I started writing reviews back when Sunshine was about the age Pearl is now. Since then, I’ve reviewed a lot of great things, from strollers to tablets to hotels. It’s a lot of fun reviewing products and sharing what I think with my readers, but it’s also a lot of work. I know many people, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, think “reviews = free stuff,” but there’s more to a blog review (whether it’s books, products or places) than just getting free stuff. Here are my tips for writing blog reviews.
When Writing Blog Reviews, DO:
Take the Time to Review It Well
Writing a review takes time, both to test the product (or read the book or visit the place) and to write the review itself. It takes me at least an hour to write a review post, sometimes longer. I also have to take pictures and edit those photos for the post. Give yourself ample time for the review, and make sure that the brand you are working with also respects the time that it takes to do a review.
If you’re running out of time to try a product, be honest with the brand and ask for an extension (if there is a deadline) or just touch base to explain why they haven’t seen a review yet. Most brands and PR people are very understanding.
Personalize Your Review
Reviews matter because they are written in your unique voice, for your unique audience. The review I write about a product or book will be vastly different than the review another person writes about the same product or book, and that’s great. Brands are now looking for the unique spin that YOU can bring to your product so let your personality shine through.
For example, when I reviewed some of my favourite Boiron remedies, I also told a story. We had just been to homeschool camp on Vancouver Island and I had used quite a few of the products while there. So I wove my review into the ways that these homeopathic remedies helped us while on vacation.
No product is perfect. There are pros and cons to everything, and your readers want to know that. This is something I always struggle with, because I’m a very loyal person and I don’t want to disappoint the brand I’m working for. Ultimately, however, my reviews are for my readers and I want to be honest with them.
As you’re writing your review, think about what you’d tell your best friend about this product or place. Would you give it a whole-hearted five star review, or would you say something about the one thing that didn’t work or the little piece that broke right away?
Sharing the bad doesn’t mean trashing the product. You can mention the product’s shortcomings tastefully and gracefully. For example, when I reviewed my Otterbox case for my tablet, I mentioned that I don’t like the screen protector on it. Overall, however, I was really happy with my Otterbox and I have since bought another one for my phone. I tried to focus on the positives in the review while still being honest about what I didn’t like.
Also remember that you’re sharing your opinion. Something that is a big deal to you might not be a big deal to someone else, and vice versa. When we were shopping for strollers before Pearl’s birth, I read quite a few stroller reviews about some of the brands we were considering. While I appreciated what some of the reviewers mentioned, I also thought, “Okay, but that doesn’t matter to me.”
If the product completely fails, go to the brand first. Tell them what didn’t work and why and chat with them about what they want to do about it. Maybe it was a faulty product (that does happen) and they can replace it for you. Maybe they will request that you not review it. Or maybe they will agree that you should post a negative review about it. Just remember to be polite while being honest.
When Writing Blog Reviews, DON’T:
Review Just for Free Stuff
Yes, we all like free stuff. Reviews are not free, however. They are product that I have received in lieu of payment for a review. As I mentioned above, it takes me at least an hour just to write the review, plus the time that I spent trying the product. That’s time I could spend doing other things, so I had better really like the product that I’m reviewing.
It can be really tempting, when you begin doing reviews, to agree to review anything because you are getting it for “free.” Stop that mentality. You are working for that product, so you’d better really want it. If the review doesn’t fit your lifestyle, your target audience, or your blog topic, say no thanks. Other opportunities will come along.
Forget the Disclosure
Let your readers know that you have received this product in exchange for your honest opinion. (Or, if you are reviewing a product simply because you love it so much, feel free to say that as well.) Honesty is key to a good review and most brands and companies now require disclosure at the end of your review. If the brand has provided you with a specific disclosure statement, make sure to include it. Otherwise, write your own.
Copy and Paste
Don’t ever copy and paste the press release, product information, or other details sent to you by the brand about the book, product, or place (unless they’ve specifically asked you to do so). A recent survey of public relations people indicates that they value authenticity and style. This is why my reviews take me an hour or longer to write. It’s hard to be unique and creative, but that’s what is required for a good review (and noticed by brands and PR companies).