A “Review Site” or a “Site With Reviews” — Which is Best?
Many review sites were hit hard during the time of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms — only a few did it right and sailed through. Others drifted into using reviews to sell, rather than treating them as the PREselling content that they should be.
Like I said, even honest folks can drift. It’s so darn easy to forget the point when you know you can earn something from a click.
The outcome was not pretty for many.
Great reviews generate sales without selling. So if you’re going to do a review site, do it well or go home.
Review quality is key, but originality, some sort of angle to help you stand out, will be what makes the difference, always assuming of course that you can write super reviews.
There will always be at least a couple of really big, strong competitors for your topic…
If you think you can do better than half of the best 20 sites, if you see loads of reviews where a superior review will eventually put you into the Top 10, go for it.
The ability to use the product is important. You can “get away” with superb secondary research reviews in “Sites With Reviews.” But if you decide to work as a review specialist, it’s all the more critical.
Now… far be it from me to suggest that you buy a receiver, test it and take it back for a refund. And far be it from me to suggest going to a second store, trying another and refunding. Nor would I ever suggest a third and fourth, or neighboring towns, or anything else of that kind.
I would never suggest that! But heck…
You really have to figure out the “get my hands-on testing done” problem. Later, you’ll have established yourself as “that cool site that does amazing reviews while dressed as a gorilla.” Companies will be happy to send you samples to test. But right now?
Unless your niche happens to have really weak reviews by people who haven’t used the product being reviewed, you really do need to have hands-on experience.
But it shouldn’t always be about reviews. Think outside the “normal” review sites and keep in mind SBI!’s emphasis on creating quality content.
How about information on the history of the product? Or doing interviews with key executives related to a product? Or asking others to submit reviews?
See? It’s now a “regular” content site. There are still loads of opportunities to include product reviews, but it’s become a “Site With Reviews,” not a “Review Site.”
Given the trust built up by the PREsell of all the other content, and the superiority of the reviews themselves, you’ll monetize even if the review pages themselves don’t win much search traffic.
This type of approach eliminates the “all or nothing” strategy of creating a “Review Site,” where every page, except your home page and maybe a couple of others, is a review. In other words, and this is important…
A “Site With Reviews” does not need the site to be found for reviews. That’s where a lot of the competition is duking it out — what used to be easy money ain’t so easy anymore. Instead, you get folks to your reviews via high value, high quality content!
What Does a “Best Practice” Review Look Like?
So we’ve looked at what makes a real review. But that’s not the end of the story.
That’s what you must do in order to be considered a real review, but it’s far from what you need to be the best.
The closer you come to enabling the reader to almost feel, hear, touch or taste your product, the better!
“Real” Is the minimum. We want to go for the max! And the “max” is always about OVERdelivery.
Your review must be several cuts above the typical reports that you can see in review aggregation services. Anything less than a high-value, genuine review should never reach your visitor’s eyes.
But in order to get there, you must first PREsell.
Want to write a lawnmower review? Shine with brilliance about lawns and mowing! Write great content about…
- Tips for watering your lawn the right way
- How not to scalp your grass
- When to mow — and when not to
- How to sharpen a lawnmower blade…
…and so on. Really show off your expertise, the knowledge you have about each piece of information. PREsell, until your customer thinks: “Whoa, this person really knows her stuff. I wonder which lawnmower she thinks is best for my uneven land…”
Bingo! That’s exactly what you want your visitor to think!
Written like this, you should stand out from competitor reviews, while attracting folks who are close-to-the purchase. You’ll be writing…
- reviews that readers will love
- reviews that won’t ever get hit by Google
- reviews that actually earn you more, in the long run.
Your tightly focused product pages will have an increasing chance of being found as your entire site grows its authority signals with Google. The hardest going, as always, is in the early months.
But by creating content that focuses on one specific product, and writing a highly personalized review, you gain a huge edge.
And Now for the Practicalities: How to Write a Real, Ethical Review
Focus on Your Audience
Let’s go back one final time to the world of tires…
It’s great advice!
Your site visitor, who is also your potential customer, should be at the forefront of every review you write.
So before you put pen to paper — or push a single key on your keyboard — pull up that virtual chair for your customer. Have her in front of you from start to finish. Heck — talk to her, if it helps!
You know this niche, you know your site visitor (you do know your site visitor, right?). Thinking about this particular product, ask yourself what her particular problem is and how this product will help solve it — how will it help improve her life? Why, specifically, would she buy this product?
Will she want to use it to…
- save time?
- save money?
- learn a specific lesson?
- feel a certain way?
- something else?
Once you can hone in on this — the 20% of a product that will convert 80% of people — you’ll be able to give your readers an honest review that also converts.
So let’s look at the substance of your review, all the time bearing in mind how your site visitor will genuinely benefit.
The introduction is what draws people in, which is why it’s a good idea to start with a story. Perhaps share your own experience with the product, while at the same time reinforcing your commitment to ethics and customer service…
I only write reviews about products I genuinely know and love — I don’t receive any payment for this review.
I’ve written it because I’ve been using this lawnmower for several months now, and it makes my uneven lawn look like a bowling green. If it can do it for my lawn, it can do it for anyone’s!
But it does have its drawbacks and, because I genuinely care about you, my site visitor, I’ll be giving you the good, the bad and the ugly…
Writing the Main Content
Cover all the features you consider relevant: most products come with a lot of features. Instead of covering them all, keep that site visitor in mind and cover those that are most relevant, first.
What makes this product of interest to this potential customer? What are the benefits of the features you discuss?
Use the information you have about your niche and your visitors to address her main concerns. Is she worried about cost? Reliability? Delivery? The warranty, or customer support, or functionality of certain features?
Provide evidence: this is where physically owning a product or having experienced a service becomes invaluable.
Make it a unique story, because otherwise you’re just repeating the same dull information your visitors already read on Amazon and other product review sites.
They haven’t come to your site to read that same stuff… they’ve come for a unique perspective they can’t find anywhere else.
Remember, you’re writing about a very tight topic. Every competitor who’s half-decent will cover the basics well. You must do that better — and go well beyond.
We’ve covered the issue of products you haven’t tried, or services you haven’t experienced. But it’s right to say that you don’t “obtain” original research — you do it. The end result is content that’s truly authentic and reflects the clear voice of first-hand experience.
Visitors respect that enormously — this type of review has high value. So, wherever possible, get your hands on the product. Spend a few hours playing with it — even doing your best to break it!
That simple experience allows you to create content easily, simply by writing about what you see and do. You’re able to write a review that overdelivers — doing it in your own words, your own way, in your own voice, leaving readers with a strong “got it” feeling.
Include negatives: It’s a myth to think that people won’t buy a product that has negative reviews — in fact, the very reverse is true. Evidence is that people using reviews actively search for the negatives. In and of themselves, they help establish brand credibility and trust.
Because as John McAteer, Google’s retail industry director said:
No one trusts all positive reviews.
While brands and retailers should strive for a sizable majority of positive reviews, consumers view the absence of negative reviews as suspicious. So if the product you’re reviewing has drawbacks, be honest. Say what they are.
Remember: honest opinion of value to the reader. Not sales funnel.
Images and video: these give you the opportunity to add unique elements to your written content, because most sites borrow heavily from copy and photos supplied to them by manufacturers.
There’s no originality. That’s a formula for failure, not to mention that Google tends not to rank “transaction pages” highly.
So take some high quality photos of your product. Show parts that other reviews don’t. Include yourself in some of them — they’re further evidence of your use of the product.
And while you’re unpacking and user-testing the product, make videos, too. YouTube reviews do well. Add short snippets to your website review, and the longer video review on YouTube. The snippets also make great social media content.
How about presenting an infographic of your information? Free tools such as Canva can help make striking, easily understandable summaries that work well on social media sites.
Heck, I’m getting excited about this — you’re going to create some standout content!
At the end of your review, consider adding a “Summary” box. Include the most critical factors that you consider the most relevant to your site visitor.
And how about creating your own “stars” system? Make it original to your niche, if you can.
- Is your niche gardening? A lawnmower icon should make the cut!
- Homesteading niche? Look for golden eggs to score those book reviews!
- Comparing the best beaches in Anguilla? Get palm trees for that relaxed vibe!
You get the picture. Take the idea. Make it your own.
And finally: we’re not quite finished yet! Because… questions! Encourage them. Add commenting to your review so people can have their say. It’s a good way of determining whether your product is a roaring success.
Enter into discussion. If they don’t like the product, ask which other they prefer, and why.
When you’re asked questions, answer promptly and honestly. It’s one more way of providing the proof that fake reviews don’t have. Proof that you have used the product and know what its capabilities are.
The people who write most fake reviews can’t answer detailed questions — because they’ve never tried the product.
And now — you’re done. Phew! Look over your review. What have you missed? What tiny detail will make it instantly a “Wow!” with your readers?
Let it settle in your mind for a while. Review it once more. And then — publish, safe in the knowledge that you have written a high quality, ethical article which will above all help your site visitor with whatever problem or desire it was that led them to you in the first place.
And finally, in this article we’ve reviewed the personal and professional responsibility each of us has for maintaining our own honor and integrity in the way we write reviews.
The most important take-aways?
- Learn to recognize the enormity of the issue of fake reviews and their effects on both companies and the individual consumer.
- Remember that “bait-and-switch” reviews in particular are wolves in sheeps’ clothing: “under the guise of helping, they hurt.” By recommending inferior products over those with proven accomplishment, they rob individuals of life opportunities, dreams — and success.
- Always insist on evidence.
- Learn to spot fakery when it happens, and take action.
- Don’t stuff your own sales text down people’s throats. Keep it real. PREsell. Build trust with high quality content that targets your readers’ needs and wants.
And — very finally — remember tires. Remember always to concentrate on doing right by your visitor. Remember that…
“If you follow this advice, and if you never put money ahead of people, you can’t lose.”