Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Never Miss a Beat - Get Updates Direct to Your Inbox

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

By Ian Drogin
| Reading Time: 13 minutes

Online product reviews offer invaluable insights into the quality, functionality, and characteristics of various products. From $10 Amazon purchases to $20,000 home solar installations, reviews play an important role in consumer purchasing decisions. Not surprisingly, this means there’s an enormous opportunity for websites that specialize in meeting this demand. However, before diving in, it’s essential that you know how to make your review site profitable. 

In this article, we’ll discuss key strategies you can use to increase the profitability of your review site. Let’s start with the basics…

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

How a Review Site Makes Money (Step-by-Step)

In broad terms, a review site makes money by providing valuable product feedback which online shoppers use to make purchasing decisions. Then, when sales are generated, the review website earns an affiliate commission.

There are several key elements involved in the review website business model, including:

  • Positioning and authority
  • Content and SEO
  • Affiliate relationships
  • Conversion rate optimization

Thinking of Selling Your Business?

Get a free, individually-tailored valuation and business-readiness assessment. Sell when you're ready. Not a minute before.

Positioning and Authority

Before anyone will trust your opinions, you need to establish your position and authority in the market you serve. 

One of the first major decisions for review site owners is choosing a niche. You don’t want to start a site that reviews anything and everything. Doing so would undermine your authority and make it difficult to build trust among consumers. 

To establish authority, start by identifying a niche to focus on. A few key considerations include:

  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Market size
  • Competition
  • Purchasing behavior
  • Affiliate opportunities

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

Knowledge and Expertise

Since your review site will depend on expert opinions, it’s wise to choose a niche that you’re familiar with. Not to mention, you’re going to spend a lot of time writing about your niche, so doesn’t it make sense to choose one that you’re passionate about?

“Since your review site will depend on expert opinions, it’s wise to choose a niche that you’re familiar with.”

To identify niches that you’re an expert in, it can be helpful to take out a piece of paper and make a list. At this stage, don’t limit yourself. This is just an opportunity to jot down various ideas that you could run with. Later, you’re going to explore whether or not each idea is actually a viable option. 

Next, it’s time to do a bit of research.

Market Research

Market size is a key element when starting a business of any kind. Before starting a product review website, it’s important to know that there’s a sufficient number of customers active in the market. 

To research various niches, you can start by heading over to Google Trends to see what the Google search volume and trends look like for various phrases related to your market. Play around with the different tools to compare the niches that you’re considering.

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

In addition to researching the search volumes within each niche, it’s also important to pay attention to the competition. In most cases (if not all), you’ll find that the niches with the highest volumes also have the highest competition. Therefore, unless you’re extremely well-resourced, it’s a wise idea to focus on niches that are somewhere in between. You want to ensure that there’s reasonable traffic, but you also don’t want to be competing with a bunch of twenty-year-old websites that each have 20,000 high-quality articles.

One of the simplest ways to research the competition is to use a domain authority checker such as ahrefs. Just by copying and pasting a domain, you can see a website’s domain authority, backlinks, and more. Other services such as Market Muse can provide many additional layers of market insight. 

Purchasing Behavior 

Serving a niche with high volume and low competition is great, but you’ll still encounter challenges if you don’t understand your market’s purchasing behavior. 

Before moving forward with a specific product review website idea, be sure to serve a market that values reviews. Although it’s true that reviews are important in nearly all markets, there are certainly differences between each.

Successful review site owners choose niches in which reviews are an essential part of the purchasing process.

There is one key question to ask when determining the importance of reviews in a given niche. Would a customer want to try a product themself before purchasing it?

For some products, it’s easy to understand almost everything you need to know just by looking at the product page. With these products, customers may simply check out a few product pages and not bother to read an in-depth review blog as much. Shirts and journals, for example, are relatively straightforward to understand. This doesn’t mean there’s not still an opportunity to create a T-shirt review blog. However, it might not be the best opportunity.

“Successful review site owners choose niches in which reviews are an essential part of the purchasing process.”

With other products, it’s not quite so simple. 

For example, if someone is considering buying a new couch, they likely would want to sit on it themself before purchasing. Since that’s not possible online, the next best thing is a detailed, honest review that covers all of the key qualities concerning the couch. 

Affiliate Opportunities

To make your review site profitable, you’re going to need to establish relationships with either affiliate networks or individual brands. While this isn’t the first step in the process, it’s a good idea to ensure that opportunities exist before getting started.

“It’s important to pay attention to commission rates within your niche.”

There are two elements to look for within the realm of affiliate opportunities:

  • Number of opportunities
  • Commission rates

Ideally, you’re able to choose a niche in which there are many different affiliate opportunities to take advantage of. Not only will this make it easier to find partners, but it will also provide you with more products or services to create content for. 

Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to commission rates within your niche. If you’re serving a market in which the average affiliate commission is 6%, you’ll need to generate substantial sales to make your review site profitable. This is especially true if products sell at a low price point.

On the other hand, if the average affiliate commission is higher, it’s easier to make your review site profitable. Each affiliate program is slightly different, so it’s a smart idea to explore several different options. 

Since there are several elements to consider when choosing a niche for your review website, this step can take some time and serious thought. Once you’ve arrived at a decision, it’s time to create an effective strategy for content creation and SEO.  

Content and SEO

High-quality content is the backbone of a product review site. Without it, it’s impossible to drive organic traffic, build authority, or generate sales.

To get your content in front of your target audience, you must first establish an effective content and SEO strategy. At a high level, your content strategy should specify a few key elements:

  • What content you create
  • How much content you create
  • How you distribute your content

“High-quality content is the backbone of a product review site.”

Like any activity in business, it’s important to have clarity and direction when it comes to content creation. Before diving in and writing articles, it’s best to spend some time figuring out what you want to focus on. 

Several of the elements that guide the niche selection process also apply when choosing topics for content:

  • Search volume
  • Search intent
  • Competition
  • Affiliate opportunities

Search Volume

Search volume plays a crucial role when determining your content marketing strategy. If you can rank for topics that have high search volume, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out how to make your review site profitable.

Search Intent

In addition to search volume, it’s important to consider search intent. As the term implies, search intent refers to the intention that someone has when searching with a specific phrase. When it comes to building a product review site, you want to rank for searches that imply a purchase intent. 

For example, if someone searches, “how tall is Mount Whitney” they’re probably not trying to purchase anything. Even if this search term has high volume and low competition, it’s probably not an ideal topic to target. 

On the other hand, if someone searches, “best hiking shoes for mountaineering” then there’s a good chance that they’re looking for… yes, hiking shoes!

In this second example, you know that the person searching for hiking shoes likely has an intent to purchase. If you can create a high-quality blog post that ranks for the topic, you know that you’ll be getting high-quality traffic. 

Competition

Competition is another key factor to consider. Even if a search term has high volume and high purchase intent, it doesn’t matter if you’re not able to rank for it.

To gauge competition, repeat the step you completed when researching niches, except for specific articles. Look for gaps in your competitors’ content strategy through keyword research and create articles based on the opportunities you find. 

Search volume, intent, and competition are three of the most important elements to keep in mind when crafting your content strategy. Once you’ve identified topics that satisfy your criteria in all three of those areas, it’s time to establish your monetization strategy. 

Like other forms of affiliate marketing, your review site will rely on generating affiliate commissions. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose affiliate offers that are in full alignment with the topics you write about. 

In many cases, this is pretty straightforward. Returning to the previous example, if you’re writing about the best hiking shoes, you’ll want to provide affiliate links to the hiking shoes you discuss. If you’re reviewing a digital product, you’ll want to find an offer that aligns with the niche you serve.

“Search volume, intent, and competition are three of the most important elements to keep in mind when crafting your content strategy.”

Because all of these elements are necessary for success (volume, intent, competition, affiliate offers), it’s wise to consider each of them before producing content. Doing so will enable you to establish a clear and cohesive strategy for your niche website. 

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) 

Lastly, it’s critical to constantly track and optimize your conversion rates. Pay attention to what kinds of content perform the best and then optimize your other content accordingly.

For example, if a particular product testing or review blog is performing exceptionally well, look for key elements that might be driving its success and try to replicate them. Or, if a specific affiliate link consistently has a high click-through rate, perhaps try finding ways to use it on more pages. 

Whether you’re serving the “make money online” niche or home decor market, analysis and optimization can help you figure out how to make your review site profitable and successful. 

Distributing Your Content

Most profitable customer review sites rely heavily on organic blog traffic, especially in the beginning. However, once you start getting eyeballs on your page, it’s smart to build an email list.

Building an email allows you to cultivate a relationship with your website visitors. This allows you to distribute new content that you create and promote affiliate offers. In many cases, owners choose to leverage social media or influencer marketing to increase their reach further. 

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

What You Need for a Complete Review Site that Makes Money

Unlike many other business models, you don’t necessarily need a ton of money or experience to start a product review site. However, there are a few things that you do need:

  • Willingness to work hard 
  • Ability to learn
  • Writing or management skills
  • Honesty

You Must Be Willing to Put in the Work

Review sites take a lot of time and work to build. Typically, the owner must invest significant energy before a site is even profitable. This makes review websites a poor choice for those seeking a “get rich quick” solution.

Because of the work involved, many successful niche site owners are very passionate about what they do. They’re willing to put in long hours researching, writing, and networking with potential partners. For some, the process is highly rewarding and even fun.

As mentioned, review sites can take a while before they’re profitable. Therefore, it’s usually necessary to have another source of income during the start-up stage. 

The long runway to profitability is often mirrored by low capital requirements. If you’re willing to put in the work as a writer, it’s often possible to build a review site without investing a ton of money. And similar to selling a content site, you’ll likely encounter significant demand if you ever decide to exit.

Ability to Learn 

In addition to putting in some hard work, you also need to have a willingness to learn. 

Like with any business model, owning a review site requires you to learn a unique set of skills. SEO, content writing, and building partnerships are among the foundational activities of building a review website. 

Most successful owners have a growth mindset when it comes to learning. In other words, you shouldn’t expect that all you need to do is learn the basics and then sit back. Rather, you should always be researching new strategies, exploring new tools, and networking with other professionals in your space. 

Choosing a Strategy that Aligns with Your Strengths

Like with any business model, there are multiple paths to building a successful product review website. Each path requires a different skill set. 

Some review site owners choose to write all of their online reviews and content themselves. Of course, this requires the owner to be a skilled writer or content creator. Since writing can be a time-intensive process, the owner must also be willing to put in the hours to build the business from the bottom up. 

There are a couple of benefits of doing all the work yourself. Firstly, you have complete control over the quality of your reviews and website. You don’t need to worry about training employees or managing contractors. When you operate as a one-person team it’s all about your vision and your execution plan.

Secondly, when you do the bulk of the work yourself, you don’t need to invest in writers or SEO partners. This allows you to save significant money and operate a lean business. This can be a great route if you’re a talented content creator, have plenty of time, and are tight on finances.

Another option is to hire writers and other contractors to do most of the work for you. If you go this route, you don’t necessarily need to be a great content creator yourself. You also don’t need to spend countless hours testing products, review writing, or searching for influencer marketing partnerships.

Although outsourcing labor can allow you to avoid content creation activities, it’s not without its own set of responsibilities. Hiring content creators require you to manage others, which requires a different set of skills. There are skilled writers who hate managing others and talented managers who are poor writers. 

Before getting started, it’s wise to consider where your skills lie and choose a strategy that plays to your strengths.

Always Provide Honest Reviews

Review sites represent an obvious conflict of interest, at least in regard to short-term interests. 

Since review sites only make money when customers make purchases, they’re incentivized to give positive reviews.

Besides being disgraceful, there are some very compelling reasons why you should not write dishonest reviews.

How to Make Your Review Site Profitable

Review sites rely heavily on trust. In fact, as a review site owner, your customers’ trust is one of your greatest assets. As such, if you write dishonest customer reviews, you’ll lose that asset in a heartbeat. 

If you feel that a product doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t hesitate to write a negative review. Similarly, when products exceed your expectations, a positive review is warranted. 

Smart review website owners seek to provide detailed, honest feedback about the products they review. This should hold true whether you’re picking products at random or doing paid reviews. When your reviews are validated by customers’ experiences, your opinions become more valuable. In turn, that leads to repeat customers and greater profitability.  

Skills and Experiences that Help You Build a Successful Review Website

In the previous section, we talked about two fundamental skills that can help review site owners: content creation and management. While those can be invaluable during the day-to-day grind, there are some additional skills that are also important. These include:

  • SEO
  • Email marketing
  • Networking and relationship building
  • Niche expertise

SEO

Search engine optimization is critical when it comes to building review or content sites. It doesn’t matter if you have the most compelling copy in the world if no one can find it on the internet.

Many review site owners become hyper-focused on learning everything they can about SEO. From Google analytic tools to online courses, to SEO articles, and Facebook groups, there are plenty of resources out there to help you understand exactly what you need to do to rank well. Additionally, a lot of content site owners hire SEO consultants to help them craft winning content strategies. 

Email Marketing and Copywriting

Although content sites typically rely heavily on organic traffic, email marketing can still be an important part of the equation. 

By capturing emails and following up, smart owners can dramatically increase revenue and profitability. This is especially true if you have excellent copywriting skills and great affiliate offers to promote. Therefore, copywriting is an invaluable skill for content site owners and staff. 

“By capturing emails and following up, smart owners can dramatically increase revenue and profitability.”

Networking and Relationship Building 

While critical thinking and technical expertise are important, review site owners must also be good at working with others. Soft skills such as communication are critical when it comes to managing staff and building lasting partnerships with established brands.

In the early stages, it can be easy to think that review sites are all about content creation and SEO. However, as your business grows, it will become more and more important to collaborate with others. Emotional intelligence can come in quite handy if you end up managing a team.  

Niche Expertise

Niche expertise is one of the core pillars that can help your review site succeed! This is especially true if you’re reviewing products that involve specialized knowledge.

For example, if you’re reviewing financial products or services, a background in accounting or finance will be very useful. Not only will it provide added credibility, but it will also allow you to provide a more thorough and valuable analysis of the products you’re discussing. In some cases, review site owners link their business to their personal website to reinforce their credibility.

Similarly, if you’re an avid backpacker, you’ll naturally have more to say about different camping products. When you can share personal experiences that relate to the products you review, you’ll create a deeper connection with your readers.  

Tips to Help You Get Started Making Money from Your Review Site

There’s a lot involved in building a successful review website. However, it can be helpful to focus on a few key activities when getting started:

  • Pick a profitable niche
  • Create an effective content strategy for your review website idea
  • Start creating content 
  • Implement affiliate offers
  • Start generating traffic and sales

Once you’ve started making money, you can focus on improving your conversion rates or monetizing YouTube. By constantly learning and integrating, you’ll be well on your way to building a profitable review website that you can sell down the road. 

Buy a Profitable Online Business

Outsmart the startup game and check out our listings. You can request a summary on any business without any further obligation.

Thinking of Selling Now or Later?

Get your free valuation & marketplace-readiness assessment. We’ll never push you to sell. And we’ll always be honest about whether or not selling is the right choice for you.

Icon
Icon
[523.251,659.255,783.991]
[523.251,659.255,783.991]