There was a time when an online entrepreneur could build a web business fast simply by throwing together a small handful of reviews, inserting affiliate links, and bringing their website live. While it’s not quite as easy to start earning as it once was, reviews still have their place online and carry a lot of earning potential if you want to create a side income on your website. For many, it is still their entire business model.

Online Review Source: flickr.com/photos/fiercehugs

But you can’t succeed with a half-hearted review; you’ve got to go all the way and actually create something of value if you want people to take it seriously. Here are some tips for writing a stellar opinion piece about a product or service online.

1. Actually Review the Product

This is easily the most important step in putting together a credible review. Far too many online marketers never bother to actually try out or purchase the product they are reviewing. Rather, they piece together the opinions from other online reviews or just write about the basic details.

In short, they only care about making a buck, and it’s often painfully obvious when you read their review articles.This won’t do at all. If you’re serious about your business and want your audience to trust you, it’s imperative you keep their best interests at the forefront of your mind. Never review a product you haven’t actually used yourself, even if that use is nothing more than testing it out for the purpose of the review.

In fact, many affiliate product owners will allow you a review copy of their product if you contact them and state your case. Let them know that you want to create an honest assessment for your readers.
If they refuse, it’s probably worth it just to purchase the product anyways. If you do it right, the commissions will pay you back later.

2. Talk About the Negatives

A review that does nothing but talk a product up comes across as a sales pitch. Use some critical thinking when checking the product or service out. If you don’t spot any immediate flaws, look a little deeper.
Was the sales pitch misleading at all? Is there some way the product could have been better? Was the presentation clear throughout? Would someone who lacked your skills and experience possibly have been confused?
Lay the negatives out in your review in an honest fashion, without being too hostile towards the product owner. The trick is to be clear about the disadvantage while at the same time bringing it full circle and explaining why the negative is actually a positive, how the positives completely outweigh the negatives, or how the negatives really aren’t that big of a deal.

Balanced Review Source: flickr.com/photos/jessicamullen

3. Disclose the Affiliate Relationship

Transparency is another key to writing a trustworthy review. Most online readers are not naive enough to think you’d spend your time analyzing and discussing a product if there wasn’t anything in it for you, so get it out on the table.

Also, transparency is technically required by law now when selling affiliate products online. You can usually just get away with a page that explains what affiliate marketing is and how you make money with the products discussed on the site. I personally like to also mention it in the actual reviews to build some more goodwill, and I round it out by explaining my ethical stance on choosing products for review (i.e. I don’t review anything just to make a buck, etc).

4. Discuss Your “Expertise”

Why are you qualified to even review this product? Be sure to sell yourself a little bit, explaining who you are and what type of experience you have in the niche. Remember that not everyone who comes across the review will know who you are, so it’s important to introduce yourself and your qualifications.

Do you write reviews for affiliate products? What’s your strategy?