I strongly suspect you are. In fact, I will bet that you are much better at reviewing products than the thousands of professional reviewers that litter the web. First, I am going to tell you why I think this is the case. Then I am going to convince you to prove that I am right.
== The Problem With Digital Goods ==
I am sure you are familiar with the problem. If you have purchased an online ebook, or some other form of digital goods, only to soon be disappointed by the quality of the downloaded product, then you have contributed to that communal sigh of despair that issues forth daily from thousands of people just like yourself. When it happens there is not a lot you can do about it, other than request a refund. But even if you get your money back, you have just wasted several hours of your time, the process has caused you unneeded frustration, and you are back to square one, still hungry for a product to plug the need that sent you shopping in the first place. Surely there has to be a better way. After all, shopping for a quality refrigerator is not hard. Why are digital goods such a problem? And is there a solution to this?
As it turns out, there is a simple solution to this problem. You *can* have your digital cake and eat it too. But before I tell you what the solution is, I want to briefly take a look at that refrigerator purchase again, because it will highlight what is missing in your search for that elusive "just so" digital product.
== Quality Comparisons Between Digital Goods And Store Goods ==
When you go out to buy a refrigerator you benefit from the fact that the companies which build them have been doing so in most cases for a very long time. They have hashed out the technical problems decades ago, and then duked it out with their competitors for marketplace dominance using all sorts of business tricks you do not care about. All you care about is that only the best of those companies were left standing. The result is that you, the consumer, are more than happy to hand over your money, because these "brand name" companies have finally earned your trust by coming up with robust and dependable products.
Not so with purchases of online digital products. Most online companies have not been around long enough to establish recognizable brand names. Almost all of the digital products you find on the web will be less than a year old, in which case, just how good can they be? Instead of being able to select from an array of trusted digital solutions, the way a typical consumer finds a prospective "solution" to their immediate problem is to type some keywords into a search engine and then see what comes up in the way of recommendations.
== Choosing From The Chorus Of Recommendations... ==
What are they going to find when they do this? More often than not they will see a slew of sponsored advertisements for a handful of products. But of course the ads seen are just those that belong to the highest bidding advertisers, and very often these ads are placed by affiliates of products with very high sales commissions. You may be looking for recommendations for a quality product, but what you will find is recommendations for the product that pays the highest sales commission. And if you were expecting unbiased reviews from these affiliates, well then, you are exactly the kind of prospective customer they were hoping would click on their paid advert!
No wonder the rate of refund requests on digital products is high. The barrage of affiliate sales copy you find perfectly whitewashes the true nature of the product. It might be good. But it also might be a clunker that converts well with a high affiliate payout. So how do you get to the truth, and save yourself both time and money in the process?
== How You Can Solve The Problem ==
Well, that is where you, the perfect reviewer comes in. Because unlike those thousands of affiliates who make a living using interchangeable product names on the same high-converting sales copy, you are a real product user. You know the truth, and most importantly, you have nothing to lose by telling it to the next person who might be thinking of buying that product. Sure, it takes a bit of time for you to write a review. But if everyone follows your lead, and does it the right way, then--as I am about to show you--the outcome can be pretty amazing!
Here is why. If you were to write one accurate review for every ten digital products you purchased, and others did the same thing, in short order these aggregated reviews would provide an extremely accurate barometer on the quality of digital goods on the web. These aggregated reviews would characterize the benefits of digital products with relentless precision. No longer would taking the sales copy of affiliates and merchants at face value be the crap shoot it is now. Of course, these reviews need to be collected in one place, the user ratings for products averaged and then presented for product-wise comparison, but the model is known to work. We see it used with extraordinary success in places like the Amazon marketplace and the endless pages of Epinions reviewers.
== Awarding Quality Seals To Digital Products ==
One of the benefits of using a reliable statistical model to characterize product quality is that we can use the results to award "quality seals" to the best performing products, where performance is a direct measure of consumer satisfaction. When this is done, and accurate quality seals become commonplace, they provide affiliates with an incentive to consider them when selecting products for promotion. Why? Because a product that bears a quality seal on the official sales page of a merchant is going to convert better than a product that does not display a seal. In this way, quality products get the recognition they deserve, they make the merchant a better profit on their investment, and this in turn allows the merchant to offer affiliates higher commissions. After a while the high commission products actually reflect the quality products and consumers end up with the right product no matter which route they take to get there.
So. If you would like to help sort the wheat from the chaff in the digital goods marketplace, a large portion of which is mediated by the ClickBank merchant/affiliate network, get yourself to an online voting booth now and have your say. Time magazine voted You the person of the year recently, and one of the reasons for doing so is that you wield more power on the web than you may have realized to date. So why not put it to use in a place where your opinion really matters?
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Stephen Carter is the creator of ClickBank Hotshots, where Quality Seals for digital goods are awarded by consumers on the basis of Customer Reviews of ClickBank Products. New reviewers wanted!
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