Reviews are a great way to bring in traffic to your blog or YouTube channel. They are also a fantastic way to generate affiliate commissions as people who are interested in purchasing a product are highly likely to check reviews before they buy.
I have been reviewing products for many years. I first started reviewing products and services around fifteen years ago when I created an affiliate website that reviewed every major affiliate network. I later featured reviews in my other websites. For example, on my old poker discussion forums I would get sent poker related products and I would publish in-depth reviews about them. They were incredibly popular as no one else in that niche was doing that.
I wouldn't go as far as saying that I am expert in the field of reviewing, though I continue to review digital products and services regularly on this blog and others and I enjoy doing them. The vast majority of these items were delivered free of charge so that I may review them.
Over the last year I have started to review tech items on my YouTube channel too. Initially, I reviewed tech products that I had purchased myself, however I have recently been sent products such as mobile phone cases free of charge so that I may review them. I am planning on having more products sent to me for review to reduce the cost of reviewing items on my channel.
In this article, I would like to explain how you can get products for reviews free of charge. Those of you who have your own blog or YouTube channel should find this useful.
Why Would Any Company Offer Products Free of Charge?
Before I talk about how you can get free products and services to review, it is important to understand why companies would want to do this.
The answer is simple: Exposure.
Companies spend a large part of their budget advertising their products and services. Sending products out to influential reviewers can generate social proof and lead to many more people buying the item.
The more expensive an item is, the more selective companies tend to be about who they send their products too. Take Apple, for example. They have a huge customer base and therefore only send products to highly influential websites and YouTubers. Higher priced items normally have to be sent back after the review has been performed; though I am aware that some companies allow some influencers to keep the products they send.
It is easier to get cheaper items sent to you. A good example of this is the companies that have been recently sending me mobile phone cases for reviews. These items typically retail for between $10 and $30. When you consider the cost of advertising a product on Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, sending out some free items is a low cost and effective way of promoting their products. One good review could help many other people purchase the product so it is in their interests to send products out to reviewers.
What you may also find with many cheaper items is that there aren't many reviews for the products. Websites such as Amazon are full of products that do not have any reviews. Companies may be more open to a review because of this as they understand the importance of ratings and social proof.
This article is about how you can get products and services for reviews without spending a penny. However, once you understand the benefits that companies are getting from your review, you realise that they are not technically free.
You are exchanging your time and energy to get these reviews so you should not look at it from the viewpoint that you are doing them a favour. In most situations, it is you who are helping them out.
The main goal for you is to reduce your expenditure for items that you may not have any use for after you have reviewed them.
You Need an Online Presence
It does not matter if you do not have a blog with thousands of visitors per day or a YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers. It is however vital that you have some sort of presence online. Whether it be a blog, a website, or a YouTube channel that is actively updated. A large following on Twitter or Facebook is desirable too.
You need to have published some reviews in the past to demonstrate the quality of review that a company can expect from you. Crappy two-hundred word blog posts just do not cut it.
If you want to encourage companies to send you products for review, the quality of your reviews has to be high. They should be detailed, informative, and show that you spent time using the product or service in question. Check out a recent review I did on my channel that shows you the type of video reviews I am producing :)
I recommend reviewing products and services you already own initially. Alternatively, you can purchase some cheap items for review that will not break the bank.
Blog posts should be at least five-hundred words long with lots of images together with links to where others can purchase the item. More complicated products deserve longer reviews. It has not been uncommon for me to publish reviews that are two to three thousand words long because there was so much to cover. Generally speaking, a more detailed review will rank better in search engines and on social media services, which in turn leads to increased affiliate commissions.
Video reviews should be well presented, easy to follow, and show viewers exactly what the product can and cannot do. A poorly lit video with terrible audio shouts amateur hour. You need to ensure that your videos are professional.
The bottom line is that you need to show advertisers that they are not wasting their time sending you a product for review. If your reviews are good, getting products sent to you should be an easy sell.
I recommend creating a page on your website that explains the benefits of a review. Link to reviews you have published and talk about th
Getting Connected with Major Brands
There are a number of online services that help you do that. Some simply connect you to companies. Others will pay you for publishing a review. Below is a small selection of these kinds of services.
Product Reviews and Connections
- Blogga Base – Connects bloggers with companies. Covers a wide range of products such as tech, travel, and food.
- Bloggers Required – A service where brands post assignments that bloggers can accept. Bloggers are compensated by an affiliate payment or by being allowed to keep the product they reviewed.
- Izea – Bloggers get paid for reviewing major brands and websites.
- Pitch It To Me – A directory that aims to connect bloggers with companies.
- Products for Review – Helps reviewers connect with agencies and PR companies in order to get products to review.
- Tomoson – Get paid to review products and publish competitions on your blog.
- BzzAgent – Sends out samples of products for members to try out, such as health and beauty products, food, and drink.
- CrowdTap – Members get rewards and free samples from major brands for giving their opinion.
- House Party – Host a party sponsored by a major brand and they will send a host of free products to you.
- Influenster – They ship out boxes with product samples every month in exchange for opinions and reviews.
- Vocal Point – Sends out samples of food and drink products in exchange for honest opinions
Do not expect to be paid well for publishing reviews through any of the above services. Review marketplaces are notoriously stingy when it comes to paying the going rate. They are normally very restrictive too. For example, the advertiser will want to see your review before you publish it on your blog.
Is this a problem? Yes and no.
I would never publish a pre-written sponsored review on this blog. It is simply not in my interests to publish a 100% positive review in exchange for a few dollars. My integrity and the goodwill that I have built up over many years would be lost.
However, I do still own other small content websites that were primarily set up to make money through affiliate programs or Google Adsense. I would not hesitate to publish a pre-written positive review on those website as, quite frankly, I could not care less about them.
If you are serious about your blog, website, or YouTube channel, I would avoid accepting any terms that force you to publish content you would not normally publish. Long term, it is better if all of your reviews are honest and speak about the good and bad points about a particular product or service.
I do still recommend checking out the products on offer through the above websites as they may be a good fit for your website.
The Direct Approach
Unless you a massive following on YouTube or a blog that has good traffic, companies are unlikely to contact you directly about a review. This means that you need to seek out products yourself.
The simplest, easiest, and most effective way to acquire products for review is to email the company.
The marketplaces above are useful for connecting with major brands that you will find in your local supermarket, but I have always found email to be the best solution for acquiring reviews. Being proactive and emailing companies directly also cuts out the middle man; which in turns means that you do not have to adhere to the terms and conditions that these services inevitably put in place for using them.
Decide on the Product
Before you email anyone, you need to draw up a list of products that you would like to review. Be realistic about which companies will respond positively to your approach. If you have a brand new blog with little traffic, companies that sell items worth hundreds of dollars are not going to entertain your idea of getting their product free of charge.
There is of course a small chance that if you play the numbers game and contact hundreds of people about reviewing expensive items, a company may be willing to take a chance on you. Though generally this does not happen.
The exception to this rule is digital items. Even if your website has very little traffic, a company may be willing to send you their digital product free of charge because it does not cost them anything. For example, an eBook, an online course, or software.
With physical products, the more successful your blog or YouTube channel becomes, the more companies will want you to review their products.
My recommendation is therefore to start off small and target smaller items. You will get a much better conversion rate from your emails by taking this approach.
Though it is important to remember that the quality of reviews you previously published will influence the company's decision as to whether they send you a product.
Who Do You Email?
With physical products you are sometimes wondering “Who do I email?”.
Do you email the official website, the manufacturer, your local distributor, or a popular retailer?
The answer is that it depends.
Take a large company such as Sony, for example. You could email your regional Sony website about getting a product for testing and not get a response for months, if at all.
You may have a much better response by emailing a local retailer instead. In the UK, for example, many online shops send out items to top YouTubers and top websites for the purpose of reviews. The company always gets thanked in the video review because of it.
Recently I have been reviewing mobile phone covers on my channel. They are a fairly cheap item and mobile phone cover companies are nowhere the size of behemoths such as Sony; therefore it is easy to get a positive response.
For brand name covers I normally email through the contact form on the official website. With lesser known brands the situation is a little different as many sellers are selling common stock that has been purchased from China. So you can have three sellers who are selling the exact same cover but they have all been branded differently.
Chinese manufacturers have little incentive to send out products for reviews as their focus is on selling to distributors. The best approach is to either approach the local distributor directly or one of the resellers.
There is no real right or wrong answer with this kind of thing. You really just have to send out as many emails as you can.
Constructing the Email
You will make your life a lot easier if you create a standard email template for contacting companies.
Explain who you are, what you do, and how a review would benefit them and you.
Here's an example of something that I sent a few days ago. Feel free to modify this for your own needs.
My name is Kevin Muldoon.
I am an experienced blogger and marketer who has been working on the internet since 2000.
You can find out more about me at https://www.kevinmuldoon.com
I am looking to take my YouTube channel to the next level. My channel mainly focuses on technology.
I recently did a review of the Spigen Rugged Armor Case for the Google Nexus 6P and I am keen to review more cases for the phone. You can this review at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAIO5nQrmt0.
You have a fantastic collection of cases on your website. Would you be willing to send me one of your Google Nexus 6P cases in order for me to review it on my channel?
It will provide great exposure for your case and you are free to embed the YouTube video in promotional material. I am sure my viewers would love to find out more about your cases.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Once you have crafted your standard email template, save it somewhere such as Google Docs so that you can copy and paste it into contact forms at any time.
I recommend taking the time to tweak each email. Make a few changes to your standard email to include the company's name and product. This helps illustrate that you are not just sending out a spam-like email to everyone.
As someone who receives a lot of emails every day, I can tell you all that it becomes easy to spot a standard email and one which has personalised. By making the email specific to them, you reduce the risk of your email be sent to the spam folder.
Putting it All Together
On an individual basis, I could afford the items that I review on my blog and YouTube channel. However, collectively the cost of reviewing items regularly can soon mount up.
By getting items sent to you free of charge, you can drastically reduce the cost of producing content. This content can help increase traffic to your website and YouTube channel and help increase income.
Companies are getting a good deal too as the cost of them sending you products to review is minimal compared to the exposure you give them in return.
There are a lot of products on marketplaces such as Amazon that have no reviews and even more that have no video review. If you can help a seller address this problem, they will surely assist.
Despite all of this, some companies just do not appreciate the benefits of sending out products and will not be interested in sending out items for testing.
Do not be disheartened by this.
Focus on producing good content every week and before you know it, you will be receiving requests every week for reviews on your website or channel.
I hope you have all found this article useful. If so, I encourage you to share it and leave a comment below. Tell us some of your own experiences about getting products free of charge and post any good tips you have about it.