So you want to start a review blog?

One thing I tend to hear over and over, is people telling me how lucky I am that I get such a wide variety of products at no charge for review.  First of all, I am extremely blessed in that I work very hard at something I love and offer a valuable service in exchange for the products I review.  Many people have written to me and asked me for advice on starting a review blog and it is because many are focused on the “stuff” but really have not given much thought to the work that is involved and required to be successful, and an asset to the companies who are sponsoring your reviews.

I was blogging long before I ever started doing sponsored reviews.  I am the kind of person that will research any purchase to death before I buy something.  Then, when I find the right product and I am happy with it, I shout it from the rooftops.  For instance, when I was purchasing a twin stroller when I was pregnant with Luke, I researched for months on strollers, watched videos, read reviews, etc.  I kept a journal about my search on CafeMom and when I finally selected my stroller I journaled about that.  So I was doing reviews online for years, because I am the kind of person that loves to share my experience and my knowledge to others who may be looking for similar products.  Same thing when I was choosing countertops for my kitchen, appliances big and small, baby products, building materials and much more.  My passion for photography just added a new dimension to my reviews and when we were purchasing a cedar swing set a couple of years back I documented everything from the delivery to the many days of set up on my own Facebook page and journals.  I shared with everyone looking for a swing set the result of my days and weeks of research.  Prior to the Internet, I was always telling friends and family when I had found a great product or service. So, when I look back I have always been doing reviews and what has changed is technology,  now I have the ability to share with hundreds of thousands of people, instead of just family and friends.

The first thing I will tell someone asking me for advice, is that they need to love to write.  Second, they need to have an established blog, have good content, start tracking their web stats, and be consistent with posts.  Once they have achieved that, they might want to start with reviews of products they already use and love.  They should include original photos of them, their family etc. using the product.  One thing I hear from sponsors over and over, is how much they enjoy seeing original photos on my reviews.  I see so many blogs out there churning out review after review, using stock images, and copy and pasted product information without any personalization to even suggest they used the product themselves.  I am not interested in being that type of blogger, and I think most sponsors now are more aware and more selective in choosing bloggers who actually use the products they are reviewing.  For instance, I see so many reviews for bakeware and cookware, that does not even show the blogger used the product.  How can you evaluate a cake pop mold if you don’t use it?  I don’t want to buy a cake pop mold because it looks good, I want to know if it works as it is advertised.  I will not review bakeware or cookware without using it.  How would I have any integrity to my readers and sponsors if I was not actually using the products?

I am often asked how many hours I put into blogging and the real truth is, that I have never added my hours up.  It is a  lot of work and time but I love it and so to me, it flies by.  I spend hours in the studio, hours writing, hours using and evaluating products, communicating with sponsors, finalizing reviews, working out the details on giveaways, following up with winners and so on.  I have seen many want to be bloggers start their blog, only to abandon it and declare that they never knew how much time it really takes, and that they just can’t seem to find content to write about daily.  Some people are so focused on starting the blog, they are investing lots of money on premium themes and servers before they even know if it is right for them.  I often check back on people who have asked me for advice and see that they have given up on their blog.  Truth is, blogging is like anything else, where you get back what you put in.  Blogging is not for everyone, and review blogging is certainly not for everyone.  You have to go into it for the right reasons.  If you are just interested in starting a review blog because of the “free stuff” you are almost certain to fail.

Great review bloggers offer their sponsors a service, great advertising for their product.  It is a business and I have over 20 years of real experience and degrees in marketing, sales and management.  It is that experience and knowledge that give me a leg up.  For instance before my blog, I remember posting pictures on Facebook when the little kids went to see Santa.  The little boys were wearing matching outfits and had the cutest matching red and white  Bowler shoes by Pedoodles on.  Well, it was not long after that photo was posted before my friends with kids started commenting, asking where I got the shoes, what kind were they etc.  I commented like I would in person, letting them know how great they were, that you can bend them completely in half, and on and on about the attributes of these shoes.  It was then that a friend of mine from high school with a son about the age of my little ones said that she was totally sold on these shoes now and that I should consider selling for the company.  I laughed, but when I look back, it just reinforces how long I have been doing what I do.  Marketing, sales and advertising is a part of me!  I can’t run from it but I can embrace it.  That is what I am doing and I love it!

Blogging has enriched my life and introduced me to great people, many who I feel blessed enough to call friends.  I have learned so much and it has led to some great things for me, including my position as a staff writer for a baby and children’s trade publication that presented itself to me in a very unusual way, and would never have happened if I was not blogging.  I have great relationships with many of my sponsors and public relations agencies that I am so thankful for.  I have met so many great people, deal with so many truly wonderful companies who are working to make a difference in this world, how can I not feel blessed?

4 Comments

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4 Responses to So you want to start a review blog?

  1. I loved this post, it was so right on! This is exactly how I feel when I read product reviews on other blogs; what’s the point of just rehashing the company’s press release and using their pictures? The consumer never gets to see if the product actually works the way it’s supposed to. I’ll admit to using graphics and information sent to me in my reviews, but I always make sure that I let my readers know that I’ve used it, how I liked or didn’t like it, and included pictures of my family using it.

    I have no idea how I came across this post (random search maybe?) but I’m so glad I did!

    Stephanie
    Trying To Be Super Mom
    http;//tobesuper.blogspot.com
    @trytobesuper

    • Yes, it is so much better to have original photos in reviews. I mean I will put a manufacturers photo in among mine just to show what it looks like on their site but I love adding my own. I usually just pass right by reviews that use nothing but stock images and generic writing. I think many manufacturers are moving past those kind of review bloggers too. I mean I am reviewing a cookie press right now and I have baked over 24 dozen cookies of different kinds with it on three different days and took loads of pictures and I am still not ready to post. I would never have the nerve to say I reviewed a cooking or baking product without having pictures of me using it. Any one can put up a picture and say something is great but even though I am from NY, I am from Missouri on this one-Show ME!!!

  2. I have recently started reviewing products and I loved this article. It really is right on. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is the time involved. I will usually used a photo of the product from the company and add my own pictures. Once in a while, I’m not able to add a photo of me using the product which I don’t like. I think the personalized photos make the blog post better. The photo downloads take time. The writing takes time. I always tell a company it takes me a minimum of an hour just to write the post and that doesn’t include the time it takes to review the product.

    One thing I’ve learned is that my time is valuable. I recently had a company send me a sample size product for review. I was insulted. Not only did they say to use their product for a week before reviewing it but they only sent enough for 5 days. The only reason I bring this up is because I think it is important to have review policies and guidelines very clear and ask the companies to read them to make sure they agree to the terms. It is not in your best interest or the company’s interest to say yes to every product just for the sake of doing a product review, especially if you think you will hate the product ahead of time. I would rather tell the company I’m not interested than leave a bad review and a bad feeling.

    Thanks again for the great article.
    Trudy
    http://www.madeonlyinusa.com

  3. Sara Shay @ YourThrivingFamily

    Thanks for the great insight. I have been able to do a handful of sponsored reviews. And have done a few of my own volition, just cause they are products I liked. I think my challenge has been interesting readers when there is no giveaway to go with it – and I have only been at it since October 🙂

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