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?