Online reviews influence people. One study shows that 67.7% of buyers will read reviews about the products they intend to buy before committing to a decision, and that trend is only likely to continue. Clearly there’s a need for reviews, and that means there’s also an opportunity for affiliate marketers.
Product reviews are useful to consumers because they offer valuable advice, and effectively compare the pros and cons of similar products (or at least, they should!). They’re useful to businesses because they offer an avenue for their products to become better known, and also act as a form of social proof.
Best of all, product reviews can be highly profitable for you as an affiliate marketer. They provide a way to secure a steady stream of income, and by showcasing products or services in your reviews, you can steadily drive traffic through your affiliate program.
With the above in mind, this post reveals three guidelines for supercharging your affiliate marketing with product reviews that people will both love and trust.
1. Become an Expert in Your Niche
An expert is someone who sets himself apart from his peers in terms of knowledge and insight, and who delivers unerringly consistent results. To convince people that your opinion matters, you need to set yourself up as an expert on the industry and product(s) you’re covering.
Of course, that will take some work – so how much time is really necessary to become an expert on a particular subject? The author Malcolm Gladwell would infamously have you believe that you need to invest 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert. However, that seems impractical, and in reality opinions are divided on the matter.
Compare Gladwell’s rule to what Tim Ferriss said in The 4-Hour Workweek:
Expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.
Regurgitating sales copy or simply listing the features of a product doesn’t make for a valuable review. You need to give expert advice, insider tips, and practical information, and you need do it consistently. Doing so will ensure the exponential growth of your reputation.
How to Become an Expert in Your Niche
There are ways to become known as an expert without having to invest months or years of your life. It’s always a good idea to choose a subject that you already know something about, and build on that. You can also use the following tactics:
- Join trade organizations and display your affiliations on your site.
- Read the top selling books and most popular online content in your niche to stay up to date on all the latest trends.
- Write guest posts on authoritative blogs to boost your reputation.
- Partner with an expert.
- Quote only credible, authoritative sources.
2. Develop Trust
Product reviews are one of the mainstays of affiliate marketing. They’re often more effective than blatant sales tactics because they can get past a buyer’s ‘filters’. However, to be effective, your reviews need to generate a sense of trust with readers.
The ultimate challenge is to write something honest, that still converts into sales. That means you need to review products that you believe represent good value for money, and also offer an authentic, unbiased opinion.
It’s important to be balanced and fair when reviewing. There are actually some positive effects from negative publicity. It may seem counter-intuitive to mention the negatives about a product in your review. After all, you’re trying to sell it. On the other hand, people are more likely to trust you if you provide a balanced point of view.
How to Gain the Trust of Your Readers
Readers appreciate transparency, and will be far more likely to follow through with a purchase if they sense that you’ve provided all the facts. To gain trust, use the following tactics:
- Openly discuss both the pros and cons of your product.
- Explain who the product is right for, and also who it’s not right for.
- Be authentic and forthright. For example, could you honestly say that you would buy it for yourself?
- Test your product thoroughly and show people how it works in real life situations.
3. Stay Clear of Legal Issues
When you have a financial agreement with the company you’re endorsing, it implies a responsibility to your readers, and has legal ramifications.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines about fair and legal disclosure on your product review site in the USA. Misleading readers by failing to disclose the fact that you have a vested interest in selling a product is sure to land you in hot water.
How to Stay Clear of Legal Issues
Broadly speaking, the FTC seeks to protect consumers from misleading endorsements. If you follow the guidelines below, you should be safe from legal issues down the line (although we recommend you make your own inquiries as you see fit):
- If you’re making commission on a product you’re reviewing, you need to disclose it.
- If you got the product you are reviewing for free, you need to mention it.
- You should disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously, so readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.
- The guidelines apply to blogs, websites, and social media equally.
In order to make product reviews a viable and sustainable source of income, you need to do far more than just sell products. You need to give your readers something of value, and do so with a clear conscience.
Keep the following three guidelines in mind in order to create reviews that will continue to satisfy readers, and ultimately work to earn you more commission:
- Become the expert in your niche by doing your homework, providing an ‘insider’s’ point of view, and offering practical advice for users.
- Build trust by remaining transparent, unbiased, and thorough with your testing. Only endorse products you would buy for yourself.
- Watch out for legal snares by following FTC guidelines.
What key elements do you think make up the perfect product review site? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!