How to earn money from blog by reviewing products and services

We see reviews of products and services on a very large number of blogs. However, for earning from the blog using reviews, this task is to be done professionally. Let's see how. 

If you are a blogger who has already been doing reviews but his/ her reviews are not getting good results in terms of engagement, traffic or earning, please jump to this section: Why is my review blog not earning traffic and money?

We would start with a bit of theory for new bloggers because a strong conceptual base helps in taking right decisions. However, if you are in a hurry, browse headings and move on to the actionable points that suit you.


What are reviews on blogs and what products are best suited for reviews?


Product reviews are nothing but articles about products (or services) produced and offered by others. You can review on your blog anything that people sell and buy.


Reviewing of products is one of the best earning streams for bloggers. As we have said earlier, reviewing of products and services is easier than many other ways of earning from blogging, but needs a professional approach. 

The following are most obvious products and services that are amenable to reviews on blogs:

  • food products
  • restaurants and hotels
  • travel packages
  • beauty and health products
  • gadgetry and equipment
  • books
  • movies
  • website hosting services 
  • online services
This list is far from exhaustive. In fact, there are numerous narrow niches (e.g. 'ethnic jewellery' or 'musical instruments') in which reviews could be more rewarding because (i) there is less competition from advertisers and bloggers, and (ii) people interested in such specific items are likely to be real buyers. 

What must a product/ service review contain? 


A well-rounded review should have these elements:

  • general description of the product/ service and its utility
  • photographs
  • technical details/ chemical composition/ dimensions
  • availability and price: how to purchase/ obtain; if discounts etc available 
  • unique selling points: why should one buy this product/ service
  • references: expert views of others/ preface in case of book reviews/ quotes from the book
  • negative points: high price (it can be turned into a positive point in sponsored reviews)/ something that could have been better
  • comparison with similar products/ services
  • precautions in use
  • disclaimer: your relationship with the seller/ whether you were paid for the review
You can review a particular product or a set of related products. You can also compare competing products one by one or side by side (as in a table) and also give them ranking. Many review bloggers also bring out lists of best products (e.g. 5 best digital photo frames) and explain why the selected products are the best.

When the blogger is paid for writing a review, the review is called 'sponsored review'. Sometimes the blogger hides this fact, and writes a very salutary review - this is dishonesty and it is found that readers are savvy enough to sense that the review has been sponsored.The ethical and desirable way is to declare that the review is paid for (e.g. I was part of the press team that was recently taken to the resort... I received the dress as a gift from the brand...).  

 

What constitutes a good product/ service review on the blog?


In technical terms, the review should have

  • lucid language, mostly in first person voice (i.e. 'I used it and found...' rather than 'People who use it say that..."
  • readable font size, color; wide enough column; overall neat looks of the site/ blog
  • text broken into sections that deal with different aspects (e.g. where to buy, different shades available, price) 
  • links to relevant places (e.g. product site, a page describing the chemistry of the product, a wiki-how page on using such products)
  • photo(s) that help in seeing the product from different angles (e.g. different colors available, photos showing how to use it, packaging, trailer in case of film, jacket in case of book)

In terms of content, the blog should give

  • honest opinion, without hiding obvious negatives and telling half-truths
  • useful insights for taking a decision and not 'balanced' or wishy-washy and confusing ideas
  • detailed information so that the buyer does not run away to other sites
  • to the extent possible, personal experience gained after using the product
  • proper conclusion at the end of the review.

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/ service reviews that the blogger can use to earn money.
 
review products on blog 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.  It also helps to keep sections in the blog that give additional information on the subjects of review. For example, you can have a blog on make up on which you regularly review beauty products, and sections that contain a lot of additional information about chemical composition of beauty products and their health effects, what type of products are suited to different skin types, what products work best in some climates, and so on.  
 

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

 

WWW is so big, but there are so many more people surfing it that there is still space left for savvy bloggers to make their blogs shine and earn. 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 your blog would make money for you 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, so that people know where your blog is and come to you for more;
  • You optimize the blog for search so that more people visit your blog while looking for that product;
  • You monetize the blog by having a paying arrangement with brands/ sellers so that you earn good money 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 - despite competition.
 

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


That depends on a dozen factors, and so you should do research beforehand. Don't go for a broad niche if you are a newbie blogger. When you have established the blog, you can expand the horizon.  If you ask how narrow the range should be for the blogger who has created his blog only recently, we'd say, go for a narrow niche but not too narrow. It will mainly depend on how many people are looking for that product.   If you think, going narrow beyond a point will not get you any visitors, go for the broad niche but go local if you can. Let us take an example: As an individual budding blogger, you can't compete with huge review and comparison sites if you have a review blog on digital cameras. Going for reviews of camera bags, stands or flash lights would not take you anywhere. So, why not review the camera shops in your city? Or which packages being sold by local camera shops are best buys? As another example, you cannot compete with huge sites and apps that compare restaurants whichever corner of the world you go. But if you regularly review restaurants in your city, your blog could be a big hit among people. You can review them in a number of ways, and can add hotels, bars etc as you go along. While studying products that can make money by review, and competition at global and local levels, also study the audience well. Who will come to your blog and go by your advice? Where does the audience live? What are the likely lifestyle and search habits of the target audience? And so on. It will also help you in deciding whether you should go for elite products or mass-use products. 
 

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 wait before approaching sellers directly. If you are a new blogger or you have reviewed very few products so far, it is necessary that you build up a solid portfolio before approaching sellers one-to-one .  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 your own circumstances. 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. There is a big probability that a shady seller (as compared to an established and reputed one) will agree to your offer or give you a good deal. But it might hurt badly in long run.
  • Be ready with your terms. Don't sell yourself cheap even in early days of blogging. 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 the product seller should feel that a review on your site will help him.
  • 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  initially be cold to your offer. If any amount of convincing does not help, 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 had 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 to bloggers who regularly publish good book reviews and have a following. 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 only 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 we said above, choose the sellers discreetly and be ready with your terms.  You have opened the blog for making money from reviewing, not for fighting with sellers or teaching the bad ones a lesson. So, avoid bad sellers from the beginning. After that, you will be left with good sellers whose products and services will be genuinely good. 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 not only an industry requirement, it is also a good business practice. Instead of weakening 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 aldehydes 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 this fact, people would trust you more and will take it in the right spirit 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. [Link is given here to FTC main page as the links to the specific documents sometimes do not open. Go to the website, search for 'endorsement guides'.]
 

Is it ethical to be critical just for the blogger's credibility?


Criticism meant to gain points is not good at all; similarly, unnecessary praise to get reward from the seller is too bad. The review blogger must be a fair person, and his/ her aim should be to give the most honest and expert opinion about the product/ service to the visitors. This applies even when the seller has refused to give you a free sample and also when he has sponsored the review. The reviewer should also be tactful while criticizing the product or service. As mentioned earlier, the best way to come out of the dilemma when the product is very bad but you don't want to be too critical is - don't review that product. When there are minor blemishes in the product or it is very steeply priced, t is better to use expressions that make the criticism look graceful, e.g. "it would have been better if the makers put the cutout button on the right side", "The camera is superb in the quality of sensor and optics, and the only sore point is the small size of LED display."
 

Why is my review blog not making enough money?


(This section is for review bloggers who find that for some strange reason, their blog is not getting traffic or earning money.)
Instead of our answering your questions, let's pose questions that will help you get your own answers.

Do you review products related to your blog?  

It is obvious that the product or service that you review must belong to your niche, and yet a good number of bloggers are seen reviewing products that do not fit well with the subject of the blog.  Just so that you must publish a big number of reviews or some offer has come your way, you should not post reviews on unrelated products. We have seen occasional book/ beauty-product reviews on personal blogs and are acceptable as these are hobby posts to be shared with known people. But a fiction review on a fashion blog: NO, if you want to make money by reviewing products/ services.

 Are you well qualified to review the product/ service?  

If you are not expert in the field to which the product/ service belongs, your review will not have the required depth and people will find out that you have made the review with a shallow understanding. Some type of products need more specialization than others. For example, if you are a voracious reader, your review of books may pass but if you do not have good medical knowledge and you review medical products, that won't work.  

Do you do enough research before writing the review?  

Review, whether of a nail polish, a web-hosting service or yoga mats, needs proper understanding of the product - and this comes from not only expertise but also long use/ experience, keen observation and study of others' articles. This all comes under background research. Some things, especially services and gadgets, may need deeper research.  

Do you use personal voice?  

You should talk straight and not in third person. Tell about your experience with the product, so that it is believable and convincing. That also helps you connect with the visitor, who might get encouraged to ask you further questions through comment box/ contact form/ email.  

Do you look reasoned, and not superficial, emotional, unsure?  

The review should be well-reasoned and not based on emotions. Don't ever get influenced by a free offer or the sales pitch on the product site or what you were briefed during a press trip to a new hotel. Never publish a review in a huff, e.g. you bought a new kitchen gadget and it worked fantastic. You can share the joy on your personal blog/ FB page or WhatsApp chat, but not on your professional review blog. What if the product fails in a few days? What if much better products are available in the market? What if you bought it at an exorbitant price but as you are a rich lady it looked cheap to you? At the same time, do not publish a review if you are fed up with a product because it didn't work well and you did not get the customer service immediately. When in anger, you might miss some fine qualities of the product or a key step you yourself did not take while using the product.  

Is your presentation appealing  

You might write an outstanding review but if it is not packaged well, people will not read it or stay on the blog long enough to finish it. Be sure that the review meets the quality parameters given in the section above, 'What constitutes a good product review'.  

Do you disclose your link with the product?  

Disclosure is a must in case of all reviews, especially when you have benefited in any way by publishing that review. As already emphasized above, disclosing your relationship with the brand/ product that you are promoting is not only ethical, it increases visitors' trust in you.  

Do you promote your reviews well? 

Finally, if you do not promote your reviews, it is likely that people will not know about them. If people do not know of  your excellent reviews, they won't get you popularity and money. So, promote them well. Use social media, WhatsApp or other chat groups, email lists and other tools to let people know about your latest review. Be part of forums and social media groups active in your niche. Tweet the post, cross-link with other similar posts, tell your friends or clients or colleagues about the post. Write on product evaluation and comparing sites.  Don't fritter away your energy in many promotional efforts but focus on what suits your type of product.