When potential customers type your business name or product name into Google, you want them to see your website followed by a whole list of good reviews. It can take years for new companies and small businesses to gain reviews, but you can speed the process up by sending out your products for review.
In this blog:
- How Product Reviews Work — and Why You Should Get in on the Game
- 5 Super Awesome Benefits of Sending Out Products for Review
- Are Product Reviews Right for Your Business?
- Different Styles of Product Reviews — and When to Get Featured
- Product Reviews Go Hand-in-Glove with Social Media
If you’re into your fitness, then you may have heard of blonde bombshell Faya, a personal trainer based in London and fitness blogger at fitnessontoast.com. She has 10k Twitter followers, over 20k Facebook followers, and an incredible 81.2k Instagram followers. Her blog is the 8th organic listing on the first page of Google for “fitness blog UK.” Faya is what we could call a high authority blogger.
Let’s check out some of her Instagram updates to get an idea of the style of content that she posts:
Are you starting to notice something? There is a certain sports shoe brand that’s getting a lot of coverage on Faya’s Instagram posts — and you can bet that this isn’t just coincidence. While it may be the case that Faya just adores Nike and wants to spend all her shoe budget on Nike trainers, there’s a more likely explanation for this. A little digging on her blog, pulls up this blog post:
This is an example of a brand/blogger working relationship — Faya is regularly featuring Nike on her social media and blog because they have gifted her some complimentary trainers and, as we can see from the blog post above, hosted her as part of a blogger event to promote Nike.
Nike and Faya’s individual brands fit really well together because they share a similar kind of audience, who — as we can see from the comments on the third Instagram post — are interested in and excited about the latest sports trainers for women.
If we check out Faya’s disclaimer on fitnessontoast.com, we can see that she has a clear policy on which businesses and brands she chooses to collaborate with and accept products from:
Fitnessontoast.com and Nike’s blogger/brand relationship isn’t an uncommon one. Check out these Instagram posts from Hannah Bronfman, Instagram influencer and fitness blogger behind hbfit.com:
Did you notice some brightly coloured Adidas trainers featuring in her posts? This is another example of a blogger/brand collaboration. Brands like Nike and Adidas are industry leaders thanks not only to their cool products, but to great publicity and coverage. Both Nike and Adidas know that being featured by relevant bloggers improves their clout (and klout), extends their reach to a relevant and targeted audience, and makes them look awesome.
It’s not just fitness bloggers and sports brands who do this. If you start looking over the social media feeds and blog posts of bloggers in some different niches, you might start to spot some product placement going on. Maybe you’ve seen home bloggers featuring product roundups? How about beauty blogs with DIY tutorials including links to makeup brands that they love?
This product post was featured on home and lifestyle blog, theowlandtheaccordion.com.
Lily from the beauty blog llymlrs.com features make-up from Selfridges in her blog post.
More often than not, these are product features have been arranged between brands and influencers. While these blog posts and social media updates might give the impression that the influencer just really wants to show off their fancy new Nikes and all the designer makeup that they love to treat themselves to all the time — which they probably do, to be fair — nearly all of these brand mentions are product reviews that are thanks to some pretty hard working digital PR folks.
It’s not just the big brands who are collaborating with bloggers though; there are lots of small businesses using this strategy to promote their products. StressFreePrint, a small UK company who print business cards, leaflets, brochures, and other similar products, have collaborated with bloggers from various niches for product reviews of their business cards.
StressFreePrint’s business cards featured on Mini Travellers, a respectable authority blog about travelling with kids, in a product review.
Their business cards also featured on The Brick Castle, a mummy blog of a similar authority to Mini Travellers, in another review of their service.
Meridian, who sell organic, palm oil-free nut butters and similar healthy food products, have run a more targeted campaign. They have been collaborating with natural and whole food bloggers on features and recipe based posts.
This blog post from Naturally Sassy, a small but well respected recipe blog with 3,000 Twitter followers, features Meridian cashew nut butter in a smoothie recipe.
Meridian also featured on Whole Heartedly Healthy, a higher authority blog with more sizeable social media followings, in a health and beauty product roundup.
It just goes to show that you don’t need to be Nike or Adidas to run a successful product review campaign with bloggers. Blogs come in all shapes and sizes and there will be a blogger out there to suit your brand, no matter how small or large, how weird or wonderful.
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How Product Reviews Work — and Why You Should Get in on the Game
Influencers create content that their followers love — whether that’s blog posts on their website, videos on YouTube, or photos on Instagram — and because of that they hold a lot of influence over people’s buying habits too. While traditional TV advertisers are still using celebrity names like Kiera Knightley to advertise Chanel perfume and Kate Moss to advertise Rimmel lipstick, the online generation look to bloggers they love and trust to recommend products and services.
The world is moving beyond TV advertising and towards online advertising. As many as 60% of UK shoppers consider themselves to be highly capable when it comes to researching and purchasing products online. This shift towards online shopping has led to a rise in the number of people researching products and services before buying online, and quite often this will lead them to product reviews written by bloggers.
- 61% of online consumers are reported to have made a purchase based on recommendations from bloggers.
Figures from BlogHer
Blogs are more trusted resources for shoppers than any of the social media platforms. Bloggers who have a truly engaged readership have a lot of influence: their readers trust what they say, take their advice to heart, and buy products that they recommend. It’s the same for any other influencer and their audience, whether they are a YouTube sensation or an Instagram star.
This is great news for small businesses who are looking for ways to promote their products or services online. Collaborating with bloggers and other influencers to promote your product can be a highly effective way of building trust in your brand and getting those all important sales coming through.
If you’re still teetering on the edge with whether you feel it’s worth sending out review products to influencers, then think about the following benefits for your business:
1. Strengthen Brand Trust and Recognition
It’s good to have a continual, positive buzz surrounding your products. Collaborating with bloggers is a great way to do that and sending out review products shows you’re confident in your product, that you believe it’s awesome, and that in turn makes people more confident about buying from you.
Getting good reviews and being featured by bloggers and other influencers helps to build trust in your brand. The more times your products or services are mentioned and viewed online, the more recognisable your brand becomes. This in turn builds trust with consumers ‒ we trust the brands we recognise. Think Apple, Sony, Argos, or Costa Coffee.
2. Build Backlinks Quicker
If you’re main goal here is to build links and improve your own website rankings, then you’ll want to focus on working with bloggers. Product reviews are far more efficient than guest posting when it comes to building links. If you don’t already have industry contacts, then building relationships with editors, following up on your correspondence, and writing up truly valuable articles to suit each publication in order to secure a publication with a backlink takes up a huge amount of time. A product outreach strategy allows you to build backlinks quicker.
Bloggers are way, way more likely to agree to product reviews than guest posts and the blogger will nearly always take care of writing the article. Bear in mind though that Google’s guidelines warn against directly paying for links that pass PageRank and this should not be part of your negotiation with a blogger. You shouldn’t being going crazy sending out products to just any influencer or being spammy about trying to build links here. This kind of outreach works better when you are selective about which bloggers would best represent your brand.
3. Reach a Relevant Audience, Connect with Like Minded Influencers
It’s awesome for new brands to connect with influencers who truly love their products. Building a relationship with an influencer not only means that you are able to reach out to a new and relevant audience through them, but it can also help to establish connections within influential blogging circles. That, and an initial small collaboration with a blogger, might lead to repeat promotion from them if they really did enjoy working with you and liked your products.
All of the best collaborations come from brands who have found bloggers that have the same values and beliefs as their company. Take a business who sells bespoke handbags for example ‒ while there might be lots of great travel blogs out there, it’s just not something those bloggers would be interested in. Reaching out to high-end fashion bloggers and social media stars would be a much better means of connecting with influencers that really love the product.
4. It’s Cheaper than Running Ads
70% of online consumers learn about companies through articles like blog posts, not from ads. Not to mention that the cost of banner ads or sponsored content on other websites can be sky high. Product reviews are a much cheaper way of building links to your website and getting your products noticed.
Sending out a product for review, in many cases, will only set you back the cost price of a product plus the postage. Some bloggers may ask for small hosting fees, depending on the authority of their blog. If you’ve got a £12.99 product and postage costs you £2.99, then £16.98 is a totally ninja deal for a blog post featuring your product and potentially linking back to your website.
5. Create a Buzz on Social Media
Be sure to connect with any influencers you’re working with on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other relevant platforms. Many powerful bloggers will have hundreds, if not thousands of followers, and social media influencers will have an even more targeted and loyal social media following, allowing your brand to be seen by an entire cohort of like minded people.
Influencers often work in networks, reading each other’s blogs and engaging in conversation via comments and social media. Targeting a particular blogger niche allows your brand to be seen organically by interested readers. If you get involved with sharing content as well, this is a great way to create a buzz across social media platforms.
It’s worth remembering that people will view social media statistics as evidence for a brand’s “trustworthiness”. The higher the number of followers that regularly engage with the brand, the more trustworthy they are thought to be. Whereas a low number of unengaged followers implies people aren’t interested in your products and don’t trust your brand.
Are Product Reviews Right for Your Business?
It’s fair to say that product reviews aren’t right for every business. However, for the ones that they are relevant to, they can have a huge impact. To know, answer these two questions:
- Do you run an e-commerce site?
Yes? Bang on the money. Product reviews work best for businesses who run e-commerce sites and especially those who have lower ticket items that mean the cost of sending out products is lower. These products could be anything from home accessories and kids’ clothing to screen protectors and yoga mats.
If no, then…
- Are you service based business?
Product reviews can also be relevant for service based businesses. For example, if you run a beauty salon, why not invite local lifestyle and beauty bloggers in for a complimentary facial or nail treatment? If you’re a photographer, maybe you could offer free 30-minute photo shoots to fashion influencers to feature on their Instagram accounts? If you’re a personal trainer, then how about providing free fitness consultations or one-off sessions for health vloggers?
If you answered yes to one of the above questions, then ask yourself the following questions to know if product reviews could be a beneficial PR route for your business:
- Would my product/service appeal to influencers?
- If so, which kind of influencer? (e.g. blogger, vlogger, Instagrammer)
- In which niche? (e.g. lifestyle, design, beauty, mummy, fitness)
- How many products could I feasibly send out for free?
If you can identify a target audience for your products within popular influencer niches and are able to shoulder the cost price of the products, then arranging product reviews and features with influencers can work super well for your business. Do you feel like you could be onto a winning strategy here? You could be right, but you need to make sure that you’re approaching the right influencers and gaining the right kind of product reviews in order for them to really benefit your business’ online presence and sales.
Different Styles of Product Reviews — and When to Get Featured
Let’s say you’re after product reviews on blogs, which will be the route most small businesses take. Every blogger has their own style of content and each will approach product review posts from a different angle. Product reviews come in a variety of different formats, ranging from straight up review articles and product roundups to Christmas gift guides and more covert features. There are many factors that affect the kind of product review that bloggers create, including the niche/industry, their content style, the value/size of the item, how much information they have about the product/service, the time of year (i.e. Christmas time means more gift guides are being written), and so on.
Instead of going all out and writing a complete advert about your product — which very rarely happens — it’s much more likely that a blogger will review a product or service by showing their readers how your product fits into their lifestyle as part of a product review or feature. That might be a lipstick they use on Friday nights, a peanut butter that they use in their recipes, or their favourite leggings for yoga practise.
If you have particular requirements about the kind of content that you would prefer, you can definitely discuss that with the blogger. Though many bloggers will already have their own preferences here, they will also be open to ideas and suggestions for the blog post. Here are some scenarios of when and how various companies might decide to approach bloggers:
Scenario #1: Got spare rooms in your your hotel during the winter months?
Instead of letting January pass by with unoccupied rooms, invite bloggers along to review your accommodation. This is the perfect opportunity for you to gain reviews without losing out on bookings during high-season. This is exactly what we did with our client, a boutique hotel based in a historic city in south west of the UK, to generate some extra coverage and exposure for them during quiet times. They gained reviews from some of the best UK lifestyle bloggers and they were even featured in the high end House of Coco magazine.
Glamping company, Canopy & Stars, did the same thing:
Generator Hostels did it too:
Scenario #2: Are sales for your really awesome rucksack lower than you’d like?
Imagine you’re a company selling rucksacks for travellers. The summer holidays are coming up and you want to get some attention for and get a sales boost for a particular product that’s not selling as well as you’d like. Featuring your backpack on influential travel blogs will mean that plenty of would-be travellers will be eyeballing your products right before the travel season begins.
This backpack from Farpoint40 was featured in a review post by popular travel bloggers Never Ending Voyage:
A number of different rucksack brands featured in Snarky Nomad’s “best travel rucksacks” blog post:
Scenario #3: Would your product make the perfect Christmas stocking filler?
If you have lower ticket items that would make for great stocking fillers at Christmas, then being featured in Christmas gift guides by relevant bloggers could result in increased sales during the festive season. We had fantastic results with sending out products to feature in Christmas gift guides for an e-commerce client who sells retro homewares, including mugs, glass jars, and mixing bowls. Christmas gift guides are popular across various niches, and they work really well for e-commerce websites selling smaller items.
For example, here’s a Christmas gift guide for children from a London-based mummy blog:
This alternative Christmas gift guide is from a feature on an eco-green blog who promote ethical products:
If you know that you’re going to have vacant rooms, leftover stock of a discontinued item, particular products you want to promote, or if there’s a time of year when you could do with the extra sales boost, then plan ahead. This way you can organise product reviews and social media coverage with bloggers at the best time for your business.
Note: No matter what kind of review or feature the blogger is writing, if they are following FTC regulations then the blogger should include a disclaimer to say that the blog post was sponsored by or that the products were supplied by the brand.
Product Reviews Go Hand-in-Glove with Social Media
Bloggers will nearly always share their blog posts and product reviews on their social media channels. The exception to this will be the A-Listers (the very high authority bloggers) who charge different rates for blog posts and social media promotion. If you’re working with high ranking bloggers, be sure to clarify expectations before sending out any products or giving away your services.
However, the majority of bloggers will share their content of their social media channels and this means that there’s also a lot of opportunity for businesses to gain some coverage here as well. If you have a good blogger/brand match, responses from social media can be really good. Quite often, you’ll also see numerous comments from readers who love the products that have been featured on these blog posts as well as heart-eyed emojis on the blogger’s social media status updates.
Hannah Bronfman’s new shoes got a whole bunch of those emojis, not to mention those 4000 likes:
Lifestyle and mummy blogger, Lori, behind the very beautiful Wild & Grizzly blog, Tweeted about her stay with glamping Company Canopy & Stars. She tagged the company in the Tweet and they responded by both liking and Retweeting her post. It was also Retweeted and liked by other lifestyle bloggers:
Businesses who collaborate with bloggers should follow, interact, and engage with bloggers on all of their social media platforms. Many businesses can be tempted to let their social media fall by the wayside and instead focus on just getting a review post about their product from bloggers. But a little effort can go a long way! If you’re friendly on social media, then bloggers will be friendly in response, and this will mean extra exposure for your brand. Interacting on social media is part of building relationships with bloggers. The more effort that you put into it, the more you will get in return from the bloggers.
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