Want to start a review site? Review sites are a great way to make passive income. In this guide, we'll share how to make a product review site & earn an extra $1K+ per month.
What’s the first thing most people do when they’re not sure of a product they’re trying to buy?
They look on TripAdvisor, Amazon or Yelp for reviews, of course!
The higher the rating, and the more positive reviews they can find, the more they will be influenced to make a buying decision.
Those review sites are worth quite a bit in themselves. In fact, TripAdvisor holds a market capitalization of nearly $8 Billion, and Yelp nearly $3 Billion.
While those are huge businesses whose primary focus is all about reviews and business relationships, you can stand to earn tens of thousands per year from running a review site of your own.
Sound exciting? Read on...
How Does a Product Review Site Work?
An affiliate review website is a great, sustainable way to earn passive income. It allows you to help people who want to know more about the products or services they are looking to buy, while you earn affiliate commissions when those people click through, or earn from selling advertising on your review site.
There are a few ways of creating your own review website. You could either leverage an existing WordPress blog, or create a whole new site from scratch.
The main thing you need to consider when choosing what to review is understanding how many competing reviewers exist for the topic. The less existing reviews there are on a topic (provided the topic is popular), the greater your potential success.
So if you can find something to review that you’re passionate about, and you have very little competition, then be prepared for your revenue to go through the roof!
Consider both your resources and the resources of the topic:
- How much competition does your topic have?
- How easily can you grow traffic?
- How easily can you drive advertising?
- Can you earn affiliate commissions easily?
Tools like the ones below will help you to find the answers to the above questions:
If you need more help figuring out your product review niche, check out our guide on Finding the Right Niche for Your Blog.
Once you’ve decided on your topic, let’s go through the following areas to make sure you have everything in place...
Step 1: Prepare to Launch Your Review Site
First, you'll need to understand whether you want to use your existing WordPress blog or whether you want an independent site.
If you want a whole new site, you will need to pick a new domain name, as well as the hosting provider.
If you’re considering WordPress, keep in mind that there are two flavors:
- WordPress.com – limited hosted platform that is under the WordPress domain and host
- WordPress.org – self-hosted WordPress that allows you to have your own domain and host
We’re recommending WordPress versus other blogging platforms like Blogger or Tumblr because of how accessible it is. It’s free, open source, very easy to use, the themes are customizable, there are a lot of plugins available to add features as you need them. And if you’re anything like me, it's easy to start with, especially for non-technical people.
WordPress.org allows you the full freedom to create whatever website you want, and you get all of the features of WordPress from the start. So we recommend going with the dot org flavor of WordPress versus dot com.
For either WordPress.org or your own independent platform, it is vital to pick a good hosting provider...
Siteground is a great hosting site for many reasons, among them being that they are one of the largest hosting providers, have competitive pricing, and are optimized for WordPress hosting.
The basic package is probably all you will need for your reviews website from the start, as reviews sites typically don’t need hosting for heavy video or image usage.
How to Pick a Domain Name
You should register a domain name, and it should always be purchased separately to your web host. We recommend Namecheap for your domain name needs.
The name you choose will be your website’s permanent identity, so it’s good to understand a few rules of thumb:
- Shorter is better
- Being easy to pronounce and spell is essential
- Hyphens are confusing– try to avoid them
- Be careful with the extension you pick (.info, .com, .org are extensions)– there are lots of different options these days, but you do want one that is going to look professional
Once you have signed up for a host, and picked your domain name, now it's time to install WordPress. Most hosting companies offer an installation option for WordPress, but here is where Siteground shines: WordPress is pre-installed at the click of a button.
Step 2: Set Up Your Reviews Website
Here's where you get to customize your website by first choosing your site’s theme.
Picking an appropriate theme will give you the framework you need to be successful. You should pick a theme based on the look and feel you think is the best for your site.
There are a number of free and premium templates specifically for WordPress review websites. We suggest avoiding these, as these particular templates are likely bloated and will handcuff you for the life of your site. Utilizing plugins is a better option, because they will work with any theme that you choose.
A good theme that will give you all the flexibility, plus all the "bells and whistles" you could possibly need is GeneratePress. GeneratePress is a drag-and-drop WordPress theme that allows you to build powerful and professional product review websites without ANY coding or design skills.
Once you have picked your theme, go ahead and install that, and then proceed to install some plugins.
Don't go too crazy here: you don't want to overload your WordPress site with a ton of plugins. Just pick a handful of the best plugins that you absolutely need.
WP Product Review Lite plugin is the first plugin we suggest you install.
This plugin adds those star ratings (schema markup) in Google so that you stand out in the search results– a MUST for any product review website! The base version is free and has all of the essentials, but if you’re looking for any advanced features, there is a paid premium version available as well.
Once installed and activated, a menu item labeled “Product Review” will be visible in your WP admin menu. Click on that to get to the settings page, which is divided into different sections:
- Select where you want to display the review box (after the content, before the content, or adding manually using shortcode).
- Choose whether users will be allowed to add reviews as comments, and how much influence user reviews will have on the site review.
- Choose number of options and pro/con comparisons that will be displayed.
- Define the default colors used by the plugin for ratings (excellent through weak ratings).
- Change the rating colors to reflect your theme design.
- Choose the default text for your pro/con comparison columns.
- Choose the text colors for different sections.
- Choose the colors for the buy button (this is the action button for your affiliate link, so you’ll want this to stand out so you can get those clicks!).
Step 3: Customize Your Reviews Website & Add Reviews
Now it’s time to personalize, add a bit of flair to your website, and most of all, get that review content up so that you can start influencing your readers! Here are some tips to get you started...
Customize Your Branding
First, upload your own logo through the customization setting. If you don’t have a logo, you can display the site title in bold.
Then, customize your colors. The color picker in the customization menu will help you choose the perfect colors for your site.
Finally, customize your layout. Adjusting various elements of your homepage will help you stand out, and Divi allows you to drag and drop the elements on your pages until you find the look that works for you.
Set Up Categories for Your Review Posts
Create the different categories that you imagine that your site will cover relating to your topic.
For example, if you’re creating a reviews website for restaurants, then you want to create 4 or 5 total categories such as "Romantic", "Vegetarian", "Italian", "Japanese", etc. These categories will allow you to partition your reviews.
Add Review Posts
Now it's time to create some product reviews!
Reviews in your site will be available as a separate post type, and custom field settings will allow you to choose the fields that you want for your review posts.
- Using the WP Product Review plugin, edit or create a new post.
- Write your main review like you would write any other post in WordPress.
- In the post edit screen, find the “Product review extra settings” box near the bottom, and click “Yes” next to the “Is this a review post?” selection.
- The box will expand with additional settings for your review:
- Product details like images
- Buy now button text
- Product/affiliate link
- Product price
- Add product features and your review score/grade for each feature.
- Add comparison pro/con lists.
- Save and then publish your post.
Displaying Reviews in the Sidebar
Specific to WP Product Review, you can display your posts in the sidebar.
- Go to Appearance » Widgets, and find top products/latest products widgets.
- Add the widget to a sidebar, select the number of products to display, and configure the product title/image display settings.
- Save and publish, and then see your latest reviews displayed with ratings and product images.
Step 4: Monetize Your Product Review Website
Now that you have your posts and reviews ready to go, we need a way to get the money flowing in! Here are a few ways to start making money (feel free to use them all at once to get as much as you can out of your site)...
Displaying banner ads is probably the easiest way to earn money, and WordPress will allow you to modify your theme/site to display the ad code.
Ask businesses for their ad code and paste it into your site. Google AdSense can give you access to many advertisers who are looking for specific, targeted demographics.
Affiliate Marketing/Paid Reviews:
Publish reviews on your website that generate affiliate income. The easiest ways to find products that have good affiliate programs are by joining affiliate networks like Amazon Associates or ShareASale.
You can also reach out to businesses directly and ask if they want their products to be reviewed in exchange for affiliate commission. They will provide affiliate links that give those businesses information that the traffic is coming from your site.
This approach is definitely a lot of initial outreach, but once you’re able to establish a good reputation and build your online presence, businesses will be more likely to reach out to you themselves as they will come to understand the influence you hold over your readers.
Warning: Keep in mind that although you can earn affiliate income from publishing reviews on your website, if those reviews are dishonest about a product, then you stand to lose trust in your readers, risk establishing an unethical reputation, and ultimately be an unreliable source for reviews in the future. If you are honest with your opinion of the product, then your reviews will be highly regarded and of high quality.
Step 5: Grow Your Product Review Website
Once you create your reviews website, it will need ongoing love and care so that it can grow. A big part of that is making your website known and growing your presence and reputation through promotion and advanced customization.
Promoting via content marketing is the best way to build your network and your relationship with your readers, and will allow you to feed back to your reviews website.
There are two major types of content marketing: content you publish on your own site or social media channels, and content you publish on someone else's site or channels.
Guest posts are blog posts that you create for other already established and authoritative websites. Why write content that isn’t going directly to your reviews website? Well, because this is one of the best ways to showcase your passion and expertise as a guest writer. The already established audiences of those sites will be inspired by your post and be attracted to your reviews website, potentially growing your own traffic much more than you would have on your own.
Plus, you get a backlink to your site, which helps to boost your SEO.
Blogging on your website is another form of content marketing, but is more self-reinforcing for your website:
- You will draw directed and targeted traffic to your website via Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- Your blog posts will allow you to update your website with information that will keep your users engaged.
Make sure to blog regularly with a content calendar so that you are doing content marketing on a consistent basis.
Customizing your review site with advanced features will also help you to manage and grow your site more easily. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- MonsterInsights: Most popular Google Analytics plugin; this allows you to connect without writing any code yourself, and you can track eCommerce, forms, custom dimensions, sophisticated events, basically anything to understand where your readership is coming from and what they’re reading.
- Yoast SEO: Optimize your WordPress website and its content for search engines– very important!
- Pretty Links: As affiliate links aren’t pretty by nature. This tool allows you to cloak the link into something a lot prettier (e.g. myreviews.website/product). Also, this will allow you to track clicks, manage existing affiliate links, and if you get the pro version will give you the option to split test your links (helpful if you’re testing different offers).
Now it’s up to you to create your own website full of reviews that will get your readers to click on your affiliate links and generate passive income. As you can see, the process is easy and affordable. And using the guide you’ve just read, you should be in good shape to get started. Have fun!
If you enjoyed this guide, you may also want to check out our Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Blog for Free (or Cheap) and Make 7 Figures.