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Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

This post is by Mike Essex of Koozai.

Regardless of the niche a blog operates in, it is possible to convince brands to provide free products for you to review.

If it’s a well known niche, such as trainers, then the brands will already have products available for review, as that’s the same way they gain exposure in the media, so the issue becomes more about standing out from the crowd.

Alternatively, if a niche is smaller (such as high-powered lasers), the focus shifts to educating the brand owners on why they should send you a product, and the exposure they can get in return.

In short, every product is crying out for exposure, whether it be from a big brand or a really obscure niche. This creates a need for bloggers to spread the word, and is where you can step in by talking about the product in the form of a review.

Through this article I’ll outline some of the best ways to build this connection with a brand through blogging, and how to turn that connection in to free stuff.

Step 1: Preparing your blog

The first step is to make it clear that you accept products to review on your blog. This can be done simply by adding additional modules of text on the template of every page to include:

  • Your reviews policy: A short paragraph that states you are sent products to review on the blog and that all opinions are your own.
  • Contact details: Include an email address on every page so it is as easy as possible to contact you. This can be written in the format of mike (at) blagman (dot) co (dot) uk if you have fears about spam.
  • A tag line: Under your site logo / title make sure you include a line of text such as “Product Reviews of X” or “X News and Reviews” to make it clear you offer that service.
  • About Me box: Include a paragraph about yourself that explains why you blog about that particular niche and that you are looking for products to review.
  • A Twitter feed: If companies can find you online in other places this is another indicator you are a real person.

Having these elements in place will help your blog stand out and make it explicitly clear what you can offer.

Step 2: Creating sample content

Next we need to prove to the companies that we can write, and that we understand their niche. If you’re writing good, regular content then you’re already half-way there. Alternatively, if your site is new, or you want to refresh the content, you should include the following:

  • Prior reviews: If you already own anything from the niche, review it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old product as this can be called a “retrospective” article rather than a review, and is still a good way to prove yourself.
  • Up-to-date content: Make sure your newest blog posts is never more than three days old. The more freshness your blog has, the easier it will be to appear as an active blogger in your niche.
  • News: This is a nice way to get on the good side of companies early on. If you find any news in your niche, then write your own take on the events and email it to the company.
  • Opinions: By writing opinionated content on your blog you become part of industry conversations and will start to become a voice that brands want to engage with.
  • Guest content: If you are struggling to get a good amount of content then invite people to write for your site. You can then build up several reviews on your blog before approaching companies.
  • Tweets: Every time you write content be sure to tweet it, and link to other content. This makes your Twitter account stronger before you contact companies.

Although there are a few steps in this process, the more of these items you complete, the higher your chance of success when contacting companies. It’s better to do the preparation rather than putting a company off the first time you contact them. All in all, about ten good posts will be enough.

Step 3: Contacting brands

With the content in place, and a blog that screams “I review stuff!”, it’s time to contact companies. An email which simply asks for a freebie won’t go down very well, so instead focus on what you can offer the company and why they should give a product away for a review. This could be a mixture of:

  • your number of visitors or average traffic levels
  • your expertise in the niche
  • a list of the pasts brands you’ve featured (people love to be places their competitors are)
  • how quickly you can write a review
  • your number of Twitter followers
  • your number of posts (if it’s high)

I call this the “unique offer” and it’s about selling the brand on the idea of your blog. So an example for a website that reviews photography equipment could read something like this:

“Hi X,
I’m writing from Blog X, a photography website that reviews any photo equipment we are sent. Our URL is http://www…com. In the last month we have featured Cannon, Sony and FujiFilm and would really love to run a feature on Camera X.

In the past month, our blog has been viewed by 1,000 visitors in the photography community, and although we cannot return products after they have been reviewed, we offer a three-day turnaround for all coverage. The article will also be sent to our Twitter readership of 1,000 followers.

For more information please call or email me using the details below,
Kind Regards
NAME
PHONE
EMAIL
POSTAL ADDRESS”

Short emails work a lot better, and you just need to layer on a few core benefits of your blog to get them to visit it. If you’re lacking in one area (e.g. visitor numbers) then don’t talk about it.

When the company rep reaches your blog, they’ll then find the other content we prepared earlier, and your review policy information. We’ve also told them the product can’t be returned, which I always like to get out of the way in the initial email. If it’s a niche with very expensive products, you can try to get a long-term loan instead of a freebie if you wish. It’s worth trying your luck either way.

If they like your offer, they can use the address you’ve given to send it over, or as we’ve provided a phone number, they can call you if more information is required. You’ll get a lot more products if you’re not afraid to take a phone call or two, but if you are shy, you don’t have to include it. There will almost always be a second form of contact after your initial email so if you hear nothing after a week, be sure to send a follow-up.

My best tip is to always find contacts at brands’ PR or marketing departments. This is the ideal type of person to deal with and most sites have a press area that lists these details. Find the person’s name and add them on Twitter and Linkedin. You can email them and engage with them on social networks at the same time. They’ll then be more aware of you, and it can be nice to re-tweet a few of their comments before you email them. The more personable you can appear, the more likely your chance of success.

Over time, as your blog grows, this process becomes easier. Track everything on a spreadsheet so you know who was contacted, when, and if they sent a product. You can return to previous companies who have sent you products and see what they’ve got coming up next. Plus, the more brands you feature, the stronger your site will appear to other brands. Eventually you will get to a point where brands find you through word of mouth and then contact you first asking for a review (which we prepared for in step one)—and that’s when things really get interesting.

How do you seek products for review on your blog? Share your tips with us below.

Mike Essex is a search specialist at Digital Marketing Agency Koozai and author of the book Free Stuff Everyday which explains how anyone can stuff for free by blogging. He can be found on Twitter as @Koozai_Mike.

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Comments

  1. Deepak yadav says:

    Nice explanation, i know many people who own such type of product reviews blogs many of them write on technology. But doing this is common in blogging now so, from my side any one can’t achieve much in theses as there are already so many blogs available for the brands to watch.

    • PJ says:

      It depends on the site and niche. If can offer the company something different then it will be more interesting for them.

    • Andrii says:

      Look, i believe that there is always room for improvements. I bet, if you would think for a day or two, you would figure out a great and unique idea on how to review a product. You will attract a lot of attention and traffic.

      • Koozai_mike says:

        Andril and PJ have hit the nail on the head. I thought the video game marketplace was too crowded but every week a new site comes along that grabs a big share of the market and is suddenly the site people want reviews from. When Kotaku (gawker) lost their visitors following the redesign they had to go somewhere.

    • Great information and in right time.I am just thinking to make a page about it.I think writer biography and exposure is more essential and importance factor for this kind of task.This can give you more success.

  2. Ron Lovell says:

    I think your idea about contacting companies has merit but my experience is that you have to find out who to contact first. It is going to require a little research before you send out that email. I have tried multiple companies and a lot will come back and say that they use professional reviewers “I am curious what they mean by that statement”.

    Most will say for you to buy the product and then give a review. Some will give you a discount on the product. It is a crap shoot but you have to gamble to make reviews really work.

    The thing that I am concerned with is how long will it be before Google bans review sites because a lot of them give poor quality reviews or so so reviews. Make sure your reviews are good and you will stand out from the rest of the low quality review sites. Thanks for listening.

    • Koozai_mike says:

      In terms of finding the right person that’s a whole other blog post, but in essence PR companies are the bets bet. They have more power and alreadu understand the benefits of giving things away. Low quality review sites could be the ‘new’ content farms, but if you follow my tips that certainly won’t be the type of site that is made.

  3. saadah says:

    i think the best to all tips is joint social media like ki$$ community

  4. jagad says:

    if you new blogger but have Adsense and you want eran from them , visit this blog to get more money from Ads.

  5. Nice post!

    I would add…
    Before your launch the “Review” section of your blog, you might consider reviewing a few products. Businesses searching for exposure will then have a good idea about what kind of review they can expect.

  6. PJ says:

    Thanks for the great article on getting products for review. One of the most important things you mentioned is to tell the company that you will not be able to return the product. I always make a point of telling companies that I will be offering the reviewed product as a give away after. This helps in promoting the product but also creates great traffic to you site.

  7. Getting the first couple of reviews is tough. After that is routine.

  8. Basant Singh says:

    A good guide for setting up a “review site”. My blog is approx 18months old and I write for “cloud computing services” and though I don’t focus on writing reviews yet I get various requests for reviews from start-up service providers. Now I’ve realized that reviews can help you to generate some affiliate money if you link your review article to Amazon etc. Also regarding your last para, you can use Google or Zoho for contact form and they will implicitly maintain a spreadsheet. Quite simple and free :)

  9. Geekette says:

    Tangible products is one thing – digital products are another and that’s what I tend to review.

    If I’m going to review something I check to see if it can in any way be monetized (with some sort of affiliate program) and of course if its relevant to my target market. The only exception to that is if I really love something and want everyone to know about it – no affiliate needed. :)

    I have a couple of blogs which I monetize and one I use for reviews of products that my site visitors will find useful. It’s very important to be objective (totally agree with that) and if the product needs x,y,z to work for some people you have to state it. Being honest doesn’t mean being mean. Just be objective and honest.

    I don’t contact people directly for anything but my niche is digitally based and so there’s lots of places to find products to review. Reviews help both camps but its even better to make them work for you (not only for traffic purposes) but monetary wise also if you can. You can then take it further and use these reviews partially off your blog to your mailing list – if you’re able to snag a discount code for the product then even better because your mailing list get some money off if they chose to buy it after your review. Win/Win

    You have to be aware with tangible goods (and I only know this because associates have told me) that some companies see you’re in a popular niche and will bombard you with stuff; and unless you’re blogging for a hobby there has to be some give back other than an ego being stroked because you have been asked to review something. I see this a lot on fashion blogging. So if that item is going to a blog visitor contest how else will you gain from your use of time other than free stuff for yourself? Something to think about.

    Great Post. :)

  10. Scott TM says:

    Great guide on this topic, I think its great for those for that are looking to start with blogging and are looking for ways to monetize their blog(s) with product reviews. Its hard getting that first review out and happy enough with it, however after that it becomes easier and easier… Thanks for the post!

  11. Tarrum says:

    I am so happy I read this post! I’ve never actually thought about contacting the company itself..They’re the two biggest photography companies out there and I thought that they won’t even reply. I’m waiting till I get around 1500+ people daily on my photography blog, get a more professional design and then hopfully get them to send me some products.

    At the same time, I want to brand my site and my skills, so people will know I am an expert in this niche and that those companies will easily see it. It would be my dream to wake up, check my post to see a brand new camera, review it and then earn from commissions..

    Thanks again ;)

  12. Zach Crawley says:

    On my niche site, I simply had a page at the top saying “product reviews” and got an e-mail from that about a week later.

  13. se7en says:

    What a great post, I love the practical ideas that I can implement on our blog… I do enjoy doing reviews and from time to time get great ones… but I haven’t thought to present the ones that I do in a way that is appealing to marketers… great advice and I can’t wait to address that gap in my blog!!!

  14. Andrew says:

    Thanks very much for the post Mike.

    Something like this will definately come in useful in the future when I’ve built up the number of visitors I get. I’ll be thinking about how I could apply this further to my travel blog.

  15. Kent says:

    That’s very clever. I love coming to this blog. I always get amazing ideas to build off. By the way, your website looks very cool too.

  16. Patrick says:

    I’m thinking of reviewing the Apple Lisa on my site. Is that too old? ;-)

  17. PsychicJim says:

    Great ideas here on how to make extra by writing a Product Review. I had someone offer me $600 to put some kind of text ad on my blog. He wanted to place the hypertext keyword: Psychic Reading, on it and for this he offered me 600 per year.

    Not exactly a product review but it does open the mind to the possibilities of earning with a blog.

  18. Ali Jay says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing Mike. I have a blog dedicated to product reviews and I can really use these tips to get a bit more exposure among companies.

    Ali

  19. I’ve done one review so far on my blog. It was for an Ebook.

    I received lot’s of Facebook likes and a couple of re-tweets as well.

  20. Very good post. Reviews are mostly our own opinions – they always stand out from others and give us traffic and money if they are good. I am going to write a brand write now

  21. I’ve been reviewing gadgets for the past couple of years from Microsoft, Dyson, Razer, HP, and many more. These tips are spot-on and I did send a short email telling them about who i am, stats of my blog, and most importantly, my past reviews

    It is important to send them one or two BEST reviews you think you’ve ever written :)

    Once you’ve got an item or two they sent to review and if you write good reviews, soon you don’t need to ask. They’ll come to you :)

    • Koozai_mike says:

      Thanks Michael, glad to hear the tips are working for you. Oh and your site has the best / cutest twitter icons in the world.

  22. It all boils down to what niche you are in. Reviews are indeed one good way to buildup authority over time.

  23. giving away the reviewed product is awesome to use in our blog contests. I will follow these strategy. I will setup a product reviews page soon :)

  24. balkony says:

    nice info. i think it depends on the site and topic we blow up. It is interesting with set up product or review, but update topic that most benefit and trend today is more interesting i think.

  25. Santosh says:

    I loved that sample letter and even saved a copy of this post in my email. However, I still believe that a newbie blogger may have difficulty getting products to review when there are numerous established sites. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to make an attempt and if you are lucky you will find that shiny new gadget at your doorstep.

    • Koozai_mike says:

      I agree that it’s impossible to see results by starting a site overnight and sending emails the next day, which is why it’s always good to review whet you have to hand as a starting point. You’d be suprised however just how many niches have no one covering their products, and even in established markets having a unique voice can help you stand out.

  26. Nick Kringas says:

    Great post. Not sure why I never thought of asking for products for free, especially after writing so many reviews.
    Thanks. Will try out right away.

  27. Thanks for the great info! Another thing I would add is to be careful to select only the best products for review that also fit your niche. I have found that I get flooded with review requests from products/services that really aren’t very relevant to my niche or only marginally so. I stay away from those products and try to stick with only those that I know will be of high interest for my readers. For every 5 requests I receive I may choose only 1 to review. I have my review policy in my media kit and I also include reciprocal requirements like Facebook likes, tweets, and submission to other social media outlets like Digg and StumbleUpon.

    • Koozai_mike says:

      Thanks Vanessa. I think you occupy quite an under represented niche that is crying out for people to review their products (and a marketplace full of products) so it’s great to hear you have an abundance of products to review.

      If you can’t review everything have you considered bringing together other teaches and asking them to review the other products? Sort of like a ‘book club’ but for pre-school products?

  28. Paulo says:

    Great post. I’ve been looking for a straightforward post on this. Already in my favourites!

  29. George Tee says:

    Hi mike, nice post. I agree to branding your own blog or website for product reviews, in this way you’ll get expose to the market. People who would like to purchase online would want first to look for a particular product review to see if they would get the feedback and satisfaction they want from the product and if it is worth to buy. It is also a must that you have tried the product yourself too, some other product review site are basing their opinion to other product review sites, which sounds like cheating, not good.

  30. Thanks very much for the Tips. What about the prospect of getting product for review with well known brand like Apple.

  31. Tom says:

    Very interesting article. I agree the best way to write a product review if you have actually used that product before. I wonder what the company would say if you wrote a kind of negative product review…. it may happen that the product is not as good as it first seems :)

  32. Fabrizio says:

    Being good in your own field is important too and this article is very good at explaining how to approach people. Also your blog needs to fit the products you want to review.

    I’ve learnt a few tips from this article so I’ll put them in practice…Thanks !

  33. rob matysiak says:

    Blogging is an amazing technique to reach people, but you have to make sure you have a message they want to read. Most people blog just to get visitors click on the ads. If you have a good content, your blog will be a success!!!

  34. Terrel Smith says:

    A blog about a product or service definitely helps both the vendor and the prospective buyer. It is an advertisement tool for the vendor to sell his wares. It tells the buyer that someone has already used his product or his service and that someone was satisfied. On the downside, a blog could also tell the buyer that the product or the service did not live up to what was advertised. But the vendor should not treat this as a loss, but rather as room for improvement. As for the prospective buyer, a blog could help him make an informed decision as to whether to buy the product, avail of the service or look for something better.

  35. darkduck says:

    My blog is about reviews. I write about different Linux versions. So, I do not need product to be sent for me: I just download the file from Internet.
    Your advices do not work here.
    But anyway thanks for sharing the information!

  36. Holly says:

    I have found for me keeping my traffic stats to myself has helped me get more reviews. Many places don’t care much about traffic, but if you include a low number they usually won’t send you anything. Of course if they ask me for it I do provide it.

  37. vikas says:

    My review blog is a paid reviews blog as it is PR5 with review theme installed it is going awesome but I didn’t knew about these awesome facts which are written over here! I’ve bookmarked and shared this post.

  38. Nick says:

    Thanks for this – I have a pretty high ranking blog in the weight loss arena and had never really considered reviewing products. Might work, I will give it ago. Thanks for the idea/tips

  39. Well I am waiting for the this type of blogging in near future…