How to Start a Review Website
Starting a review website
Why would you want to start a review website?
Becoming a recognised reviewer has a number of significant benefits. Here are a few:
- Increased professional credibility. Whatever you practice, you can increase your credibility by assessing what others have published in this area. For example, if you're an author, you can increase your credibility by reviewing books in a genre similar to what you write. If you're a homeopathist, and you review homeopathy books (well - more on that later), you'll become known as an expert in this topic.
- To obtain a plethora of items in the area that you're most interested in. Love books? Start a review site and you'll be flooded with free books. Love videos? You can get all the new releases you want for nothing with a review site. It's one of the most tangible perks.
- Increase your networks. You'll get to know the publishers, authors, producers, experts, etc in your own area of interest. That could become very useful for you.
- You can earn money in ad and affiliate revenue.
Where to begin?
One of the key aspects of starting a review site is to provide excellent reviews. If your reviews aren't well written, pithy and interesting, you won't get visitors, authors won't send you their books, and you won't be doing anything for your credibility. So writing well is a key prerequisite. But it isn't hard. I'd like to suggest my own book, The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything as a key guide to how to write really good reviews (drop by for a free e-course) of things like books, music, restaurant, and lots more. There are also chapters on adding interviews, on pay rates for reviews, and more. Writing a review is just another form of writing, so if you're already a good writer, you'll find it simple. But it's important to cut your teeth. So before you start your own site, submit to others. There are lots of them out there and a bunch of links in my book to those sites, but if you just Google "reviews" or "book reviews" or "music reviews" you'll find sites. Just check out their submission guidelines, write a review and send it off. You should have a good 5 reviews published (ideally more) before you start consider setting up your own site. That way you'll have a following, and will have had the experience of working with an editor and getting a sense of what works and brings in traffic and what doesn't.
The Bones of Setting up a Review Site
To set up any kind of site you'll need a few basic components in place
- a URL -- that's a name and registered address -- like mine - compulsivereader.com. To do that, decide on a name, and then go to a domain name registration site like Godaddy.com and check to see if it's available. They'll help you work out a variation if it isn't. Then you register it and pay for it (9.99 a year is pretty average).
- Once you have a name, you'll need a host. I use Hostnexus, but there are hundreds out there. Take a recommendation, explore, think about what you want to do with your site and how professional you want it to be and what you can afford to pay, and go with one. Many are free, but be careful that they aren't full of pop up ads, and very limited on space. Some come with their own content management systems, templates and support. Support is really important if you've never set up a website before (check out one of the how to articles here for that, as it's a big topic which I can't cover here).
- For reviews, you'll probably want a content management system -- that is, a simple template that allows you, and others to set up articles without having to use a lot of coding to get the formats to work. I use postnuke which is free, and has an awful lot of support and variations in look and style -- allowing you to set up things like RSS feeds, newsletters, and member support without a lot of work, but you'll need to do a little research to find out what's available.
Once your site is set up and ready to go, you'll need to start adding reviews. You'll probably be doing everything yourself for the first few months or even year. So get writing! It takes about 20+ reviews before anyone will notice you. If your reviews are good though, the readers and those seeking reviews will come and eventually, other reviewers too, so you don't have to do all the work. And then you'll start reaping the rewards. It's hard work, but definitely worth it.
One final, much easier, option
If you want the easy route (with similar rewards), why not go over to one of the big blog sites like blogger.com, typepad.com, etc and just sign up. Within a few minutes you can begin writing your own reviews, without having to set up a site or install a content management system. Blogs attract search engines naturally, and it only takes about 10 good reviews before people start noticing you, especially if you're a good self-promoter and cross link with social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Blogs have good credibility and you have a lot of flexibility in what you review and how you present it. The only downside is that revenue earning is much more limited with a blog. But it's a great place to start.
About the author: Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader which is now in its 7th year and has nearly 3,000 reviews, and a group of over 20 regular reviewers! Her novel Sleep Before Evening has been described as a "A haunting and absorbing narrative of trying self-discovery."
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- The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything
For a free e-course in how to review, visit this site.