How To Start and Monetize Product Review Sites

How To Start and Monetize Product Review Sites

Product review sites seem to be all the rage these days. That’s somewhat odd as people reviewing products has been around since just about the advent of the Internet. Amazon had a lot to do with it, as they were one of the first e-commerce platforms that allowed buyers to easily write reviews for the products purchased.

Those early Amazon reviews were awesome and made reading other people’s experiences with various products a crucial part of my purchase decisions – and for the longest time, just reading those reviews on Amazon was enough. It felt like I got an unbiased take by people like myself.

A strange thing happened, where all of a sudden I started trusting the masses more than I trusted expert reviewers. A hundred 4 1/2 half star reviews were so much more meaningful to me than the opinion of, for example, a newspaper tech expert. Consumer Reports – fuggedaboutit. I’d rather take the opinion of a few hundred good people on Amazon.  Heck, those darn Amazon reviews were probably a huge part of the reason why I used Amazon in the first place.

Suddenly companies and their competitors began to realize how important those reviews were for folks and began gaming the system to influence our purchase decisions in their favor. Then, slowly at first, I began to stop trusting reviews on Amazon. I don’t think it helped that Amazon started flooding product pages with their Vine program. It’s hard to tell what’s real now and what’s not.

Sigh…

What now? Who can I trust?

Back to experts we go.

But this time the experts creating product review sites were different.

They were bloggers.
They were YouTubers.
They were Unboxers.
They were entrepreneurs who believed there had to be a better way to provide meaningful reviews.

The one thing they all had in common was that they were Amazon Affiliate Marketers, monetizing their reviews by driving affiliated traffic back to Amazon where you could buy the products they reviewed. Isn’t it funny, Amazon brought online reviews into our lives, then ruined these same online reviews and yet somehow they’re still the ones benefiting the most from online reviews? I digress.

Here is the thing.

Online reviews are big business.

So big, in 2016 The New York Times decided to buy The Wirecutter (which at the time was completely self-funded) for $30 million.

That’s a lot of money.

Here at Geniuslink, we have been helping affiliates monetize their work for the past decade and we’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the biggest affiliates in the world. And without disclosing any earnings, let me tell you that there is a lot of money to be made by reviewing products in just about any medium imaginable. Honestly, if affiliate marketing sounds at all interesting to you, there is no better and higher converting way to build an affiliate business than to review products and services. The people consuming your content are there because they’re leaning in, actively looking to make a purchase decision. They’re often just one click away from having a 1-10% commission flow into your affiliate wallet.  

Today, I want to dive a little bit deeper into what it takes to launch successful product review sites monetized via affiliate marketing.

1. Pick a niche for your product review site that you’re passionate about

Whether you’re making videos or writing up detailed blog posts, it is going to help you tremendously to care about the products and category that you’re digging into.  Quite honestly, in the beginning it actually matters less. It’s fairly easy to get started by just picking whatever category you think is going to earn you the most commissions. It gets much harder once you hit that first wall and momentum is tough to come by. That’s when some passion about the products you’re reviewing is essential.

A few things to note:

  • No niche is too small. We have hundreds of clients in the product review space in dozens of different categories.  And there are hundreds more in categories I didn’t even know were categories.
  • That being said, you might want to pick a name that allows you to ultimately broaden your reviews a bit and expand into different categories.
  • But start niche. That also will make it easier for you to a) interact and b) build a passionate community around your project.

2. Pick the right medium for your product review site

Same rules apply as above. Pick a medium in which you’re a) either comfortable producing content in or are eager to learn.  For some people producing video content is easy and natural. Others love the idea of recording audio. Many product review projects were started in the blogging/written word space and that still makes a good amount of sense. So much sense that whatever medium you pick, we’d still recommend you start an actual website and post all of your content there as well. The reason for such is that we feel super strongly about not being overly dependent on any specific ecosystems, such as YouTube.

Here are our thoughts on the various forms of media to pick from:

  • Text. This is still our favorite medium for product review sites and projects. You get to own the platform and your brand is not dependent on anyone else’s ecosystem. And while many people head over to YouTube to do their research, organic SEO is still the best way to drive consistent traffic and interest to your project. Also, in most cases, it’s easier to earn from text content as you can directly embed affiliate and e-commerce links in all the right places.
  • Video. We have a ton of product reviewer clients in this space and YouTube is truly a great platform that many people use to do their research prior to buying. YouTube videos are visual and the prospective buyer can get a much better idea of what the product they’re researching to buy can be used. Two downsides. 1. We’re a little hesitant about the obvious dependency on YouTube. 2. It’s slightly harder to embed affiliate links. It used to be almost impossible to do this right but we have done a ton of work in this space and that hurdle is almost overcome. Check out how we help YouTubers monetize their work.
  • Social media. There are many influencers on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest who in addition to “paid sponsorships” also monetize their works via affiliate marketing. While we believe that these sites and apps provide great opportunities for audience building, we tend to be highly skeptical to use them as your primary platforms to produce affiliate content on – simply because one tweak to their algorithm (as Facebook and Instagram have done often) can kill your ability to reach your hard-earned audience overnight.
  • Audio aka podcasts. While we haven’t seen any major projects in this space, podcasts are ultimately where we believe product reviews will be prevalent. Right now the two major challenges are a) being able to drive listeners to your podcasts and then b) being able to include affiliate links effectively. But a podcast in conjunction with a website could be a good bet. Also, for anyone who wants to be early in a space, we see a lot of opportunity in podcast product reviews.

3. Start with Amazon and then immediately diversify away from Amazon

Amazon is a great starting point to help you monetize your product review project. They have a ton of products, it’s global and with the help of a tool like Geniuslink – you really can squeeze out a good amount of revenues from every link you share.  We have helped our clients make tens of millions of dollars in Amazon commissions (gulp, that feels like a big number) so it would be impossible for us to not recommend you start there.

But – and this is a growing and very real concern – you cannot build your livelihood relying on a single stream of income coming from a very powerful corporation that is ultimately most concerned about the well being of its shareholders.  Period

The same can be said for only producing content on a single platform, such a YouTube or social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. Whenever possible, you want to own the platform where you’re producing your work and be as diversified as possible when it comes to your revenue streams.

We have had too many clients lose significant income because Amazon decided to change the commission structure of whatever category they were in. Or because they used an affiliate link in an improper way, usually without any bad intent.  By the way, we always focus on ensuring our platform is compliant with Amazon’s Operating Agreement, so here are a few more steps you can take as well to ensure that your Amazon account is compliant.

We love Amazon. Start with Amazon and then immediately begin diversifying your affiliate income streams.

4. Give your customers choices

This goes hand-in-hand with our prior recommendation. Diversifying your sources of affiliate income is good for you. But it’s also good for your customers, because not everyone loves to shop at Amazon. Last year, we launched Choice Pages, allowing you to build super slick, high-converting pages that allow prospective customers to choose their purchase destination of choice.  More choices for your customers means more commissions for you.

Second, we have integrated our platform with Sovrn Commerce (aka VigLink) and Skimlinks, allowing you to monetize all your links no matter what destinations you choose. More integrations are coming.

Giving customers choices is especially important if you look to earn international affiliate commissions.

5. Build international affiliate links

But what if all my content is in English?

Honestly, as you start producing content, you’ll be blown away by all the different countries that will drive traffic, viewers, and listeners to your project. Some of our clients see as much as 50% of their total audience coming from outside of their home countries. Monetize that traffic right away, as that extra affiliate income can be the difference between keeping going or not. And we want you to keep going. Here is a guide we wrote on how to earn and maximize your international Amazon commissions for product review sites.

6. Have fun.

There is no better time than the present to start building, growing and monetizing product review sites. The most difficult part is taking the first step, so get out there, find something you are passionate about and have fun with it! With a little hard work and a niche that you are passionate about, you will quickly begin to generate an established audience and the affiliate commissions will begin rolling in! And remember, if you have any questions along the way, we’re always here to help!

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