If you have never considered adding product reviews to your business website or blog, there are some good reasons to do so.
Some people write product reviews to make money through affiliate income; others do it to gain access to the products themselves; still others use them as a means to build a reputation as an influencer or thought leader around a given product line or industry topic; finally, some write reviews as link bait to attract search engine attention and increase traffic.
This article serves as a guide to help you write better product reviews, whatever your motivation. It contains tips, review templates, and information about a plugin that WordPress users can add to their sites to create an extra layer of interactivity to the review.
How to Write a Product Review
1. Be Willing to Commit the Time
Writing useful product reviews takes considerable time and effort. It’s not something you throw together quickly in 400-500 words. Rather, the best reviews go into great depth and can easily encompass 1,000 – 2,000 words. Before writing, ensure you can commit the time needed to make yours a review worth reading.
2. Decide on the Product
One of the first decisions a reviewer needs to make is what product to write about. Make sure it is something you want and can use, would interest your readers and fits the theme of your site. Online services, software, technology tools, healthcare products, household gadgets, exercise equipment and books all make good topics.
3. Get to Know Your Readers
While you may choose a product that interests you personally, it’s best to think of what your readers care about most. As such, getting to know your audience (or the audience you intend to reach) is vital.
Ask: What kinds of products would interest them? What would they benefit from the most? What problems do they have that a particular product could solve? What questions would they have?
A good place to find answers is the FAQ page of the product website. If that’s not available, brainstorm any issues that you can think of and respond with answers.
Robb Sutton, an expert product reviewer, writing for the Entrepreneur’s Journey blog, says a well-written, successful product review should address the following concerns:
- What does this product or service do?
- How does the product differ from the competition?
- What makes the product worthwhile?
- What are the product’s flaws?
- Who is the intended target?
- Where can people purchase the product?
4. Be Unbiased and Objective
When done correctly, reviews look comprehensively and objectively at the pros and cons of a product as it relates to the target audience. The reviewer should have no connection to the host company, to prevent bias in the reviewing process.
The adage “honesty is the best policy” holds true for product reviews. Your reputation and credibility are on the line so don’t do anything that may compromise that.
5. Know the Product Inside and Out
A mistake many bloggers make is to review a product without actually using it. To gain credibility, you have to have some experience with the product — and the better you know the product, the more trustworthy your review becomes. So seek to gain expertise in its use and understand its features and benefits inside and out.
6. Don’t Rely on PR and Marketing Material
Once you become known for writing product reviews, expect PR firms to begin contacting you asking you to write about products from companies they represent. That’s a good thing, in that it means you’ve reached a level of respectability, but don’t rely too heavily on any PR or marketing materials you may receive. Certainly don’t merely regurgitate press releases or canned pitches. That’s a sure turn-off!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use images they send. People love pictures and the higher the quality, the better, so include several. Just don’t allow the use of their materials to replace your investigative efforts, original copy, photos or videos.
7. List the Pros and Cons
Don’t be overly optimistic when writing product reviews. Point out the flaws as well as the useful aspects. Base any negatives you discover on facts, not conjecture. Also, consider laying out the positives and negatives side-by-side in a tabular format, for comparison purposes, such as in this example:
8. Include Technical Information
It’s helpful to walk readers through the steps of using the product and include any technical information that you deem relevant.
Depending on the audience, you may want to phrase the review in language anyone can understand. When writing to industry insiders, however, use any technical verbiage that would be considered common knowledge.
9. Provide Practical Examples
Provide practical examples of the product in use, particularly if you feel it’s worth buying.
This Small Business Trends post, “Not an Artist? Try the Easy-to-Use, Free Image Creation Software, FotoJet,” contains several examples of how to use a free image creation product, Fotojet: as a collage maker, graphic designer and photo editor. It also takes the reader through the steps, in detail. Very practical, indeed!
10. Monetize Your Reviews
Even if monetization is not your primary goal, depending on the product, you can still find ways to accrue income.
Affiliate programs abound through sites like Amazon, Commission Junction, Clickbank and Share a Sale. WordPress users have several affiliate marketing plugins at their disposal as well.
You need to weigh what effect adding affiliate links in posts can have on building credibility and trustworthiness, however. If you choose to include such links, disclose that fact either in the post itself or on a separate page on the site. The FTC prohibits deceptive advertising practices, which makes disclosure even more important.
Product Review Templates
Following are two product review templates, one for general use and the other for books:
General Product Reviews
- Introduce the product (include something interesting or unique about it);
- List key product features;
- Discuss benefits associated with its use;
- Compare the pros and cons;
- Explain its intended target;
- Include price and purchase information.
Consider these product reviews, written by Small Business Trends, as examples:
- What is Yodle and How Can It Help Your Business?
- Kyocera Brigadier Phone is a Rugged, Easy to Clean Business Option
- What is Slack and How Do I Use It for My Team?
- Introduce the book (include something unique or interesting);
- Summarize what the book is about;
- Include information about the author;
- Cite what was best about the book (why you would recommend it);
- Talk about what the author could have done differently;
- List reasons to read the book.
Check out these sample reviews from the Small Business Trends business book archive:
- On the Brink Shows How Changed Perspective Brings New Business Opportunities
- Why Your Business Needs ‘The Founder’s Mentality’ to Survive
- True Responsibility Begins When You ‘Flip the Switch’
Product Review Plugin for WordPress
WordPress users can download a product review plugin that turns blog posts into in-depth reviews with ratings, pros and cons, affiliate links, rich snippets and user reviews.
After installing and activating the plugin, go to the admin page for a particular post. Beneath the post you will see a checkbox that asks, “Is this a review post?”
If so, check yes and a dialog box containing fields for information such as product name, affiliate links and price will emerge. Complete and save the information and the review detail will appear on the post page.
Design-related options include the ability to edit colors (to match your site), enable or disable the affiliate button and change icons that go on the plugin options page.
You can also promote your most recent or top rated products with customized widgets, allow site visitors to post reviews and ratings and use shortcodes to insert reviews anywhere in the post.
Product reviews are not the easiest type of posts to compose. But unbiased, honest, in-depth reviews that place the interests of the readers ahead of your own and that clearly disclose any affiliate or advertising relationships can help you build a reputation as an industry influencer and thought leader. And who knows, you might even make some money along the way.
Review Blocks Photo via Shutterstock