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Reviews are like flyers in your local travel agency – some have no impact on you whatsoever, but some make you want to visit a certain place so bad that you literally can’t wait to reserve a flight and a hotel.
Now, let me clarify one thing. Writing a review is not about convincing anyone to do anything. It’s about giving some honest opinions about a given product and listing its pros and cons. In the end, whatever you write should only provide new knowledge to your readers so they can have an easier time making their own decision.
That being said, reviews can have a tremendous impact on our product-buying decisions. Reviews create massive social proof. Let me give you an example, which coffee grinder are you more likely to buy: one that has no reviews, or one that has 20 reviews, 17 of which being positive and 3 negative?
If you’re like most people you will go for the second one despite the fact that 3 people consider it a bad product.
So at least this one thing’s clear – reviews are powerful. But what’s in it for us – online entrepreneurs, and for our online businesses?
Reviews and online businesses
Reviews are a great way of selling affiliate products. This is a practice well known in the affiliate space.
There are basically three stages of buying a product (at least for most people):
- Looking for a solution. This is where people start googling their problem and searching for possible solutions. An example: “how to learn guitar chords.” As a result of such a query one will probably stumble upon some guitar playing products, guides or books. That’s where they move to the second stage.
- Reviewing available solutions. This is where the reviews come into play. Once someone becomes interested in a given product, they will probably start searching for reviews and opinions to make sure that the product is indeed a quality one.
- Buying. In this last stage someone simply makes the final move and buys the product.
Now, a smart affiliate will completely take over the stages #2 and #3.
If someone is in the stage #2, they are at least considering spending some money. This is a very good moment to provide some insights about the product they’re considering and either lead them towards buying it or listing a range of alternatives.
If after reading your review the person becomes convinced to buy the product, you can capitalize on this by providing an affiliate link. This way, the person doesn’t have to leave your site to move to the stage #3 because it’s all in one place.
Disclaimer. I really don’t advise to write a fake review just to get someone to buy what you’re promoting. This is not the point of a review. People will see through your intentions immediately, and they will never ever believe another review of yours. In a word: be honest.
Okay, it’s time to talk business. Here are the steps and elements of writing a properly usable product review.
Get the product
Writing a review without actually having the product can be hard… And by hard I mean impossible.
When it comes to digital products, you can get a downloadable copy of the product (you don’t have to get the DVDs or whatever else the product consists of), but when it comes to physical products you absolutely have to lay your hands on them.
How are you going to review the new iPad without ever holding it in your hand, right?
There are a couple of ways to get a review copy of a product. First of all, you can plainly ask for it. Some companies realize the power of reviews so they tend to respond to such requests. Secondly, you can buy it through your own affiliate link, which can allow you to get it for even 75% off. Thirdly, you can borrow it from someone who already has it.
I briefly mentioned this just a minute ago, but I want to stress it out here one more time.
The only good review is an honest review. Building credibility and trust takes time, and you can lose it all with just one fake review.
Always give your honest opinion. Here’s an interesting fact. People will not necessarily give up on buying the product just because you’ve listed some disadvantages of it. But they will surely notice that you’re being honest.
What? Why? For whom?
Essentially, people don’t care. However, if you do a good job at answering these three questions you can make them care.
This is the question you should start your review with. Begin by saying what the product is. You can use some of the sales material provided by the product owner for this.
However, make sure to use a conversational and non-pitchy tone. Talk to your readers like you want to provide genuine information, not like you want to sell them something.
Why is the product useful? Why are you reviewing it? Why someone would consider using it? Essentially, every why that stumbles your mind will most likely also stumble the minds of your readers. If you leave those “whys” unanswered people will simply find another reviewer.
Every product has a target group of customers. You need to say who those people are and why they should be particularly interested in the product.
If someone from the target group reads your review, they should feel that it’s been created specifically for them.
Besides, people outside of the target group will rarely end up buying the product anyway.
Depending on the product you’re reviewing (if it’s a physical product, for example) you can use some images/photos or even videos of the product.
The best approach here is to take the photos yourself, or shoot the videos yourself. This is a big credibility boost and it shows your professionalism like nothing else.
Besides, a picture tells a thousand words, right? People simply like to see the product from different angles.
Additionally, once you have some photos or a video you can share them through social sites like Flickr or YouTube. This will give you additional visibility and probably new traffic to your review. (When you’re uploading the video or the photos make sure to provide a link to the review on your site.)
List the benefits/features
There’s been quite a fierce talk going on online regarding features, benefits and their use for online marketing.
Some people think that listing benefits is crucial for marketing success, others say that features are good enough because people can imagine the benefits on their own.
Essentially, a feature is something the product does. A benefit is something that feature means to the user/customer.
I, personally, think that benefits are a must when constructing any sort of marketing message.
For reviews, you should find a good combination of features and benefits and mention them in a visible part of your review. Don’t focus on benefits or features alone.
List the pros
Every product has those. If no, why are you even bothering to review the damn thing?
When describing the pros focus on what they mean to the customer (list the benefits). Give the reader a reason to be interested in the product. But be careful not to sound pitchy, like a marketer. Instead, go for the conversational and honest (again) tone.
List the cons
Listing cons is what makes your review real. Every product has cons, there’s no perfect stuff.
Make the cons real. If there really is something wrong with the product then you absolutely must mention this in your review. Don’t be afraid that you’re kissing your affiliate commission goodbye. People will only acknowledge you for being honest and treat your review seriously.
Present price points
Some products have different price points and different options a customer can choose.
List the pros and cons of each offer individually and say which one you consider bringing the most value.
Also, mention any bonuses, guarantees or other extra information that might be important to the customer.
Show some alternatives
This is optional, but it might be a good idea in some scenarios, especially if there are a lot of alternatives available. Listing them along with affiliate links can make you some additional money even if the reader decides not to buy the main product.
You don’t even have to describe each alternative. Just the name and a one-sentence description will be enough.
You should always share your final opinion. Tell whether the product is worth its price or not. Of course, this is just your personal opinion, but it’s always good to have one.
However, if you say that the product is not any good then you should reconsider using an affiliate link…
You can simply not review anything you don’t consider valuable.
For me, crafting a good review is more science than art. Reviews are not about being catchy and telling a story, they are about describing the basic characteristics of a given product and telling whether you find it worth its price or not.
What’s your take here? Have you stumbled upon any reviews lately that you knew were fake right away?
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