This post is by Chris Wise of Expressionables.
Product review blogs are one of the best ways for ecommerce sites to spread the word about their products and build backlinks to increase organic search traffic.
That being said, there are thousands of small-to-medium-sizes product review blogs on the Internet all vying for the opportunity to secure free products for reviews and giveaways. Large, recognizable blogs will almost never have to request products to review or give away, however 95% of product review blogs do not fit this description.
In order to keep a steady stream of products to review coming in, it is almost inevitable that smaller bloggers will have to pitch to vendors.
Being an ecommerce marketer myself, I receive on average three to five pitches a week from small blogs wishing to review and give away my products; 90% of these requests are turned down for many of the same reasons.
Hopefully upon reading this, those small product review blogs will come away with a better idea of how to compete with the big boys and score more luxurious and expensive products to review, more often.
Use your own domain
If you host your blog on a blogging platform subdomain, you can’t expect to review expensive products or offer lavish giveaways.
I can tell you now, having a blog at “yoursite.blogspot.com” doesn’t give the best first impression. While it isn’t a deal-breaker, it will definitely hurt your chances of scoring reviews for big-ticket items. I know it may be a difficult task if you already have a large, established site on a subdomain, but in the long run it will help you immensely to switch.
If you don’t mind reviewing small items like toothpaste and doorstoppers, then don’t worry about switching. But for everyone else, rectify this problem by simply purchasing and hosting your own domain; I promise, it will be worth it. Note: make sure you 301-redirect all of your pages to the new domain!
Personalize your email pitches
If you’re going to request a review, don’t send that request in the form of a templated, generic email. It’s understandable that you may not be able to find a specific contact name, however the email should still be personalized with factors that are within your control.
Each email pitch should be personalized with the following details:
- Who are you requesting a review from (vendor’s name or specific contact name if possible)?
- Which specific product you are requesting to review?
- What made you specifically choose that product/vendor?
- Why is your blog is a good place to showcase a product review?
- When do you plan to feature the review?
- How can it specifically help the vendor?
Here is a bad example:
“We love testing out products and blogging about our results, and we believe our readers would be interested in your products.”
Hmmm. Why do you believe your readers would be interested in my products?
Send current, correct stats
Showcasing your blog’s strong points is a great way to convince a vendor that your blog is a great place to review their product.
- Subscriber stats (email list, blog followers, RSS subscribers, etc.)
- Unique monthly visitors
- Unique monthly pageviews
- Moz trust, Moz rank, and domain authority (found using Open Site Explorer)
- Twitter and Facebook followers/fans.
This stuff is all great. But guess what? If it is not accurate, it is really not great at all. It shows laziness and a little bit of incompetence.
These stats are not that hard to check. If you claim your site gets 50,000 unique visitors a month and I go on Compete or Quantcast and see that your data is unavailable, we have a problem. Pagerank is updated about twice a year, so there’s no excuse for not having accurate figures. And instead of using an exact number of Facebook and Twitter followers just use something like “2,000 plus”.
These may seem like small details, but they make a big difference in the eyes of a vendor.
This is a no-brainer. Mention recognizable brand names that you have worked with in the past. By showcasing past successes to your prospective vendors—via testimonials, case studies, and so on—your conversion rates will undoubtedly increase. Though this is not something I would include in your email directly. It should be incorporated something like this:
“See how our other sponsors are raving about their experiences with us here.”
“Our product reviews have the ability to increase your traffic by this much.”
The idea is to provide a vague reference to the positive experience others have had, with a hyperlink to a page full of content that talks about it in more detail. This leads to more engagement and helps to increase your chance of securing a product review.
Be concise and typo-free
Keep your product review pitches short and sweet. While you want to be thorough in your request, you do not want to overwhelm the recipient to the point that your email gets deleted without even being read. Here are some pointers:
- Use bulleted lists whenever possible.
- Do not include unnecessary information (I don’t care to read an “about us” in a review request. Just link to your “about us” from within the email).
- Don’t include unfavorable data (e.g. a Pagerank of 0).
- Do a spell check before sending an email.
- Let someone proof read it.
- Ask yourself, “If I got this email, how would I respond to it?”
The ideal length of a product review request is between 150 and 350 words (depending on the products requested, size of the vendor, etc.), but definitely no more than 400 words in any case.
Do use PR services, but don’t spam
PR networks are a great way to reach hundreds of vendors at the same time with your product review pitches. Try services like:
I must warn you, though: do not spam these services. People who are subscribed to these services will see that your are spamming (the emails are mailed daily) and will undoubtedly be turned off by your desperate tactics. Do not make more than one request on the same day, and do not make requests daily (I would say no more than once a week).
Include your phone number and address
So many of the requests I receive are lacking these two vital tidbits or information, and it always raises a red flag for me.
If you are going to take the time to contact me and ask for free stuff (albeit for promotion in return), at least have the decency to include basic contact information so that I may discuss the proposal further with you if needed. For big-ticket items, many ecommerce vendors would like to speak with the reviewers over the phone, rather than simply communicating by email. It’s a simple addition to your pitch that can make a world of difference.
Follow up if your request goes unanswered
I can honestly say that I have received review requests from bloggers that I intended to follow through with, but simply forgot to answer due to other pressing issues that popped up throughout the day. Had the blogger simply sent a polite, brief follow up, it would have:
- showed me that they were truly interested in my products
- enabled them to actually do the review for my products
- made me more likely to offer additional items for review.
So keep records of your requests, and make it a point to follow up on the emails that get no responses.
Don’t ask for extras in your initial pitch
Patience is a virtue. Even though you may be interested in exclusive coupon codes or help with promoting the review (links, PR, or social mentions) do not bring that up in your first email. Believe me: ask for too much and you will get nothing. Relationships need to be fostered first, then the additional requests will be better received.
The perfect pitch
Follow those guidelines and I can almost guarantee you will have an opportunity to review more expensive products, more often. The best part is, after a while, so many vendors will be coming to you for review pitches that you will have to turn them down.
There are definitely other do’s and dont’s out there—if you have any experiences, examples, or suggestions of your own. I would love to hear about them in the comments.
Chris wise is head of SEM for the Expressionables family—an online network of sites specializing in everything from personalized gift wrap and party invitations to B2B products and customer appreciation programs.