How to Write Useful Product Reviews for Electronic Gadgets
Why I Created this Hub
I was just looking for a digital camcorder and ran into a number of classic pet peeves. As a consumer of Generation XY, I've been raised and conditioned to believe that everybody is a scam artist. The internet hasn't helped much, and neither have product reviews. However, I have learned, by necessity, to skim through the product reviews to find the (very) few useful ones amid an ocean of useless ones. This constant irritation finally led me to create this Hub. Please don't take too much offense if you're one of the people I complain about. I'm really just trying to do my part to clean up the internet and remove the useless clutter that litters it in exponentially-increasing proportions.
I'm assuming that you aren't writing fake reviews
The rest of this Hub will assume that you are an honest user who would like to genuinely contribute to the greater online community by helping other consumers make better informed buying decisions. Let's face it; anyone whose goal is to write deceptive reviews probably won't be dissuaded from anything I write here, so I shan't bother trying.
Be Clear About Whether You're Rating the Product, the Marketplace, or the Seller
A common problem that I run into when reading reviews: people who give 1-star reviews to products because they have a beef with the online merchants who are selling them. When Lady Gaga released a new album, the huge demand for downloads bogged down Amazon's servers. This resulted in a slew of inappropriate 1-star reviews for the album itself.
I've also seen reviews on Amazon.com where product ratings suffered because of a bad experience dealing with a particular third party merchant. (E.G. "They took 2 days to reply to my e-mail.")
Most online marketplaces allow you to rate sellers and products. Be clear about which one you're reviewing. If you want to air a grievance about a web site such as Ebay.com, your best bet is to blog about it or post on a social network. But don't give a product a bad review because of your experience with the person who sold it.
Make it Clear That Your Review is Real
With the onslaught of fake product reviews on the internet these days, it's becoming more difficult to establish credibility. I've seen the issue of fake reviews come up with books in particular. Authors will create a handful of fake accounts and post glowing reviews of their own books online - and they'll have a circle of their friends do the same. On multiple occasions, I've had people offer me free copies of their books in exchange for five-star reviews.
Given the huge number of bogus reviews, how can you tell that a product review is legit? There are three common motivations, as far as I can tell, for giving fake reviews:
- Making products look better than they deserve
- Inflating the credibility score of a particular reviewer (trying to game the system and become a "top reviewer" by posting large numbers of generic product reviews and "voting the reviews up"
- Attacking a competitor by posting phony negative reviews
In all three of these cases, the perpetrators of fake reviews are generally lazy and they're playing a numbers game. Therefore, they're generally not going to take the time to write out specifics. Some down-and-dirty marketing shysters even pay low-wage workers to create fake accounts and post bogus reviews. Why bother making the effort to develop a great product? You can just as easily buy 100 five-star reviews overnight!
Bearing that in mind....
Write out the specifics.
Here's a great example of what I'm talking about. I was looking for reviews on handheld pocket digital camcorders. One 3-star review specifically listed the pros and cons in a way that helped me very quickly decide not to buy the camera. It gave me the dealbreakers right out front. The camcorder in question had no external microphone jack and the buttons were recessed and difficult to press. The reviewer also noted that when taking still pictures, the camera didn't give you any feedback to indicate that it had actually taken a picture.
I thought to myself, "That would piss me off." The camera was a no-go. That's the kind of review I want.
By contrast, I scrolled through countless 5-star reviews that said things like "great camera, great price, I'm very satisfied!" Now I'm not saying that those reviews were all fake. I just wasn't going to expend the energy to try to figure it out. They weren't particularly helpful anyway.
Talk About How the Product Compares
I've read a number of reviews that made it appear as though the reviewer had never looked at or used any other product of a similar type. For example, when I was looking at camcorder reviews, I recall coming across one particular 5-star review that went on at great length to talk about how wonderful it was to have a camera that could upload videos to the internet. The reviewer then went into a long, drawn-out spiel about her kids and how cute they looked on video.
I see these reviews from time to time, and it's pretty clear to me that the people who write them haven't really taken the time to understand the point of writing a product review. Readers aren't interested in hearing your personal stories.
Keep it SHORT
I don't need to say much about this. Do you really think anyone wants to read a product review that's a page long? If you're a good enough writer to keep anyone engaged for a long time, don't waste your talents on product reviews. Write a book instead, or at least write on your own blog. No one is interested in listening to you ramble on about your experience with any product. The longer your review is, the less likely people are to read it.
Put Specifics in the Title
Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer looking through a handful of product reviews. Make your review easy to "spot and dive." In other words, make it clear in the title what you're going to say about the product. If you're giving it a rave review, talk about what's great about it in the headline. If it was atrocious, give the low points of your nightmare in the title.
Examples of Good Review Titles
- "Color saturation issues, short battery life, but very durable"
- "Worked great for a week and then broke, replaced twice, giving up now"
- "Great picture, easy to use, best button layout I've ever seen"
Examples of Bad Review Titles
- "Good product, very happy"
- "I'm disappointed"
- "So-so product"
Example of a Video Review - Steve Garfield
Remember the Goal of a Review
Readers of your review are trying to make buying decisions. They want to figure out if the product they're considering buying is the best possible product they could spend their money on. They want to make a decision that they can feel good about, and they want to do so without spending any more time than they need to.
If you can't help accomplish that goal, there's really no point in writing a review at all.