Six Tips for Writing Better Online Reviews

writingimage.jpgWant to write incredible online reviews that will influence what other people buy? Follow these six easy tips:

1. Have experience with the product. Reviewing a product? Use it first.

You’d think this could go without saying, right? But over at Amazon.com, hundreds of people are reviewing the new Kindle, giving it one-star ratings without so much as ever having touched the device. The harshest review of one of my own books was written by a woman who, at the end, disclosed she had never read the book.

Reviewing a book? Read it. Reviewing a movie? Watch it — maybe more than once. Reviewing a Tarot deck? Read with it for at least a week, exclusively, before posting a review. Before you write a review, use the product in question.

writingimage.jpgWant to write incredible online reviews that will influence what other people buy? Follow these six easy tips:

1. Have experience with the product. Reviewing a product? Use it first.

You’d think this could go without saying, right? But over at Amazon.com, hundreds of people are reviewing the new Kindle, giving it one-star ratings without so much as ever having touched the device. The harshest review of one of my own books was written by a woman who, at the end, disclosed she had never read the book.

Reviewing a book? Read it. Reviewing a movie? Watch it — maybe more than once. Reviewing a Tarot deck? Read with it for at least a week, exclusively, before posting a review. Before you write a review, use the product in question.

2. Get the facts straight. Good reviewers do a little homework.

One woman who reviewed my third book called it my first, stated authoritatively that I’d clearly never read Tarot before (I’d been reading for more than half a decade at the time), and blasted me for being one of those authors who know nothing about a subject, but write about it for the money (clearly, she’d never seen the pitiful size of my royalty checks!).

Is the book part of a series? Before commenting on volume three, be sure you’ve read volumes one and two, so you can talk about the book in the context of the entire story arc. Reviewing a movie? Consider talking about it in terms of the director or the star’s entire body of work (but only, of course, if you’ve seen those other films).

Google and Wikipedia are amazing tools — look up the author, director, or inventor, find his or her blog, ask a few questions, and spice your review with something really compelling: accurate information.

4. Give us your experience. In the end, your experience is the only unique thing you have to offer.

One woman in the Tarot community posts extensive reviews of book after book, but about eighty percent of her “reviews” contain nothing more than the table of contents and information from the book’s cover blurbs and introduction. The result? Really boring reviews.

How did you feel when you left the theatre? How much faster did your new Dyson clear the room of cat hair? How much cheesier were your nachos when you switched to Velveeta?

We’ll see generic product information and marketing blurbs on dozens of other websites, but only you can give us your personal experience.

5. Know the competition. A review of the Kindle by a person who’s never used an e-Book reader is one thing; a review of the Kindle by someone who also owns and uses the Sony and Cybook e-book readers is quite another.

Having used competitive or similar products — and reporting the differences between those and the product you’re reviewing — gives your review an undeniable aura of authority. Reviewing a mystery novel? Know who is writing similar books on similar themes. Reviewing a small vacuum cleaner? Find and use other vacuum cleaners in the same size and price range.

6. Review the actual product. Some people reviewing the Kindle e-book reader are criticizing it because it doesn’t play video, take phone calls, provide unlimited web browsing, or replace their PDA. That’s a bit like condemning a new car because it doesn’t clean the carpet well.

When you write a review, review the actual product … not your expectations or assumptions about the product.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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