Review Websites have been a standard way to make money online for the past 20+ years.
Not only do they provide users with the ability to determine which products / services / solutions are best for them, but also gives you the ability to list the various vendors that are most trustworthy, too.
The “model” is very simple – provide a legitimate resource through which people are able to identify products they may want/need to purchase. The premise of a “reviews” site is that you remove all the corporate bias, instead providing an objective resource for people to identify the best way to obtain what they want.
The way the “model” worked was – back in the day – to attain Google ranks.
For “buy” keywords (“buy Product X UK” / “buy X product Texas”), conversion rates were typically very high (due to the way in which most of the traffic were people who had already made the decision to purchase the product).
Even if you had a website with 5 top “Google” ranks for a number of products, you could expect ~20 visitors per day for each of them. These visitors might not have been big in number, but the likelihood was that a large proportion of them would eventually go on to purchase based on your recommendations (if they were good).
This meant that if you were looking at getting the most out the “review” opportunity online, you'd basically be tied to getting Google ranks. Whist this worked well, added competition, changes in Google's algorithm and the rise of “mega” e-commerce stores such as Amazon, lead the “review” model to wane in the past 5+ years.
That's not to say that “review” sites are dead; like most things in the commerce world – when one opportunity fades, another rises. This is what's happened with “review” websites…
What Are Review Sites?
As explained, “review” websites are sites dedicated to the “review” of different products. They earn money as commissions on the sales they refer to the various companies on their pages.
The point of such websites is to provide unbiased references for different markets. We actually see this quite prevalent in the “personal finance” space – with a myriad of “comparison” websites for the likes of insurance, loans and banking services.
Whilst I would not recommend getting involved with finance (unless you have a genuine desire to do so), the underpin of it is that the “review” model still exists, but has shifted towards a much different structure.
The classic “review” website is basically made up of several different elements:
- Main “home” page (where summary of reviews are kept)
- 5+ Review pages (the actual reviews for different products)
- 10+ Content pages (this works as a cross between a blog and tutorials site) – the content on these pages is generally very “rigid” / “static”
- Blog (opinions on industry news etc)
- About/Contact/Legal pages
These are populated with content to provide users with the ability to determine which products are best etc.
The most important thing to understand here is that in order for these sites to have any value at all, they need to be seen and used. This can only happen if you're able to effective promote them – which is typically why most people relied on Google ranks to make them viable.
The problem with this – as mentioned – is that if Google decided to kick the site off (which happened back in 2007), the site effectively becomes worthless. Thus, to gauge the true value of the strategy – you need to be able to determine the best ways to get traffic to it.
How Review Sites *Actually* Make Money
“Online”, there are several ways to bring traffic to an offer…
- Referrals (from other websites including article directories, news sites etc)
- Direct (people typing your site in directly)
- Search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc)
- Marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, Envato, Fiverr, etc)
- Social (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
The level at which your audience connects with you depends on how many of the above communities you're dealing with. As mentioned, most people just wanted to get their sites listed on the first page of Google (which would typically work for Yahoo and Bing too) – but as you can see, this was not a bullet-proof strategy.
Today, many marketers have taken to providing a more in-depth approach to the promotion of the sites. Moreover, many of the above “traffic sources” do not provide equal value visitors, hence the idea that the “model” has died (which is untrue).
Ultimately, the key with the modern web is authenticity. Traffic is attracted by how authentic an offer is. Using your real name, face and likeness form part of this. Without getting into depth, the point is that if you're looking at “making money online”, one of the most assured ways to do it is through showcasing your work through the various outlets mentioned above.
The point is that if you're creating a site such as one to showcase various products, you need to be sure about how it's actually going to bring in traffic
Modern Review Sites & The Opportunity Moving Forward
As mentioned, the most important thing to appreciate with review sites is that they will need to bring traffic through the door.
The most effective (& leverage) way to achieve this (today) is by utilizing the power of SOCIAL media. Social media is simply any sort of website that requires you use your own identity to engage with others. This isn't just limited to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram either (although they are obviously some of the most popular).
Gaming websites, creativity websites and other communities are also considered “social” media. The point is that if you're relying on traffic from the likes of Google etc, you'll typically build a website around that intention (static, boring pages).
If you're looking at a more sustainable model of cultivating traffic & revenue, you'll NEED to cultivate an actual brand and other essential elements. This is where “social” plays such a vital role – it pushes the need for a much more authentic marketing strategy.
To this end, you really need to appreciate what makes a modern “review” site feasible and effective. I'll cover this in depth another time – essentially, you have to provide a core SERVICE with the site. The service needs to be DEEPER than straight products – it has to deliver an underlying result for the buyer. The more lucid this result is, the more people actually want to deal with you. The more people who want to deal with you, the more traffic you'll receive through the various “social” channels open to us today.