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Product reviews are the lifeblood of online sales and affiliate marketing.
Get it right, and you’ll find your products are flying out of your warehouse faster than British Prime Ministers. Get it wrong – even very slightly wrong – and you might as well rely on that mysterious solicitor who keeps emailing you telling you about the millions of dollars you’ve inherited from someone you’ve never heard of.
Statistics don’t lie. In fact, they tell a startling story. The overwhelming majority of people today rely on product reviews to help them decide whether to trust a brand, avoid a website, or place an order.
According to recent statistics, 95% of customers take time to read product or brand reviews before making a purchase (Powerreviews), and 72% of customers refuse to place any order of any kind before carefully reading reviews (Testimonial Engine).
In fact, 91% of 18-34 year olds said in a recent survey that they trust online reviews of products, services, or brands as much as a personal recommendation from a friend (Bright Local)
Perhaps you yourself have taken time before making an online purchase to find out what other people think of a product or company? I know that, other than for very small purchases, I always check out reviews. Sometimes that includes on-site reviews (such as on Amazon), and sometimes off-site product reviews (including dedicated review websites, YouTube videos reviewing a product, or social media channels reviewing their experience of using the product or service).
80% of customers only trust 4, 4.5 and 5 star ratings.(Finance Online)
In many cases, if I haven’t heard of the brand before, or at least not dealt with them myself, I’ll check out reviews of the brand or company to see what people think of them. Are they reliable? Do the products received match the descriptions? What’s delivery like, and how’s their after-sales support if needed?
According to research by Finances Online, 40% of customers refuse to deal with any business that has negative reviews, while 68% said that they chose to deal with a business specifically because of positive reviews.
So with all of these statistics and facts making it very clear just how vital it is to make reviews work for your brand or business, let’s discover just what it takes to make online reviews work for you.
In this article, we’ll examine the best structure for an online product review, identify common mistakes and reveal inside tricks.
Do You Know The 5 Types Of Review?
Reviews come in five different flavors, and way before you start writing your reviews, it’s critical that you know the different types of reviews. Why? Because each type has a very different purpose and different audience, with different expectations and needs.
Get it wrong, and it would be as bad as confusing cheese and onion with salt and vinegar… or even that hedgehog flavor I remember coming out in the 1980s!
So what are the five types of reviews, and how do they compare?
1. Professional Reviews
A professional review is one that’s carried out by an industry expert. For instance, if Lewis Hamilton was to review the new Mercedes-Benz, it would be a professional review.
Professional reviews are great for when you want information about a product from someone who knows the industry, the practical applications, and other competitors in the space well.
They are most suitable for when you’re on the fence about buying something that’s expensive but aren’t sure about its features.
Because they are conducted by known personalities (mostly), professional reviews generally carry a lot of weight. They are also meticulously researched and offer in-depth information about a product.
Professional reviews aren’t focused on convincing users to buy something. Their very nature is informative: the reviewer will weigh the good and bad and try to provide an objective opinion.
2. Affiliate Reviews
Affiliate reviews can be found online for virtually anything that you can think of. To illustrate my point, here’s a review of a fidget spinner:
Affiliate reviews include affiliate links and are usually designed to showcase a product in a positive light. In some cases, affiliates may add negative reviews but offer an alternative product that’s superior to their readers.
Such reviews are designed to be promotional in nature, usually ending with a call to action and asking readers to buy the product. In certain cases, reviewers don’t even try the product themselves; they simply collate information from the web and present it in a digestible format.
Affiliate marketers are required to provide disclaimers (as shown above) indicating that they may earn a commission if you buy using the links in their content. Every time a reader makes a purchase by following said link, the affiliate earns a commission.
3. Buying Guides
Buying guides are slightly different from a conventional review in the fact that they offer information about several competing products and help readers decide which one to buy.
Buying guides are also great for affiliate marketers, as it allows them to present various products in one article and help readers decide which one to buy.
They are usually comparative in nature, often listing the features, the price, and in some cases, assigning a score to each product. But, the reason why buying guides are so popular is that they provide important information at the top, helping readers decide what to buy quickly.
Readers can browse through the full guide to get more information about each, especially if they’re confused between two or more products, and then make an informed decision.
4. Customer Reviews
Customer reviews usually reflect a customer’s experience after having used the product. They can either be positive or negative and are usually found on eCommerce sites or marketplaces like Amazon.
Customer reviews play an important role in determining the popularity of a product. In fact, one survey revealed that 49% of respondents consider customer reviews on the same level as a personal recommendation from a family member or friend.
5. Blogger Reviews
Blogger reviews are posted by influencers and prominent bloggers in different niches. Companies usually send products to them in exchange for their honest review (and exposure).
In other cases, bloggers might just post a review after buying your product, which is a win-win for both parties. Blogger reviews are often beneficial because there’s already an engaged audience.
And, because bloggers try to maintain quality, these reviews are generally more in-depth than buying guides, for instance.
Influencers and blogger reviews attract so much attention because they take a highly personalized approach, often showing how they use the product.
How to Write an Excellent Product Review to Improve Sales
Some reviews are written to increase awareness about a product. Others are written to improve sales. As an affiliate marketer, you need to know how to write product reviews that generate sales.
Here’s our step-by-step guide for writing product reviews to improve your conversions.
1. Write with Authority
Why should a prospective reader listen to what you have to say? You can’t write content without introducing yourself and explaining your experiences.
Think about it; would you rather take professional advice from a successful businessman who has tons of life experiences to share or from that one guy you met at a party who’s always selling you on the next “big” thing?
Thanks to efficient design, you don’t need to start every review by writing a brief paragraph about yourself. Instead, you can use an author bio section. Here’s a fantastic example:
The author uses a profile photo showing their name and explaining the areas they focus on. He also talks a bit about his experience in the niche and empathizes with the readers by focusing on relatable situations.
Or, you could take a slightly different approach, as Wirecutter does:
This bio is written from the company’s perspective, explaining why the author was uniquely qualified to pen this review, even adding links to other guides written by the author.
This just screams, “We know what we’re doing, and you should trust us”. In short, author bios are all about showing your “human” side. You can make jokes (self-deprecating ones work best!), elaborate on your experiences, and, most importantly, add a profile photo!
2. Follow a Logical Structure
The way you structure your review is critically important. If the review doesn’t have a logical flow, most people will simply close the tab and click on one of your competitor’s articles.
There isn’t an exact formula for defining the structure — it mostly depends on your editorial guidelines. Some reviewers add a summary box at the top and include a couple of paragraphs adding their thoughts before delving into more detail.
Others start with an introduction and break down each feature as they go along before finalizing the review at the end and adding their thoughts.
3. Include Visual Images
A picture tells a thousand words they say, and certainly, most of us would be happier to see a good quality, highly relative, and fully informative picture than to wade through a thousand words of description.
For example, if you’re reviewing an item of clothing, the customer is going to want to see what it looks like when worn. If you’re reviewing a camera, then as well as photographs of the camera itself, many customers will want to see examples of images taken with that camera.
In some cases, other media besides still images may be relevant. For example, if you’re reviewing a microphone, then it will be especially helpful to many people to hear some example audio recorded using that very microphone. Similarly, with items such as video cameras, action cams, and dash cams – video taken with the devices will be extremely useful – and highly likely to close more sales.
4. Be Critical & Mention Alternatives
This might seem counterintuitive, but these days so many people online have become almost immune to sales pages, can sniff out an affiliate marketer from three sentences away, and treat everything with a certain critical distrust.
Which is why this approach can be so powerful. Any review that seems overly positive can very often give the impression of being biased. By all means, provide a review that is weighted very much towards recommending the product or service but includes criticisms.
Of course, this can be done in a way that can still be interpreted as a positive. For example, if you have a product that’s really good, but a bit pricey, you could say something along the lines of:
“This is certainly not the cheapest product on the market and will not be for everyone, but the high price point is a reminder that this is an especially high-quality product that’s aimed squarely at the professional market, rather than at beginners.”
Similarly, mentioning alternative products can also give the impression that you have done your research, aren’t blinded solely by the manufacturer’s spiel, and instead have gone out to compare the product with others to come up with a fair judgment.
Again, this can be done in a way that may seem almost critical on the surface but actually comes across as still recommending the primary product. For example:
“Unlike product B which includes a separate stand, product A has an integrated stand. While some have seen the inclusion of a separate stand with product B, this does make transportation more cumbersome, and we felt that the fully integrated stand that comes as part of product A was more durable when out in the field.”
5. Use Visual Ratings
As mentioned earlier, visual images can tell a whole lot more than words and very much more quickly. Consumers today very often seek out reviews that include a quick visual aid such as a star rating. It’s no surprise that both Google and Amazon encourage reviews that begin with a star rating (in fact, you don’t need to add anything more).
When creating your own product or service reviews, it helps if you can break it down into categories, such as ‘Value for Money’, and then create a star rating for each category, such as in this example:
It’s probably best not to go overboard with these. One single-star rating might be helpful and eye-catching and make it easy to compare similar products. But adding a few further categories, such as in the example above, helps to provide customers with a balanced and seemingly objective review. This provides them with enough information to quickly compare similar products in ways that are more relevant to them individually. For example, beginners might prioritize the ‘Ease of Use’ category, whereas more experienced users will look at the ‘Features’.
Although star ratings are one of the most common ways of showing a visual rating for a product or service, it’s not the only visual representation that can be used. Bars such as in the example below can also be used:
There are several plugins for WordPress that enable star ratings, but you can also quickly create a template in a graphics program – or even use something as basic as PowerPoint to create a template and adapt it (which is what we used for the images above!)
6. Include A Summary
Possibly, if you’ve been on the internet for a while by now, you’ll have come across the tag TL;DR. Often this is then followed by a short summary of whatever post it was that preceded it.
The acronym stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, and is a mark of just how little time many people spend looking at any one particular post, article, review – or even video. People like summaries, and no matter how long, how thorough, or how well-structured your review is, including a summary will really help.
Yes, there will be many people who will slog through the entire thing, but let’s be realistic – most people will glance for the key factors that they’re most interested in. Whether that be cost, reliability, value for money, ease of use, or features.
So as well as including all of this information in the main review and visually representing a gauge using stars or bars, add in an overall summary. Just one paragraph will do. The best place to include this is right under the star ratings, which should be right at the top.
7. Include An FAQs Section
Although there is a significant possibility that an FAQ section will repeat some – or much – of what will already have been included in the main review, it’s still an important element to add.
Often when people come across reviews, it’s because they have one or more specific questions about the product. In these cases, people will often head directly to an FAQ section to see if their question, or one similar, has been addressed.
If this is the case, then they may either decide that they have all of the information they now need to go ahead and complete their purchase (by clicking the handy affiliate link you included!), or they’ll go on to read more of your review.
An important tip here, though, is to make sure that each of your questions is written out in a way that most likely matches the way users will phrase the question in Google. Then make sure you format that question as a heading on your page.
By doing this, you significantly increase the chance of not only having your review show up for that search but even of having that particular FAQ show up as a Rich Snippet right at the top of the search results.
If you’re struggling to think of what questions to include in your FAQ review, try having a look at relevant forums, YouTube video comments, and even the questions section included at the bottom of most Amazon product pages.
8. Add A Clear Call To Action (CTA)
It goes without saying that you should always include a very clear CTA in your review, with your affiliate link placed in just the right place. But what exactly is the right place?
Perhaps the very bottom? Or at the very top?
There is no one right answer, but there are some general guidelines it’s essential to follow.
Firstly – keep it consistent. One of the things that helped make Amazon so successful is by keeping a consistent look and layout. Anyone knows exactly where to find the product description, images, quick summary, reviews, questions, and the ‘Buy’ button.
Across your reviews, make sure you maintain a consistent layout and style, with your CTA buttons looking the same way and in the same location(s) within each review.
Secondly, either include more than one CTA or ‘Buy’ button or have it included in a floating bar so that it’s always visible as the user scrolls through the review.
There are key locations that make sense to have a purchase button immediately after. These include the star rating and summary section at the top, the full review, and after the FAQ section at the bottom. These three locations are the most logical places to consider adding your buttons.
One of the common questions we see people asking about writing reviews is how long they should be. Clearly, they need to be long enough to provide value to the visitor, but at the same time, you don’t want to turn it into a book, making it hard for them to find the information they need.
Remember that many visitors will be reading more than one review, comparing different products, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with information.
This is why having a consistent layout that includes sections such as a summary and FAQs is so important.
But as far as length is concerned, the most successful people we’ve spoken to generally agree on anything from 1,500 words to 2,500 words overall.
Finally, one really key thing to always keep in mind is that your review should always focus more on the benefits of the product than on the features.
What does this mean?
Simply that, if you tell me this mouse has a vertical design, includes three buttons on one side and two on the other, and has a DPI of 2600, you’re telling me the features, which are of little interest to me.
However, telling me that the vertical design of the mouse will allow me to keep my wrist in a more natural position, reducing strain, with the high DPI meaning that I won’t have to flail my arm all over the desk to move the mouse across my three monitors, instead allowing my arm to remain in a comfortable position, I’m much more likely to be interested.
Benefits > Features. Every time.
If you’re building a WordPress website to create your reviews, you’ll want to make sure you have full control over your affiliate links, maximizing your ability to embed the right data into your reviews and make them as engaging as possible.
Fortunately, this is made much more possible when using the AAWP plugin, which lets you tailor your Amazon affiliate links and listings in a wide variety of ways and uses dynamic listings to ensure your users always see the very latest and most accurate information.