When it comes to topics to write reviews about, the world is your oyster. You could pen critiques on classic movies, take technology to task, or even – in a particularly meta twist – start a blog reviewing blogging platforms.
Yet often, it’s not deciding what to write a review blog about that counts, but how to start a review blog in the first place. The process does, after all, include several steps – from choosing a niche and building a website to gaining trust and engagement – and it can be difficult.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a seven-step guide to start a review blog that doesn’t just inform, engage, or even entertain – but makes money, too. We’ll walk you through how to set up and monetize your blog, how to write transparent (yet effective!) content, and cultivate credibility – all while toeing the line of legal and ethical considerations.
Ready to start a profitable review blog? Let’s get started!
Before you start creating your review blog, it makes sense to figure out what you’re actually going to be reviewing, first. So be sure to choose your niche carefully, by:
- Identifying where your greatest passions and expertise lie
- Understanding which niches are most profitable
- Figuring out what the competition in each niche is like, and where the gaps are
- Tech gadget reviews for seniors
- Sustainable and eco-friendly product reviews
- Board game reviews or video game reviews (get more tips on how to start a gaming blog next!)
- Pet tech and accessories reviews
- Adventure travel gear reviews
- Historical fiction book reviews
- Digital nomad lifestyle product reviews
Find even more profitable Niche Blog Ideas in our full article!
Once you’ve settled on a niche, take your research one step further by:
- Pinpointing your target audience: who will be reading your reviews, and what drives or motivates them? What are their biggest pain points and frustrations?
- Undertaking market research: engage your potential readers and customers by sending out surveys and questionnaires to understand what interests them.
Next, you’ll need to create your review blog – and for this, we recommend a website builder. Website builders are online tools that allow you to design and construct an online presence for your reviews.
They’re quick to set up, and – if you select the right one – easy to use, too. And, since they’re typically billed on a month-to-month subscription basis, they’re more affordable than if you were to build a site from scratch or use a CMS (Content Management System).
The top website builders we recommend for review sites are:
- Wix (best for built-in review features)
- Squarespace (best for designing a unique review site)
- WordPress.org (best for content-heavy review sites)
- WordPress.com (best for simple review site management)
- Webflow (best for advanced review site editing)
- Hostinger (best for simple review sites)
With your review website set up, it’s time to start filling it with what it’s there for – high-quality reviews!
To that end, here are some tips to make your reviews sing:
- Make them honest and unbiased: even if you’re getting paid to promote a product, you should still provide a transparent, impartial account of its features – which means writing about both its pros and cons. You can be enthusiastic in your praise for a particular product or service, just not too enthusiastic. (Your readers will smell the bias a mile off!)
- Perform in-depth, hands-on research: sure, it’s easy to sit down and cobble together a review based on other reviews already on the internet. But this results in shallow writing that doesn’t offer any real value. So underpin your reviews by actually using the product. This hands-on experience and testing will shine through in the detail, veracity, and authenticity of your reviews.
- Use persuasive language and storytelling techniques: these strategies involve using power words (such as “imagine”, “discover”, and “transform”), as well as rhetorical devices like metaphors, similes, and analogies to make your language vivid and memorable. Your reviews should also address your readers’ concerns, appeal to their emotions, and elicit a sense of urgency with strong calls to action (CTAs).
To learn more about building a content pipeline for your review blog, create a content marketing strategy – with our help!
When it comes to getting paid for your hard work, affiliate marketing is the easiest, most direct route to monetizing your review website.
It involves directing readers from your reviews to the websites of suppliers in your niche. If you review CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, for instance, you might link to Salesforce or HubSpot from your reviews. If one of your readers purchases while on those sites, you’ll receive a commission (or “finder’s fee”) for your role in the deal.
To get started with affiliate marketing, you’ll need to:
- Find relevant affiliate programs with your niche through research (snooping on the kind of affiliate programs your competitors are using is a good shortcut here!)
- Work with the right types of affiliate partners: choose only companies with a strong reputation for quality and customer service and that align with your own values.
Then, it’s simply about embedding links to the sites of your affiliate partners naturally in your content, without ever seeming like you’re favoring one supplier or another unfairly.
But of course, affiliate marketing is just one of many monetization methods.
You can also try:
- Incorporating sponsored content and guest posts (where you write for other websites, either for a fee or for a link back to your own review site).
- Showcasing display ads on your site (sure, they look a little ungainly and can clutter your site visually, but are a good source of passive income for high-traffic review sites).
- Selling your own products or services: digital products (such as online courses and downloadable resources) work particularly well here.
- Building a strong list of email subscribers, then using email marketing to offer them targeted deals, discounts, and links to your affiliate partners.
When you’re reviewing products and services, trust and credibility are crucial. If your reader doesn’t believe that you’re trustworthy, informed, and have their best interests (rather than your own wallet) at heart, they simply won’t be interested.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to build trust in review blogging, which include:
- Remaining transparent about your affiliations and sponsorships: add a small disclaimer to your reviews, noting that you may receive a commission if the reader opts to make a purchase with one of your affiliated suppliers.
- Encouraging user-generated content: this includes comments and testimonials, plus pictures and videos of your readers using the products you review. This engenders trust and familiarity and demonstrates your commitment to including your audience.
- Staying consistent and reliable: posting regularly is an excellent way of building up a following with your online audience, and will do your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts a world of good, too. To learn more about just how regularly you should be posting, our guide to the content marketing pyramid will help.
While the information in this article by no means constitutes legal advice – for that, see a lawyer! – we do want to briefly touch on some of your review site’s obligations in the eyes of the law and wider society.
- Complying with FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines around disclosure and transparency, which mandate that the claims in your reviews must be truthful and evidence-based, and cannot be deceptive or unfair.
- Understanding the principles of fair use, which allow the use of copyrighted material for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, and education.
- Utilizing the principles of ethical marketing when advertising your review site, which means doing so in a way that aligns with broader moral, societal, or environmental principles, and doesn’t attempt to deceive or manipulate your audience.
With your blog up and running, be sure to engage with your community on an ongoing basis: encouraging readers to interact with your review site through posting comments, asking questions, and providing their feedback – good and bad! (You’ll also want to reply to all your reviews, even the negative ones – find out how with our dedicated guide.)
In doing so, you’ll foster a sense of community around your review blog: building trust by actively, and consistently, engaging with your audience. And, once you have cultivated a healthy following – after you’ve helped a lot of people, and posted a lot of reviews – don’t be afraid to shout about it. Testimonials and figures about how many readers you’ve served act as powerful social proof – so don’t be afraid to ask your customers for reviews!
Let’s quickly recap the seven key steps for how to start a review blog:
- Select your review blog’s niche and understand its audience
- Set up your review blog with a website builder such as Wix or Squarespace
- Craft honest, unbiased, and persuasive review content
- Monetize your review blog through affiliate marketing
- Build credibility and trust through transparency and consistency
- Consider your review blog’s legal and ethical considerations
- Build trust and engage with your review blog’s community
No matter which niche you explore or what topic you dig into, a review blog is a brilliant way of sharing your knowledge and passion with the world, ensuring your readers can make the most informed product decisions possible, and allowing you to make a nice profit for yourself, too.
Better still, you can get started right now! All you need is a blank piece of paper or fresh Google doc to start brainstorming your niche ideas, and a free trial or plan with one of the top website builders to get the ball rolling.
If you still need some further advice and inspiration, Website Builder Expert is packed to the brim with it – so be sure to check out our top blogging tips before you take off!
As a general rule, here’s what you can expect to pay, per month, for a mid-level review blog with a strong SEO strategy and design:
- Website builder subscription (up to $49)
- Website hosting (up to $5.45)
- Website template or theme (up to $200)
- Domain name ($12 to $60)
- SEO and marketing (up to $150)
- Hardware costs (up to $2,500)
For our comprehensive breakdown of these one-off and ongoing costs, explore our guide to how much it costs to start a blog.
While immediate income may be challenging, then, stick to the principle of creating quality content to attract readers. Later, once you’ve built a steady audience, you can start to explore monetization options like affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and product collaborations.