Over 80% of consumers read reviews when they're deciding what they want to buy. Yet, only 5-10% of people leave reviews for the products they purchase. Product reviews are an incredibly important aspect of trustworthy online commerce, yet they're often prone to exploitation and broadly distrusted.
This, of course, is an opportunity.
Many people choose to make their living recommending products and earning a commission when those products are purchased. It's called affiliate marketing, and it's both common and (relatively) easy online.
On the face of it, affiliate marketing is simple. You pick an affiliate program, whether it's a single product's program or something as broadly generic as Amazon Associates, and choose products you want to recommend. Then, you produce content reviewing and recommending those products, using your affiliate links to earn money when people buy.
The trick is, affiliate marketing lives or dies based on the content you produce. The "meat and potatoes" content for your affiliate marketing will be product reviews, but as I just mentioned, product reviews are prone to exploitation and are often distrusted.
What do you look for in a review? What do other people look for in a review? Your job, when creating a review, is to provide what people want to know.
A great review comes from an authoritative source. The user doesn't necessarily have to know who you are; they just need to be able to trust you based on the content you create. A trustworthy site includes elements such as:
These kinds of details can make a site stand out as more trustworthy than many of the competitors.
A great review is also honest. Is anyone going to trust your review if it's nothing but glowing praise? Maybe if you were writing a 200-word review for Yelp they might, but if you're pushing an affiliate page, people expect a lot more detail, and they want honesty.
A key element of this is acknowledging that there is never a single perfect option, no matter what you're selling. There's always some reason why a given product isn't appropriate for certain segments of your audience. Maybe it's too expensive (or too cheap). Maybe it's low in quality but serviceable. Maybe it lacks advanced features, or maybe it has too many of them for beginning users. A complex analysis of a product, with honest details about who it is and isn't best for, is critical.
Great reviews are also unique and detailed. Consider how many other people are reviewing this same product, both in terms of actual user reviews and in other affiliate sites. How much do you have to say that isn't already out there? Uniqueness is critical.
Finally, great reviews are part of an ecosystem. The best affiliate sites pick a niche and review everything in it, rather than picking and reviewing a single product. There are plenty of people trying to create single-product, exact match domain websites with nothing more than a landing page, high-pressure sales copy, and an affiliate link. These sites are so copy-and-paste templated and so formulaic that they're never trustworthy.
The above is focused on the site as a whole, on the content as a philosophy, and on the qualities you convey as a site owner/blogger/content creator.
What about the actual review itself? What goes into a great review?
You can fluff up, reduce, adjust, rearrange, and split-test different aspects of this layout, but a good, robust product review will have most or all of these elements in it.
Every good piece of content online is aimed at a specific, narrow group of people. The more tightly focused that aim, the better it will be able to convert those people. The key with a product review is recognizing what the audience is, who will be reading your reviews and who will be interested in the product.
This helps guide you in creating your content down the line.
One thing to recognize is that the audience the manufacturer identifies is not necessarily the audience you want to target. For one thing, the manufacturer's advertising will be competing with you in that space. For another, they might not be as accurate as they want to be, and you may have a better, ground-level look at non-standard uses for the product you want to promote.
Once you know the audience you're going to target, you can infuse your review with that information. For example, you can identify whether the people using the product will be home consumers, small businesses, large businesses, or other entities. You can determine if it's out of the price range of certain groups of people or more targeted at people with higher or lower budgets. You can present the reality that a smaller budget means a less effective product or, conversely, that a higher budget doesn't really get you all that much.
Knowing who you're writing to is almost as critical as knowing what you're writing about.
Infusing your review with this information does two things:
First, it allows users to self-select; if the review/product isn't for them, they don't need to waste time and can explore other options (possibly those that you provide them.)
Second, it lends you credibility. You know the reality of the situation, and you're not just marketing the product to anyone who comes along in hopes of making a sale, even if it's inappropriate to do so.
You know what the product does, and you know who is interested in it; now it's time to put the two together.
Identify what problem the product is solving that your target audience has. Then, write about the issues that the problem causes, using specific terminology. While this might not seem relevant to a review, trust me, it helps a lot. Why? Because it provides your review with relevant keywords and phrases that your audience will be using when they're searching for the problem and its solutions.
This way, you can capture search traffic from more than just "product review" but also "problem description" queries. More traffic, when you're targeting the same audience from different angles, is always better.
Of course, it's also important that you introduce how the product actually, realistically, solves the problem. If all you're doing is introducing a problem and telling people, "Throw money at this, it'll work, I promise," you're not going to get very far. Specifics are always better than generalities.
One of the anchors of your review will be a list of pros and cons for the product through the lens of the target audience you're aiming to reach. This list of pros and cons is repeated at least twice in your review and often forms the core of the content as well.
Creating this list ahead of time gives you something to work from as an outline and serves as a checklist to make sure you hit all the key points.
When writing your actual product review, you want to keep your tone casual and comfortable. You're not a faceless business shilling for a random product; you're a person just like your target audience, with your own desires, needs, problems, and solutions. You just happen to have found this solution to a common problem and want to share it to help other people in your situation.
The exact way you craft your review content can vary. In general, you want plenty of first-person text, relevant data and discussion, a rundown of the pros and cons, and media where relevant. Images are essential, and videos can be compelling as well.
For inspiration, here are some great examples of reviews (note, of course, these all have their affiliate links on their sites):
You may notice that all of those are more "corporate" takes on reviews; they aren't personal and individual. Here are some examples of that kind of review:
As you can see, there's a lot of variation in presentation, tone, complexity, and media, but they all work. All of these are highly ranked on Google and very effective at what they do.
Social proof is just as important for your reviews as it is for the products in the first place. This is why many of these kinds of reviews are posted as blog posts; they have a comments section.
In addition to opening your own reviews up to comments and discussion, you can seek out reviews and testimonials from other sites and either ask to use them on your own or use credited excerpts. You want to show that you aren't the only one making the claims you're making in the review. Simply by acknowledging that others are sharing your opinion, you help lend veracity to it.
In the past, marketers could make a single-topic site with a single review, get it to rank, and make money from it. These days, those sites are few and far between. Oh, sure, they still exist, but they don't often rank well and need other ways of driving traffic to succeed.
Instead, you want to review many different products, either in the scope of your niche, within the range of your interests, or just all the competitors to the product you initially reviewed. Your goal is to, eventually, become a resource site for all things relevant to that niche. The more content you have, and the more offers you promote, the more stable your income can be with affiliate marketing. So, once you're done, pick a different product and start all over again.