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How to Build Review Website

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Yuri Musienko
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Reviews are one of the most effective types of content for attracting traffic, because, as various studies show, more than 80% of people use them when making consumer decisions. This means that when someone plans to buy a phone, hire a lawyer, go to the doctor or book a hotel room, he will first look at the reviews of this product or service on the Internet and only then will decide where and which particular product or service is better buy.

Build Review Website Survey results

Survey results on the topic: “Do you trust online reviews as well as personal recommendations?”. Source of the image of the image
And, as the experience of Yelp, TripAdvisor, BBB, Google My Business and many other successful projects shows, this tendency of people can be used to launch their review site and monetize it. Fortunately, today it’s not so difficult to do if you know how to do it. Our article will help you with this.

Step 1: Niche and Target Audience

Platform niche. It can be either a fairly vast market (electronics, tourism, local business, children's products, video games, etc.), or a specific group of products (children's clothing, laptops, Xbox games, referral programs, etc.). You need to choose a niche based on personal preferences (experience), the presence of competitors and the size of the market. Here are some tools to help you:
  1. Google Trends (Search Console, Keyword Planner). It will show reviews of what goods or services people most often look for in your country / region. Examine if there are any queries without a survey site that is customized for them. You can also use Soovle, Adwords Keyword Tool, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and other services.
  2. Amazon, Yelp, Yellowpages and other major viewing platforms. On such sites you can find out how often people write and read reviews on specific categories of goods and services. You can check this yourself or by finding site reports on user activity. Do not forget to compare this data with the data obtained in Google Trends (or its analogue).
  3. com and its analogues. On such reSource of the image of the images you can find out the dynamics of sales of specific goods and services (in the world, by country), preferences of consumers (users), a list of popular review sites, and much more. These data will help determine long-term trends and preferences of people.
Target audience. Any product or service can be positioned in different ways. For example, the same laptop can be advertised as a powerful and cool device for gamers, a reliable and multi-purpose tool for businessmen and students, or a simple tool with a safe screen that does not spoil the eyes of your children. When creating a review site, you also need to decide how to position it, which target audience to place your main bet on.

You can analyze your target audience in a variety of ways, for example, by studying competitor users, online communities (forums, social networks), marketing research results, or by conducting screening surveys. The choice of analysis tools depends on the country and the preferences of the target audience.

For example, at one time, the Yelp team conducted a survey and found that travel was the second most popular area of interest for their users, despite the fact that the “travel” category on the site was the least popular.

Build Review Website Yelp

On the left, the results of a survey on the interests of Yelp users; on the right, an analysis of the popularity of the “travel” category on the Yelp website. Source of the image of the image

After that, with the help of surveys, Yelp conducted an analysis of people who are interested in travel-related reviews and made up several User persons. These are fictional characters that are created on the basis of user data to represent users and tell their story (demographic data, interests, use of technology, behavior, pain points, etc).

Build Review Website YELP TRAVEL

User persons of travelers from the YELP TRAVEL case. Source of the image of the image

Further, at Yelp, we conducted a comparative analysis of competitors in the context of reviews and tools for travel planning, which allowed us to identify platforms where UX / UI design and functionality best met most of the needs of Traveler users. This data was then used to refine the design and functions of Yelp, which will be discussed later in the text.

Step 2: business model and monetization

Business model. Now let's look at how to choose the optimal business model for your review site depending on the niche and audience. The YELP TRAVEL case did not do this, since it is an operating platform, and its owners have no reason to change anything. This is the most popular review site in the United States, which brings in more than $ 1 billion in revenue per year.

The essence of the Yelp business model is to provide people (customers) with a platform for feedback on local business, goods and services, to give them the opportunity to share personal experience and, at the same time, earn money through advertising, referral programs and paid services. Everything is very simple, clear and very effective.

But this is not the only option. Here are some alternatives:

  1. Reviews are done by professional reviewers. On such sites, reviews are left not by ordinary users, but by qualified critics and specialists in their field. These are review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes (movies and TV shows), Self-Publishing Review (books), The Dermatology Review (skin care products). Some sites, such as Metacritic, collect reviews from both regular users and professional critics.
  2. The platform shares a portion of the profit with reviewers. In this model, review sites pay reviewers according to one of several schemes: just for a written review, click on referral links, viewing reviews of other users. The income of most reviewers on such sites is small, but some achieve earnings at the level of 1-5 thousand dollars a month. Examples: Irecommend, E-Pinions, Vindale Research, Software Judge.
  3. Nonprofit business model. These sites do not try to make money on reviews, advertising, referral links and more. They work through donations and public funding. These are such sites as Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits, GiveWell, CharityWatch and others. They usually analyze the integrity of charitable and social projects.
Monetization. Most of the new review sites earn with the help of referral programs, as this is the easiest and most affordable option. You just need to add a call to action button that will redirect people to the sites of referral partners. You can earn quite a lot this way.

Build Review Website table

There are a lot of affiliate programs to which you can connect. At the same time, there are, so to say, referral marketplaces (for example, Get Free Stuff or Get Brand Deals), as well as programs of specific online stores (all major platforms have them). In addition, you can also use referral programs of sites that aggregate the prices of goods and services. However, in aggregators the commission is usually lower.

Among other methods of monetization of the review site can be distinguished

  1. Advertising. This can be regular contextual advertising or paid promotion of individual users or brands on your site (company profile, confirmed license, ad on the search page). This method of earning is good if you have a lot of traffic.
  2. Paid features. Disabling advertising, advanced profile functionality, marketing and analytical tools, automating responses to reviews for brands and more. In addition, you can directly integrate the web services of the service providers with the overview site, for example, as in the case of Yelp and the food delivery services Eat24 and Grubhub.
  3. Operating income. The site can connect the functions of online booking, Cashback, gift certificates, online payment for goods and services or the ability to run promotions, prize draws, discounts. For each transaction conducted using these functions, the site will charge a commission.
  4. You can enter a fee for brands for the ability to respond to reviews, advanced marketing and analytical tools that allow you to receive reports on user activity (TripAdvisor Business Plans).

Step 3: UX / UI Design Review Site

After you select a business model and a monetization method for your review site, you can proceed to the development of a design focused on your niche and target audience. The results of the analysis of the niche, the target audience and competitors, on the basis of which you should choose what functions you need to implement in the first place, will help you in this. Then you will need to create custom threads.

Build Review Website scheme

User stream from the YELP TRAVEL case. Source of the image of the image

This is a visual diagram of the path of the user on your site in the process of achieving the desired goal (usually search or writing a review). A user’s stream consists of the clicks necessary to complete a task, as well as the screens on which he gets. The shorter and simpler this path, the better. In addition, the user must intuitively understand what he needs to do now and what the effect of this will be.

After compiling the user stream, designers begin to develop site and / or application frameworks: page layouts without graphics and text. Thanks to them, you can understand how the future website will look like, how convenient, clear and pleasant in appearance.

Build Review Website Example site

Example site frame from the YELP TRAVEL case. Source of the image of the image

If everyone likes the created site frame, you can start developing the design and functions; if not, you will redo it until everyone likes it.

Build Review Website nal design

The final design of the application from the YELP TRAVEL case. Source of the image of the image

Step 4: basic and advanced features

Registration / Login. Authorization is an integral part of the review site, since only by creating a personal profile you can leave feedback. It is usually implemented by email or by logging in with your Google profile and Facebook, like on TripAdvisor. In some cases, when registering, you also need to indicate your location (address or zip code), as on Yelp.

Build Review Website User registration

User registration form on the Yelp website

Site search engine. It should be as clear and effective as possible so that users can quickly get relevant results for their queries. For convenience and improvement of UX, implement on your platform a good system for sorting, filtering and categorizing, so that users can quickly find what they need, without being distracted by third-party information, listings, banners and other design elements.

Build Review Website OpenTable

OpenTable, Expedia, and many other sites use the Elasticsearch technology to implement the search function. That's how it looks

User profiles. They may include features such as the ability to leave feedback, edit and delete information about your profile, add photos, view ratings, reviews and messages from other users, and change privacy settings (according to the GDPR regulation). In some cases, there may also be a reviewer portfolio if the review site focuses on reviews from experts and professional critics.

Ratings and reviews. There are several options for how users can post reviews on the review site. The most common is simply to add a rating and a form for writing a review after registration. The rating can be divided into several criteria (like on Airbnb or Booking.com), and then summarized in a general rating. So a review of a product or service will be more informative.

Build Review Website Airbnb

Example of rating and review on Airbnb website

Since the action “send feedback” is a key function of any review site, users should not have any difficulties in understanding where and how to compose it. To do this, you need a bright icon and a special form with clear headings, instructions and examples. Another approach is to write a review through a survey or telephone interview, as in Clutch.

Supplier Panel. Bring suppliers of services and goods to your website (so that they respond to customer reviews / reviews). This increases user engagement (site traffic) and has a positive effect on brand reputation. To do this, we need analytical tools that track reviews and ratings for specific brands and products, the function of automatic response to feedback.

Admin panel. Needed to track user activity, as well as to manage listings, content, monetization, payment gateways, marketing tools, categories, recommendations, etc. Only you and the staff may have access to this panel. At the same time, the profiles of all admins are either laid down in the system initially, or a master admin is created that can manage everything and create admin profiles with a lower level of rights.

Fraud protection. Reviews greatly influence consumer decisions by users, so brands will use your site to boost sales by paying people to write fake reviews. To prevent fraud, you need to check IP, email addresses, phone numbers, add anti-spam services and identify suspicious behavior.

Additional functions:

  1. Reservations and payments. Needed if you are focused on restaurants, food delivery or online shopping. The revenue from such integration is small, but it increases the user experience and keeps people on your site.
  2. Gamification of activity. You can create a system with rewards for activity on your site (review, rating, repost, comment, etc.) and award the best reviewers. For example, as Yelp does, rewarding active reviewers with elite status and organizing parties for them.
  3. Automated newsletter. Google regularly notifies people of how many reviews they have written recently, how many people have read these reviews, and also offers to write a review about the places where the user could be, judging by his GPS tracker. TripAdvisor does the same.
  4. Push notifications. Messages that someone liked the review, commented on it, reposted or the response of the supplier, greatly increase user engagement, make them return to the site and write new reviews. Provider responses work especially well.
  5. Integration with social networks. People should be able to share their or their favorite review on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Step 5: the cost of creating a review site

There are several ways to create a site like Thumbtack, Yelp, TripAdvisor or BBB. The most common is to use a WordPress theme. It's simple, fast and cheap (from 50 to 500 dollars), but there may be security problems, in addition, a site based on WordPress themes will not be unique. It’s worth using this approach if you plan to test the concept; creating a serious e-commerce site based on WordPress is not recommended.

Another option is SaaS platforms. These are cloud solutions that provide a template for launching a review site with a backend and vendor support. A good option if you need to run the site in a short time and with a small budget (the cost of a subscription is from $ 20 to $ 1,000 per month). At the same time, this is a template solution with low capabilities for customizing functions and creating a unique design that would stand out among competitors.

The last approach is to develop a review site from scratch. It is longer, more expensive and more complicated, but it is the best option if you want to get an online platform with a unique design and features, as well as full rights to the created software. The process can be greatly simplified and even make cheaper if you outSource of the image of the image the development to a technical panther. How to find the best developer is described in the article «How to choose a developer company»

Build Review Website cost


How to Build Review Website key takeaways:

#1. Step 1: Niche and Target Audience
#2. Step 2: business model and monetization
#3. Step 3: UX / UI Design Review Site
#4. Step 4: basic and advanced features
#5. Step 5: the cost of creating a review site

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Yuri Musienko
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