This post is based on Episode 178 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Whether your blog is all about reviewing products or you want to review them occasionally, it’s not always easy to get your hands on them.
I faced this problem in my early blogging days when I ran a camera review blog.
Back then I used seven strategies to get products to review. Some might seem fairly obvious, but others may well be things you haven’t considered.
I’ll come onto those in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at why you might want to write reviews.
Why it’s a Great Idea to Write Reviews on Your Blog
I started my camera review blog by accident when I posted a 300-word review of a camera I was using. I didn’t expect much from that particular post. But I quickly learned that reviews are fantastic.
People search for reviews to get advice on purchases they’re making. People find them useful – they’re grateful for them. I used to get emails from people saying, “Thank you for the review you wrote on this particular camera”. And those people often became long-term readers.
Of course, reviews can also be monetised if you use affiliate links. (And affiliate links in a review tend to convert quite well.)
Reviews are also great for getting conversations going. When you put your opinion of a product out there, other people respond – either to agree with you or to offer a different opinion.
So how do you actually get products to review? This can be a challenge when you’re just starting out, especially if you want to do a lot of reviews.
#1: Start With What You Already Have
I know this is obvious, but begin with the products or resources you’ve already purchased for yourself.
My first review was of my first (and at the time only) digital camera. After that, whenever I bought a new piece of gear I’d review it – a lens, a flash, an SD card, a memory card or something else.
#2: Borrow Products from Friends or Contacts
In those early days, any time a friend bought a new camera I’d ask if I could borrow it for a day or two.
It was amazing how many people not only agreed, but also started coming to me with their new gear because the word got out I was reviewing. Friends wanted to put their new piece of equipment in my hands so I could review it. They were interested in my opinion.
I was also part of a photography club, which opened up all sorts of possibilities for camera and gear to review. Could you join something similar for your own niche?
#3: Try Stores or Rental Places
When I was reviewing cameras back in 2004 and 2005 , manufacturers would send them out only to journalists – not bloggers.
So I asked myself, “Who has the cameras I want to review?” An obvious place was camera stores. I’d go in, introduce myself, and ask if I could borrow a camera to review in return for helping them build their online profile.
A lot of stores were really interested (and I suspect even more would be today). Lots of them let me take cameras away and review them, keeping my driver’s license or some other form of ID.
In my review, I’d link to them and write something like, “This camera was provided by Michael’s Camera Store, which is a Melbourn camera store.”
Who has the type of thing you want to review? It might be a store, or even a rental place. Later on we found a camera rental company that was willing to send cameras to us to review in return for a link on our blog.
#4: Pitch the Manufacturer or Distributor of the Product
Even if you don’t think you’ve got a big profile, you might be surprised how many manufacturers have review units they’ll happily lend you providing your audience is on topic for them.
Try going to trade shows or similar. In Australia, I went to trade shows for the photographic industry and meet the manufacturers or distributors. That was another way we were lent cameras to review.
When you pitch manufacturers, don’t just talk about how many readers you have. Talk about the type of readers you have. A targeted audience can be much more valuable than a big one.
#5: Consider Buying or Renting the Product You Want to Review
Because photography gear is expensive, I only bought products outright a few times. I did it with items that were coming out that:
- I knew would be really popular
- I was fairly confident I could make enough from the affiliate links to cover the purchase.
The option I used more often was to rent a camera for a week from a rental company. While there was still some cost involved, I could make that money back from the affiliate links.
#6: Ask Someone Else to Write a Review For You
I often emailed other bloggers to say, “Hey, I notice you’re using this particular camera. Would you mind writing 500 words on what you think about it?”
It’s amazing how many bloggers were willing to do that in exchange for some exposure.
A couple of times, friends who were hesitant to lend me their camera (see #2) offered to write a review from their own perspective.
I also found a journalist who wrote short reviews of cameras in a weekly supplement in one of our newspapers. He was happy to write two versions of each review and send us one to publish on our blog.
We also had some camera stores and rental companies write reviews for us.
Some people won’t want to write a post for you, but be more than willing to talk to you. For instance, one car blogger I knew had a blog about exotic cards. It was hard for him to get manufacturers to lend him cars to review. So he’d find people who already owned those cars, take his camera out and interview them in person.
#7: Aggregate Other People’s Reviews
I also looked at reviews other people were writing and aggregate some of them. I’d quote from their articles and link to them from my site.
I’d write a post called something like “The Canon Powershot A60: Reviews”. Then I’d list the key features, include a picture from the manufacturer of the camera, and write my thoughts about the features (who the camera might suit, what features might be missing, etc.)
Underneath that, I’d quote other reviewers. I only took one or two sentences from their review, and made it very clear it was a quote. I’d also link to the source of the quote.
Normally, I’d use two or three reviews of the camera and sum up the post with my own thoughts, picking up some of the themes of those reviews.
These days, you could also embed reviews from YouTube, which wasn’t an option back in 2005. For practically any product you can think of there’s a review on YouTube. And the creators are happy for you to embed their video on your site because it gives them more views and raises their profile.
Here’s a recap of the seven things you can try:
#1: Review the stuff you already own
#2: Review stuff you can borrow from your friends or network
#3: Look for places that will let you borrow the products you want to review
#4: Pitch the manufacturers and distributors
#5: Buy the product yourself
#6: Ask other people to write reviews for you (or interview them)
#7: Aggregate what other people are doing
If you’d like some help with actually writing the review itself, check out episode 140 of the ProBlogger podcast: How to Create a Review Post.
I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this, whether you write reviews regularly or just occasionally. How do you get products to review? What types of products do you focus on? Share your thoughts in the comments below.