How to Set up a Review Website

Review websites are one of the easiest (and in my view best) ways of setting yourself up as an affiliate marketer.

Finding buyer keywords is easy – you add words like review, comparison, suggestions, recommendations and similar words to the product name or generic description.

They work in any niche – although some niches are crazily competitive, so you need to do some research before you start.

Choose a domain name

You need to be aware that some names are reserved by their product owners, even if the name is available to buy.

So don’t use anything that could be contentious such as the manufacturers name or product name as part of your domain.

Trademarks are intellectual property and it is not uncommon for their owners to be quite aggressive in making sure that their name is protected.

Even if the domain name is allowable but could be interpreted as you trying to pass your site off as being owned by the product owner then it’s worth keeping away.

The last thing you want is to build up your site and then get a very unpleasant letter from a lawyer saying that you have to give up the domain name with no recompense because you’ve infringed some intellectual property.

Generic domain names work best but you need to be aware of different usage in different countries.

For instance, here in the UK, a space hopper is the common name for the large balloon that children sit on and bounce around the house or garden. But in the USA it’s more often known as a hoppity hop and in other countries it’s a skippyball or (presumably in Australia) a kangaroo ball.

If you decided to create a review site for all the variants of that product, finding a domain name that would work across the world wouldn’t be easy.

Plus I’d suggest that you shouldn’t go that narrow in your niche.

And make sure that you don’t inadvertently include bad words when you choose your domain name. A plural word before the word experts could turn your new domain name into an adult site and that’s probably not what you’re after.

Set up your site

Once you’ve decided on your domain name and registered it, you need to get some hosting if you haven’t already and then set up WordPress.

I’ve written a longer article on doing just that so I’ll just give a brief outline here:

  • Choose a reliable host. A quick indication is the monthly price – a host that’s charging (say) $1 a month is a lot less likely to have the resources needed to keep your site online than one that’s charging $10 or more.
  • Install WordPress. It’s the most popular way to create new websites, including review ones, which means that you’re going to be able to find support if you need it, excellent designs (themes) and extensions (plugins) that will be able to make your site do whatever you want it to.
  • Tweak WordPress. Out of the box, WordPress is basic. There are quite a few settings to change but plenty of opinions and tutorials to help you with that.
  • Start! It’s really easy to let your perfectionism get in the way of starting your new affiliate review site. You can change things like the look & feel, layout, etc. But only if you’ve actually started. Otherwise your new review site is little more than an expensive day dream

Incidentally, unless you’ve done this lots of times before and have a team helping you, work on one site at a time. Not several or tens or whatever. Just one site – concentrate on it until you’ve got it working as you want and earning affiliate commissions.

Start creating reviews

There are several different review formats.

Each of them works OK and it’s really a matter of personal preference. And some of the formats can work in conjunction with each other – the choice is yours.

  • Individual product review pages. One product per page. These work well for a lot of products but you need enough possible content to be able to do that. So if you were writing about a clip-on bow tie there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t be able to write more than 100 or so words about it. Once you’d got past the material it was made out of, the colour and how the clip worked, you’d be hard pushed to write much more. Unless you turned the review into a story about how you wore it to a party and no-one noticed that you were wearing a bow tie that was cheaper than a Happy Meal. But most of the time individual product pages are easier to write if the product has enough features or possible uses to create a decent length piece of content.
  • Comparison product review pages. These can be shorter summaries, linking off to the more detailed individual product page (computer and camera magazines do this a lot) or they can just include the complete review. Or a mix of both. Your choice and there’s nothing to say that you have to take the same approach for every review on your site. Going back to the bow ties, you could include several on a review page but probably wouldn’t include a separate page on each. But if you were reviewing several different lenses for a DSLR camera then you may well decide to have a budget option, a regular option and a top of the range option on one review page with a link off to purchase (obviously) and also to the more detailed review which would probably include technical specs or similar.
  • Top X product review pages. You’ve seen top 5, top 10, top 100 lists all over the web. They don’t just work for the likes of Cosmopolitan magazine. Lists are the bread and butter of lots of websites and product review sites are no exception to this. You could make your list a comparison – I’ve done that with a lot of sites, where I include several similar products at different price points – or alternatives. So with the bow tie, you could also include regular ties and cravats for the arty types who might want to stand out in a crowd but still look as though they’d made an effort. You could even extend it to dress shirts, belts, braces, suits, shoes and socks. Use your imagination and you can expand the potential for affiliate commissions considerably. There’s a reason that almost every Amazon page you visit has recommendations for related or similar products – that’s how we buy things.
  • Consider a rating system. There are plugins for WordPress that will allow you to include star ratings for the products you’re reviewing. If you’ve personally used the product then they can be worth including. But if everything ends up with 5 stars because you want people to buy what you’re promoting, that’s self defeating. It can be worth including a lower rated product to help your main product shine more. Some people will trade off price for quality (I did when I bought that cheap bow tie – I knew no-one would notice and I knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime purchase) whereas others will prefer to spend a bit more to get something higher quality.
  • Include photos if possible. Photos are something I’m personally not too good at including. But they work – lots of people are visual by nature. Just be very careful that you’re not infringing any copyright. For instance, Amazon will allow you to use the images they deliver via their Associates links but other options aren’t allowed. Some product owners will have a resources page that includes images you can use. Unless you personally know the product owner and have their written permission, I don’t suggest just grabbing images from their site. Likewise double and triple check the usage rights – don’t assume that because an image is on Google then it’s OK for you to use. If in doubt, use a generic royalty free image that you know you have the rights to – it’s far better than getting an email from a copyright owner that’s effectively demanding money with menaces in legalese.

Keep creating product reviews

It’s easy to get bored and stop doing something, even though it’s profitable.

I did that with an early product review site that I created – the last review I wrote on that site was in 2010. The site still gets some traffic (about 50 page views per week) but a lot of the products weren’t evergreen, so the links no longer work.

If I started that site over again, I’d make the links to the products easier to amend – using a plugin like Pretty Link Lite or WP Shorties.

And I’d set up a spreadsheet so I could easily check that they were still available for sale.

Evergreen products – that bow tie, a Rainforest Jumparoo – are better in my view.

Model numbers and features on electronics change too often for my liking, which makes the reviews obsolete except maybe for someone who’s about to buy the product second hand on eBay. The same goes for apps and computer games.

Last years top Christmas toys will almost certainly be different from next years list. So if I was doing a toy review site, I’d choose babies and toddlers because the products are closer to being evergreen.

Your choice.

If you’ve got the patience and the time, go with shorter term products. The sales can be fantastically high but this time next year they’ll be a distant memory. Remember pet rocks?

But keep creating reviews.

Keep generating content for your new affiliate website.

And monitor what’s working for you and what is less successful.

And if you’d like to find out more, check out my Affiliate Marketing Road Map.

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