Not all great ideas are original. Not all great ideas are complex. ReviewYour.Website is neither original, nor complex.
It works like this:
- You enter your website URL.
- You pay €10.
- Within 24 hours, you receive an email with a link to a 5 minute video review from UX expert Anthony Malloc.
Here’s the catch: Anthony Malloc doesn’t exist.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the website video review idea was lifted directly from a reddit discussion where a good samaritan started reviewing website designs for free. I loved the idea, and felt that with a little bit of structure, a profitable side project could be formed. But the entire enterprise relied on trust.
The original reddit post validated that there was interest for website reviews, but was there a market? Would people pay for this? Maybe…
My hypothesis was that if people could see a demonstration of a high quality review, they would trust the reviewer — regardless of their previous experience or credentials. So I decided to test this, and create a fictional reviewer, Anthony Malloc, and see if I could build trust in his abilities by demonstration alone.
Step one: Build Trust
To build a catalogue of example reviews to demonstrate Anthony’s abilities, I initially offered them for free. I created a reddit account, made a post identical to the one I saw before, set up my microphone, opened a bottle of wine and started reviewing. Within a few hours I had reviewed more than 15 websites, uploaded them a youtube channel, and responded on reddit.
The post gained more and more attention and by the end of the evening, I had more requests for reviews than I had time to do.
Step two: Capture Sales
Ok, so I had their attention and trust, so how could I convert this to revenue?
I started by purchasing reviewyour.website, a cool little domain making use of the newly available .website TLD.
Next, I figured out the bare minimum info I needed from a person to review their website, a URL, and an email.
Finally, payment. I wanted to accept payment as quickly and easily as possible — stripe to the rescue. A side effect of using stripe was that I didn’t need to worry about collecting an email, and by being smart about integration, I didn’t need a backend at all. Every payment included the customer’s email and the url they entered.
I could manage the entire project from the stripe dashboard!
Step three: Go!
Within 24 hours I was ready to go. I went back to the reddit thread and private messaged every user that replied. I explained how I didn’t have time to review everybody’s website, and so I set up the website. For a small fee, I would make time for their website. I concluded with a link to the site.
12 hours later I had a bunch more videos to demonstrate the value of my service, a lot of experience pointing out the common errors people made (which made the whole process a lot easier) and a couple hundred euros sitting in my stripe account ready to be transferred.
Step four: Keep going!
Alright! The experiment was working and revenue was flowing in. What’s next?
When I ran out of leads from that initial reddit post, I simply repeated the process again. This worked again the second time, but pretty quickly the mods messaged me and asked me to stop using the sub as an advertising platform. Totally fair.
Sadly, reddit ads are abysmally ineffective. When I decided to reinvest some of my earnings in reddit ads, I saw no return whatsoever. Don’t waste your time.
Beyond reddit, my youtube channel helped gain a few new leads, but not many. I produced a couple longer informational videos on web design topics which I shared on social media and reddit without stepping on moderators dainty toes. These were somewhat effective in driving traffic to my other review videos, but not to my website. I wasn’t interested in paying to advertise again after spending so much on reddit ads.
I was able to optimise my existing customers, though. When I replied to my customers with the link to their review, I made sure my email was personal, thankful and well written. This resulted in 30% of my customers returning for another review.
Sadly, this idea is not necessarily scalable. I can’t really automate the idea (without great effort) and I can’t hire another reviewer without greatly reducing the quality of the service being provided. In the end, it would have to be me, acting as Anthony Mallow, doing all these reviews myself. Even though I got the process of recording, uploading an sending the link down to a minimum, it was still quickly becoming a chore.
After a couple months of periodic reviews, I decided not to push the service and let it slow down to a stop naturally.
There are a few takeaways from this experiment that I always try to keep in mind whenever I start a new project:
- Nobody cares who you are. They care about what you can do. Anthony Malloc didn’t exist until I started reviewing websites. 12 hours and a couple videos later, people would pay for his ‘expert’ advice.
- A good market pulls the product out of the provider. I didn’t have to fight to advertise of market this idea. With minimal effort (and zero cost), my customers were lining up to pay for the service.
- Validation is everything! This experiment worked because I focused on validating from the very beginning. Proving that people wanted reviews, and proving whether people would pay for them was a super straightforward process.
- Good customer service is so valuable. 1/3rd of the people who bought a review became repeat customers. I put this 100% down to the email I wrote when sending them their link. A personal touch goes a LONG way.
I learned a huge amount from this project. The above points are obviously great but exposing myself to so many websites and forcing myself to analyse their design resulted in me building a huge depth of knowledge about what works in web design, and what doesn’t. Something I use in every project.