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How to Create a Book Review Website?

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Alexander Safonov
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If you are an avid reader, maybe you can turn your passion for book reading (and love for the expression of your opinion) into a book review website. It will give you pleasure as well as become a successful business as was the case with Yelp, IMDB, TripAdvisor, and Rotten Tomatoes. Later, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to launch your book review website.

1. The concept of your website

Website’s niche. The first decision that you have to make when launching your book review website is to choose a genre of books, which you’re going to be making reviews of. You can write reviews of all kinds of books, but this is inadvisable because there are already LoveReading, Goodreads, Reedsy Discovery, LibraryThing, reviews on Amazon, and many other platforms with reviews of all types of books. So if you choose this direction, you’ll have to compete with them, which requires a large budget to launch a big marketing campaign.

It’s much more appropriate (and cost-saving) to choose one category to offer the readers a deeper dive into the genre and personalized design of the site. This will let you stand out among the competitors and gain leadership in one niche. After that, you can think about expanding your business to other niches. That’s what Amazon, Facebook, and Google did at some point.

What niche to choose? Choose a genre on the basis of what you like to read and it’s desirable for you to have a pretty big reader base (fans of the chosen genre) and as few competitors as possible.

How to Create a Book Review Website?
Book categories that the residents of the USA read the most. Source

Type of book reviews. Then you have to decide what your reviews will look like. They can be brief notes or longreads, text or audio podcasts. You need to decide whether it’s professional critics or amateurs, who are going to write the reviews. Podcasts are growing in popularity because people have received the opportunity to listen to audiobooks anywhere anytime. Thus, according to Deloitte, 70% of Americans, who own Bluetooth headphones, listen to audiobooks or podcasts on a weekly basis. The number of audiobooks listeners among smartphone users and car drivers is growing as well.

How to Create a Book Review Website?
Audiobooks market size 2016-2027 Source

Review writers. Then you have to decide who is going to write book reviews on your website. It can be solely professional critics, solely ordinary users, or a mixed option. All options stand a chance of success (judging by the rest of the fields), but each of them has its nuances. Thus, it’s quite easy to create a website with non-professional critics’ reviews, but it’s expensive because their texts cost a lot. Whilst users’ reviews cost nothing, but you’ll have to attract them to your platform and make them write somehow.

2. Review website’s monetization methods

Once you’ve determined your concept, you have to decide how you’re gonna make money on your book review platform. Review websites usually use the following monetization models.

Advertising. The oldest and simplest way of earning money on your site is using traditional banner ads. For this to happen, you have to attract a pretty large volume of traffic to your site and conclude an agreement with:

  • An ad network. There is a big variety of such ad networks as Google AdSense, which any website can connect to and set an automatic display of contextual advertisements on their platforms. After that, you’ll be getting money for each click or impression. It’s quick and simple, but you should understand that if you choose this option, you’ll have no control over what advertisements will be displayed on your site. Besides, the ad network will be taking a portion of revenue for mediation.
  • A brand. If your book review website is popular enough with third-party companies (booksellers, for example), they would like to work directly with you by renting advertising space on your site. Direct sales of advertising provide more control over its content and generate better returns, but with this approach, you have to look for advertisers and negotiate with them on your own.
Affiliate marketing. This monetization model implies that you’ll be promoting another company’s products or services and earn a commission when someone buys it. This is one of the most profitable ways of making money on your site. Many online booksellers such as Amazon, The Book Depository, and IndieBound have their affiliate programs, which you can connect to, choose books, and start promoting them with referral links.

Sale of your own products. Alternatively, you can integrate a small online store into your site to sell your products or services. For example, you can sell branded T-shirts, cups, hats, or logos. Besides, you can sell your books. Perhaps, you might like to launch a service like TLC Book Tours, which a couple of bloggers launched.

Advertising through your influence. When your book review website gets the publicity, things, which you’ll be saying, will have greater value — you’ll become a powerful person. Many companies are constantly searching for influencers, who would promote them through posts on their platforms and/or by participating in advertising campaigns. These companies are willing to pay essential money for help with the promotion of their brands, products, or services.

Payment for writing reviews. It’s another option of making money for popular book review websites. Many little-known authors are ready to pay you for making reviews of their new books on your platform. It doesn’t have to be words of praise. It’s enough for you to do the same thing you always do.

Freelance writer. If you’re going to write all reviews yourself, you’ll probably get better at writing. As soon as you grow in popularity, you’ll get an amazing opportunity to promote your writing services.

3. Main features of a book review website

Once you’ve determined a concept and approach to the site monetization, you need to decide what features are necessary on your platform. In the case of a book review website, these are the following ones:

Search system. Users should be able to find a review of the book they’re interested in quickly. It will also be great if the search system includes key filters (genre, rating, author, year, book length, cycle), which will help the users to find something new to read.

Admin panel. It should be integrated with the content management system (CMS), which will make it possible to edit the website contents, manage services, ban or delete users. If the reviews will be written only by you or selected authors-critics, they will be adding text to your book review website through the admin panel like on CMS WordPress.

Reviews (news) feed. It’s a common feed with the most recent news (reviews) and their brief description/introduction. Such a feed can be the main element of the first screen and/or a separate page, which you can go to through the menu. A brief description of the review in the feed has to contain a name of a book and an author, genre, rate, cover, and the name of a cycle.

Reviews and ratings of books. This feature includes a text editor and a page with the text of the review. Depending on who will be writing book reviews on your site, either only selected critics or all registered users will have the access to the editor. In the latter case, you’ll also need a feature of premoderation to prevent the posting of unethical texts.

System of genre categories. Books in the listing of your site have to be arranged by genres and subgenres. For instance, if you’ll be making reviews of fiction books, the subgenres are science, military, social, political, and romance fiction. In the case of popular-scientific literature, these can be biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, space, technology, and self-development.

Lists of 100 best books and authors. This section is almost a must for review websites. The books here can be arranged by users’ or authors’ rate and sometimes by both. Such lists of top books, authors, or cycles can also be grouped by genres and subgenres.

Book review community. Some online book review platforms such as Goodreads provide the users with the possibility to create and join book communities (for example, book clubs), where users can communicate on book topics, dive deeper into the selected genre/subgenre, see what their friends are reading, etc.

Book recommendations. Book review websites usually give their users book recommendations, which are based on previously read books, friends’ preferences, ratings, recommendations of famous critics and/or celebrities, a book’s relation to a cycle, popular trends, and the like. Now such recommendation systems are created with the help of neural networks.

Sign up, log in. If the user wants to find and read a review, he doesn’t have to sign up. However, if he wants to write a review himself, leave a comment, add a book or a review to his favorites, make a list of books read, and the like, he has to create a user profile. This feature is usually implemented via email or accounts on Google, Facebook, or Twitter.

User profiles. They can include such possibilities as edit and delete information about your profile, add photos, your profiles on social networks, manage notifications, see rates, reviews, and messages from other users and change privacy settings. If your site collects users’ confidential data, make sure that you comply with GDPR rules.

Ratings, comments. Users should have the possibility to comment on the reviews of books as well as rate reviews and books themselves. It increases the engagement and allows understanding what content people like, due to which it’s possible to see the direction, in which you should develop your site.

Protection from spam and fraud. Since reviews are an important tool of influence on the clients and their buying decisions, you should see it coming that some companies are going to try to use it to increase the number of positive reviews of the books by paying people for writing fake reviews. This problem mostly affects large websites (Amazon, Yelp, and Google), but small players have to know about it as well.

Website owners take the following measures to prevent possible fraud with reviews and ratings:

  • add the feature, which will enable users to notify the website administration of other users’ suspicious behavior;
  • check IP addresses, emails, phone numbers, add services of protection from spam and detection of suspicious behavior patterns;
  • use of artificial intelligence’s capabilities to track fake reviews and the like.

4. Architecture, tech stack, and API

Website architecture. This term covers the structure of pages and the program part of the website. It helps to present all sections of the website, relations and a way of interaction among all its components: log in screen, user interface, database management system, security features, API, etc.

Here is how the information architecture (of the Spotify website) looks like:

How to Create a Book Review Website?

Here is how a technical architecture (of the Qurrex hybrid exchange) looks like:

How to Create a Book Review Website?

Tech stack and API. This is a set of software tools to create a frontend and a backend of websites such as programming languages, compilers, database management systems, libraries, frameworks, API, etc. A frontend is the part of the site, which the user directly interacts with. Backend is everything else and API (Application Programming Interface) is tools to connect the frontend and the backend of the website and integration of external services, which expand its functionality – starting with geotargeting and ending with purchases on the site.

Here is an example of a tech stack for the creation of a book review website:

How to Create a Book Review Website?

How to Create a Book Review Website?

How to Create a Book Review Website?

5. Process of the book review website development

It’s relatively easy to make a book review website, but if you want to make it unique and single it out among the competitors somehow, it’s gonna be a lot harder. It’s better to create such complex websites through custom development because it’s the only way you can implement a unique design, which is adapted to the chosen niche and audience. That’s the only way you can develop unique features. Moreover, sites, which are created from scratch, are far more reliable and safe than a website on WordPress, Wix, uKit, or uCoz.

The process of custom development looks as follows:

  1. Agreement. You should look for a development company with the required experience and negotiate your website's concept, development time, development cost, communication channels, KPI, and other conditions with it. Once all that is agreed, you draw up and sign a cooperation agreement.
  2. Prototyping. Designers, business analysts, and/or a client create a wireframe of the future book review website, where all screens, user flows, and key features/capabilities of the platform are shown schematically.
  3. Interface design creation. Designers create a website mock-up, which visually demonstrates how the user interface will look like on the side of end users. Besides, at this stage, a prototype is often created – an animated mock-up where all buttons, animation, and transitions are working, but the app features aren’t.
  4. Direct coding. Frontend developers and backend developers start bringing the site into the program code by using programming languages, frameworks, compilers, API, and the like.
  5. Testing. QA specialists start checking the code with the help of various tools to detect and eliminate bugs and errors almost along with the code writing.
  6. Deployment and support. When the code is written and tested, the official launch of the website is held. If it’s you or the selected critics, who’re writing reviews, then the site has to contain many reviews by the time of launch. The work of the support service should be organized until the launch as well.

6. Cost of the creation of a review website

How to Create a Book Review Website?

7. Marketing campaign

The creation of a well-thought-out book review website is only the first step because you’re going to need to spend as much time and effort on the attraction of users. Depending on your budget, you will have different options for the promotion of your platform, but you’ll need several of them anyway so that your book review site becomes successful.

Here are the main methods of website promotion.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — about $500 per month. You can get organic traffic to your platform due to website optimization. To do it, you need to analyze search queries of the target audience, create an SEO core, optimize the website content, and create a link mass.

SMM (Social Media Marketing) — about $700 per month. You will have to spend time and effort on the promotion of your site with the help of social networks: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter и Pinterest.

PPC and paid promotions — about $400 per month. This is one of the fastest ways to get a big volume of traffic to your site. You can find a lot of advertising networks, which will direct big volumes of high-quality traffic with a high conversion rate to your site. However, you should be careful with PPC because it requires training.

For instance, paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Google allows targeting people with high accuracy, due to which it’s possible to show advertising to a specific demographic group with certain interests and preferences, which increases the conversion rate significantly if done properly. But you can achieve that only with the necessary knowledge and experience. Therefore, professional marketers or marketing agencies should do it.

This article describes how to find a marketing agency and what to pay attention to when choosing it: «How to choose marketing agency».

How to Create a Book Review Website? key takeaways:
  1. 1. The concept of your website
  2. 2. Review website’s monetization methods
  3. 3. Main features of a book review website
  4. 4. Architecture, tech stack, and API
  5. 5. Process of the book review website development
  6. 6. Cost of the creation of a review website
  7. 7. Marketing campaign
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