5 Reasons Product Reviews Should be Your Core Linking Strategy

This strategy is best applied to e-commerce companies but if you can get a little creative you can make it stretch for a variety of B2C or even B2B markets.

Product reviews exist in many forms, but for the purpose of this post I'm talking about simply sending your product to a blogger and asking them to write what they think of it. This can be just as scalable as guest posting, but it checks so many more boxes than just a link.

Like most things in SEO there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this strategy. Matt Cutts recently spoke out about how faux sponsor/partner sections will get you slapped by Google, so it might be helpful to include some quick do's and don'ts on how to approach product reviews.

  • DO Identify communities your target audience interacts with, and within those communities identify influential bloggers to target.
  • DON'T Target generic product review sites, which review wine one day, pens another day, and air purifiers the next day (that sequence is taken verbatim from a product review blog).
  • DO Let the blogger know a little something about your company and the product you're sending.
  • DON'T Send a list of anchor text links you'd like included in the post.

You might be saying okay, I've got products, but what do I send? Here are some options to help you decide:

  • Send what you want to push. If you have a house brand or a product that's easy to stock and has a high profit margin, that's an easy choice.
  • Send something new. If you have a new product that no one knows about or has been slow to develop buzz, this is a good way to get word of mouth going for it. Bonus points if you launch it around a gift giving holiday when people are especially in the market for the next big thing.
  • Send something old. If it's not quite in your budget to send out products for free, what about those items that have been sitting on a shelf collecting dust for months, or even years? That's already a sunk cost, so why not make the most of it?
  • Don't send anything. Use your existing customers. If it is absolutely out of the budget to start sending products away for free, why not ask your paying customers to start writing reviews? Start an incentive program where they get a small store credit or discount for sharing their thoughts on your products. The quality of the blogs will likely be lower but you'll be engaging your audience, and when you have referral traffic or sales to point to you might get the clear to give the strategy a real try.

Now that you know what to send, here's 5 reasons why you should be sending it:

1. Deep Links

Getting deep links to product pages is one of the most difficult aspects of link building for an e-commerce client. Product reviews create a natural opportunity for bloggers to link to specific product and brand pages. They clarify to their readers exactly what they're talking about, and you get your deep links. Win win.

2. Referral Traffic and Sales

This is your biggest selling point if you need to clear this strategy with a C-level exec first. Because the best part of this strategy is that, in my experience, it creates sales. When's the last time your guest post generated a sale?

Monitor your referral traffic and sales in GA to see where exactly the visits and conversions are coming from, and consider that when you’re setting a budget for this strategy. It’s absolutely possible to have your product reviews pay for themselves if you hit the right audience.

Additionally, we all know linking root domains are really where the SEO value comes from. But if you find a blogger who pushes traffic and sales stronger than others, why not double dip and continue sending him or her products to review?

3. Social Strategy

Community managers definitely understand the burden of creating and sharing content every. single. day. Since your community is directly involved in this strategy, it makes perfect sense to loop them in on all of your social channels. This is also a great way to tap into your followers to find more opportunities for bloggers to review your products.

Bonus: Social signals aren’t going away, so the more tweets and likes your product review gets, the more those links might be worth to Google.

4. Branding

There’s something to be said about a company who goes the extra mile to connect with its community and offer it something valuable. You’re asking people who care about your industry to talk about it. Who doesn’t like sharing their opinion and having their voice heard? This is especially great for small businesses without an established brand name - you're planting the seed, and hopefully when they start to see your site pages come up in the SERPs they'll remember that you're that not like a regular company, you're a cool company. That might be the difference between them clicking through Amazon at #2 and you at #6.

5. Relationship Building

This is really the most significant part of the strategy to me. For anyone who has wondered how exactly to connect with bloggers, this is one way. Sending a product to review gets your foot in the door in situations where a guest post just won’t fly. It’s hard to start off a relationship by asking for a favor, it’s a lot easier to start one off by offering something of value.

Down the road when you do need to place that less fun guest post, guess who will be willing to do it? Your new blogger friend! Just remember - getting your foot in the door with a blogger is great, but the way to nurture the relationship is the same as with your real life relationships. Don't just reach out to them when you need something. Check in on their blog and leave comments, interact with them via social media, etc, just overall continue to be their buddy. Building relationships should go beyond how to get links more easily - as George Costanza once said, "We're living in a society!"

Pro Tips -

Now that you’re sold on the strategy, here are a few tips to help ID bloggers to target:

  • Tom Critchlow gave a presentation recently at the search church and spoke about coming up with a “dream list” of bloggers and sites you would love to work with. This resonated with a lot of SEOs at SEER, including myself. Make your dream list and do a site search for your product or industry. You never know when you might find a blogger making an offhand comment like “I’ve always wanted to try (insert your cool product here)” – there’s your in!
  • Set up Google alerts for your product or niche in very basic terms – if you want to start giving away anti-aging skin cream you should be monitoring who’s talking about wrinkles, aging, “i'm getting old,” etc. Create a new gmail account and feed all of your alerts to that account – nothing messes with the quest to inbox 0 like a non-essential Google Alert. This way you'll find blogs and sites that you never even knew belonged on your dream list.
  • Find a competitor in your space that has been using this strategy and grab their backlinks. A simple query like “product review” AND (insert competitor name) should bring up some results. Be generous with who you consider a competitor – look into any markets that are in your audience might also relate to.

When you’re vetting a blogger to work with, all the standard SEO metrics apply. The only specific thing I look for more than usual is interaction. I specifically check comments over anything else, because if people are commenting that means they’re reading, and if they’re reading they could convert into referral traffic and sales.

So those are the 5 reasons why you should be doing product reviews. What do you guys think – are you gonna stick with guest posts or are you considering a pivot?

You can follow me on Twitter @alisa_scharf!

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Alisa Scharf
Alisa Scharf
VP, SEO + Generative AI