June 21, 2017

How to review products on the blog and earn money

We earlier published a post on how to make shining product reviews on the blog and how it can be a handsomely paying stream. But halfway through that post, we realized that many blogger friends have not yet tried their hand on product reviewing at all.

The present post is for bloggers who have only recently created their blog or have a long running blogs but have not yet tried product (and service) reviews.


For very new bloggers: How to open a blog and bring it to a respectable level


If you are very new to blogging or have thought of starting your first blog, can I take you to another section on ITB where I have published many posts on creating the blog, nurturing it, avoiding pitfalls and so on: look in the right column, there is the 'New bloggers' corner' where you have links to a number of posts specially made for new bloggers. (It is better to read them first, because the present discussion will be more fruitful once you have learned the tricks of the trade and experimented with your blog for some time.)


What are product reviews?


Product reviews are nothing but articles about products (or services) produced and offered by others. The products can be daily-use items, books, music DVD, a spare part, big merchandise, a course for competitive examinations or an online service. Anything that people sell and buy. 


I sometime review products that I use. How do I go forward?


As a blogger, you might sometimes review a few products after using them, but that is not what we are aiming at. Such reviews do not come high on search pages and are not taken seriously by selling firms. We are talking about product reviews that the blogger can use to earn money.

start blog and review products to earn money

As a 'professional' review blogger, it is necessary that people start knowing you for your excellent product reviews. So, you will devote the blog fully (or its significant part) to reviews. In fact, keeping the reviews as one part of a wholesome blog works better than just reviews, especially when the other content has synergy with product reviews. For example, if you have a blog on make up, you can regularly review beauty products on the blog. A photoblog can regularly review photography equipment. A yoga blog can review yoga mats, yoga pants and yoga classes.

There are so many product review sites; why would firms and buyers care for a small blog? 

 

WWW is so big and there are so many people surfing it that there is space for everybody. You have small shops along side huge brand outlets even in the most famous shopping malls, isn't it?


You can sure have your place, and it would shine in a crowded marketplace too, if
  • Your reviews are exceptionally good so that people visit your blog again and refer it to others;
  • You promote the reviews through social media, SEO etc so that people know where your blog is and come to you for more;
  • You monetize them by having a paying arrangement with the brand/ seller so that you earn out of your hard work.

Yes, there are big review sites and blogs, but many people want to research beyond the opinion given there. People want specific information given without hiding facts. People also want a variety of opinion to arrive at a right buying decision. So, a blog that gains authority because of honest and informative reviews becomes more and more sought after.

Another points to note is that most big businesses of today started small. Most big travel bloggers (some with travel agencies, portals and many employees working for them now) have confided in us that they started as individuals wanting to travel a lot and writing about it. Some didn't know a bit about blogging! So, be sincere in your effort, work in the right direction and work a bit hard - and success will be yours.

Should I review a range of products or go for a narrow niche?


It will depend on a dozen factors, and so you should do good research. Don't go for a wide niche as you are a newbie blogger. How narrow, will depend on your location, the type of product you'd review, your expertise and so on.  

Generally speaking, go for a narrow niche but not too narrow. As an individual budding blogger, you can't compete with huge review and comparison sites. So, having a review blog on digital cameras will not get you anywhere unless you are patronized by a camera store or company. On the other hand, if you review products that are in demand and are special in some respect, your blog will soon be popular among those buyers and will come high on Google search pages when people search for those products. For example, restaurants in a tourist destination of medium size.

On a paper, write down the range of products or services you will like to review. For example, you are a cook/ foodie/ food connoisseur and will like to review restaurants in Delhi. It is a fairly good market and would perhaps get you good traffic and affiliations. But in 2017, there are at least two dozen well-established travel sites, two dozen blogs and a dozen trade directories with large number of reviews already posted there. You realize that you need to narrow down. So, make a list like this:  restaurants in Delhi... non-vegetarian restaurants... restaurants serving Bengali cuisine... Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi... Best fish dishes available in Delhi...etc. Now, if you go for 'Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi' out of this list, this might be too narrow and you might not have many good restaurants to review after ten reviews. Because there are not many big Bengali restaurants in this location (though it is as large an area as Paris), you might not get advertisements from these restaurants. Moreover, there may not be enough people looking for this type of food, so even if you are on the top of Google page, you might not get enough number of people coming to you. Hope the example helps how to determine how wide or narrow your niche should be.

Do study your audience well. Who will come to you and go by your advice? Where does the audience live? What are the likely lifestyle and search habits of the target audience? Should you review product of mass use or those used by the elite? And so on. 

Study your competition and adjust your niche. Google keyword planner is a great tool to study the keywords which are most used for search. You should use it also for optimizing your review posts for the right keywords so that more people come to you by searching that product on Google and other search engines.

Is it OK to approach brands/ sellers directly, offering reviews on payment?


You can have AdSense and affiliate ads (e.g. Amazon, CJ) from the very beginning but approaching sellers directly - wait. If you are a new blogger or you have not reviewed products so far, it is necessary that you build up a solid portfolio before approaching sellers directly. 

And yes, once you have a good number of reviews to show, it is not only OK to approach them, it must be your regular drill. 

Make a directory of firms that sell your type of product, and approach them by whatever means you feel as the best way - by email, phone or meeting in person - depends on various factors.

In whatever way you contact them, these are the best practices you should follow:

  • Choose the seller with care. You should not be desperate to get any seller. The chances of a shady seller giving you a good deal are more than an established one agreeing for it. But it will hurt badly in long run if you are not discreet in selecting the seller.
  • Be ready with your terms. Don't sell yourself cheap even in these early days. At the same time, don't show attitude. Be the real you. Offer short as well as long term deals, and make the long-term deals more attractive. 
  • Be ready with your arguments. Have convincing arguments - backed by facts - and at the end they should feel that a review on your site will help them.
  • Showcase your assets. Make a one-page flyer about the blog, which should describe the blog, its target audience, any good comments you have received, any deals you have made, and its traffic stats. Give one or two lines about yourself. Send it electronically as part of your email. Keep its print ready if you intend to meet sellers in person. 
  • Be polite and accommodative but slightly persistent. If the other guy wants to test your standing, he might  be cold to your offer. If that happens, walk out but leave the door open by suggesting that if they wish to still consider your offer in future, they could call you at ... number OR they should not mind if you ring them after a week just to see if they have a change of mind.

Why it is often wiser to buy the product than ask for sample


You will learn the tricks of the trade as you go, and you will get plenty of free products, as some beauty, fashion and travel bloggers have shared with us. We also know that books keep pouring it to bloggers who review books.

But one thing is sure; don't wait for the thing to come to you if you feel you have a duty to review that product. For example, highly reputed reviewers get smartphones free when these are launched, but even mid-level bloggers are not likely to get them free for a review. As a blogger reviewing mobile phones, you need to review the mobile early. In such a case, you will need to read all the information available on the web and based on your understanding of the features, you will present your views on that smartphone. You must, in such case, tell beforehand that your opinion/ advice about the set is based on ... (links) and you have not used the set yourself so far. 

We have seen many bloggers of beauty products reviewing products after buying and using them. Such bloggers get a fan following because the reviewer is under no obligation from the brand to project good aspects of the item. 

But there is no harm asking for the product or service, and it would come free especially when the seller is desperate or it won't cost him much to gift it to you (e.g. a book, an e-book, a software, a free stay before tourism season). 

How do product reviews go with affiliate marketing and AdSense?


There is no harm having any type of ad on the blog along with reviews. However, sometimes a seller who gives you good money for his reviews might put the condition that you will not serve his competitor's ads. But don't worry; such situations can come when you are an expert - and in that case you will have all the wisdom to take the right decision.  

What if seller demands only praise, no honest review?


Yes, you will have to deal with such situations. That's why I said above, choose the sellers discreetly and be ready with your terms. 

You have opened the blog for earning from blogging and reviewing, not for fighting with sellers or teaching the bad ones a lesson. So, avoid bad sellers from the beginning. After that, you will have good sellers whose products and services will be genuinely good. The wiser the seller, the more open he will be to nuanced criticism.

If you find a product bad after using it for free, you can tell the seller, your review will have those bad points or at least the review will not be all positive. So, either he improves the product (e.g. customer service in a hotel or a bug in software), takes it back from you (e.g. key for a software), agrees for the review, or you don't carry the review. You can have your say only when you had made these terms clear before you used the product - that's what makes it even more important to make your terms clear in advance.

Why should a reviewer put disclosure; does it not sound apologetic? 


Disclosing your affiliation with the product or service under review is a good practice. Instead of wakening you in any way, it gives you great advantage in terms of credibility. It also gives you higher marks in internal rating done by search engines. Moreover, if someone gets hurt because of your recommendation, your disclosure would save you from any legal action by the users.  

Take a few examples. You would caution that the face cream you have reviewed has a high concentration of aldehydes and products with extra formaldehyde can cause rashes. Or this particular yoga should not be done by people with a history of bone fractures. Now if a lady gets allergy after using that face cream or a guy breaks his bone after doing that tough yoga asana, they won't be able to sue you. Similarly, if you mentioned that your views about that food supplement are based on your experience and you are in no way connected with the brand, people would take you at face value. (But it must be true too.) If you review a restaurant after a press trip or a paid dinner and mention about it, people would believe you more and will even forgive you if they find that you have praised the restaurant slightly more than it deserves. Got the point?

By the way, the US FTC has detailed guidelines on what should be taken in mind when endorsing a product. [This is a link to a pdf doc, which might not read well on mobile.] 

We have still many ideas that we have got from blogger friends. If you have any questions or wish to share your experience with fellow bloggers, either put them as a comment or send to kp.nd.2008@gmail.com . We intend to come with another article on the subject later.

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