opinion

Are the Review Gods Smiling Upon You?

A.J. Hall

It’s a rude awakening that leaves you feeling rejected, dejected, depressed and heartbroken. I’m not talking about a bad breakup. I’m describing the emotional ruin that can come as the aftermath of submitting a site for review by TheBestPorn, Rabbit’s Reviews and countless others.

Reviewers aren’t paysite experts. They’re not the porn industry’s answer to Consumer Reports but it still hurts to have someone give a harsh critique of something you’ve worked hard to create and are relying on for income. On the flip side a glowing review leaves you relishing in delight because that means traffic which in turn equals more money. If you’ve ever submitted a paysite for review, chances are you’ve experienced one of these extremes or something in between.

Review sites serve a good purpose. I recommend that everyone managing a paysite use them regardless of whether reviewers interject subjective opinions or stick to fact based assessments of sites based on consistently used criteria.

Every few months without fail I get an email from an upset (belligerent with rage is a more often accurate description) CMS customer who pastes an excerpt from a web site review that’s nailed them on everything from poor site design to worthless content. I’ve seen reviews for sites I think are pretty good receive reviews so bad you’d think the sites should be shut down and the content destroyed so not another soul should suffer the torment of viewing it.

Review sites serve a good purpose. I recommend that everyone managing a paysite use them regardless of whether reviewers interject subjective opinions or stick to fact based assessments of sites based on consistently used criteria. Many do write fair, honest and accurate reviews that can help you make site improvements and will direct qualified buyers to your site…just hope you get lucky enough to have your site reviewed by one of them.

When dealing with review sites, remember you’re after their traffic, not their approval. Pay minimal attention to what they say about your site unless they point out real flaws or weaknesses that need correcting.

Imagine watching an Olympic event where instead of awarding points in a high diving competition based on form and style, some random points are added because a judge likes the color of a diver’s suit or docks points because someone’s suit is too colorful or shiny for their taste. Hopefully holding this silly image in your mind when reading a review of your site will help you take it all with a grain of salt.

Review sites are operating from checklist/habit/repetition at least as much (and probably far more) than they are paysite customer feedback and trends. Over the years dozens of my own Elevated X CMS customers have gotten dinged for the same things - very few of which were viable or that matter to actual paysite customers at all.

Believe it or not, these are seven real quotes from reviews of seven different sites that actual customers of mine have gotten reduced ratings for:

  • No file sizes are posted for the videos
  • Too many fake breasts
  • A little less material than on big sites
  • Site design/navigation are pretty plain
  • Putting in ads for already-paying members just takes away from the experience
  • Content doesn’t feel that unique
  • Site feels plain overall

Five of these supposed “negatives” are opinions based solely on what the reviewer thinks or feels and contain no factual information.

If you’ve had a bad review it will be comforting to know that the statements above came from reviews of either sites of some of the biggest companies in the entire adult industry or sites that are mega-smash hits in their niches.

In all cases a reviewer ripped sites apart for doing what they are quite possibly doing intentionally ... and being tremendously successful or in spite of or because of.

Submitting Your Site For Reviews And Re-Reviews

1) Start with your niche. Everyone wants to be in the top 25 on a review site’s home page or a main top site listing page but before you can get there, you need to see what you’re up against in your own category and make the top of that list.

If you can’t beat the sites in your niche, you stand very little chance of making it onto the higher visibility pages. You also want the more qualified traffic from the niche listing since the conversion and retention rates will be better than the general traffic despite lower volume.

Look at the sites at the top of your niche (on a few different review sites) and compare them to yours as objectively as you can. Consider joining the top 3 or 5 sites so you can see the inside of the sites as well.

There’s no surefire way to get a good review but being competitive increases your odds.

2) Make reasonable changes to correct things your site is lacking or areas that look weak to you in comparison to your site. Think about things mentioned in the reviews of competing sites that might be lacking on your site or things that were pointed out as negatives on other sites that your site has too. Also look at things other sites took negative hits for that your site has or that you can easily add to gain an edge.

3) Once you feel your site is competitive, submit it to as many review sites as you can, but not after receiving a few reviews so you don’t end up having to take the time to ask to have the site rereviewed by dozens of sites.

Don’t get discouraged after a bad review or even a handful of them. Despite your effort to avoid getting a review chock-full of subjective negativity, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Some reviewers are clueless and have no business reviewing sites. Others are just assholes. Try not to take it personally. You’re one of many people who got the same treatment.

A reviewer might hate your site, your niche, find it more fun to be negative and cynical or just be in a bad mood that day and take it out on you rather than write a review that’s accurate and useful to customers. Keep your head up. The next review might be golden.

You’re dealing with real people. This means you might get a great review from one site and a bad one from the next. Or worse, you might get a decent review, make a few changes and get a re-review that lists different flaws than the first one.

4) Be happy with positive reviews, even if you don’t make the big lists. Some review sites are more interested in accuracy and consistency than others. Keep in mind that review site owners are in the same business you are: making paysite sales. Sometimes the sites getting better reviews are top sellers. Review sites are looking to make affiliate sales in addition to providing a useful service to adult site consumers.

If your niche is not one with mass-appeal, even getting a new perfect review may not be enough to get you on the general top listing pages. This isn’t always a bad thing since that more generic random traffic may not convert as well for you as the lower volume highly qualified niche traffic will.

Using Reviews For Improvement

1) Learn to tell the difference between a perceived problem and subjective nit-picking based on opinion. Compare what’s said about your site with what the top three or five sites in your niche offer and decide if it’s valid or simply a reviewer’s personal bias.

Comments related to file sizes, formats or site features and options should be taken into consideration. On the other hand, a comment that too many models have fake boobs is not something you should rush to change. If the critique says the site lacks variety, consider the way the site is packaged or themed and think about subtle changes that will lead to a visitor’s expectation more closely matching what’s inside.

2) Take design and aesthetic critiques lightly but pay some attention. Comments like the ones above that my customers received can usually be ignored but it doesn’t hurt to consider them. Your site being “plain” or simple is not always bad but be aware of things that may make your site appear to be old, outdated or lower quality. Think about ways you might present the same things slightly differently to appear more modern while still maintaining simplicity and ease of use.

3) Pick a happy medium. Make small/easy changes to get better reviews even if you’re only doing it for the traffic and it doesn’t make your site more modern or add much from a customer perspective.

Examples might be a review that suggests adding photo sizes or video formats that have been antiquated for the better part of the last decade. If you need to take your site back to the stoneage to get better reviews, do so sparingly and keep focus on its modern aspects. If your primary video format is MP4, stick to that but add WMV or FLV or whatever other formats the reviews claim you’re lacking as “Other” or “Optional” formats so they’re presented more as a courtesy to those who may prefer them than as the choice formats for your site.

4) Keep at it. If nothing more, reviews and re-reviews keep you more competitive with other sites in your same niche. It also creates an opportunity to continue making small improvements on a consistent basis, some of which you may not have made otherwise and that may help your sales and be beneficial to your bottom line.

Perhaps the review Gods have smiled upon you and your site has already gotten glorious reviews. If not, I hope this article helps you keep perspective during the process of getting to that point and getting the review site traffic you’re after without losing your mind.

AJ Hall is a 14-year adult industry veteran and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and is a contributing writer for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012 and 2014 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.

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