5 Strategies To Write A Product Review Without Buying & Owning It
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5 Strategies To Write A Product Review Without Buying & Owning It

Writing product reviews is a good way for marketers to earn passive income online through affiliate marketing. Some of you may think that we should try out the actual products ourselves before reviewing it so that we can write an honest review from first-hand experience.

However, here comes the problem...

It's impossible for us to purchase and own every product we review, right? The most obvious reason is that it's just too costly and cost-ineffective. Imagine the cost if you're reviewing high-ticket products like televisions, refrigerators, computers, etc...

Let me help you out in this post if you're having this trouble. I'll offer you 5 alternative strategies to do an awesome product review without purchasing and owning the product itself.

More...

Reviewing Products You Own

Before we start on the 5 alternative strategies, let's talk about reviewing products you own first.

Reviewing products you already have is definitely the best case scenario because you have the first-hand experience to share.

So in this case, you should try to be more "personal". Include more personal opinions and feelings to make your product review more appealing to readers.

You can definitely tell your readers that you actually own this product you're reviewing to gain their trust. What you can also do is to take your own photos and videos for the product and put them in your review instead of using the online stock photos. This can make your product review really trustworthy.

Another tip for writing this kind of review is to film an unboxing video of the product if the product is new. Unboxing videos on YouTube is really crazy these few years with a lot of people claiming that unboxing videos help them make purchasing decisions.

Tips:

  • Include your own photos and videos of the product (e.g. unboxing)
  • Share your own feeling & personal experience when using the product

Pros:

  • Real first-Hand buying experience of the product
  • Trustworthier Review

Cons:

  • Can be extremely biased
  • Can be very costly

Common Misconception

A lot of people have the misconception that you can only write an honest review when you have the product yourself. This is usually NOT TRUE!

In fact, there is a tendency for people who own the product to write a biased review just to promote and sell the product.

So, having the product yourself doesn't necessarily mean your review will be totally honest and valuable to your readers.  It really depends on the information and content you provide.

Strategy No. 3 and No. 4 below, "Being an Expert in Your Niche" & "Being an Unbiased Researcher", are the strategies most successful marketers use to review products.

Take note: This doesn't mean owning the product is a bad thing. It's always good if you have the product but make sure your review is helpful and unbiased.

Here's an example of a thorough review I've written on a digital product I'm personally using: The Wealthy Affiliate Review

Product Review Strategy 1:
Rent or Borrow it

Who say "having first-hand experience of a product" means you need to buy it yourself?

The direct alternative to purchasing it is to rent or borrow it from people who have it. This can often be your friends.

For example, you are building a website in a drones niche. There's no need to purchase every single drones in the market when a few of your friends have some drones for you to test it out. Just reach out to them and spend a few hours jotting down some notes about your experience with the drones can help you write a pretty appealing drone review.

In this case, there's no need for you to explicitly say you own the product. You can simply write it in the way to show your first-hand experience with the product and give your own opinion.

For some types of the products, such as bikes, you can rent it if you don't have friends who own the product.

Tips:

  • Don't be afraid to reach out to your friends and ASK for it 
  • Add your experience with the product together with your online research information

Pros:

  • First-hand experience of the product
  • Less costly compare to buying it yourself

Cons:

  • Not all products can be borrowed
  • Borrowed products most likely won't be brand new
  • Only applicable to certain (types of) products

Product Review Strategy 2:
Approach The Seller or Manufacturer

Another way to get first-hand experience with the product is to approach the seller or manufacturer and ask them to sponsor you for a review.

However, this is more effective for more established marketers online with higher authority websites. 

If you have an established website with a certain amount of constant traffic, you can definitely take the initiative to contact these sellers and manufacturers.

Don't think as if you're asking for a favor. Think as if you're creating a win-win situation for both parties as you're also doing them a favor to advertise and promote their products.

So, when you're contacting them, highlight to them about what they can benefit from this sponsorship/partnership. This is a crucial step in negotiation.

You should make use of any possible means to contact them, including the contact forms on their websites, their support E-mails, or even their social media like Facebook page. There are a ton of ways to reach out to people in today's digital world.

Tips:

  • Don't ask with a high expectation
  • State your reasons and highlight THEIR BENEFITS to them
  • Make use of all possible channels to contact the seller or manufacturer

Pros:

  • First-hand experience of the product
  • Less costly compare to buying it yourself
  • check-circle
    Higher possibility to obtain future partnership or sponsorship with the sellers or manufacturers

Cons:

  • More troublesome & Time consuming
  • Not very effective for beginners without some authority
  • Not all sellers or manufacturers can be contactable

Product Review Strategy 3:
Be an Expert in Your Niche

If you're an expert in your niche, it naturally makes your reviews trustworthy, regardless of whether you own the products or not.

Being an expert also allows you to have an unique perspective on the product to make your reviews more interesting and stand out from the crowd.

Don't be scared by the word "expert". You don't need to have a PhD in your niche to become an expert.

Let me introduce to you a term called "Relative expert". This means that if you know more about a certain topic than others, you can become a relative expert to those who know nothing at all in the niche.

If you have experience in raising a cat, then you're already an expert to those who don't have a cat at all. There's no need for you to be a vet in order for you to share your knowledge and experience with others.

You can thus leverage this "relative expert" concept to write reviews and help your readers while making money at the same time.

But ideally, you should aim to be a more and more knowledgeable expert so that you can become a real authority in the niche. What you should do is to read a lot of things related to your niche and be a constant learner. This can include regularly reading relevant blog posts, books, magazines or even attend lessons or live events to develop yourself in the niche.

This is a more long-term kind of strategy but it's something you should invest in doing all the time to reap the huge rewards in time to come.

Tips:

  • Be a constant learner and always read up things related to your niche
  • Be patient and work consistently while you slowly become the authority in your niche
  • Be confident about your knowledge and leverage "relative expert" concept!

Pros:

  • Less costly option
  • Relatively easy to write the review as you're familiar with the niche

Cons:

  • It takes time to be an authority in your niche
  • You need to be very familiar with your niche
  • No first-hand experience of the actual product you're reviewing

Product Review Strategy 4:
Be an Unbiased Researcher

Being an unbiased researcher and write reviews based on your own research is one of the most common and cost-effective strategy.

You may think this is not a good way to do a product review because you don't have the first-hand experience with the product, nor are you an expert in it.

But l​​​​et me tell you the truth...

In the era of information explosion, tons of people are being overloaded by different information. You are already doing a favor for your readers by researching and compiling all the necessary information for them to make a better buying decision. And many people will appreciate you for doing that.

In fact, with just a few searches in a certain topic, you actually know more than 90% of the people on Earth who know nothing about the topic.

To write a really good review as an unbiased researcher, you should read up as much information as possible about the product you are reviewing. This can include Amazon product page, manufacturer's website, other people's review, etc...

There must be both good and bad reviews about the product online. Study all of them and take down notes while you're doing so.

By simply spending a few hours reading and collecting the information online, you can easily come out with a balanced and quality review to help those who know nothing much about this product.

To them, this piece of information is very valuable and resourceful to help them make their decision.

However, plagiarism is a very common issue in this case where people just copy, steal or rewrite contents from other people. Please avoid this mistake and add in some of your own opinion as much as possible.

It's important to express your own voices as people want recommendation and comparison, not just another list of boring "features" or "tech specs"!

Tips:

  • Don't simply copy what other people say about the product! (Plagiarism)
  • Keep in mind that your focus is on generating VALUE and being balanced & detailed
  • Include supporting information, screenshots, resources, etc and always link to the sources of your research

Pros:

  • More detailed & balanced review 
  • Less costly option
  • check-circle
    One of the most common and cost-effective strategies

Cons:

  • No first-hand experience of the product
  • It's easy to be guilty of plagiarism and/or duplicated content
  • It can be laborious to research on products you are totally unfamiliar with

Here's a review which I didn't purchase the product myself, instead, I compiled all the information according to my research online and give my honest opinion about it: Easy 1Up Review

Product Review Strategy 5:
Make Use of The Refund Policy

Some products, especially digital products like online courses, ebooks, membership products, etc, have a thing called "100% Money Back Guarantee". This allows you to get a refund if you're not satisfied with the product.

As a marketer, you can make use of this refund policy to review a paid product with first-hand experience for free. What you can do is to request for a refund after you've personally tested out a product that you're not satisfied with.

money back guarantee

But wait a minute... Isn't it unethical? Or simply abusing the refund policy?

In my opinion, not really!

Think about it this way....

If you are happy with the product itself, you will continue using it and you won't request a refund. You'll only request for a refund when the product has flaws in it and you're not happy with it.

This is why they have this "Money Back Guarantee" in place, isn't it? They want to make sure their customers are satisfied with the product.

So, it's logical for you to request for a refund and write a negative review if you're not satisfied. On the other hand, you'll continue using the product and write a positive review if you like the product.

Make sense?

In order to fully make use of this strategy, you must be familiar with the product's refund policy first before purchasing it in case you don't like it and need a refund. So, spend some time to understand their rules about refunding first.

Take note that this strategy is more convenient for digital products because refunding a physical product usually requires a more complicated procedure, such as shipping back the product to the seller.

Tips:

  • Do a thorough research about the product's refund policy
  • Make sure you adhere and comply to all their rules in order to be applicable for refund
  • Don't purchase a product directly with the intention to get a refund

Pros:

  • First-hand experience of the product
  • No cost at all if you successfully get your refund

Cons:

  • Not applicable all the time
  • Mostly for digital products only
  • Only applicable to certain (types of) products

Here's a review which I made use of their refund policy and got my money back: Super Affiliate System Review

Conclusion

Although there are people saying that you need to own the product in order to write a really honest review, purchasing products to review is definitely NOT a good option in the long run for almost every online reviewer, blogger or marketer.

The fact is that a lot of people who write high ranking reviews online don't own most of the products at all. What you should focus on instead is to generate as much VALUE as possible to people reading your reviews.

As long as you're being an informative and valuable resource to help people make a better buying decision, whether you own the product or not doesn't really matter.

I've just provided you with 5 alternative strategies to write a product review. Which strategy to use will depend on the (types of) products you are reviewing, your niche and your personal preference.

My final advice for you is...

Just take real actions and keep writing your own product reviews. Don't be hindered or restricted by whether your review is the best or not. The more you write, the better you're at writing quality and high ranking reviews.

Think of it this way:

Not owning the product to review is NOT a limitation. Instead, owning the product to review is a BONUS!

Focus on improving your CONTENT. Make it more detailed, balanced, valuable and trustworthy than others. After all, QUALITY CONTENTS that appeal the readers is what Google looks for.

Another tip for getting a better ranking is to practice good keyword research. This allows Google to better understand your content and rank it well for the right keywords.

Definitely, all of these requires a lot of time and hard work. But it's really worth the time to research and write a high quality reviews, knowing that just one successful review page can keep making you consistent passive income for years to come.

With a few of these successful review pages, you can potentially make a full-time passive income online!

Jerry Huang
 

Jerry is a young aspiring Internet Entrepreneur who started his online business at the age of 18. He is currently a Full-time Affiliate Marketer at Wealthy Affiliate, a community to help anyone start their own online business without prior experience. He actually achieved Financial Independence at the young age of 21. Read more about his story here!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 36 comments
Monica Bouteiller - November 25, 2018

Hey Jerry,

I really found your article very helpful.

I was getting a little-stressed thinking I would have to spend untold amounts of money to try products to gather information when I write reviews. I really want to give helpful information to my readers.

You have given me several ideas as to how I can write quality content without spending money. I’m very thankful you wrote this.

Thank you!

Monica

Reply
    Jerry Huang - November 25, 2018

    Hey Monica,

    It’s my pleasure! I’m glad to help in time 🙂

    Reply
Anti spy - July 21, 2018

Review the product you buy and use it first hand is the best. Anyway my favourites on your 5 strategies is number three and four.

P/s : plagiarism is bad for business.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - July 21, 2018

    Thanks for your comment! But take note I’m not saying plagiarism is good. Neither am I encouraging people to do that.

    Reply
Paul Severe - May 7, 2018

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for the great post. I got valuable information and ideas on writing product reviews. I was hesitating to write product reviews which I don’t own but now after reading your blog post, I got many tips and I’m more confident now. Thanks again!

Your Friend,
Paul

Reply
    Jerry Huang - May 11, 2018

    Hey Paul,
    You’re not alone. A lot of people are troubled by this including myself last time. I’m glad my strategies help you gain more confidence and guide you on what to do next. All the best!

    Reply
Lanu Bennett - May 2, 2018

Jerry, thank you for this piece of write up. I always believe one has to own an item before one can specifically do a review. Your blog has taught me otherwise. I will be coming in for more wise instruction again and again.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - May 3, 2018

    That’s great Lanu! I had the same belief as you last time. But as a beginner, that’s just too costly and ineffective. After some research, I found out it’s not necessary for you to own the product in order to write a great review. And that’s why I put up this post.

    Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you like it!

    Reply
Amit Kumar - April 21, 2018

Helpful Content. Thanks Jerry!

Reply
BeverlyB - March 21, 2018

Hi Jerry,
I reached out to a company that I did a review on. The owner contacted me and said that he loved my site. Then he offered to help me in any way.

It really was wonderful speaking with him and seeing what his needs were for his customers.

So, you are right! It works.

Thanks for your post.

Bev

Reply
    Jerry Huang - March 22, 2018

    Wow Bev,
    Good to hear such awesome news and experience.

    Thanks for checking out my post and giving it a shot. The most important thing is that you actually take action from the information I provided in my post. So you should thank yourself as well. Without taking action, my post is just “another information” that is useless.

    Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best for your business 🙂

    Jerry

    Reply
Melissa - March 2, 2018

This is great information! I like the idea of reaching out to product owners! This is such a simple strategy, but most of us probably wouldn’t think of it on our own.

Thanks for the info!

Reply
    Jerry Huang - March 2, 2018

    Hi Melissa,
    Yes, that’s the point. To become successful you need to be resourceful and creative. Just like writing product reviews. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s just whether you are resourceful and creative enough.

    Reply
Mia - February 7, 2018

Hi Jerry,

This post has helped me a lot. I was struggling with writing reviews for some time. Paying for a bunch of products just to review them is highly impractical, not to mention impossible in many cases. Even the money-back-guarantee strategy can sometimes be hardly feasible.

I was a little bit reluctant about doing reviews of the products I don’t own, but with this article, you’ve persuaded me. Thanks for all the tips.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - February 10, 2018

    Hi Mia,
    I’m really glad that this post can help you clear your doubts and gain back your confidence in writing review posts. Just like I’ve said, as long as you’re doing your best to put the necessary information together to help people make their purchasing decisions, you’re already doing a favor for them. Just focus on the content and focus on serving your readers. There’s nothing wrong with writing reviews for things you don’t own, despite many people condemn that.

    Wish you all the best Mia!

    Reply
jessie palaypay - October 14, 2017

I definitely like the idea of making money on a product that I didn’t have to purchase.

One thing that I am really curious about is asking for a sponsorship in exchange for a review. I see it is common in the fitness industry and want to do it myself for a fitness niche that I just started.

With respect to sponsorships in general (regardless of the niche you are doing), wouldn’t companies expect you to have a large type of following whether it is on social media or a website before they just hand a product to you for free? I would guess that you have to be a “influencer marketer” if I am using the correct term?

Or is there a way around not having 500,000+ Facebook likes or instagram followers?

Jessie

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 26, 2017

    Hi Jessie,
    This is a really great question!

    It’s definitely a lot easier to find product sponsorship when you have a larger audience and influence but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it just because you’re not a huge influencer in the market. It simply means you need to put in more efforts in order to acquire them.

    As long as you have a matured website with decent amount of content and traffic, you can show companies your website statistics to persuade them. You will definitely get more rejection than acceptance. But it’s still a viable way to review products and do affiliate marketing.

    Check out this post for more guidance about asking for product sponsorship: http://thetickettotravel.com/7-ways-to-land-product-sponsorships-and-brand-deals/

    Reply
Stefan Vogt - October 10, 2017

Hi Jerry,
Thanks for this great info post. I am writing reviews myself and it’s impossible to buy all the products I review.

I think becoming an authority in your niche is the most effective way to make people believe what you have to say. This takes time but if I want to earn money online, there is no short cut. Better use the time to learn more about my niche than just write posts that have little in-depth information and quality.

For me, No 3 and 4 are the way to go.
Have a great time and see you.
Stefan

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 13, 2017

    Hi Stefan,
    Yea, I agree with you being the authority in your niche is the best long-term strategy. It takes time but it’s worth the effort. In the short-term, being an unbiased researcher can be effective as well. Strategy 3 and 4 can actually be combined together!

    All the best!

    Reply
Kavinah - October 9, 2017

I have thought about going in this direction but have been reluctant because it requires having good knowledge of the products.

Your blog has provided great knowledge in dealing with this. I will struggle with the last one as I might end up with lots of products I don’t need.

Being an unbiased researcher will be my number one route and the others will also help.

Thanks for showing us that not owning the product should not be a barrier to doing product reviews.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 13, 2017

    Hey Kavinah,
    Glad that this helps. But I don’t get it why a lot of people keep saying the last strategy will end up with lots of products they don’t need. Getting a refund for a product mean you’ll need to ship back the product for physical ones and you’ll no longer have access to the digital products, like membership… The only exception will be eBook I guess. If not, you won’t have lots of products you don’t need.

    Reply
Karen - October 9, 2017

Hi Jerry, I love your suggestions for reviewing products that you don’t own. However, I think I’d struggle a bit with the last one “making use of the refund policy”. In my case, I’d probably end up owning a whole heap of stuff that I couldn’t bear to part with! Thanks for sharing, Cheers, Karen

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hi Karen,
    Glad that you like my suggestions!

    The application of “making use of the refund policy” strategy is quite limited as not a lot of products can be refund 100% with no questions asked. (Despite some of the promotional pitch says that) There will be some rules in place to restrict the refund of the product. For example, I couldn’t get a refund for a video editing software I accidentally bought. They said I can only get a refund unless there are technical issues with the product.

    Also, what you are referring to is physical products. The process of refunding a physical product is much more complicated like I have said. So this strategy can only be used in certain circumstances, mostly for digital goods.

    Thanks for reading and raising your concern Karen 🙂

    Reply
Deborah Deagen Farrow - October 8, 2017

I really really enjoyed your article. It was just the right information I need at the right time. You gave me some valuable tips in writing my reviews on my website and I thank you for that.

The 5 strategies are great. I talk about supplements on my website because I have been taking them for over 40 years. Your recommendations on the methods of reviewing products you are unfamiliar with were ideas I hadn’t thought of. These are great alternatives to spending your hard earned cash just to give an honest review, which is what you always want to give.

Great article. Very informative and useful information.
Thank you.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hi Deborah,
    Firstly, you’re welcome. Glad this post helps!

    Secondly, you’re right that honest reviews are something we are always aiming for. But there’s a misconception that only people who possess the actual product can write an honest review. In fact, the reality is that those who possess the product may have a review that is more biased because they simply want to promote and sell it. Sometimes, being a good unbiased researcher and an expert in your niche can write a much balanced and more honest review than those who own the product.

    Just like your supplements, you don’t need to purchasing all of them and try them out to write a review because there are simply too many different types and brands of supplements in the market. If you’re a relative expert in your niche, you are able to find out which supplements are better and which of them are crap just by doing some research and look at their ingredients, right? (This is just an example. Definitely there are more to look for in reviewing supplements.)

    Reply
lilywong - October 8, 2017

This is a very helpful article! I am starting to write a review of a few products and as they are expensive, it’s rather difficult to actually get them. I agree that it’s best to review with products we own, as it will give readers a more authentic overview about it. I really like the unboxing idea too. Your other strategies are very sound as well. I will definitely give them a try. Thanks!

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hey Lily,

    Owning the products you review will naturally make your review more authentic. But owning the product doesn’t mean it will be a good review that converts your readers to customers. If you cannot provide helpful information to help your readers make their purchasing decisions, it’s a waste to own the product. 

    So you can just be an authority in your niche by being an unbiased researcher and offer quality product information to your readers. As long as you know how to write a good product review, you can convert your readers and make money despite you don’t own the product yourself.

    All the best to you 🙂

    Reply
delroaustria - October 8, 2017

This article is timely written. This is the information that I really need.

I am a website owner and in the niche of reviewing consumer electronic products but I don’t have enough money to buy all the stuffs.

I agree that reviewing a product with first-hand experience may look more appealing and personal. 

I will try out strategy 3 and 4 though. However, I’m not confident right now to write an effective and compelling review without owning the product.

Please keep up the good work. Well done!

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hi,

    I’m glad that this article helps you in time. You don’t really need to purchase the stuffs you review as long as you have some knowledge in your niche. 

    Your concern is also valid. But just keep in mind that people want to read sincere stuff and recommendation. If you’re able to do the necessary research, comparison, analysis, etc, and combine all the information buyers need to make their decision, you’re doing a great favor for them and they will most likely to purchase from you.

    I wish you all the best. Just keep practicing!

    Reply
Sanket - October 8, 2017

When I started blogging I had this exact same question about product reviews. The beginning was tough to be honest. I did not know where or how to start reviewing.

But I was able to grasp the important things in my niche and learn about them. So I just keep researching about things in my niche and write unbiased reviews.

Anyway, I would like to borrow and test the products on my own in the future for sure. It is a good idea.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hey Sanket,

    Glad that you are doing well on the right path in your niche right now. Just keep practicing and I’m sure you’ll be earning a full-time income online as an affiliate marketer very soon. All the best to you!

    Reply
Zulkarnain - October 8, 2017

Terrific information that every bit of this is just mind-blowing and spot on information.

I have learned a lot from your guide over here. The quality content is the part that most people struggle with.

From this awesome guide, I have to make sure that this content-related stuff improve drastically in the immediate future. Thanks.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hi Zulkarnain,
    Thanks for reading and your kind words. We all know that quality content is the key to success online. Don’t rush and be patient while you slowing improve your own content. There’s no shortcut, only hard work. There are two keys to improve your content.

    1) Keep practising
    2) Keep reading and learning. Read information related to your niche can improve the amount and the quality of content you can provide to your readers. At the same time, reading also give you the opportunity to learn from others on how to write better.

    All the best to you 🙂

    Reply
Norman Richards - October 8, 2017

Hello Jerry, thanks for sharing!

A lot of great tips here. It is just so amazing of the detailed work that has to go into product reviews. But I realize that there is no short cut to this type of work and the end results will definitely pay off if this is done properly.

Reply
    Jerry Huang - October 9, 2017

    Hey Norman,
    You’re definitely right. The income potential of writing great product reviews are huge. And there is really no shortcut to achieving success in any business. You just need to be dedicated and put in the necessary time & effort!

    Reply

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