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!

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!


How to Write Successful Online Reviews

Online Writing InsiderBecause we offer a special new capsule in the HubTool that augments reviews on HubPages with star ratings (which can feature either an author’s rating or readers’ ratings), you may be thinking about publishing some review Hubs. Before you proceed, keep in mind that it is not necessarily easy for online reviews to succeed. Reviews are a very competitive type of online content. Many sites have established clear dominance over specific review types and it can be very difficult to outrank these established experts. That said, there are quite a few simple things you can do to work around these barriers and create better, smarter, more successful resources. In this week’s Online Writing Insider (How to Write a Successful Online Review), we share some tips on doing just that. We hope you find them to be helpful!

General Review Tips:

  • Write reviews on products, places, and services that are not already extensively reviewed online.
  • Only write reviews on products, places, and services that you have experienced firsthand- be genuine!
  • Make sure the words you use in your review reflect the words people would search for when looking for information on this product, place, or service.
  • Make it on a collection of things and write a more thorough review on the best product.
  • Write the review from the perspective of an audience that is potentially interested (e.g. mothers, students, whoever you are).
  • Do competitive research before: see what reviews already exist.

Product Review Tips:

  • Include as many original photos as possible.
  • Add a specific slant to your review (e.g. Can the X Phone Survive a Mother of 3? An Honest Review).

Place Review Tip:

  • Instead of making your review just about a place (high competition) address the type of place (e.g. dog friendly restaurants).

Service Review Tip:

  • Make your review for the service as specific as possible – if it is part of a chain, be sure to specify which local area in you received this service.

Are there any other article types you would like some tips on writing? Tell us about them! Send us suggestions, questions, and feedback in an email to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com. We hope to hear from you!