The following guest post has been submitted by Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar
Most serious bloggers occasionally find opportunities to review some sort of product related to their blog niche, whether it be a book, a piece of equipment related to their blog’s area of expertise, or so on. I often see these used as off-the-cuff posts with at best an affiliate link to Amazon. These posts are usually quite forgettable, and for good reason.
I’ve found, however, that I can often use a well-written review in a large number of ways that can drive traffic to my blog over a long period of time. Here’s the procedure I usually follow when writing a killer review that will excite and entertain my regular readers, bring in new ones, and also earn some money via affiliate sales at Amazon. To illustrate this, I’m going to give an additional shout out to a friend and another ProBlogger guest blogger, Penelope Trunk, and discuss how I wrote and then utilized my review of her book, Brazen Careerist.
1. Focus on a product that you’re passionate about that also relates to your blog
I’m the author of a personal finance and personal development blog and I’m also an avid reader, so the big products that I usually find that I’m passionate about are books on those topics. Before you even start thinking about putting forth the effort to writing and marketing a really killer review on your blog, you need to ask yourself if the item in question really stirs something inside of you. If it doesn’t, it’s going to be hard to convey any sort of feeling or emotion about the product, and it is that sense of emotion that really captures readers and makes for a killer post. If you’re not feeling it, you can still write a review, but don’t invest the time in turning it into a real anchor post.
2. Write the review
When you write a review that you intend to use as anchor content, you should make sure that it covers the product in detail (I usually move through a book chapter by chapter), clearly relates your own views on the title, and also ties into some of the content you’ve already written. Since the piece will probably have some length to it, you should also use bold to highlight the main points. Another useful tip: I often link back to my own anchor articles when writing reviews of products so I can highlight specific points and illustrate how the item I’m reviewing is connected to the overall message of my blog. Want an example? Here’s my review of Brazen Careerist.
3. Include affiliate links in the review
When you’re reviewing an item, including affiliate links that enable the person to buy the item is mutually beneficial: your readers have the opportunity to investigate and buy the item, and if they choose to purchase it, you get a portion of that purchase price. I typically just stick with Amazon’s affiliate program on my blog because of the book selection (my primary review area) and the ubiquity of Amazon – everyone seems to have an account there so it’s easier for people to order the item if they want it. Within the review, I usually just link every instance of the book title to the Amazon page for that book.
4. Connect with the author or creator of the item
If the item’s author or developer has a blog, be sure to include a link to that person’s blog in the review. Not only is it informative to your readers, but the author will also get a trackback or pingback when you post the review. It’s also worthwhile to send an email to that person with a link to the review if they have an online presence – most of the time, they’ll read the review and on occasion you can begin to build a collaboration with that person.
5. Include links to other reviews of the book
This is especially true if the reviews are on blogs near your topic area as it helps to connect you with blogs of similar topic and provides more information to the reader. Also, linking to sites that have a collection of reviews (like Amazon) adds value to your review as well. You only increase your own trustworthiness if you openly show your readers other perspectives.
6. In a separate post, give away the item
Unless you’re adamant about keeping the item for yourself, you should always give away the item you review, but do it in a separate post. When you actually ship the item, keep both the receipt for the postage and also the receipt for the item and save them – in most countries, you can deduct both from your income tax return on your blog income. Earlier articles at ProBlogger are loaded with suggestions on how to do this – here’s how I gave away Brazen Careerist. A well-positioned giveaway can generate more links for your anchor article and also build up interest among regular readers.
7. Submit your long review to appropriate carnivals
Product reviews, no matter how good they are, typically don’t do extremely well on social bookmarking sites, so with individual reviews, I focus on submitting them to blog carnivals. Stop over at blogcarnival.com and find a carnival or two that matches the topic that your review covers and submit it. It’ll get you a small number of visitors and also some backlinks that will help your review appear higher in Google when searchers type in the book name.
8. Announce the winner of your giveaway
This provides yet another opportunity to give attention to your review. List the person that won the giveaway in a post and also link to their blog if they have one – there’s a good chance they’ll link back to you and perhaps to your review as well. It also reinforces the positive traits of your blog – you’re giving away stuff and providing good content.
9. In future posts, refer back to the item
If you’ve written a solid post that extracts the valuable points from the book, you can easily refer back to the book’s review for illustration of various points. For example, when I mention the power of networking with others, I refer back to my review of the book Never Eat Alone, where I extracted a ton of good information about how to network with others in good taste. And look – I just had another opportunity to link to that review, because it’s a perfect example of how a well-written product review can also educate on a certain topic.
10. A collection of review posts can make for another great post
Quite often, an individual product review won’t draw a ton of links on its own. What really attracts people on blogs are places where information is organized and intersected for them in an interesting way. A good way of doing this is taking a number of reviews and collecting or ranking them in some fashion. There are many ways to go about this – creating an “essentials” list, creating a “top ten” list, and so on. The point is to provide links to a number of reviews, along with thumbnail sketches, in a framework that will interest others. An example of what I’m talking about is my own ranking of 26 personal finance books. I have been reading a personal finance book a week for six months, so I took the time to rank them. This post turned out to be rather popular.
The main take-home message here is that product reviews can easily be anchor content and can also provide some affiliate sales, but the keys are quality, sincerity, and promotion. If you’re not sincere and honest with what you’re saying, it will undermine your credibility, so be sure you are strongly familiar with and sincerely like (or sincerely dislike) a product before reviewing it. When you’ve written the review and you know it’s good, though, don’t hesitate to let the world know.