The Evolution Of The Review Model

As the affiliate industry evolves – and equally as importantly to most affiliates, as Google evolves – an affiliate more and more needs to be thinking about how to stand out from the crowd, how to be different and above all, how to be authoritative. Authority is likely to be the singular most important weapon in an affiliate’s armoury as the future unfolds and it’s not so easily achieved. But there are ways and means, even if you don’t know your subject inside out. The articles in the Affiliate Business section of Rightlander will hopefully provide you with some ideas to provoke some thoughts on evolving your business aswell.

If you look back at affiliate sites over the past 10-15 years, it doesn’t take long to realise that the “review” has traditionally been the lifeblood of the affiliate business. Indeed, some of the biggest and most successful affiliates out there have got to where they are simply by reviewing stuff (and not always particularly well or even knowledgeably). But it’s not quite so  straightforward as it used to be: reviews need to provide more than they used to.

The main problem is that the way we search for information and what we expect to be provided has evolved as the web becomes more intrinsic to everyday life. However, when we are making purchasing decisions we still need to know what and who is good, it’s just that now we are equally interested in what (and who!) is not good. After all, if we have learned anything from the web, it’s that you can’t trust everything you read!

If you see reviews as your affiliate recipe for success, you only need to take a look at Trip Advisor (and I am sure you have) to understand the core ingredient of a successful review. It’s not only the thoughts of people that have been there, seen it, done it, it’s the balance of both the positives and the negatives  that makes it essential.

This is traditionally where affiliate sites have gone wrong: they try too hard to “sell” in my opinion – often subconsciously I’m sure. There is rarely a good balance: everything is “amazing”, “fantastic” and even something you wouldn’t use even if it was a free gift is suddenly indispensable in the eyes of the affiliate! Of course we want to know something’s good but come on: nothing is perfect, so just tell me what the bad points are and how it compares to similar products. People will respect and return to a website they are confident that it  gives them the truth.

You can think of this another way: managing expectations. If you are an affiliate and you want to send someone through a money-earning link, you want them to sign up or buy at the other end. So when they get to the merchant site, you need them to get a warm, fuzzy feeling and that is far less likely to happen if you didn’t exactly give them the full picture. You need them to find more than you said they’d get, not less. At the very worst it should be exactly how you said it’d be!

Alternatives To The Review Option

Now it’s true to say that many affiliates are in a sector where they readily admit that they don’t have the knowledge or experience to really create reviews that stand out. Additionally, sourcing reviews from the public is hard: trust me on this, I tried it and it’s very hard work and takes an age to happen because people need incentivising. Trip Advisor works because people use it all the time and get recognition in a very large community-driven environment but getting to where they are did not happen overnight.

But what you could do is create a service or collect data…or both! In my opinion, the future of the affiliate model will be data driven applications which are unique or provide value. What those are will depend on your sector, the data that is available, how easy it is to collect it and as importantly, be unique.

I created 2 specific data-driven iGaming affiliate sites (which I sold when I sold my network), one of which got a lot of attention and one that turned into my biggest income source. The primary audience was loyal repeat traffic but with a lot of supplemental content nurturing, one ranked for some very good terms in it’s niche. It just needs some thought.

And then of course there’s the “service”. The data could drive the service or you could think along the lines of what I have done with Rightlander. While Rightlander itself is aimed helping affiliates to protect their links, all niches have an audience that would buy into something truly useful. This is where affiliates can stand out and be different: as long as they have the nous to come up with the idea of course.

The Evolution Of The Review Model