The Business And Monetization Of Product Review Sites – Forbes

Customer reviews are powerful – so powerful, in fact, that the vast majority of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust the opinion of a close friend. It’s no surprise, then, that 63% of people actively seek out online reviews before visiting a business ; people want to know what they’re buying before they buy it, both offline and online.

Review sites not only provide valuable information to consumers, but critical feedback to businesses as well. And these reviews coupled with social posts can shape a company’s online reputation.

Consumer demand for online reviews and recommendations represents an opportunity for digital entrepreneurs – primarily in the form of review sites which provide honest reviews for products or services and profit off of affiliate commissions for those same products.

I had the opportunity to speak with Joe Auer, the founder of Mattress Clarity, a review site for mattresses, to hear about his experiences and success in the business. He shared his top advice on how to turn a product review site into a thriving online business itself.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Yet

To build a successful review site, you’ll need some grit. Growing a review site often depends on patience-testing marketing tactics such as SEO, branding, and organic content promotion. Not to mention the trust you’ll need to build with online consumers – that takes time. “Even if you’re doing great work, it takes a long time to get traction in this business,” advises Auer.

You need to be ready to put in the work day-in and day-out without getting discouraged by minimal short-term results.

Choose A Product That Needs To Be Tested Before Its Bought

When you build a review site, you’ll need to first choose which type of product to review. Maybe you’ll review online software, camera equipment, shoes, or baby gear. Whatever the case, the decision you make shouldn’t just be based on the flip of a coin, you should put some calculated thought into the type of product you’d like to provide reviews for.

Some product types are very lucrative for review sites and some are less lucrative. Consider why Auer chose to do a review site for mattresses: “If there’s one thing I’d be nervous to buy online before testing it out myself, it’s a mattress. That why most of us buy mattresses at the local store – even though they’re more expensive – because we can lay on them first and see how they feel. I wanted to make consumers more comfortable and confident with purchasing a mattress online by giving them a place to read honest reviews.”

The most successful review sites test and report on products that consumers aren’t comfortable buying without first reading reviews, but that doesn’t apply to all products equally. Most people, for instance, will purchase a t-shirt online without a second thought, but most people won’t buy shoes or a mattress online without verifying that other people have tried the product and loved it.

Provide Honest Reviews

Review sites represent an obvious conflict of interest. Namely, that they profit off of affiliate commissions from the products that they’re reviewing and that consumers trust the site to provide honest reviews about those same products. As the owner of a review site, you want website visitors to purchase the products they read reviews of – meaning you can’t give outright horrible reviews all the time, even if they’re honest – but you also need those consumers to trust your reviews.

So, what are you to do? “You should always give honest reviews. Otherwise, you’ll come off sales-y and consumers will learn to not trust your site in the future. But here’s what you have to keep in mind about ‘honest’ reviews: they don’t just say ‘this product is good’ or ‘this product is bad.’ They say ‘this product is good for people who need extra back support’ or ‘this product is good for people who want to melt into their mattress each night,’” recommends Auer.

In other words, every product is different, and so are consumer preferences. The job of review sites is to provide honest evaluation of products including relative details that apply to different types of consumers. With that, you’ll provide honest reviews that consumers can trust without unfairly glorifying some products and bashing others.

Focus On SEO

Most review sites depend upon organic traffic rather than paid advertisements or aggressive marketing campaigns. That is what makes review sites so appealing, after all: while they take time to build, once they have momentum, they keep running with very little effort or overhead. And Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the primary way that review sites generate traffic, conversions, and revenue.

Mattress Clarity, with a respectable domain authority rating of 51, and sitting on page one for the search phrase, “mattress reviews,” has invested considerable resources into ranking for key phrases. “Organic search is the main driver of our website traffic. When you build a review site, that should be your focus. If you can get people coming to your site every month passively, then you can focus on optimizing your website for conversion, testing more and more products, negotiating better affiliate commissions, and improving internal processes,” Auer explains.

Consumer demand for trustworthy online reviews won’t be diminishing anytime soon. As the e-commerce world continues to expand, consumers will likely seek out more review sites as a way to make smart, informed purchasing decisions.

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