Being a better reviewer

Seems that Amazon just changed their policy on reviewing free or discounted products.  I'm going to wait to see what happens over the next few days to a week,  I'll not post any reviews from free or discounted products on Amazon for now,  hopefully the other review channels will remain viable.

Being a reviewer isn't all fun and games and feeling like it's Christmas all the time, of course I'll not lie to you,  it is exciting to see the UPS or FedEx truck stop at my house,  there is more to this than just getting freebies. It takes effort to be a reviewer,  bordering on work,  it takes real effort and time to be a good reviewer. I spend at least an hour per review,  that's just the writing part,  not counting the actual testing of said product,  add in more time for the photos,  videos, the editing of said photos and videos. Warning,  this article is long and thorough,  I tried breaking it into bite sized pieces,  if you want to be a top notch reviewer,  read on.

This article is geared mainly towards writing Amazon reviews but is applicable to any reviews.


Writing a good review,  not to be confused with writing a POSITIVE review, obviously means you actually took the time to test the product,  it's not fair to the sellers or those reading your reviews to to give a cursory look over (or none at all)  before you sit down to write. You need to write about your experience with the product,  how did you feel about it as you removed it from the packaging? What are your initial thoughts? Now try it,  use it for what it is supposed to be used for,  give it a thorough testing. Is this something you would recommend to a friend? Why or why not?  Does it work as expected? Are you happy or disappointed in it? Is it better or worse than you thought it would be?


Take pictures of the item,  lots of pictures,  you almost can't have too many pictures, take pictures of you actually using the item,  of course this is assuming it would be appropriate to do so,  if it is a personal type item,  well just use common sense here.

Take more pictures than you will actually use,  then pick out the best ones,  if you have several very similar pictures,  pick out the best one and use that.  Omit any that are blurry or don't look as good as they could. Show the good and bad features of said item.

Videos are even better.  Those take more time and effort to do,  and if you really want to impress folk, pull out ye olde video editor (I use Microsoft Movie Maker, it's free and works great),  cut out the unnecessary pauses,  camera bumbles and bloopers, add in a title and thank you for watching page at the end.

Here's a hint for doing Amazon reviews,  post your text review first, once it is approved and visible on Amazon, then go back to the review,  choose edit and add your pictures AFTER the review has been published.  Then upload your video if you are doing a video review.  The reason is all reviews on Amazon are reviewed (presumably by a live human) before they are approved for publication, text only reviews get approved quickest,  if you add the photos in the initial review process,  they usually take longer to be approved,  adding videos takes the longest to be approved. It has also been my experience that reviews posted late at night,  in the middle of the night get reviewed quicker.  It also seems like reviews get looked at quicker now than when I first started.

When taking pictures or video, do it in an uncluttered area,  no one wants to see dirty dishes,  a cluttered table,  or the trash that needs to be taken out,  or your dirty laundry, un-vaccumed carpet or an unmade bed...  Have clean hands and fingernails, Turn off the TV and radio,  toss the kids outside, or better yet wait until they are at school or taking a nap.  I watched a video review recently,  a young mom reviewing a gadget,  her young child kept trying to reach in and grab the gadget (it was not a kid appropriate gadget),  she was obviously getting frustrated with her kid,  a toddler who was acting her age. This mom should have stopped the video and waited for a more appropriate time to make her review.  Honestly I can't imagine that she could have possibly watched her review before uploading it because I can't imagine how she thought that anyone would get anything out of her video, sorry but it was a terrible video and review in my opinion.

I only have my hubby and dogs to worry about interrupting my videos,  I announce to my husband that I'm about to be recording,  the dogs don't seem to listen much,  but fortunately they tend to be quiet,  though there is the occasional bark in the background,  I choose on a case by case basis whether or not to scrap the video and start over. I also turn off the phone,  and turn off or mute anything on my phone or tablet that could make noise during the video,  that even means turning off the WiFi signal so nothing beeps, boops, rings or dings on the video.

Redo your video if you need to,  sometimes I delete and redo my videos several times before I'm happy with them. If I make a mistake,  pause for too long, stutter or say uuuuhhhh, or remember something I should have said before,  if I repeat myself...  If the video is getting too long,  3-5 minutes is good,  if I repeat myself...  :)

I will often write down a few notes so I can be sure to get in everything I want to say.

Don't wave the item around or move it around too much on video,  turning it to show what it looks like and demonstrating how it works is fine,  but if you tend to gesture with your hands as you talk, try not to do it with said item in your hands.

Smile...  Some people have a more naturally pleasant look on their faces when not actively smiling (ie a relaxed face)   then there is me (LOL),  I can often look like I'm frowning when I'm really not, so I have to work at smiling more.

Smile with your voice,  don't be monochromatic in your speech,  animate your voice as you speak, animate your face and body too,  it may feel silly at first,  it gets easier as you practice...  Yes,  I said practice :)  the more you do it,  the better, the easier and more natural it will feel and the better your video will look and sound.

That doesn't mean fidget,  if you are seated,  lean forward toward the camera,  smile before you hit record,  smile with your whole face,  not just your mouth,  a genuine smile involves your entire face including your eyes. If I am standing,  I gently move from foot to foot,  side to side and front to back, again not fidgeting,  but being active, natural,  forget its a camera and talk like you were speaking to a friend.

Remember body language speaks volumes about you,  crossed arms,  clenched fists,  looking down, all of these things convey you aren't comfortable and come across as less trustworthy, unbelievable. Look up videos about body language and learn more about it,  as much to stop negative looking actions and do more positive looking actions.

What are you wearing? Dress the part,  clean,  pressed clothing,  no holes in your t-shirt,  nothing that might distract your viewers,  if it's ill fitting or stained or faded or ratty looking, change clothes.  I like wearing bright,  solid colors. It's probably best to not wear shirts with large logos, images or words/phrases written on them, especially if they of something that could be considered hot buttons, anything that could possibly offend.

For your photos and videos, be aware of reflective surfaces,  especially if you aren't fully dressed,  I think we all remember that highly polished chrome colored tea pot on eBay...

But, what if I don't like how I look or sound?

My advice is get over it by doing more videos! I'm certainly not a natural beauty,  but I am comfortable in my skin and hopefully it comes across in my videos.  I dislike my own image (and voice) as much as the next person,  it's natural,  we don't typically see ourselves or hear ourselves as other's do, we have an inner idea, a perception of how we think we look and sound and it is certainly a shock to find out its different than how it really is.  It's OK,  the best way to get over it is to make more videos, eventually you will get over it and will even start to look forward to being your own video star reviewer!  :)


This is the meat of the review,  pictures and video are the gravy.  Write a good full review,  don't write a novel,  don't write one liners either.  Write your initial thoughts to the item,  write what you like about it,  what you dislike,  how would you improve on it? I often write a wish list of sorts, explaining what I wish was different,  that's called CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, honest sellers, designers and manufacturers WANT to know these things. They and the buyers want to know why you liked it or disliked it.  Simply writing that you like it,  or it stinks,  without a reason helps no one.

Don't re-quote the specs from the item description unless it's pertinent to what you are saying,  the readers can read that information for themselves,  doing that just looks like you are padding your review with unnecessary verbiage.

Use the "who,  what,  where,  why and how" line of writing.

I try not to read other reviews before writing my own,  I don't want other reviewers words or opinions to influence what I want to write,  and NEVER NEVER NEVER copy another person's review. Sometimes I will take a quick glance at a few reviews,  and will even make a reference to another reviewer's review,  but I keep that to an absolute minimum. It's not a good idea to insert a negative reference to what another reviewer wrote,  that just lines you up for potential revenge from that reviewer,  remember that reviewer can hit the "not helpful button" on your reviews,  and I'll bet that reviewer has lots of friends they could recruit to "not helpful"  your reviews into Amazon oblivion... It's just not worth it.

Proofread your review before submitting it,  check for spelling errors,  punctuation, autocorrected words that are incorrect.  Leave the slang and foul language at home, not on your review. Be careful the words you choose,  unfortunately a phrase can come across entirely different than you intended,  remember that inflection and emotion does not easily translate through the written word, what you meant as dry wit may come across as mean or passive aggressive, words and phrases that are acceptable to use with your circle of friends or family, curse words, slang, again leave that off camera, anything you wouldn't be comfortable saying in church or in front of the big boss, leave it off camera... instead be clear and concise and make no assumptions about your readers.

One big pet peeve of mine,  run on sentences and no paragraph breaks. Be sure to break up your reviews into paragraphs,  it's hard to read a long review that is a sea of unbroken words,  a wall of words, our eyes (and brain) need breaks in paragraphs,  it's like breathing between sentences,  it gives you a chance to digest what you just read,  and if you glance away,  it's easier to find your place again.

If your review is going to be verbose,  wordy,  long...  Write essentially two reviews,  give a concise short explanation in the first short paragraph,  use bullet points to get your point across,  then write a second more wordy part below.  That way the short attention span audience is happy,  and those who want a more thorough review have something to keep them occupied.


It's acceptable with Amazon to do reviews on free or discounted items given to you specifically for review purposes,  you MUST EXPLICITLY STATE that you received it free or at a discount in exchange for your review,  don't try to cleverly insert it into the conversation in a casual way,  it must be easily read by anyone reading your review.

You may NOT accept payment for your review on Amazon,  that also includes ANY OTHER TYPES OF COMPENSATION,  including the promise of future discounts, gift cards, other free items (not meant for review), duplicates of the item you received for review, entries into a contest where you could win cash or a prize... The ONLY thing you can accept is the item itself for review.

Amazon has changed their rules about doing reviews IN EXCHANGE FOR discounted or free items, apparently, the way I read it, you can't put in a disclosure or disclaimer stating your review is IN EXCHANGE FOR the free or discounted item, that leaves us to wonder if we can still do the reviews, just leaving out the IN EXCHANGE FOR part... that is being hashed out now. You still cannot do any other sort of review for money, freebies, future discounts, entries into a contest on Amazon.

In the meantime, the FTC still requires a disclosure or disclaimer IF you have a financial interest in that item being sold, I have an affiliate account with Amazon, so yes I would fall into that financial interest category, so I will continue to state that I received the item free or I received the item at a discount, I will not say IN EXCHANGE FOR because that does insinuate a requirement to do the review. Amazon does not want reviews IN EXCHANGE FOR, but it's possible (and I do mean POSSIBLE) they would be OK with a review if you are doing it from your own free will, not because you got it free or discounted. I'm waiting to see how that works itself out.

Don't accept any items that you wouldn't ordinarily be interested in just because it's free or a good deal.  I was perusing a reviewer recently,  obviously a man,  a manly man based on what he tended to review and based on his profile picture,  then I ran across a review for a breast pump ,  the review seemed to be written by him,  yet it seemed to talk first hand about how well it worked...  It's possible his wife wrote the review,  it was just one of those things that made you go hmmmm... Amazon also does not allow reviews on your profile written by someone else, I suspect you can add a blurb "My husband liked it", but the whole of the review can't be from another person's opinion.

I turn down review requests on a fairly regular basis,  things I am not interested in,  no I do not want to review children's shoes,  I do not have any children, I don't have friends or family with young children around,  even though it's free,  if I can't use it or am not interested in it,  I'm going to politely decline.

VOTE MANIPULATION (aka the "helpful" button)

Resist,  at all costs,  the urge to ask your readers to click on the "helpful" button.  I see this all the time but it's a very risky thing to do,  it is considered vote manipulation and can get you banned from doing reviews on Amazon., also let your well meaning friends and family know to please not go in and hit the helpful button on your reviews, again that could get your reviewer account flagged and potentially get you banned,  unfortunately that also means all of your reviews will be deleted...  Don't believe me? Just check out the "Reviewer's Hall Of Fame" check out how many of them have 0 reviews,  it's because right or wrong,  their account was flagged and their reviews were deleted,  they aren't allowed to write reviews any longer.


That happens,  you get that dreaded email from Amazon telling you your review was rejected,  they will not tell you why,  there is no point asking them either,  don't bother going to the Amazon forums to ask unless you own asbestos underwear,  just peruse around there a bit and you'll understand what I'm talking about...  Along with the rejection will be an offer,  a chance to rewrite your review,  it happens to all of us,  just accept it and go on.

The only exception to being able to rewrite a review is if it was DELETED by Amazon after it was accepted and published, this is going on right now with the purging of reviews and Amazon explicitly states that if they delete your review, you may not rewrite or resubmit a review on the same item, even if you change what you wrote.

I have found that putting in anything that might take a reader away from Amazon's site is verboten, don't add outside links to your review. Adding things that aren't specifically about the item you are reviewing, overly comparing the item to another item...  I had a review of an adult coloring book rejected because I stated (truthfully) that this artist was a real artist,  creating her own unique lineart instead of using purchasing stock lineart from websites,  curating the purchased art into a coloring book and selling it.  Even though what I said was true,  and I didn't disparage any specific coloring books,  it was enough to cause my glowing review to be rejected. Once I omitted the part about what other publishers do,  I left in the part about the artist creating real art,  my review was accepted and published.

NEVER include an affiliate link in a review on Amazon,  just don't do it.


The rating system on Amazon is first and foremost a star rating,  you can give from one up to five stars,  the more stars you give,  the higher or more positive the review. One star is negative,  five stars is the best, positive.  You don't need to write out an explanation of what you think the stars mean to you,  I sometimes see reviewers who write longer explanations about how they review than the actual review itself.  That also includes getting wordy about your disclosure (of getting your item free or at a discount), there is no need to explain to your readers that you give honest, unbiased, sincere, absolutely 100% true, cross your heart and hope to die,  would never lie just because you got it for free,  blah blah blah...

There will be those who don't believe reviews given by reviewers who get their stuff free or discounted,  period,  end of story,  and no amount of explanations or promises about how honest, sincere,  unbiased you are will change their mind.  Just add a single concise separate line disclosing that you received said item free or at a discount in exchange for your review. Again, this is one of the changes, you cannot state you are doing the review IN EXCHANGE for getting the item free or discounted, according to the FTC you only have to disclose you received it free or discounted IF you have a financial tie to the sale of the item, for some of you, you will not have to disclose anything.

If you want to be perceived as a more credible reviewer,  give reviews that run the gamut of all the stars,  in other words,  don't do all 5 star glowing reviews,  if something is not up to par,  give it an appropriate review.  Revisit your reviews and edit them if something changes,  if an item worked in the beginning and you gave a good review,  then later it fell apart or otherwise changed,  then edit your review and reflect that,  be sure you let people know it's an edit.

And review things you actually paid full price for,  you can even review items if you didn't buy it from Amazon as long as Amazon sells it,  in those cases,  adding photos and/or videos is even more important,  you will not have the benefit of that little "Amazon Verified Purchase" icon above your review,  photo or video proof adds credibility to your review.


Now that you are an up and coming reviewer, getting all this free and heavily discounted stuff, you are so excited, you want to shout it from the rooftops... I would suggest rethinking that, first off, EVERYONE wants to get free stuff, and unfortunately everyone isn't going to be able to get free stuff, no companies would be able to run a business if everyone got free stuff.

Second, those who aren't able to "get in" on the this may become very jealous of your good fortune. They might even harbor enough ill will toward you to try to keep you from benefiting from your good fortune, I'll not explain how someone could cause you trouble, don't want to give anyone ideas, but suffice it to say, it could turn out very badly for you, the reviewer, yes there are mean people out there in the world, you probably know some of them.

I would suggest keeping your reviewer status on the down low, ie don't brag about it on FaceBook and other places, this portion of this article is strictly my opinion, you may feel free to do as you wish.

I would also highly recommend staying away from the Amazon discussion boards, especially the review discussion boards, there seems to be a small but vocal group on there who do not like the "I got it free or discounted folks" and have no problems letting everyone know about it, I suspect they might be part of the reason why Amazon changed their rules about reviewing free or discounted items IN EXCHANGE FOR... there have been rumors that if you go there and post anything, you are likely to find your reviews splattered with "unhelpfuls"... can't prove anything, just going by what I have read there. Feel free to go there and read what's posted, search for things if you have a question, chances are someone else has already asked it and received an answer, but as far as interacting there, do it at your own peril.


Unfortunately, it's going to happen, someone will invariably hit that "unhelpful" button, someone will make a snarky remark in the comments... the best (and hardest) thing to do is ignore it, you really don't know what is going on in that person's head, (just be glad YOU don't live there). It is natural to want to defend yourself, your honor, but if you engage this person, chances are very high that it can escalate into something much worse than a one off thing.  Don't do something that might make you a bigger target, or personal pet project for a mean spirited person.


You may end up with lots 'o stuff,  here's what you can't do,  you can NOT sell or resell it,  period,  if you are caught,  you will lose your reviewing privileges,  it's just not worth it.  You can however give the items away,  that is perfectly acceptable,  and your giftees will love you for it :)

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