How to Write an Online Review of a Service

Most of the online reviews we see address products and places, but service reviews can be just as useful, as more and more people are looking for information on experiences in addition to tangible products.

Most people include service reviews within reviews for a particular place (e.g. a restaurant or a spa), but this should not stop you from being more specific.

Don’t know what sort of services you might review? Here are some examples of titles for service reviews you might write:

  • Maid Service at [Hotel Name, City, Country]
  • My Child’s Experience with [Brand Name] Tutoring Services
  • Does [Brand / Person Name] Career Coaching Make a Difference?
  • A Review of the Customer Service at [X Store] in [X town]
  • Ballet Classes at [Studio Name]: A Review
  • Is [Person’s Name] a Good Massage Therapist?
  • Pilates Classes by [Instructor’s Name]: A Review
  • Personal Trainer Service at [Fitness Club Name] in [Town Name]
  • Are Ride Operators at [Theme Park Name] Safe?

As you can see, these are articles you might already be writing! The only difference between normal Hubs with these titles and Hubs that ‘officially’ offer reviews of services is that reviews devote a sufficient portion of the Hub to evaluating the service in question and include a Ratings Capsule showing a personal star rating.

A significant perk that comes with reviewing a service instead of a place or a product is that the competition is often less stiff. While nearly every store, service-rendering establishment, restaurant, and product is represented on at least one, if not multiple, review sites, analyses of the service aspect of their offerings are far less common.

One important point: Keep in mind that if you are reviewing a service provided by a particular person. It is imperative that you be professional and empathetic. The service provider in question is likely to come across your review, and it may significantly affect their reputation, so it is your responsibility to be fair, kind, honest, and objective. Be mature, be just, and remember that your online voice can be a very, very powerful thing.

Have we inspired you to review a service and submit your review Hub in the Rigorous Review Contest? Hurry!  The final deadline for entries is November 28th at 12:00pm PT.

Tips on Writing a Great Online Restaurant Review

While restaurant reviews are incredibly popular, very few are all that useful- at least when presented by one person. This is why we depend on sites like Yelp to give us an idea of what the general local population thinks of a local eatery. Even with the power of crowdsourced masses, though, restaurant review sites don’t have it all.

How can you provide to curious restaurant-goers with that which major restaurant review sites lack? Here are some pointers.

Leverage the wisdom of the crowd, but add the value of context

Bring up a restaurant’s ratings in major publications and on popular online ratings sites, then add additional context to these ratings by pointing out whether the rating may be unfairly high (because the food is cheap) or unfairly low (because the average clientele is impossible to satisfy). Also leverage your personal experience to provide a concrete story with which readers can compare overall online ratings.

Provide loads and loads of photos

Though online restaurant review sites make it easy for their members to upload photos, few people do, and many of the photos that do get uploaded are messy shots furtively taken with a smartphone camera. You can give your restaurant review Hubs an edge by including a large number of high quality images. Bring a real camera to the restaurant you review, select a well-lit table (natural light is ideal), take photos of all the dishes, and call on your friends to give you photos of their dishes when they go. In addition to including photos of a variety of dishes, include photos of the same dish taken at different meals to give people an idea of how quality, portion, size, and presentation may vary.

Include additional information, DIY recipes, and history

Restaurant review sites only cover the basics- address, opening and closing hours, basic details, photos, and customer reviews. You can create stiff competition by including more detailed background on the restaurant, adding recipes you’ve developed that replicate the restaurant’s signature dishes, and including links to the restaurant’s nutritional information for specific dishes (if it exists).

Go where few reviewers have gone before

Instead of just reviewing the basics, such as ambiance, service, and food quality, go above and beyond by considering factors that matter to people, but are rarely factored into reviews, such as the nutritional value of dishes the restaurant serves, and the environmental sustainability of its menu offerings.

These are only a few ways in which you can write online reviews that have a very good chance of being competitive with ratings from professional restaurant critics and popular restaurant review sites. When you are about to review a restaurant online, take some time to see what other online reviews about the place lack, then be sure to make up for those differences (and then some) in your own review.

Of all reviews one might write, restaurant reviews are amongst the most enjoyable to create. After all, who doesn’t want a good excuse to eat out? We hope that this month’s Rigorous Review Contest is a good enough excuse to inspire you to eat out more, and that you submit several entries fill with alluring images and honest evaluations. Just remember to have a thorough look at our official contest rules and qualifying requirements before you start!

Tips on Writing a Great Place Review

This week, we will focus in on another popular type of online review: that of a particular place. Restaurants are the most popular types of places to review, and we have a whole guide dedicated to that type of review that will run later this week, but we think it is important to start by sharing some tips on writing reviews of places in general.

People don’t often think to review places. Usually, people write about places, their history, their beauty, and their significance, and leave it at that.

Why not include an evaluation of a place you write about in a travel Hub? By adding a Ratings Capsule to a Hub about a place (be it local or foreign), you can bolster your work with additional utility and make it more alluring in search results (again, people see the stars presented in your Hub’s Ratings Capsule and may be more compelled to click on it as a result).

What we recommend is writing travel Hubs, as well as Hubs about local sights, places, and attractions, that include reviews as well as general information. Here are some tips on doing so successfully:
Go for a list format: We recommend titles like “Best Restaurants in Berkeley, California”, “Pet-Friendly Vacation Lodges in New England”, or “Museums for Kids in Rome, Italy”. This enables you to write location-based reviews while avoiding competition with Google results, which often crowd out other online articles with local business listings and Google Maps results.
Utilize the Map Capsule: This adds utility and visual pizzazz to your location reviews.
Include additional history, facts, and details that are associated with the location. Additional information strengthens your personal opinions and makes your Hub more likely to catch searches from those looking for related niche topics.
Add lots of images and original photos: A picture is worth a thousand words!

Perhaps you had decided not to enter this month’s Rigorous Review Contest because you did not have any particular products you wanted to review. We hope these tips have opened your eyes to a whole new world of online reviews.

Go forth! Gather those old vacation photos and notes! Take a spin around town and take photos of all the major hangouts! Then come home and share their background- paired with your personal evaluations and a Ratings Capsule– in a contest entry. Just be sure to read through the official rules and qualifying requirements before hitting “Publish”. 🙂

Product Review Tips from a Pro

When I think of great product reviews, I think of Outbound Dan. He is one of the best reviewers I know of- not just on HubPages, but on the Internet at large. His review Hubs, mostly covering outdoor gear, are succinct, useful, honest, well-written, and very well-illustrated. His great insights and clear photos demonstrate that he really puts the products he reviews to the test, which makes his work not only helpful, but trustworthy.

We can all therefore learn something from this fantastic noteworthy Hubber that can boost our chances of writing online reviews that see long-term, sustained success (and of winning a Rigorous Review Contest prize or two). Read on to learn Outbound Dan’s essential elements of a good online review, tips on research, and more.

What inspired you to review your outdoor gear online?

I worked at an outdoor retailer for a number of years, where I helped people make informed decisions on everything from hiking boots to kayaks. Though some patrons came armed with the latest gear guides and years of knowledge, others were newbies to this world. You see, often the success of a trip is based on the right gear for the climate, the terrain, and the individual.

To keep up on every product that we sold, I scoured the net for reviews and then realized how poor most of them were. Most articles listed as reviews weren’t reviews at all, and merely a rephrasing of the marketing material. It was then, that I decided that I should start reviewing the heap of outdoor equipment that had served me well (and sometimes not so well) in my thousands of miles of adventures.

Before you joined HubPages, did you create online reviews elsewhere?

Though I have written a few reviews for my personal blog, I have submitted dozens of reviews to manufacturers on their web pages. Though these reviews are concise, it is impossible to convey all of your impressions in 200 words or less. The HubPages format is extremely “review friendly.” I love the ability to incorporate multiple pictures, video, polls and quizzes within the mass of text blocks. Because my reviews go beyond a few lines of text, many of them have gone viral thanks to social media and the good graces of outdoor industry advocates.

Your reviews are incredibly detailed. In addition to analyzing how a product stands up to rigorous use, you include lots of great photos and careful listings of the product’s pros and cons. What would you say are the essential elements of a good online review?

There are a few essential elements of a good online review: credibility, methodology, readability, and honesty.

With so many reviewers out there employing dubious methods, you must prove your authenticity as an individual. Though people can always visit your profile page for more information, briefly include in each review why you are qualified to write this product evaluation.

You can further assert your expertise by including pictures of yourself actually using the product. Though stock pictures may look pretty, seeing someone wallowing in the mud with a weather beaten widget goes a long way in providing that street-cred that you need as a reviewer.

Explain your methodology and procedure for testing. Sure, you can always say that this whatchamacallit is “good” or works “well,” but you need to go further. Your readers want to know that their hard-earned cash is going toward a product that withstands abuse while accomplishing its intended task.

Another component is readability: break up those Text Capsules and make the information you are providing easy to find, devour, and worthwhile to share.

The fourth component to a great review is honesty. I can tell within the first paragraph if the person has actually used the product and if other agendas are afoot. If I suspect that the author is misleading me, I immediately retreat to the safety of the search results in my browser.

The online review space is pretty competitive- in addition to competing with other articles, you have to contend with online shopping sites, such as Amazon, which feature lots of customer reviews on product pages. What do you do to give your Hubs a competitive advantage? Do you research search results ahead of time? Do you title your review Hubs in any special way? Or do you focus more on creating a resource with more information than any normal review could provide?

Though I don’t do a lot of keyword research, my ear is continuously to the ground listing for hot trends in the outdoor market. For instance, new technologies like polymer-coated down and new waterproof / breathable garments are setting the outdoor industry ablaze with anticipation. Writing a product review that highlights these new advances is a sure way to garner web traffic.

For most of my product reviews, I have a fairly specialized target audience that needs durable and lightweight equipment for backcountry adventures. I always keep my readers in mind while writing, and tailor my style and voice to meet the expectations of that audience.

One of the most difficult things about writing evergreen product reviews is that the models often vary by year. Therefore, I suggest writing titles that include a brand, a model, and a purpose. Though the model may change, the brand and the purpose probably will not.

Don’t think of your review as a few words extolling the virtues or flaws of a product. You are developing a resource for people to use. As you weave your piece together, stay informed, be thorough and write clearly.

Does it take a certain kind of person to write good online reviews, or is this something anyone can do with the right format and know-how?

Though anyone can write a review, it is best that people stick to what they know. Surely, I could write a review on my DSL router, but it wouldn’t have the same credibility as my outdoor reviews have. Of course, I doubt that I could summon enough words to adequately critique it or find enough interest to stay awake. No, I’ll leave those reviews to the techies amongst us.

Everyone has a voice and an expertise over certain topics. Well-written rigorous reviews are a traffic-driving and reliable way to cement your online presence as an authority in your niche.



For more product review inspiration, see Outbound Dan’s Hubs for yourself!

Tips on Writing a Great Product Review

Photo by Simone SmithAs product reviews are amongst the most popular forms of online reviews, we want to be sure to share some product Hubbing tips that will give you an edge in this super-competitive space.

In addition to straying away from product keywords as we mentioned in our post on using Exclusive titles for review inspiration, we encourage you to do the following things:

Only review products you have purchased or worked with

Genuine reviews are the only reviews readers care about. Those looking for information on a product want to hear about its strengths and weaknesses from the horse’s mouth, so as soon as they realize that an author has not actually come into contact with a particular product, they are very likely to click away.

Compare and contrast

Even if a product is terrible, it may still be the lesser of other evils. Be sure to mention how good a product is relative to the competition (and no, you do not have to buy a competing product to reference it, though it’s best if you do some research).

Incorporate your own purchase research

Before buying a product, we often do some research (both online and offline) to ensure we get that which best fits our needs. Take notes as you embark on initial fact-finding missions. After you purchase your product, incorporate those initial findings into your final review.

Wait a while before you publish

Good reviews are those written by people who have had a decent amount of time to test and use the product in question. While it may be tempting to write a review right after you have unboxed it, wait a while. Initial frustrations may subside and new problems may crop up; only time will tell if a product is really good in the long run.

Pack your review with data

The more information you include in a review, the more useful and share-worthy it becomes. Include as many facts, figures, prices, numbers, and feature details as you can. Bonus tip: Presenting this data in Table Capsules makes it easier for readers to digest this information.

Make your review attractive

People respond well to images in almost all cases, but with reviews, it is especially important that you provide visual information, and that your images are your own. By using original photos, you can prove to readers that you really do own and use the product in question.

Have these tips inspired you to write a killer product review? Good! Now is the time to write it. By publishing a Hub containing the Ratings Capsule set to a single or multiple person rating during the month of November, you are automatically entered to win anything from $25 to $200 in cash prizes. Stop by our official Rigorous Review Contest page for rules and entry details.

Review Photo Inspiration from ktrapp

Earlier this month, we encouraged you to use original images in your Hubs and share them with us to give the community some ideas on how to best incorporate original images into excellent reviews.

Ktrapp stepped up to the plate with an excellent set of images used in her review of the Bissell Deep Cleaner, along with some reasoning as to why she chose to take some particular shots:

My goal with all 17 photos from my Bissell deep cleaner Hub was to show that I really purchased, assembled, and used the product so as to give my review credibility. Not to mention, a picture visually illustrates what might otherwise take sentences to convey in words, and may catch the attention of someone just skimming the Hub.

I decided to open the Hub with a photo of the Bissell box and my dog taken in my family room in order to (a) capture the reader’s attention, (b) quickly convey a problem/solution, and (c) show that this review was written by a real homeowner who used the product.

When I opened my Bissell carton and was surprised to see that it only took four screws to assemble the cleaner I decided to photograph it so I could show that not only did I really purchase the product and put it together, but it was incredibly easy to do.

Another photo that I feel lends credibility to my product review is the dirty water being poured down the drain. Not only does it once again demonstrate that I actually used the product, but it shows that it works.

The photos ktrapp included in the review absolutely add credibility to the Hub- it is very clear that she bought, assembled, and used the product she reviewed. Her images make it clear what the product looks like in action and give readers a fantastic idea of what they might expect from it.

The words she added to the first image add additional personality to the Hub and make it more fun to read (we’ll admit that not all reviews are very engaging or make us feel like we are reading something written by a ‘real person’ who has pet hair problems like the rest of us).

I am so glad that that ktrapp included assembly and maintenance images as well as photos of what the product looks like in use. It is very good to know about all the aspects of using a product if one is considering buying it, many reviews leave out important details about putting products together and cleaning them out.

All in all, ktrapp offers some great inspiration for image use in reviews. I hope her excellent deep cleaner Hub inspires you to have another go yourself! If this will be your first time submitting a contest entry, be sure to stop by our official contest page to read the reviews and submission requirements before you get started.

Good luck, everyone, and thanks for sharing your tips with us, ktrapp!


Tip: Use Exclusive Titles When Writing Online Reviews

We strongly encourage you to use Exclusive titles when writing review Hubs (be they for this month’s contest or any old review). You might find this idea somewhat counterintuitive, because most Exclusive titles do not reference specific product names.

That actual products are not named is actually a good thing.

You heard us- reviews that have titles like “Simone Super Slingshot Review” or “Review of The Simone Super Slingshot” aren’t likely to see long-term success, as they may find it hard to compete with mainstream product listings and brand pages that are associated with that product’s keyword.

Google gives precedence to established brands and functional results. If Google Search sees that someone is searching for a particular product, it assumes this person is interested in buying it, and therefore is far more likely to serve up results that make it easy for them to do so. HubPages is not a commerce site, and it is not an official brand site- that much is self-evident.

Searchers looking for results associated with specific product keywords are far more likely to click on trusted brand sites and commerce sites they know- even if they’re just looking for consumer reviews. After all, we know that loads of people submit reviews on Amazon, and that we can trust the wisdom of that large, widely-distributed crowd more than we can trust the review of one, non-credentialed, online stranger.

Furthermore, since Simone’s Super Slingshot is replaced with a newer product, like Simone’s Superfly Slingshot, a title containing the name of the original product renders the review out of date and makes updates to the Hub less effective (the title can be changed, but the URL containing the original product name cannot).

Does this mean you should not even bother to write online reviews? Absolutely not! You simply must learn how to title and frame these reviews correctly. Instead of titling a review of the Simone Super Slingshot “Simone Super Slingshot Review”, go for something like “Best Slingshots for Newbies” or “The Basics of Slingshot Safety”.

These Hubs can contain photos, information on, and reviews of the Simone Super Slingshot, but they’ll also offer more general information on buying and using the product. Big brands and commerce sites can’t compete with real people on that front. These Hubs will also be able to update when new products and new versions roll out.

Now you may see why Exclusive titles can make for such great review fodder. They give you high-potential subjects to write about which can also include in-depth product reviews, and they keep you from falling into the product keyword review hole, from which few Hubs ever emerge.

New Developments in Our Emphasis on Quality

Our long-term goal is to make HubPages the go-to place to write in-depth, media-rich pages on topics you’re passionate about.

We are not alone in our emphasis on quality and engagement. Hubbers recommend that we improve the overall quality of Hubs we present to the world. Search engines, not to mention sites like Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, also actively seek to improve the quality of content people discover through their services. We all want quality, we have the same goals, and we believe that those who focus on quality will see great success in the long run.

How does HubPages highlight good content?

One of the ways we maintain a reputation for quality content is by only showcasing great long-form, media-rich Hubs on Topic Pages, related Hubs, and making them available to search engines. We announced the first part of this effort a few months ago as Featured Hubs. Our initial version of Featured Hubs does a good job with basic, broad evaluations of quality, but it is mostly driven by assessments of reader engagement, which by no means offers a complete picture of a Hub’s quality.

How does HubPages decide what is quality content?

Identifying quality content is no easy task. Computer algorithms, though useful in identifying very poor content, are not capable of the depth of understanding needed to reliably assess the quality of “good” content. Human beings can truly understand the content but have widely varying assessments of its quality. While researching this problem, it became clear to us that even highly-qualified and knowledgeable people can disagree fairly drastically on the quality of an article for very valid reasons.

In an attempt to address these challenges, HubPages is evaluating the effectiveness of several potential approaches to solving this problem. We refer to this effort as our Quality Assessment Process (QAP), which addresses three primary factors:

1. Automated computer-based quality ratings through intelligent learning algorithms

HubPages employs some of the brightest minds in artificial intelligence and machine learning to help develop and refine computer algorithms to reliably identify and rate the quality of content. These algorithms constantly monitor their own success and perform adjustments to a multitude of variables to optimize their own performance. Additionally, whenever available, these algorithms ingest ratings from human raters to identify successful patterns and provide suggestions for improvements to the automated algorithms.

2. Hubbers assessing content quality via the Hub Hopper

A few months back we made some changes to a feature we call “The Hub Hopper” to allow the data gathered there to inform our assessment of a Hub’s quality. This combines a feature that Hubbers frequently use to discover new content with an easy means of providing actionable feedback on the quality of the content in question.

While Hub Hopper ratings are very helpful, the current HubPages volume is not sufficient to assess the quality of the huge quantity of content published on HubPages on a daily basis, which is why we have reached to external sources for help.

3. Paid quality assessments via Mechanical Turk

Our most recent addition to the Quality Assessment Process is the inclusion of paid quality assessments. We currently acquire these assessments from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. We are garnering Hub ratings from Mechanical Turk because ratings through the app are available at a scale capable of handling the volume of content published on HubPages. In order to mitigate the inherent variability of these assessments, raters must pass a qualification process and go through ongoing assessment. In addition, learning algorithms are applied to compensate for each individual rater’s specific biases. As long as sufficient volume is met, the result is a surprisingly reliable quality assessment.

We welcome Hubbers to use this app (and receive compensation for Hopping). If you are interested, check out HubPages’ HITs on Mechanical Turk and consider creating an account.

So, what’s changing?


At this point, the following things happen when you publish a Hub:

  1. Ads are shown on your Hub and its status is Pending for approximately 24 hours as it is assessed to see whether it meets our publishing standards
  2. So long as the Hub meets our basic publishing standards, it is Featured
  3. Should your Hub not see continued engagement from readers over time, it might lapse out of a Featured state, but editing it can bring it back to a Featured state within 24 hours


Starting early next week, when you publish a Hub, the flow will be a little different:

  1. When you publish a Hub, its status is Pending as it undergoes the Quality Assessment Process, which should take approximately 24 hours; this process includes a quality assessment in addition to a check as to whether the Hub meets our basic publishing standards
  2. After a Hub undergoes the Quality Assessment Process, ads will be added to the page; Hubs that meet certain Quality Assessment Process criteria will also be Featured
  3. After being edited, Hubs go through the Quality Assessment Process once more, hence each time a Hub is edited, it is given a new chance to be Featured


Put simply:
Hubs are now being assessed by real people (including Hubbers such as yourself), and their evaluations will contribute toward your Hubs’ chances of being Featured
Ads will not be shown on new Hubs until they are no longer Pending (this should prevent Featured Hubs from seeing delayed coverage in search engine results)

We are excited about the direction in which we are going and hope these changes will help to make you a stronger, better, more successful Hubber.

An Image Is Worth 1,000 Stars – Share Your Review Images With Us!

While star ratings can make a review stand out in search results and add professional polish to the reviews themselves, they mean little if they are not paired with useful analysis and great images.

Original images of products, places, and services in a review make a huge difference. In addition to providing visual information about the subject in question, they make reviews infinitely more trustworthy by clearly demonstrating that the author has actually used the product, visited the place, or enjoyed the service.

Original images also add the same benefits to review Hubs that they add to all Hubs: they improve overall quality, keep people on the page longer, and show that you really care about your work and are willing to put in the effort needed to create the best online resource on a particular subject.

As the Rigorous Review contest progresses and as you submit various review entries, we strongly encourage you to include as many original photos in your work as possible. We would also love you to share the best photos you’ve used with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+!

You can do this by:

  • Stopping by our Facebook page and uploading your photo to our wall
  • Tweeting your photo with the hashtag #HubPagesReviewShot (and perhaps mentioning @HubPagesDotCom)
  • Sharing your photo on Google+ and mentioning +HubPages in your post

You can also email photos directly to me at Simone(dot)Smith(at)HubPages(dot)com!

I look forward to seeing your great review photos- and your Rigorous Review Contest entries! Stop by the official contest page for the entry requirements and rules.

How to Write a Winning Review

As our Rigorous Review contest launches today, you may be interested in knowing what it takes to write a winning review- not just one that has a better shot at winning a contest prize, but one that has good chances of seeing long-term success via search engines and social media.

Throughout the month of November, we will be sharing advice on writing great reviews of products, places, and services, though just by looking at our judging criteria for this month’s contest, you will discover certain elements that will help your Hubs along:

  • The positioning and use of the Ratings Capsule
  • The search friendliness of the Hub’s title, and ability of the title to compete with dominant review sites (Amazon, Yelp, etc.)
  • The usefulness of the review (whether or not the reviewer mentions both upsides and downsides of the product/place/service, the extent to which the reviewer delves into specific details like detailed features, prices, ease of use, a pleasant customer experience, etc.)
  • Whether the review is genuine (whether or not the reviewer has actually purchased the product or service, or has actually visited the place, as evidenced by original photos and video and firsthand accounts)
  • The presence and quality of original photos and video
  • Whether the entry is on a long-tail, niche topic that has not been extensively covered online (e.g. is not an iPhone review)
  • Whether the entry has a search-friendly title (mirrors common search terms)
  • Excellent writing (proper use of grammar, capitalization, etc.)
  • Uniqueness of the entry (that it is not copied or paraphrased from elsewhere online, full of details, examples, names, and figures)
  • Attractive formatting (avoidance of excessive link, eBay, or Amazon capsule clutter, excessive bolding or italics, and all-caps)
  • Judicious use of relevant capsules (original photos, video, maps, tables, links, etc.)

Indeed, using the HubPages Ratings Capsule give your Hubs star ratings that show up in search results, which can make these Hubs more compelling than their competition. Search-friendly titles are of course essential when it comes to a Hub being found through search results, and the utility of a Hub plays a crucial role in determining whether or not it ranks well in those results.

The authenticity of a review is also crucial when it comes to long-term success. Because the Internet is flooded with reviews of products that have been written by people who have clearly never purchased them, reviews of products written by actual owners- people who have tried and tested them, and who have real stories and experiences and images to share- are all the more valuable and likely to succeed.

Reviews that are well-written, attractively-formatted, and that feature relevant (and hopefully original) images, video, and other relevant media (e.g. tables summarizing prices and features) also have a greater shot at success because they include more concrete information that can help potential buyers make educated decisions.

We put a lot of thought into our judging criteria for each contest and try to make these challenges into learning experiences that can leave you both a winner and a stronger Hubber.

Even if you don’t participate in November’s contest, you can still learn a lot about writing online reviews from this month’s blog series. Stay tuned!

P.S. Before entering in the contest, be sure to read the contest rules and qualifying requirements on our official contest page.