Start a reviews website by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your reviews website. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a reviews website?
Because it does not require an expensive business lease or even other employees, a reviews website can be started for a relatively cheap price. In fact, you may be able to launch a small business with about $5,000. Of this money, $300 goes towards purchasing the WordPress Pro Product Review Plugin for an unlimited number of sites. If you are familiar with WordPress, you can create the page yourself from the ground up, and even if you end up buying other plugins, the total cost of site creation should be $1,000 or lower. The remaining $4000 should be invested in web hosting and advertising, with an emphasis on a diverse array of online advertisements to maximize the amount of potential readers you may reach. For instance, you may advertise via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media venues, and you may advertise directly on websites designed for others who enjoy the niche you are working in.
What are the ongoing expenses for a reviews website?
If you are able to design the website yourself, the ongoing expenses for the site are minimal: you will likely be paying $200 or less per year for website hosting, and you will pay however much you desire per month on advertising (typically $500 or less after your initial advertising push at the beginning). Depending on the deals you are able to reach with sellers and/or manufacturers, you may be spending varying amounts of your own money on the products that you review.
Who is the target market?
While using online reviews is popular for many demographics, your primary market is millennials.
How does a reviews website make money?
Primarily, a reviews website makes money from advertisers who pay a particular portion based on the number of unique views that particular pages receive. There is also the ability to make money via affiliate links, but depending on your particular market, it may be worth it to avoid doing so as it can make your business look impartial.
How much can you charge customers?
This business model doesn't charge customers directly. Rather, you will reach an agreement with advertisers that pays you based on how many views the pages with their advertisements receive. You may also consider creating an affiliate link model in which you receive a small portion of the sale when a customer follows a link on your site and buys the advertised product. In both cases, the exact amount that you receive will be negotiated and may vary from advertiser to advertiser and seller to seller.
How much profit can a reviews website make?
The exact amount of profit you can make with this business varies and depends on how many advertisers you have and how many clicks you receive. Some people do reviews merely part-time and are able to easily get $1000 a month. A successful reviews website may eventually become a six-figure business, but it will take time for your site to grow enough in both depth and reputation to make that happen.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make sure you understand your specific niche and target audience and tailor reviews to what they want to know. Make sure you stay on the cutting edge and review the latest and greatest products rather than something without much buzz. Finally, never stop learning SEO and adapting your websites in order to maximize traffic and increase your views.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your reviews website is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a reviews business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
The nature of legal requirements in distance education is ever changing, especially in regards to copyright laws. Here is a frequently updated resource, which can help keep you aware of the legal requirements.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a reviews website
There are many different ways to advertise your business. You may purchase Facebook ads to help bring in customers via social media. You may want to do guest blogs on popular blogs related to your niche as a way of building your reputation. Make sure that your websites are designed with maximum SEO effectiveness in mind. You can create your own Youtube videos and Facebook pages, too as an additional way to reach customers without much additional investment.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to the advertising techniques above, make sure that your reviews are detailed and relevant. People use review websites to inform their major buying decisions, so if you are very detailed and very useful, they'll keep coming back. Consider setting up an email marketing list so you can let people know when new reviews are added and other major info. Finally, consider creating retargeting ads to help bring customers back again and again.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Reviews Website In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is good for those who are web-savvy, as creating an attractive and usable interface is a large part of the learning curve. It is also good for avid consumers, particularly of any kind of niche market that the product caters to. Finally, it's good for those who have used similar services (such as Yelp) extensively, as this lets you determine how you will both structure and differentiate your own site.
What happens during a typical day at a reviews website?
The nature of this business means that you are primarily working from home. Any given day, you may be editing or posting user reviews, negotiating with advertisers, tweaking your website, and developing new marketing to raise brand awareness.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful reviews website?
Previous experience designing commercial websites is invaluable when you are first starting your business. Networking skills are also crucial, as this can help you find advertisers and grow your business in a shorter amount of time. Finally, any prior experience working with another reviews website in any capacity helps provide valuable information about what you should (and should not) do with your own business.
What is the growth potential for a reviews website?
The growth potential for this business is steady, and may be even stronger if you choose a particular niche that is underserved. The number of review websites has steadily grown over the past ten years, and this directly correlates to consumer trust: one study by BrightLocal found that up to 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, creating a great potential market for your new venture.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a reviews website?
Do not underestimate the importance of finding a niche. While there are major review sites for general products, it's relatively easy to find a niche without much competition. This lets you quickly establish yourself as an authority with these products. Be sure to determine if you are trying to do affiliate marketing or not early on, as this changes the entire structure of your business. Finally, as long as the niche is viable, try to choose something you are already familiar with: it will make writing about products easier, and you may be able to start by providing reviews of things you already own.
How and when to build a team
The nature of most review websites means that you'll likely start the site by yourself. However, because everything can be done from home, you may consider building a small team of reviewers early on to help you quickly produce content so that you can compete with other sites.