Monday, May 9, 2011

ProBlogger: Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

ProBlogger: Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

Link to ProBlogger Blog Tips

Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

Posted: 08 May 2011 06:04 AM PDT

This post is by Mike Essex of Impact Media.

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

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 Impact Media 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 @Impact_Mike.

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Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews


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