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!