews and we are looking forward to an amazing 2020. We are planning a lot of awesome things this year. Our founder, Tevya Washburn, set these major goals for 2020:

  • Growth: 200% growth in active sites and revenue. In 2019 we more than doubled 2018’s active sites and well over tripled gross revenue. We believe we can at least triple our current active sites and gross revenue in 2020. If we do, we’ll be well on our way to profitability and sustainability.
  • Content: a sustainable rate of 1 valuable post per week by year’s end. We think we can achieve a rate of 1 post per week by the end of the year, with the people and infrastructure to maintain it in 2021. We’d also like to include more tutorial and detailed how-to content as part of that. For a stretch goal, I’d like to relaunch our YouTube channel with new videos at least every 2 weeks.
  • Plugin Features: launch review importing and display. It’s our most requested feature and we want to release it to all of you as soon as it’s ready. As a stretch goal, we’ll try to also add the Testimonials functionality (reviews submitted on your site) and better analytics and reporting for funnels, testimonials, and 3rd party imported reviews.
  • Plugin Code: Improve and Maintain a Code Security Rating of 100% (A), and also Introduce an automated testing framework to validate core features before each release. The automated testing will cut way down on the people hours required to ensure each new version of Starfish Reviews doesn’t introduce new bugs.
  • Support: decreasing our response times while increasing our happiness rating. We’d like to get our overall average response time to less than 1day 12hrs, and get our first response time back under 24hrs. We think we can also improve our happiness rating to 97%. Plus we’d like to improve documentation by documenting all standard features in Starfish Reviews and linking those to help icons in the plugin.

Make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter of blog updates to ensure you get all the new content and details on plugin releases. If you have questions or suggestions for features you think would be useful please let us know. We are excited for what is coming and look forward to working with you to make 2020 the best year yet for Starfish Reviews and all of you!

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Scott

I am an aspiring writer, currently learning about the ins and outs of online and review marketing. I live to help people access the people, skills, and resources they need to succeed - writing and sharing about what I am learning is one way to do just that!