Xberts

xbertsThere are many outlets for reviewing and I’d like to talk about one in particular that I have used and liked called Xberts.  Xberts is not a coupon club, they are more exclusive and choosy about who they allow to review.  Reviews are posted on their site directly (and you can post your reviews on your other social media sites, if you desire).  You are required to go through an application process to get items for free to review, it’s not guaranteed you will get every item you request, but they do give you discounts on the innovative products featured there, if you aren’t lucky enough to be chosen as a reviewer.

The process takes longer than most may be used to, and you have to apply to be a reviewer for each product that interests you, the offers don’t come to you automatically.   You can apply for as many products as you like, there is no limit.   Because there is only a limited number of products being given for review (usually less than 10 are given out), and many people desiring to review them, it may take many tries before you actually get chosen.   I applied for 5 or 6 items before I got my first review opportunity.   Once you get selected  to review the first time, assuming you complete you review in the amount of time they give (which is always ample) and you complete all the criteria they have, it seems that getting selected to review again is a bit easier.   This could be a coincidence, but that was my experience.   Once I completed my first review, I had two more applications accepted right away.

Their items tend to be innovative tech type items, but the spectrum is broad on what can be offered and is continually changing.  Some items are very high end, some more common, but all are interesting.   I urge you to check it out,  I guarantee there will be some items on there you will want to put in an application in for.

My disclaimer?  Xberts did not ask me to write this review – I’m just sharing a unique review opportunity to try because I’m a helpful person.

Check out my blog archives for other helpful tidbits!

Babysit your reviews

baby-sitter-1073413_1920When I read a review, I always note the date of the review.    Was it left a month ago or 5 years ago?   Sometimes I wonder if the person still likes and uses the item they reviewed, did it stand the test of time?   One of the ways I keep my reviews “fresh” is to update them periodically.   I don’t do it for every single review but I try to do it as much as possible.  I appreciate the rare occasions I see other people have updated their reviews with relevant information, and  because of this I like to care for my reviews in this way as well.  Think of reviews like they were your children, they need to be cared for and nurtured.

These metal buckets have stood the test of time, even being kept outside.

Here are some earrings I bought, and I chronicled their lifespan.

These packing cubes have seen a lot of cities.

Here is an example of a light up timer that I bought, initially liked and gave 4 stars to, but then didn’t love!

These are some amazing shoes I purchased for my son.  He will outgrow them before they deteriorate.  This is information that needs to be imparted!

A cat scratch post that has gone through a lot.

An inexpensive manual pencil sharpener that is still sharp as day one.

This is a review from a different reviewer.  I appreciated his updates for this electric mower.

You get a more informative review when you update over time.   People want to know, how does this hold up?  They want to know if you still like an item a few months later, a year later… whatever the case may be.   You are making your reviews the most helpful they can possibly be, and ultimately this will get you more helpful votes in the long run.

 

 

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Don’t be a jerk!

jerkTalking to various sellers who offer products to reviewers like me, I have learned that the majority of reviewers are not very good, or courteous.    One person in particular from a Chinese company gave me a very sad statistic.  Only 1 out of 5 people he sends free product to actually leave a review for the product they receive.   This is outrageous, and as angry as this makes me, I’m more disappointed because that stat doesn’t surprise me.  People are becoming greedy, self-entitled and lazy.

I’m amazed that any companies still offer product at all with such poor results.  I’m glad they do, but it may be some day they decide it’s just not worth it because people are jerks.

My humble plea to you, dear reviewer, is this; make sure you review everything you receive and if you can’t, communicate to the seller why.   Be up front, be prompt in your communications, and be a decent human.  Don’t be a jerk.

 

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SEO in a review?

seo-896175_1920Search engine optimization (SEO) is the way people and companies increase visibility to their webpage or website.   Think of it as a free way to get unpaid clicks, and have your site appear near the top of search results.  You may have also heard the term ‘organic traffic’ which is any traffic coming to your site that is not the result of paid advertising.

I am not an SEO expert by any measure, but I do employ some SEO tactics on my own website, and I get modest pay offs from it since I do not do paid advertising (yet).   But beyond having a personal website, why would SEO be important for a reviewer to know about?

Some companies who are looking for reviews will request that the reviewers include certain words or phrases in their reviews.    This is done for SEO purposes.  I personally don’t like the practice because in many cases it makes the review sound contrived, especially if they have dozens of reviewers on the same product, saying the same phrases.   I understand that from an SEO point of view this can lead to more eyes on their product page, but ultimately the savvy shopper will be turned off if they read more than a few reviews that sound the same.  It will seem fraudulent, even if the reviews are genuine.  I wish that sellers would realize this, and they would drop the practice of asking for certain phrases.

Don’t lose site of why you review.  It’s not for the seller, it’s for the consumer – and the byproduct of that is your own personal reputation.  This is why I reject all requests to use certain phrases.   I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to comply with those requests, I think it’s a grey area.   At worst, it could be considered a mild version of review manipulation in that they are putting “words in your mouth”.

 

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Disclaimers revisited

In a previous blog post “Don’t be a used car salesman” I talked about my personal opinion on what makes a good disclaimer.    Now I’m going to show you some actual examples I pulled from Amazon to compare and contrast.  Some are better than others.   Seeing them side by side may help you develop your own disclaimer statement.

Disclaimer/Disclosure Examples:

  • I received these [product name] at a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. 🙂 I hope that my review is helpful and know that I was in no way swayed by the discounted price. I try to truthfully describe and critique the item to the best of my ability, and usually with a personal touch. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Hopefully it helped!
  • I received this product in exchange for my honest feedback.
  • I received this product during a promotion free for my honest review and they are 100% my own opinions. I received no compensation for this review and I am not required to give a good review. I am also not associated with the seller in any way.
  • I received this product for free as part of a promotion.
  • Disclaimer: I received this product free or at a reduced price in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are 100% my own and not influenced by anyone. If my review was helpful to you, would you please vote, yes. I am always honest with my reviews and try to point out facts that a potential customer might find useful and I am not paid for my reviews. Thank you.
  • I got this product at a discount, but I’m not told what to say.   I test all products I get really well and I’m very honest.  I know that some people think that because I got this at a discount my review is fake, but its not true.  I put a lot of time into reviews and it is actually work.   Please click the helpful button if you liked my review.
  • Thank you [Seller Name] for this awesome product. I was fortunate to receive this at no costs for my honest and unbiased testing and review. My opinion is based solely on my personal experienced with the product and was in no way influenced by outside sources.
  • This was furnished to me for the purposes of review. Thanks for reading!
  • I received this product at a discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced by the discount.

A few of these statements you will observe, include a solicitation for clicking the “helpful” button.  This is not a direct violation of Amazon’s terms of service, but it treads pretty close.   I would avoid it, because by soliciting others for up votes you are in fact applying a light form of review manipulation, which is a prohibited activity in its more blatant forms.  Don’t risk it, just play it safe and keep your disclaimers short and to the point.

 

Common Reviewing Questions, part 2

questionQ and A about Reviews (part 2):

What happens if I get offered a review item that I accept, but the seller does not respond back with a coupon code?   It is pretty common that sellers will contact you about a review item, and you enthusiastically accept, only to have the seller never contact you again.   It happens to me all the time, so much so I don’t even give it a second thought.  In the last year that I have tracked such things, I have had almost 250 items that I was promised, but never received.  That’s several items that don’t materialize each week, a few of those even were actually ordered with coupon codes on Amazon and the seller just never shipped.  So don’t sweat it when it happens to you.    It could be that the seller only had so many items to give out for reviews, and had more interest than items.  It could be any number of reasons!   There is no harm in contacting the seller to inquire, although I would not expect any answer.   My personal philosophy is just to let it go, I don’t have time to try to manage all the sellers that bailed out on me.

What happens if the seller requires me to give a 5 star review AFTER I already accepted the item?   You should never comply with such a request.   It is somewhat deceptive on the part of the seller to “throw that in” after the fact, and in these cases (it has happened to me) you should email back informing the seller it is impossible to know before you receive an item whether or not it is 5 stars.   Be sure you let the seller know where you stand, even if they didn’t give you the same courtesy.

What happens if I get an item, but I lost the product link to review and I can’t remember who sent me the item?   This is where good record keeping can really save you.  Sometimes though you may forget to save information.   I admit, it has happened to me recently.   What I did first was to go through my records, not finding anything there, I then went through my saved emails- and luckily the seller had an email that matched the brand name of the product.   From the found email, I was able to get the product link.  Had I not found it there, I would have gone back through my purchase records online (hoping it was not a direct ship item) to see if I could find it.  But if you aren’t so lucky, in most cases after a few weeks the seller will send an inquiry as to why a review has not been posted.  Be watching and waiting for it.

 

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Social Media and the Reviewer

If you are reviewing exclusively with Amazon, Fat Wallet, NewEgg or any other entity (there are many out there now, and many more I don’t even know about) you may want to increase your visibility by posting reviews across a wider social network.

The benefits are two-fold.  Having a wider audience can help give you more visibility and respectability, but also it makes you more likely to be sought after for more reviews.  Of course this is not mandatory for getting more reviews to come your way, but it certainly can move things along.

I personally have found that the sellers I work with are very pleased when they find out that I not only posted a review on the site they approached me about, but I also took the extra step to post the review via YouTube, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram (without them even asking).  Some sellers are now even requiring that reviews be posted on other social media outlets as a condition of being able to review.   That seems to be becoming more prevalent I notice.

I have profiles set up specifically for reviewing so as not to co-mingle my public and private life, but doing this has the disadvantage that you have no followers when you start and have to build them from scratch, which is not the easiest of feats.  Facebook tends to be harder to build than YouTube because it is built on existing relationships or brand recognition, but each network will present some challenges if you are starting at zero.  My philosophy is that you have to start somewhere, and it doesn’t hurt to try.  I would recommend YouTube and/or Twitter as the two easiest platforms with which to gain followers.

If your friends will not be annoyed by your review posts, and you don’t mind meshing your personal life with your review life, then using the social media outlets you already subscribe to may be the better route to go.

For the truly dedicated reviewer, you might even consider a social media marketing tool such as Hootsuite (free for a basic account) to schedule posts across platforms.   I use Hootsuite Pro in my job as a marking specialist and have just recently started using the free basic Hootsuite for reviewing.  It is invaluable for organizing and tracking posts and feedback when you are sending out a lot of messages on social media.  Hootsuite isn’t the only marketing tool of its kind out there, there are quite a few others- but Hootsuite is by far the most popular and widely used.

prudent reviewer

 

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What makes a quality review?

You want your reviews to be well received, and ultimately found to be helpful.  Most of the time that means a fairly long review, but not all reviews can be 500 words.   Sometimes you are reviewing charging cables.   Or toilet paper.   Or nail clippers.   No one wants to read a really long review on those kinds of items of course.   Figuring out how long your review should be really depends most on the type of product.

Consumers like a long review when it comes to things like electronics, appliances, or furniture items that require assembly.  They are reading to find out ease of set up and use (the more detail information the better), they want to find out the quality, they want to compare and contrast other similar items, and they want to know the value of what they are getting in relation to the price.   Your review should try to touch on all these things.   Really long reviews seem to get the best response when they are bullet pointed or laid out in a logical manner (i.e. first impressions, set up, how to use, overall impressions after use, and a final summary or comparison between this product and others).

Some reviews though, are necessarily short.   You should not attempt to write a 500 word review for something as mundane as a charging cable.  No one wants to read through that, and I’m not even sure it’s possible to write 500 words on a charging cable.   So keep it informational and to the point.   How long is the cord, is it as advertised?  Will it work with Android or Apple?  Does it charge as fast as other cords?  Is the cord thick or thin?  What material is the cord, rubber or braided?

Every few months go through your review history and update your reviews. My method is to tack on edits at the beginning or end of my review.   You may want to edit the entire review, but I think this takes more time and I like to leave my original review so people can clearly see my edits over time.  Sometimes I go in several times over a period of years and make edits to say “still working” or “this product has minor wear, but is as functional as ever.”  I always put the dates on my edits “EDITED 7/6/16” and make them very visible and distinct.  This is very useful information for people as most reviews are written within a few weeks of getting a product, and the vast majority of people don’t go back to update their reviews.  People like to know how things hold up over time.   This adds a lot of value to your reviews, and people will be grateful you took the time to provide the information.

Quality reviews will always have correct spelling and punctuation.   I cannot stress enough to go back and proofread your work.   There are people who will judge your discernment ability and intellect based on the grammar you use and the spelling errors you make.  Fair or not, that is how the world works.   Brush up on the rules surrounding the proper use of your, you’re, their, there, they’re, to, two and too.

Amazon highlights what they think are the “most helpful reviews” for each product.   These are an excellent resource to pattern your own reviews after.   Most of the time these reviews are thorough, well written in a logical flow, and they usually are longer than other reviews for the same product.  Study these and pattern your reviews like they write theirs.

Another tool you can use if you really want to get hard core with your reviews is finding out the Fleishman Readability Score on your reviews.  This blog entry is a high 7th grade reading level, which is about where you want to keep things for a review as well.   Newspapers like USA Today and the New York Times are written to a 7th grade reading level to make them readable for the widest number of people.  Any score higher than that and you risk alienating some readers, unless you are reviewing a very specialized type of item where you need to use a lot of technical jargon, for instance if you are reviewing things like professional grade drill presses, or medical equipment – you can be excused for having a difficult readability score.   If your scores fall well below a 7th grade reading level consider using longer sentences and more adjectives to bump it up a notch.  A score that is too low, although very simple to read, may make you seem less intelligent than you really are.  You want people to trust you and your reviews, so don’t give them any reason to think less of you.

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I’m a professional reviewer

prudent reviewerI am a professional reviewer.   I’ve been doing product reviews online since 1998, but I didn’t start “professionally” reviewing until 2008.   A professional reviewer is someone who receives products (or services) from a company for free (or a discounted rate), in exchange for a detailed product review.  There is never any monetary payment involved.

There are probably thousands of product reviewers out there, it’s surprisingly easy to get into, although there are a lot of pitfalls along the way that would be easy to fall into.   Because I have the advantage of being a long standing reviewer who is established, in many ways I am insulated from the problems that befall many new reviewers looking to do this professionally.  One of the main culprits is coupon clubs.

I am constantly learning new things every day to improve my reviews.   For instance, I used to only do written reviews, and now 99.9% of the time I include photos or video.   Little improvements over time is what it’s all about.   I still have a long way to go.  My video editing skills are not where I’d like them to be, but just a year ago I had no video editing skills!  I’m also a newbie to SEO, but I’m trying to incorporate that as well where I can.

I think it’s mainly about trying out new products, and sharing with the potential buyer what they may like and not like about a product.  We all are different in what we are looking for, so if I review with that diversity in mind – I think it helps the reviews be more encompassing and useful to a wider audience.

 

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