Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

How to Create Passive Income with Profitable (Yet Honest) Reviews


  1. Enstine Muki says:

    He Rae,
    I have read this post with a lot of interest as is really one of the ways I make money with my blog. I like the details you have laid out.

    Thanks for mentioning Raven. Looks interesting and I’m taking a closer look

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Reviews are my favorite revenue generator as a blogger, hands down. :) And you’re welcome on Raven – I really love the service.

  2. Great post as always. I have a few questions.

    Do you track conversions from source ie are they regular returning direct visitors or are they coming from google? Do you have any metric, or guess, as to the ratio of clicks or conversions? I have tracked clicks in analytics but I have not gone as far as using javascript to encode the source into a custom tracking code passed to my affiliate network.

    One thing we are going to try, and I’m wondering if you have done something similar, is for a larger review where you might be reviewing many items, either in one category (ex soccer shoes) or in a sweeping review (ex “everything you need to play soccer”), is doing an iterated review, where you start with the minimal amount of content to be useful, authoritative, and get conversions, and then improve the article through iteration to attract more traffic and more conversion opportunities.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I haven’t take the time to track regular visitors vs. engine visitors as far as conversions – but typically, by the time a post is ten days old, most of the traffic that comes into it on the regular is from SE visitors, so I assume the same ratio to sales after 10 days.

      I’ve done several posts like that – for instance, here on Sugarrae I did the Top Online Organizational Tools for your business in 2012 a while back. It ranks for “business organization tools” etc and several of the services on there are only linked to from that post – which let’s me know, yes, those kind of posts do indeed make sales. :)

  3. TJ Philpott says:

    Hey Rae (kinda has a ring to it, doesn’t it?)

    I must admit when reading product reviews i do keep a ‘keen’ eye out for ‘proof’ that the person writing the review actually used the product!

    Your use of pictures you’ve taken (with your own camera or otherwise) and not the same old graphics on the product website certainly helps ‘authenticate’ the review!

    Even some negative points about the product indicates ‘hands on’ experience and compels me to read further!

    Appreciate the way you dissected the approach to doing these reviews and I absolutely agree, the more ‘honest’ your claims, the more effective the review!

    Thanks for offering your insights and suggestions!


    • Rae Hoffman says:

      You’re welcome TJ… the thing with negatives is, no product is perfect – no one expects it to be… I just give my honest overall review – if a negative is enough of a negative for someone that it steers someone away from buying it, then I wouldn’t WANT them buying the product because they’d likely be unhappy with it.

  4. Ana Hoffman says:

    I find it interesting that we as business owners are always on the look-out for the latest and greatest products, yet when someone publishes a review of one, no matter how great, honest, detailed it is, we put on a “oh, she’s just trying to sell us on something” front.

    Is it just me or do your readers do that as well, Rae?

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I don’t have as much of an issue with that. I did a reader survey a while back and one of the questions on it was “On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, if I write a review, how much do you trust the information?” Not a single reader who answered the survey answered below a 5 and over 81% said they trusted my reviews at an 8 or more, with 41.7% of them saying they trusted the information at a 10. To me, that’s a reflection in the honesty I’ve always tried to share in my reviews. However, some people will always feel the way you mentioned – par for the course and you can’t please everyone. :)

  5. Great overview of producing useful reviews that people will want to read! I don’t buy anything without reading at least a dozen reviews, and I’m quick to scroll past fakes.

    This is going on my to-share list for our audience at Flippa — many of our users are trying to boost their affiliate sites with reviews, and they’re not always doing it as well as they could. Thanks for this post.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Thanks Ophelie. :) Yeah, I see a lot of BS reviews on the regular. Once I even saw a guy claiming all other reviews on a new product launch were “fake” because they were posted the morning the product launched and there was no way someone had “time to write a review” – what he didn’t know was many of the bloggers had preview beta access to write up their reviews and were embargoed on publishing them until the official launch. The funny part was though, then the guy did his review below and it was obvious to me as someone who’d scoured the product as a beta tester that he did little more than glance at the new release. :)

  6. I love your blog, Rae. It is very, very helpful for this newbie. I would love to do reviews and don’t want to BS (never been good at it anyway). Any suggestions on how to get products at super discounts or some way of not spending a small fortune on products (for me they would be coffee roasters, cappuccino machines, etc).
    Thanks for any suggestions.


    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Kevin – glad you like the blog. :)

      You can ask merchants (especially smaller ones) for a “review product” that you would then be required to send back after the review, BUT, hard to do before you have an audience.

      A friend of mine has a cooking blog and asked friends and family to use various cooking products they owned for a day to start off his reviews as he started building his traffic.

  7. Kevin,

    Just email and tell them you have a website with a lot of visitors and your planning to do a review of the product, then you ask if you can try the product. Works 50% of the times.

  8. Some good advice indeed. Will keep me from just wasting my time on creating fluff.
    Good Job!

  9. Great piece Rae, I agree 100 % that your own pics make a review more authoritative. Ana does make a good point as well, I have friends that do some great reviews and there are always comments. “Oh just trying to sell us something” Of course someone is, its called their job. Do you work for free ?

    Thanks again for another great article.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Ha! You can see my reply to Ana re my own audiences reaction to my reviews. I think another important thing is spacing… I try not to post reviews back to back and instead scatter them in between posts that are merely “giving” in nature.

  10. Great article Rae, right on the nail I think most internet users are tied of all the BS I remember when I first started online I always searched for product reviews now im wiser i very rarely do!

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I still search for reviews on any product before I buy it – I’m just wiser now on who’s actually used the product and who’s just trying to make a quick buck. :-)

  11. Marijan Sivric says:

    I also think that being honest is a number one thing you have to do in order to be successful and happy. But I think that you shouldn’t buy products you recommend to your visitors because you could lose money. What if you buy a product for $100 and earn $0 by recommending it?

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      As I said in the review – if the product wasn’t worth $100 to me with no “kickback” why would I recommend my readers spend $100 of their cash on it? My general rule of thumb – I never recommend a product I wouldn’t buy or recommend if I wasn’t earning money on it. :)

  12. Krista Low says:

    Thank you for such a great and informative post. I really admire the fact that you purchase what you review. I respect that a lot. I will take you wonderful advice into consideration as I strive to have a better blog! Sincerely, Krista.

  13. Business Leads R Us says:

    First off, Great Post and easy to read and your blog is very clean, I like that. My question to you is about writing a Review. If you are just starting in Affiliate marketing and you pick a Niche, actually using the product sometime is not always possible.

    For example. My niche is gardening, because I have done the research and see that customers are buying in that market. However, I live in an apartment and never been a gardener in my life. How do write a “legit” review for that.

    So, back to the question at hand, Do you have to use the product to be able to right a good review?

    Thanks in advance,
    Business Leads R Us

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      IMHO, yes, you need to use the product to not only write a legit review, but also a good and helpful one. If you’ve never tasted Coca Cola, how can you possibly tell others how it tastes? So my advice is you either pick a niche where you CAN get involved or if gardening really is a passion, then you find a way to practice what you’re preaching.

  14. David O'Donnell says:

    Hey Rae, was going to comment directly on your Eclipse review post, but comments appear to be off – is that a tactic you employ on your review posts?

    Anyway, questions is, are you aware of any benefits in using Eclipse over Pretty Link. Pretty link has both paid and free versions, but even the free version appears to do everything (?) Eclipse does.


    • Rae Hoffman says:

      No, I don’t turn off comments on review posts – not sure why the comments were off on that post, but they’re back on now – I assume it somehow happened when I did my last migration.

      Re Pretty Links, no, haven’t tried it yet though I’m suddenly getting asked about it a lot in comments on multiple posts…

      The free version doesn’t allow you to change the base URL (after glancing at the feature comparison chart), which is important to me – but the paid version looks pretty slick. I’ll have to give it a whirl soon. :)

      • David O'Donnell says:

        Hrm, I’ve never considered changing the base URL myself, in what kind of scenario would you use that?

        • Rae Hoffman says:

          Just one more way to remove an obvious “I’m an affiliate!” footprint from your SEO efforts. :)

  15. Hi Rae, I really liked your tips in the article. Would you be interested in writing a guest post on LiveChat’s blog about affiliate marketing tactics?

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