Review websites were originally designed to provide users with the ability to examine all the different products in a marketplace, and utilize the experience of the author to make the right choice (for them).
The problem with review sites is that they were inherently tied to lower levels of marketing – typically to getting ranked on Google.
Whilst there was nothing wrong with this, various updates to the system’s algorithm and shifts in consumer demand (typically focused around social media), many “thin affiliate” websites were dropped from the various search results (killing their value).
Remember, it doesn’t matter how good something is – if people don’t get to see, use or benefit from it – it does not have any “use” value. This doesn’t really concern most people (anyone looking at this as a new venture doesn’t need to worry about it) – it should, however, highlight the reason why the “sentinel” review site strategy was created…
Sentinel review sites are a “new” generation of review site – designed around authenticity. In other words, rather than producing a faceless “me too” website – they have genuinely good content, with your actual face & real name. They *should* be good at attracting users from the various “social” communities which exist now.
The underlying “model” is still the same, but the way in which it’s created is different. The difference lies in the way in which the information is presented, and how it is interfaced for the user. Rather than being “static” content, the aim with Sentinel was to create a flexible system, which allowed people to deliver an underlying SERVICE through their web based application.
The point here is that you’re essentially moving away from “static” HTML websites (which would typically have the obligatory “reviews” table and a number of content pages), to a functional application – populated with reviews where appropriate.
The “sentinel” method essentially allows you to remove any of the potential issues that could be preventing a “review” website from delivering value. By replacing structure with functionality, you’re basically allowing users to make their own choice about which services they wish to use – without having a large amount of issues with the system itself.
One of the more pertinent examples of an effective “sentinel” review site is PCPartPicker. This is a system which helps users manage new PC builds.
Whilst not a “traditional” review site in the sense of providing users with the ability to gauge the effectiveness of the different products / providers, it *does* give you a valid way to manage the various companies you may wish to purchase from. This nondescript nature of the system is what makes the “sentinel” strategy effective.