So you have a blog…or are thinking about starting one…in a product based niche, and you want to start reviewing these free products on your blog for your readers. The question I receive most often is “how do you get companies to send you so much free stuff?” The process is very easy, but it does take time and a lot of effort on your part. If you follow these easy steps, you too will have more free product than you can possibly review at one time.
First…Why should you even listen to me?
One of my blogs, Bike198.com, brings in over $8,000 a month in free product for reviews on my blog. Many of these items, sometimes complete bikes, have a retail worth of over $3,000 each! The bike in the picture above has a retail value of $6,100! After performing the steps I am about to list out below, I have manufacturers and PR companies searching me out for product reviews instead of the other way around. I know what you are thinking…he has to have been blogging a long time to get these kinds of results…here is the surprise…all of this was accomplished in the first 8 months of the blog’s life. Do I have your attention now?
Second…Why you should do product reviews on your blog?
- Product reviews are SEO gold. If you are in a product heavy niche and you want to rank high in Google and other search engines, product reviews are the fastest way to accomplish your goals. The number one search query in the world is for reviews on products. In today’s internet savvy environment, consumers are looking to do as much research as they possibly can online before they make a purchase. The manufacturers and distributors know this fact. That is why that get their product in the hands of magazines and websites for review. It is a win/win for you and the company. I will go into more detail about structuring an effectively SEO’ed product review later, but for the purposes of this article…just know…if you are not doing product reviews now…start right away.
- Your readers want to know what works and what doesn’t in your niche. If you really want to be able to show solutions and provide worth, objective product reviews will grow your unique visits and subscribers faster than you can ever imagine. Keep in mind…I am not talking about glorified advertisements…we are talking about solid positive and negative reviews.
- Product reviews are also another chance for affiliate ad income. A solid review with a source for purchase can bring your residual income for years to come. You can get affiliate income directly through the manufacturer or through online retailer that carry that specific product.
- Product reviews can also be a second source of income. In many cases, you are able to keep the product that you review. You can use this product as a giveaway to increase subscribers and traffic, or you can use it personally for other reasons.
Finally…What are the steps to getting this free product in for review?
When you are a beginning blogger just trying to get your foot in the door, manufacturers, distributors, salesman and even a fellow blogger isn’t going to pay much attention to you. Most of the time, you won’t even get an answer back. Why? These people get multiple requests…just like yours…on a daily basis. Many of the websites that send these requests won’t even be around anymore at year end, so the emails are trashed and you are left without any response.
So what do you do in the meantime?
Review everything that you can get your hands on.
Go through the products that you already own in your niche and review all of them. Ask your friends to borrow their products and review them too. You are now in the process of building up a review database that gains you traffic and credibility. No one is going to send you their money (in the form of inventory) if they aren’t reasonably sure what they are getting into. They need to be able to see a reasonable return on their investment. As you review all of these products, start to watch your traffic and take feedback from your readers on the kinds of products they would like to see in the future. Later on, you are going to be able to talk to this companies that you reviewed their product in the past with a specific history of results to draw back on. These early reviews will also put you in the radar for these same companies.
Look for partnerships that would be mutually beneficial.
Early on with Bike198, I formed a partnership with the largest mountain biking forum site in the world. This forum site was starting a new Pro Review program that was a Wordpress based blog for magazine style product reviews separate of the forum site. They were on the lookout for bloggers in the mountain biking industry to help with content. In return, those bloggers were able to use their contacts and traffic as leverage with manufacturers. The partnership is perfect. Bloggers get review product and the forum site got content.
Search out forum sites in your niche and if they don’t already have a program like this…pitch the idea to them. This will allow you to start a long term relationship with another large website in the industry, but…more importantly…it will gain you a huge amount of credibility that you couldn’t have done that quickly on your own.
Before we start this step, I need to make one thing very clear…DO NOT MAKE A BULK EMAIL OR MAILER AND SEND IT OUT TO EVERY COMPANY YOU WANT TO CONTACT! If you send out non-personalized emails, go ahead and expect them to be thrown away. These people deal with this all the time, and they can tell when a pitch is just bulk junk.
Be very personal. Show that you actually know something about their company and their products. You will want to specifically name the products and why you want to review them for your readers. In this letter, you need to outline what you want to do and how you are going to do it. After that, show the other companies you have worked with in the past by directing them to specific reviews on your site. At the end, site some simple traffic numbers (subscribers, uniques per month, pageviews per month) and thank them for their time. End the letter with a little personal note and “I look forward to hearing back with you to discuss this further.”
You will not hear back right away. In some cases, I didn’t hear back for a month or more. It is always a good idea to follow up with a personalized, mailed (those things with the stamps) letter as backup. Many companies have advanced email filters that might have gotten your email thrown away, so faxing and mailing are essential in making sure that your information got to the right eyes.
Many bloggers today stick strictly with email as their only form of communication. I do not agree with this at all. Sending personalized letters through the mail can show how serious you really are about starting a relationship with the company in question. I strongly recommend you do this…especially in the beginning. Include your logo and contact information…along with a couple of business cards if you have them. To find out who to send your letters directly to, go to the companies website and find the contact names for the marketing director and vp of sales. Do not bother sending a letter to the owner of the company unless they are very small.
Deliver on exactly what you say you will…plus some…
This is probably the most important point to get across. Your credibility is everything as a blogger. When you say you are going to do something..do it…and deliver a little extra that the company wasn’t expecting. One of the easiest ways to do this is by linking back to the review article or the manufacturers website in other areas of your blog. Many times, I will use their product to review another product on my blog. This gains them additional traffic and exposure to my readers that they would have not gotten normally under a review post scenario. Ideally, you need to provide enough return out of this partnership that the product manufacturer had a bigger return on their time investment than you did as the blogger. This will spawn a long term relationship with more product reviews in the future.
You are going to notice a turn in events after a period of time.
After a couple of months of doing this process over and over again, you are going to start noticing a turn. Slowly, the smaller manufacturers are going to start contacting you directly. As time progresses, larger manufacturers will start subscribing to your newsletter and feed…eventually they will contact you just to say hi. Later, you will have large scale, big name manufacturers asking you if you want to review their products.
How did you get to this point?
You built up your credibility and showed that you can be trusted. You also put the time and effort in that showed you are going to be around for the long-haul and that dealing with your site is not going to be a waste of their time. Congratulations, you are now a top review blogger in the industry and you have loads of organic traffic to show for it.
What do you do now? Use those same contacts as direct advertising leads!
Want to learn even more and see the success I have? Check out Ramped Reviews.