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”. 🙂

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.

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.

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.

The HubPages Rigorous Review Contest

This November, we will launch the HubPages Rigorous Review Contest, an autumnal competition centered around the use of our Ratings Capsule, which adds a star rating to Hubs reviewing products, places, and services (you can choose whether the star rating is that of your own or the collective rating of your readers).

The contest boasts over 60 prizes, including:

  • $700 in $25 Daily Drawing Prizes awarded to one randomly selected review entry every day of the contest
  • $700 in $25 Weekly Prizes awarded to the seven best review Hubs each week
  • $50 Best Product Review Prize for the best product review
  • $50 Best Service Review Prize for the best service review
  • $50 Best Restaurant Review Prize for the best restaurant review
  • $50 Best Place Review Prize for the best place review
  • $200 Grand Prize for the best overall review

And comes right in time for holiday shopping season, so as you research various products and gifts for your friends, colleagues, and family, consider writing reviews of them using the Ratings Capsule!

Should you like to plan for the contest and start drafting Hubs ahead of time, here are the important starting, ending, and awarding dates to keep in mind:

  • Hub entries may first be submitted Wednesday, October 31st at 12:00pm (PT)
  • The deadline for Day 1 of the contest is Thursday, November 1st at 12:00pm (PT) Subsequent deadlines are always at noon (PT)
  • The final deadline for entries is Wednesday, November 28th at 12:00pm (PT)
  • Daily Drawing prize winners will be announced every weekday around 4:00pm (PT) (and on the Monday following Thanksgiving for entries submitted for November 22nd and 23rd)
  • Weekly Prize winners will be announced on Mondays (starting on the 12th of November and continuing through December 3rd)
  • Finalists and Grand Prize winners will be announced on Friday, December 7th around 4:00pm (PT)

Please also note that all HubPages contests are run on Pacific Time (there are plenty of handy reference sites for checking the current time at HubPages Headquarters should you not know the exact time difference between our home and yours).

To ensure that your November review Hubs have the best possible shot at success, keep our entry requirements in mind as you craft them:

  • Hub entries must contain at least the Ratings Capsule (see our Learning Center guide on the Ratings Capsule)
  • Hub entries must have at least one image
  • All images must be legally used (see our Learning Center guide on proper image use)
  • All images (unless original) must come with attribution and link to their source
  • Entries must be published for the first time on that given contest day
  • Hub entries must be a minimum of 500 words
  • Hub entries must be entirely original to HubPages

Throughout the month of October we’ll present you with tips and advice on creating review Hubs that have good odds of winning and have a better shot of seeing sustained success over time.

To read through the full contest details, review our judging criteria, as well as review the all important official rules, visit the dedicated contest page. We can’t wait to review your entries!

The HubPages Cookbook Contest

Can you believe it’s May already? With the weather getting warmer and a variety of fresh foods in season, we’ve decided to celebrate with a new contest: the HubPages Cookbook Contest!

This June contest will revolve around use of our new Recipe Capsules which include dedicated capsules for recipe ratings, yields and cook time, ingredients, instructions, and nutrition. The Recipe Capsules help to make your Hubs easier to read, plus more attractive search engines (we posted a special blog post with more thorough explanation of how that works)

To enter, all you have to do is publish a recipe Hub using at least the Ratings Capsule (set for recipes) between June 1st at noon (Pacific Time) and June 28th at 11:59 am. By entering, you’ll have a chance to win one (or more!) of 62 prizes worth $3,600.

14 prizes will be awarded each week during the contest, and six prizes will be awarded at the end:

  • $1400 in $50 Daily Drawing Prizes awarded to one randomly-selected recipe entry every day of the contest
  • $1400 in $50 Weekly Prizes awarded to the seven best recipe Hubs each week
  • $100 Best Dessert Recipe Prize for the best dessert recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Drink Recipe Prize for the best drink recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Family Recipe Prize for the best family meal recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Healthy Recipe Prize for the best healthy recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Budget-Friendly Recipe Prize for the best budget-friendly recipe Hub
  • $300 Grand Prize for the best overall recipe Hub

To qualify for these prizes…

While there is a good chance that you might win one of our 28 Daily Drawing prizes randomly, you’ll be able to boost your chances of winning a Weekly or Final Prize if you consider our judging criteria while crafting your entries. Our judges – experts in the culinary writing field – will be looking carefully for:

  • How well the Recipe Capsules are used (see our Learning Center guide to Recipe Capsules)
  • The usefulness of the recipe (summarized steps followed up by detailed instructions with step-by-step photos, variations, demonstrations) (see our Learning Center guide to writing successful Recipe Hubs)
  • The overall value of the recipe (additional background or history associated with the dish or recipe, use of the Recipe Capsules to share detailed nutritional information and ingredient information, etc.)
  • The presence and quality of original photos and/or video
  • Whether the entry is on a long-tail, niche recipe that has not been extensively covered online
  • 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 other relevant Capsules

We’ll be announcing our special judges as the contest launch approaches. In the meantime, get cooking! You can always start drafts of your entries now and publish them throughout the month of June.

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!