I have this theory…if you are not moving forward…you are moving backwards. There is no standing still and just going through the motions with business building and blogging. You are either looking forward to the future and planning for those changes or you are letting others pass you by that are making the conscious decision to get that done.
On Bike198.com, I have been looking for a way to get even more reader interaction and do so by drastically increasing my site size with product heavy, SEO gold that contains affiliate links. I want to be able to provide the same quality I have with reviews into a user experience that allows riders to review their products as well. With that idea in mind, the database of products labeled “Rider Reviews” was born. Now…I just had to build it…
Building Out A Reader Review Section
Ironically enough, I tested about every single Wordpress option I could find. Every single plugin seemed to be ok…but they lack a polished look or were too hard to get everything looking correctly. I started searching around for a stand alone php script to accomplish the same goal and just happened to fall upon Reviews For Joomla (not an affiliate). The layout, ease of use and basic design was exactly what I was looking for. Better yet…it installed over Joomla so I would have a very strong back-end content management system to aid with setup.
With this system, I can have the products loaded in and then my readers have an incredibly clean, easy to use layout to give ratings and reviews for products in the industry. There are even features to allow them to compare ratings and features which adds a ton of function into that portion of the site.
I installed Joomla 1.6 into a subfolder of Mountain.Bike198.com (this one will only have mountain bike products) and got to work…
Handling Of Affiliate Links
Now…a section of your blog like this is only really good if it is generating income. One of my biggest nightmares with this entire project was trying to figure out how I would actually handle the affiliate linking. The idea of searching for my specific affiliate link, getting it on the right product and then making sure it wasn’t broken 24/7 seemed like an incredibly daunting task just in itself.
Ironically, a friend of mine that owns MyGolfSpy.com recently came across VigLink and started testing on his forum. What VigLink basically does is takes your links to popular stores online (ex: Amazon) and automatically handles all affiliate revenue for you. Of course, they take their cut but it takes all of the management process out for you with a simple line of code. Now I was able to get the products loaded with a link to a store and not have to worry about whether or not I am getting credit for the sale. VigLink claims to get a higher percentage commissions on sales due to their larger audience, so the cut they take should drastically reduce the difference between using them and doing it on your own. The time management side was the real payoff for me though.
If you are only building out a section of your site like this that has 12 or so products (maybe even up to 50), managing it yourself might make sense. As of right now, I have 696 total mountain bike products and bikes listed, so you can see how that can get out of control quickly.
Getting The Products Loaded Into The System
A review system like this is worthless if you do not have an accurate representation of your industries products listed on the site. Let’s be honest, I do not have the time to load over 1,000 products into a website. That is a lot of busy work that I can’t even fathom doing and it is also the main reason this idea I have had for over a year is just now coming to fruition. To get some help, I enlisted the help of Chris Ducker over at Virtual Staff Finder to help me out in finding a virtual assistant. After interviewing 3 candidates, I found the perfect one for me.
After sending over one training video, I started sending Lauren (my new VA) the list of products each day and the site started expanding rapidly. My industry is a little unique as we have a ton of parts and related gear.
Now…I don’t want you to look at my site and think this isn’t possible on your site just because of the magnitude of products. In other industries…you might not have this much of an extreme workload where you need to hire someone on to help. In my case, I did and it is working out perfectly.
How do you get people to actually use it?!
As you can see by visiting Rider Reviews, there are a couple of reviews already started on the site by my readers. However, like with any social interaction environment, there is going to have to be some incentive to get the ball rolling. I already have several contests lined up for my readers that are based around getting the review section populated and useful for new visitors. Once those go live, it should be great to see the new reviews come in on a platform that allows my readers to have a voice in the industry and basically runs on its own while also generating income.
As you can imagine, the SEO benefit of this section has already returned great results and it is just getting started. I am going to check back in on this project here to let you guys know how is it progressing. There are still more products to load and some design work to get completed before I start running the contests, but…from what I am already seeing, it is going to be my my largest asset on Bike198.