SEO in a review?

seo-896175_1920Search engine optimization (SEO) is the way people and companies increase visibility to their webpage or website.   Think of it as a free way to get unpaid clicks, and have your site appear near the top of search results.  You may have also heard the term ‘organic traffic’ which is any traffic coming to your site that is not the result of paid advertising.

I am not an SEO expert by any measure, but I do employ some SEO tactics on my own website, and I get modest pay offs from it since I do not do paid advertising (yet).   But beyond having a personal website, why would SEO be important for a reviewer to know about?

Some companies who are looking for reviews will request that the reviewers include certain words or phrases in their reviews.    This is done for SEO purposes.  I personally don’t like the practice because in many cases it makes the review sound contrived, especially if they have dozens of reviewers on the same product, saying the same phrases.   I understand that from an SEO point of view this can lead to more eyes on their product page, but ultimately the savvy shopper will be turned off if they read more than a few reviews that sound the same.  It will seem fraudulent, even if the reviews are genuine.  I wish that sellers would realize this, and they would drop the practice of asking for certain phrases.

Don’t lose site of why you review.  It’s not for the seller, it’s for the consumer – and the byproduct of that is your own personal reputation.  This is why I reject all requests to use certain phrases.   I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to comply with those requests, I think it’s a grey area.   At worst, it could be considered a mild version of review manipulation in that they are putting “words in your mouth”.


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Consumer Lessons

cardboard-box-161578_960_720So many products have come across my doorstep, and I’ve learned a few things by being able to review them.   I’m going to share some of the insights I have learned as a result.

If your buying common items, shop around first.   Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohls, Overstock… all these outlets carry a lot of the same items.   I mean exactly the same.   The only difference will be the price and the return policy of the seller.  You can buy an LED light on Amazon for $9 or you can buy it for $15.  But it’s the same light and it’s the same seller (Amazon) with the same return policy (Prime).   I never buy anything now without first shopping around.

Brand name seems to only matter (sometimes) when it comes to electronics.   But it doesn’t really matter in other areas, unless you are trying to impress someone with a logo.  For instance, if you buy a leather purse that isn’t a brand name vs. one that is a brand name you will get the same quality minus the logo but at less cost.   Now that’s not to say a really cheap-o bonded leather purse will hold up as well, because it won’t.  You do get what you pay for.   But if you spend $100 on a good quality purse, you’ll be spending half as much for an equivalent quality as the name brand.

If an item seems priced ridiculously low, it’s a knock off and inferior quality 99% of the time.   Sometimes that’s ok, if you know what you are getting.  But don’t delude yourself by thinking that the $20 smart watch is as good as the $500 one, even if they look the same.   The $20 may work, but it’s not going to have the same functionality and in some cases it might be more of a hassle than you bargained for.  But it is worth exactly what you paid.

Some things are a gamble buying online.   Memory foam mattresses and clothes are the first things that come to mind.   They are a gamble because they are a personal preference issue.  For example, some people like a harder mattress.  When you are reading reviews and they say “it’s firm, but not too hard” what they mean is “not too hard for me”.   When you try it – it’s like a rock.   It’s really subjective.   I’ve tested 6 memory foam mattresses in the last 6 years, and each one was radically different, but all of them boasted being “soft”.  But for the record, two of the mattresses were anything but soft, two were like a cloud, and the other two were somewhere in the middle.  The upside is buying memory foam online is radically cheaper.  Maybe you can afford to make a mistake or two finding the right one.

I can’t tell the difference between a $300 necklace and a $100 necklace.  But I can tell the difference between a $100 necklace and a $10 necklace.   There is a law of diminishing returns with jewelry.   Diamonds are nearly indistinguishable from cubic zirconia now, weight wise they are the same, with CZ being maybe even a bit heavier.  Fakes are getting pretty realistic.  You can tell with rings or chunkier jewelry pieces by the weight of the metal if they are cheap… but visually… you can’t.  Keep that in mind if you are splurging you can get something really nice for $300, or get something that looks the same for $100.


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Less than a 5 star

Star_rating_1_of_5Sometimes, products just don’t measure up.   Then you have to leave a one or two star review.   How to approach them is sometimes a dilemma.   How do you be fair and not inflammatory, but present a reasoned explanation for why the product didn’t measure up? Here are some recent instances where I left a negative review:

2 Star Dino Pets

There is a lot of set up and care that goes into this, and the reward is not immediate by any stretch. My kids were excited, and then grew bored quickly when results were not spectacular. We are on day 4 and while the Dino Pet lights up more than it did, it still is very underwhelming (although cool). I understand that in a couple weeks the effect will be even more dramatic and if it is and I need to up my star rating I will at that point. I wish these things just lit up randomly on their own like lightning bugs, where we could sit with a magnifying glass and marvel. But we can’t do that because you have to shake them to get any light.

I like the idea of this, but in practice it just doesn’t have the appeal I thought it would. It only lights up at night, and the effect is short lived and “wears out” if you shake it too much. I also feel responsible for this thing, to make sure it gets light and food… it is a living colony after all. So now I feel that it’s more work for not a lot of fun. When I run out of food I almost feel like I have an ethical dilemma on my hands! Do I buy more or kill the entire colony?! I know they are not sentient, but it seems deliberately mean, like kicking over ant hills.*

1 Star Dehumidifier

I was hoping this little unit would perform better. After having it running for a day, there was maybe one tiny drip in the reservoir. So, thinking part of the problem was that I have a large dehumidifier downstairs, I decided to put a humidifier right next to the dehumidifier to test it. (see my video) My humidifier is small, it has a reservoir of only a half cup. I let it run until it was dry… then checked the dehumidifier next morning. Barely a teaspoon of water, despite the humidifier being right next to it. I would have expected at least a 1/4 cup since they were sitting side by side.

I know the unit was running, I could hear the motor and feel air passing from the top out through the front. It just was not as efficient as I had hoped, although it does work, I just was hoping for it to work better.

I got this dehumidifier at no charge for the purpose of review. If you have any questions I didn’t cover, please ask in the comments section – but I probably won’t be hanging on to this dehumidifier.

You can leave a negative review that isn’t hostile, but points out the reasons why someone might not like an item.   Sometimes I find negative reviews can actually be more helpful than positive reviews, and I tend to click the “helpful” button on those reviews more than others.   Don’t fear giving negative reviews!  Remember, your primary concern is helping others make an informed decision.   If you don’t like it, tell people why and let them make up their own mind.  There are too many reviewers out there who only give positive reviews, and they do a great disservice.


*This review was for Vine which is sanctioned by Amazon and labeled as such.  Therefore I don’t leave a disclaimer on those reviews.   All other reviews where I get an item for free or a discount must have disclaimers.


More posting problems on Amazon

A problem that seems to be reoccurring with Amazon reviews are that a review may not post, or if it does post –  it is missing photo or video elements that had been added with the original review.

This has been happening sporadically for the better part of a year.   I can’t see a pattern to it, other than it happens in spurts where in the span of a week I get two or three reviews that don’t post or are missing some element to them when they do post.   Could it be due to a lax employee?  Perhaps some sort of glitch in the computer?  I can’t say.   When these things happen I just contact customer service and they resolve it within a day or two if it is the case that the review didn’t post, and if it is the case that it did post and photos were left out, I go back and edit my review to add them back in myself.

My advice to you because of this issue is to save all your review photos and videos for at least a month, and be sure to check all your reviews after posting to assure all elements of the review are present.   If you haven’t already… get a tracking system in place for your reviews and review items so you will know what has and has not posted.    Previously I was deleting all my photos and videos as soon as I posted the review, but I learned the hard way that it ends up being more work when you have to recreate them.  I am saving mine with the idea that I will keep them for 6 months then delete.   Probably a bit of overkill, but I like to err on the side of caution.

Disclaimers revisited

In a previous blog post “Don’t be a used car salesman” I talked about my personal opinion on what makes a good disclaimer.    Now I’m going to show you some actual examples I pulled from Amazon to compare and contrast.  Some are better than others.   Seeing them side by side may help you develop your own disclaimer statement.

Disclaimer/Disclosure Examples:

  • I received these [product name] at a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. 🙂 I hope that my review is helpful and know that I was in no way swayed by the discounted price. I try to truthfully describe and critique the item to the best of my ability, and usually with a personal touch. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Hopefully it helped!
  • I received this product in exchange for my honest feedback.
  • I received this product during a promotion free for my honest review and they are 100% my own opinions. I received no compensation for this review and I am not required to give a good review. I am also not associated with the seller in any way.
  • I received this product for free as part of a promotion.
  • Disclaimer: I received this product free or at a reduced price in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are 100% my own and not influenced by anyone. If my review was helpful to you, would you please vote, yes. I am always honest with my reviews and try to point out facts that a potential customer might find useful and I am not paid for my reviews. Thank you.
  • I got this product at a discount, but I’m not told what to say.   I test all products I get really well and I’m very honest.  I know that some people think that because I got this at a discount my review is fake, but its not true.  I put a lot of time into reviews and it is actually work.   Please click the helpful button if you liked my review.
  • Thank you [Seller Name] for this awesome product. I was fortunate to receive this at no costs for my honest and unbiased testing and review. My opinion is based solely on my personal experienced with the product and was in no way influenced by outside sources.
  • This was furnished to me for the purposes of review. Thanks for reading!
  • I received this product at a discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced by the discount.

A few of these statements you will observe, include a solicitation for clicking the “helpful” button.  This is not a direct violation of Amazon’s terms of service, but it treads pretty close.   I would avoid it, because by soliciting others for up votes you are in fact applying a light form of review manipulation, which is a prohibited activity in its more blatant forms.  Don’t risk it, just play it safe and keep your disclaimers short and to the point.


Common Reviewing Questions, part 2

questionQ and A about Reviews (part 2):

What happens if I get offered a review item that I accept, but the seller does not respond back with a coupon code?   It is pretty common that sellers will contact you about a review item, and you enthusiastically accept, only to have the seller never contact you again.   It happens to me all the time, so much so I don’t even give it a second thought.  In the last year that I have tracked such things, I have had almost 250 items that I was promised, but never received.  That’s several items that don’t materialize each week, a few of those even were actually ordered with coupon codes on Amazon and the seller just never shipped.  So don’t sweat it when it happens to you.    It could be that the seller only had so many items to give out for reviews, and had more interest than items.  It could be any number of reasons!   There is no harm in contacting the seller to inquire, although I would not expect any answer.   My personal philosophy is just to let it go, I don’t have time to try to manage all the sellers that bailed out on me.

What happens if the seller requires me to give a 5 star review AFTER I already accepted the item?   You should never comply with such a request.   It is somewhat deceptive on the part of the seller to “throw that in” after the fact, and in these cases (it has happened to me) you should email back informing the seller it is impossible to know before you receive an item whether or not it is 5 stars.   Be sure you let the seller know where you stand, even if they didn’t give you the same courtesy.

What happens if I get an item, but I lost the product link to review and I can’t remember who sent me the item?   This is where good record keeping can really save you.  Sometimes though you may forget to save information.   I admit, it has happened to me recently.   What I did first was to go through my records, not finding anything there, I then went through my saved emails- and luckily the seller had an email that matched the brand name of the product.   From the found email, I was able to get the product link.  Had I not found it there, I would have gone back through my purchase records online (hoping it was not a direct ship item) to see if I could find it.  But if you aren’t so lucky, in most cases after a few weeks the seller will send an inquiry as to why a review has not been posted.  Be watching and waiting for it.


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used car salesmanEveryone who reviews on Amazon needs to include a disclaimer.  There is a lot of debate on what makes a good disclaimer.  Everyone has their own opinions on what should be written in a disclaimer, but there are two things that Amazon requires:

  • You must include a disclaimer that is prominent.
  • You must disclose that you got the item for free or for a discount.

How you word it is up to you.   Because I just type my disclosure at the end of each review (as opposed to copy/paste) it tends to change a bit in wording each time.  But the gist of it is “I received my (insert item here) at no charge for the purpose of review.”

Some people get a bit wordy with their disclaimers and feel it necessary to point out that the review is an honest assessment, or something similar.  I don’t prefer those kinds of disclaimers.   The dishonest can claim to be honest too, so proclaiming honesty is a moot point at best, and at worst, puts the idea in the reader’s mind that not all reviews (even the claimants) are honest.   To put it bluntly, saying how honest you are smacks of used car salesman.

I would urge a ‘to the point’, blunt disclaimer.


I’ll let you check out my blog archives, for free!  I’ll throw in an air freshener too.  Honest!

The best Item I ever was offered

bestI’ve even been offered expensive items like furniture, appliances, high end electronics and jewelry.   And all those are pretty great, who wouldn’t like to get that kind of stuff?  But there are always a few stand outs and they aren’t necessarily because of the expense.   Sometimes the best products are the ones that unexpectedly surprise me with how much I come to rely on them.  I can’t pinpoint just one “best item”.

For instance, I was offered breakfast cereal a few years back.  Yes, cereal!   Kellogg’s Krave and Crunchy Nut cereals.  I got addicted for awhile.   I’d be buying box after box when my originals ran out… they were that good!  Krave, by the way… is an excellent way to get a chocolate “fix”.   I generally eat it dry, as a snack.

I also can’t live without Luseta Beauty Argan oil hair mask.   When my free one ran out, I went out and bought some more.  It really worked wonders on my hair.  I use it also after the pool, I rub some in and my hair is soft and tangle free and it doesn’t look like a rat’s nest, which is something I prefer not to have when in public.

I have become somewhat dependent on my power banks.  I have kept about 8 or 9 even though I don’t need that many, but I’ve reviewed literally dozens, so I feel like an expert.  Aukey seems to make some of my favorite ones, but idaye has made some I really like too.

I also received a leather purse that I have come to adore.   If anything happened to that, I’d be buying a replacement, ASAP.  It’s 100% real leather, I still can’t believe how inexpensive it was, because the feel of the leather is amazing!  I had a few other “little black purses” but I gave those all to Goodwill, because this is the only one for me now.

And finally, I have to give mention to my memory foam mattress topper, which rests on our memory foam bed (which was also a review item).   The topper is nothing short of amazing.  It’s like no other comfort I’ve ever felt in a bed, and I really liked our memory foam mattress alone for it’s comfort.   With the topper added on though, it takes it to a whole new decadent level.   I’d advise if you want to take your bed to the “next level” get one of these yourself.  I think it can improve just about any bed.


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My other job

marketingI do have another job besides reviewing.   I work from home for a large natural products manufacturer and distributor.  I love everything about the job.   My title is Marketing Specialist, but what I do primarily boils down to graphic design, managing social media and professional blogging.  However, my degree is in Human Services and I have a certification in Creative Arts Therapy. Originally when I went to college I wanted to go into graphic design, but I found that while I loved the “art” aspect, I didn’t like the technology aspect.   I felt like all the graphic design programs were too cumbersome to the creative process (this was awhile ago).   And now all these years later, I stumble into a graphic design job.   Of course now the programs I use like Illustrator and Photoshop are much more sophisticated and powerful than they were, and I find them much less daunting and actually enjoyable to use.   I’m self taught on these programs, so there are always new things to learn.

I also do some secret shopping on the side, but have not done it much in recent months because the other two jobs seem to be dominating my time.  For awhile, I was doing several secret shops a day.   Now every few months I’ll pick up one here or there when it fits into the schedule.  But that’s the nice thing about secret shopping, you choose when to work and how frequently you work.

It is interesting how all three of these jobs inter-relate with each other.   Skills I learn and hone in one area transfer over to the next.  The marketing and SEO I have learned transfers to my reviewing life.   My review job hones my writing skills which I need for my marketing job and my secret shopper jobs, and the secret shopping job makes me focus on what good customer relations are, which loosely translates back to the other two jobs.   I’m really blessed to be able to do these things, and I hope that I’ll be able to do it for a long time.



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