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Do You Review?

When I first began blogging, the goal was to launch a modest, non-lucrative, but professionally fulfilling freelance writing career.  Some of my earliest story-telling can be found on cassette tapes from when I was four and five years old, and yellowed writing samples began appearing not much later.  Writing from home seemed the perfect next step in this former English teacher turned stay-at-home mom’s life.  Never for a moment did I think I would be offered free products in exchange for review and was actually surprised the first time an offer rolled in.

When opportunities to review products became a regular occurrence, I decided to create a disclosure button and a special “Resourceful Reviews” section on the site.  But I quickly realized that reviews without giveaways gave little to my readers and little to me, as well. Reviews do not inherently drive traffic to a site, and I’m in the camp that cash for review turns a review into an advertorial.  Suddenly I found myself spending valuable time writing posts that I did not enjoy writing and that I believe my readers often did not enjoy reading.

Does this mean that I think reviews are not worth writing? No.  I especially enjoy reading reviews of products on sites that focus primarily on reviewing new toys, books, and items of interest to moms, and I most often put credence in what the reviewer says about the products when I know that the site’s source of revenue is something other than pay-for-review.  I also still enjoy reviewing new products from brands that I love as well as new products that intrigue me.  For example, I recently reviewed Bungalow Totes because of my tote addiction and the prospect of getting a fix from a new source (well worth the time and effort!).  But every time I am asked to consider a product review, I begin by requesting a giveaway.  Ideally I’d like to never again post a review that does not also include a giveaway. I firmly believe that if readers need to hear about a new product that I love, they should also have the chance to win it.  And while giveaways are certainly more time consuming than writing a review, they are also much more rewarding in terms of site traffic and audience enjoyment.

What I Consider Before Accepting a Review Opportunity

1. Does the item fit my site and my life? The perfect example of pitches that are not a fit are the ones I receive for apps.  While I get emails a few times a day telling me about the latest app that will change my life or make my kids smarter, the truth is that I’ve never downloaded an app in my life.  Writing a review of an iPhone app when I have a Blackberry that I use just for emails, Twitter and phone calls wouldn’t be authentic.  I certainly like to try new things, but the product cannot be completely out in left field as it relates to my life and Resourceful Mommy.

2. Will reading the review benefit my readers in any way? From time to time there are very cool items, big changes with a favorite brand, or downright resourceful products that I review because the information about the product itself is interesting.  Most of the time, however, the answer to this question is a resounding no unless it includes a fun or valuable giveaway.

3. Does the product deserve my time and blog real estate? Writing reviews takes time.  I cringe every time I visit a site and see the copy that was sent to me in the product pitch or was included in the product shipment.  While I have abandoned my old method of systematically listing pros and cons, I still try to offer a balanced view of a product, and that absolutely takes time.  Also, I have a lot of things I want to say on my blog.  Do I really want to fill the space on my site and in my email feed with a product review?  Not unless I can say “yes” to the first two questions.

If you’re a blogger, do you accept review products?  Do you require a reader giveaway?  And as a blog reader, do you enjoy reading reviews?

What do you do if a company sends you an item without first reaching out to you via email?  Do you review it?


Comments

  1. 1

    I only accept products that sound like fun to me, and I require a giveaway. Nobody reads reviews. I don’t! If I read a review/giveaway blog, I’m just there for the stuff, and then only for things I need. With a few exceptions (like you!) blogs I actually read and the review blogs I visit are two very different things. I hate reading reviews. I don’t like doing them, either, unless the product facilitates an interesting post (like playing with new foods, which I love doing).

    I did a couple of reviews, just to see what I thought of it. Well, I think it sucks. So that’s that, I guess. :0)
    Cindy recently posted..Could I Get Some Rolaids- Here

    • 2

      I recently had someone tell me that they really are not interested in having me host a giveaway, just a review, but if I skip the review (please, no more stuff in my house!!!) isn’t that the same difference? I’m going to handle all of the logistics and just give them someone else’s address at the end instead of my own. At least with a giveaway I get traffic. With a review, I end up receiving something I give away and they get the free promotion. Blergh.

  2. 3

    I’m like you.

    First I have to make sure that the product fits my site. After that I always ask if a giveaway is possible. I also try to make sure the company knows a giveaway is much more in their interest than just a review is, I offer additional advertising to companies that offer a review/giveaway.

    But if they still don’t want to provide a giveaway product, if I’m super interested in the product I will do it anyway. And if the product is something that I think will appeal to our readers but I don’t necessarily need, I will giveaway the product they sent me.
    Tina recently posted..Love Story for All Ages pdx

  3. 6

    I’m in a very similar place as you. I do not typically enjoy writing reviews without giveaways, but I have if I feel like it is something my family and other families can use and appreciate AND if I can add a personal touch to the post. Oh, and I should mention that giveaways are a lot of work, and I have been trying to screen the products I agree to review and give away so that they really are worth everyone’s time.
    Lolli @ Better in Bulk recently posted..Cecily is Back! PSF – GMYBS

  4. 7

    I took reviews out of my main feed after dropping my subscriptions to several blogs because of the constant barrage of product reviews that I wasn’t interested in. I have a feed for just reviews and it has almost as many subscribers as my blog.

    I am very choosy not as to what I review. I do not offer giveaways as a part of the review because that is a lot of free advertising. I offer to host a giveaway for a small administration fee. It’s a new concept that is slowly catching on. Their response also serves as a litmus test for whether it’s a company worth recommending in the future. Not based on the yes or no, but how it’s said.
    mamikaze recently posted..My Fabulous Five

    • 8

      I think that a review and a giveaway are both free advertising, no? My thought is that the giveaway at least gives something to the reader. I’ve heard from many people that they only host a giveaway if they receive a fee for it, but some of my favorite PR firms have flat out said that they will never do this. Because I know my readers love the giveaways, I won’t stop hosting them just because I don’t make money for it, but if that becomes the norm, I’m happy to send an invoice 😉

  5. 9

    I like writing reviews, most of the time. I love giving readers my opinion and 90% of the time I do a giveaway as well. There are times when I don’t do reviews too but still do giveaways, and that’s nice too. I can tell when someone doesn’t really want to review in the first place though when they cut and paste exactly what the company wants you to say. I have a lot of readers who aren’t very webby so I know they do read the review and have had people actually buy what I review, so that’s always a pretty cool thing. Reviews and giveaways can be good or bad depending on your style, your likes/dislikes, and of course your readers. Thanks for the tips Amy!!! Great questions for anyone wanting to get into reviews.
    MommyB Knows Best recently posted..Sound Beginnings Review and Giveaway

    • 10

      I actually usually ask to not have a copy of the product sent to me for review and just hold the giveaway because quite frankly, I’d rather just have that portion of the post (and less stuff in my house). However, when I was asked to review and give away a Nook Color I didn’t think twice about saying yes…and yes!

  6. 11

    I am a mommy blogger and I LOVE to do product reviews with giveaways. I actually got into the blogging world because I love entering giveaways.I found that a lot of times you could get more points for blogging. I didn’t just want to make a page with random buttons and giveaways, plus I knew if I took it seriously I could get free stuff for reviews. Anyway.. this is a good post.

  7. 14

    I only accept product reviews and giveaways for items we can use. I only accepted baby items when I had a baby, and not I am moving into toddler and child focused items. Because I know food related reviews can be boring, I add a recipe we use. Anything to bring added value and interest.

    I am not sure that reviews bring the company the exposure they were seeking. I don’t think reviews ever bring the traffic like a giveaway either, so if a company really want to gain exposure they should tack on a small giveaway.
    Owen’s Mom recently posted..Mamavation Monday – Step by Step

    • 15

      I could not agree more and tell firms this all the time. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of times it is less intimidating from a legal point of view to send out a product for review than to also host a sweeps or review. I hate legal hurdles!

  8. 16

    Yes if a company sends me something as a surprise I really enjoy it. I put it in the rotation cycle to wait it’s turn & then I’ll review it when I can. I’m still looking to get more reviews & yes I love giveaways with them. I’m wanting to get more kitchen items and tv/movie dvds but am not having much luck with that. Send me your turned away pr reps I’m still hungry for new reviews.
    barb g recently posted..Book Review An Unlikely Blessing By Judy Baer

  9. 17

    I do occasionally review things, but only when they fit with my own personal lifestyle and/or the purpose of my blog. And, like you, I rarely do reviews without a giveaway (the only exception being books I read and review). I want each post to benefit my readers, not just my desire for new toys.
    Ashley Pichea recently posted..3 in 30 – January Recap and February Goals

  10. 18

    As a blog reader, I enjoy reading reviews but only for products that interest me. For example, I am an engineer so any sort of gadget will usually catch my attention, and if it does, I’ll read about it. It doesn’t really matter to me if there is a giveaway attached to it as more often than not, I won’t enter to win the item.

  11. 19

    I like your thinking, Amy! I used to do more reviews and giveaways, but I’ve come away from a lot of that. If a product is REALLY something I want to try and I think will add value to our lives or my blog, I do it. Examples are HP Printer and Kenmore Vacuum (I still have to write that one)

    I like it when I can weave the reviews into my life and stories on the blog. If it’s food, I’ll try to make a recipe with it. The HP printer? Birthday invitation, learning experiences with my kids, etc. I feel that’s more valuable to readers. And I love to do integrated campaigns with products I already know and love, and want to share.

    I really only read reviews when I’m looking at buying something specific, but they are valuable to me. I mostly find them through Google Search, and I think they benefit bloggers for the search traffic, too.
    Real Life Sarah recently posted..On Girl Bullies &amp Redeemed Friendships

  12. 20

    I currently do some reviews on Another New Season (mommy blog). Specifically I love to review items from Tommy Nelson because I believe in the company and love the products. Other companies really have to fit into our lifestyle and home in order for me to review the item.

    If I find a product that is truly a help to our family, or something that adds to our lifestyle then I will review it. I have found many new items from bloggers reviews and I think they do have value for the company if done right.

    I’m launching a new blog in February where product reviews will play a crucial part. I’ll be reviewing more techy, organizational, and educational products for moms and children- things that a geeky mom would love. Most importantly, the item has to fit into the vision and purpose for my site.

    This may be an important focus for my new site but it will not be the focus! I will require a giveaway with any reviews I do because I want my readers to have an opportunity to enjoy the product as much as I do. I will also try to include something extra with the review: a recipe, free printable form etc.

    I think it’s important for the blogger to really know if reviewing is right for them. I have no problem being honest if a product does not stand up to it’s claims. I can also this this in a very professional way.

  13. 21

    I’m with you on this one. . I prefer to offer a giveaway as well. However, sometimes, I am unable to garner a product to giveaway . . . the company will only want to offer me a product for a review. I really wish I would be able to garner more products for giveaways. i don’t think my stats are high enough yet.
    Tiaras & Tantrums recently posted..Rectus Recession Explained

  14. 22

    I may go to blogger hell for saying so but I hate doing reviews and I especially hate posting giveaways on my blog (until I take the time to hire a VA you probably won’t see any). What I give is good content–plain and simple. The vast majority of my [few and far between] reviews are things I bought myself and I couldn’t NOT write/vlog about because they were such incredible products (and those reviews have been my most popular YouTube videos/blog posts EVER). Since I take daily outfit photos (and mention whatever I’m wearing) I’ll accept things, that suit my tastes and budget, to be sent to me (and I’m very up front about this on my blog).
    Valerie @CharmedValerie recently posted..Trendy Spring 2011 Pieces Under 50

  15. 23

    Oddly enough, I actually feel differently about the review/giveaway scenario. I prefer to strictly review a product because often times there is a product that I feel wishy washy about and would rather not stamp it with the approval of a giveaway.

    I also find that as a reader, I want to comment on someones review but the comment section is reserved for giveaway entrants and my thoughts are lost in the sea of it all or even frowned upon because it messes up their system of choosing a winner.

    Giveaways bring in a lot of temporary traffic which of course is great for ad impressions, but a standalone review offers just as much incentive to write because it brings in google traffic that has a specific interest in what I wrote as opposed to stopping in for a free product.

    That all said, I don’t completely shy away from giveaways, they do serve a purpose and give my readers the chance to win a product that I truly love and wish could be shared with everyone.

  16. 24

    I do reviews, I have a new schedule where I am planning 1 review a week. Usually they also include a give away, though not always. I try to only review things that are actually useful for my readers, though I have reviewed some books that maybe don’t always apply – like a fiction book not related to birth at all. But I like to share good books I come across.
    Sheridan recently posted..Why Not Choose the Birthday of Your Baby

  17. 25

    A few thoughts…as you said, there is a difference between a blog that reviews products as its raison d’etre and a personal or other type of blogger mixing in a lot of product reviews.

    Mamanista was created largely because my business partner suggested that we could raise money for charity using her experience in marketing and my writing and expertise in baby gear.

    On my other sites, I can’t say I will NEVER review a product…but it would have to be such a fit. On my military spouse site, for example, I have once in a blue moon reviewed a book about the military spouse experience. I reviewed an advance copy of the finale of Army Wives’. I think I’ve done maybe 5 reviews in as many years on that site.

    I think there is a difference between hearing the pros and cons of a piece of equipment from someone who has a real basis for comparison versus hearing tips about the newest trends from someone who watches those things and has an amazing sense of style versus just another review about how product X is just the greatest, heavily laced with content straight from the promotional e-mail.

    As to reviews and giveaways both amounting to free advertising, I disagree…at least for blogs that are really reviewing or recommending an item. A review is earned media because the product is supposedly exciting enough or well-designed enough to merit commentary. That’s content for a blogger who focuses on these types of items. It is work to produce content that increases my authority and my publication’s authority on the topic–if it is well-done and fits my publication.

    It is free and it is publicity–but it isn’t advertising.

    A giveaway, on the other hand, is about promoting the product…not really commenting on its usefulness or hipness or beauty from a place of knowledge. If I haven’t even checked out the product myself, any description is coming from the company–it is 100% an advertisement for the product.

    It takes several hours to publish, promote, select the winners, and verify information. Not to mention that at least some of the time there is some problem on one end or another…winners not responding, a winner making requests outside of the parameters, a claim the product was never received, the PR person having left in the interim and needing to track down the new contact, etc.

    If the traffic–either in terms of building and rewarding your loyal community or in terms of CPM on your ads–is equal to the effort, then sure, why not? I’d never criticize a blogger for running free contests.

    Honestly, though, I see giveaways becoming more and more saturated–every blogger of every size has several at once–and therefore they are bringing in fewer and fewer new readers and are less interesting to the regular readers we already have.

    There are companies who don’t want to pay bloggers. Full stop. Giveaways. Content for their corporate site. Ads on your sidebar. Nada. You might be interested to know that I had a company ask me to run a twitter party for product. I felt like I was in a Trident commercial.

    They will give you some sort of reasoning for it but a lot of it boils down to either not believing the ROI is there (which it often is not, sorry to say) or, more often, that there are others who will do it for free. And if they are in a numbers game, they’d rather have the 100 free bloggers than the 1 paid one.

    Even if it means fewer “opportunities”, I would rather work with the companies that see value in working with that one right blogger.

    I agree that the perception, at the least, of editorial content (which I consider reviews) is tainted by payment. And your editorial content is really what is building value for you. If reviews aren’t a fit, then you shouldn’t do them. If they are, then go for it.

    But anything beyond editorial content (ads, creating content for a corporate site, hosting events virtual or IRL, etc.)? We need to think in terms of OUR ROI. And that can mean rewarding your loyal readers or it can mean doing a favor for a good friend or it can mean increased traffic that brings you more ad revenue…but it can and should also mean cash…because my power company and my daughter’s piano teacher don’t accept Trident layers as payment and neither do I.
    Candace recently posted..What Mom Wants- A Good Night’s Sleep

  18. 26

    My niche is product reviews and giveaways. I truly love sharing my opinion on products, which is why I chose the niche I did. It is a lot of work, and I’m actually re-thinking what I can reasonably offer a company simply in exchange for a complimentary product. As others have mentioned, it takes a great deal of time to craft a thoughtful review post. And it takes significantly more time to host a giveaway. I prefer to offer giveaways, as those are more fun for my readers, and Google Analytics tells me that my review only posts get significantly less traffic than my giveaway posts. So I always scratch my head when a company doesn’t want to give away a product; it seems like a bit of a waste to only get the review!
    Tiffany recently posted..Bite Me- One Seriously Funny Cookbook GIVEAWAY!!!

  19. 27

    This is all very interesting to learn about, but I’m not really understanding how this works. Can someone please help clarify whether I’m understanding things correctly?

    1) You can write a review for a product that a company gives to you for free. Do they pay you to write the review, or is the free gift considered your payment? Maybe they both pay and give you the gift?

    2) Do you have the option to give away the product instead of writing a review? Is there a contract the company has you sign telling you what is permitted?

    3) Does the company send out the giveaway to your winning reader, or do you do this?

    I’m sooo confused and want to maybe try doing this on my blog someday. Thanks!!

    • 28

      Every company does things differently, and for reviews and giveaways there is almost never a contract. I do not accept payment for hosting a giveaway or a review, but if it’s a review I sometimes keep the product that they sent me to review. If I host a giveaway I almost never also receive the product, and if I do, it is disclosed in the post. I strongly prefer to host giveaways over doing reviews and prefer to not receive a copy of the product when hosting a giveaway. And yes, the company sends the giveaway prize directly to the winner. I hope that helps!

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