How to create review content that’s helpful for users and Google
Whether they’re buying online or in a store, more shoppers rely on review content to help them make smart decisions on almost any purchase.
Shopping for a new car? Face cream? Yoga mat? Rechargeable battery? Diapers? Pajamas? Peanut butter?
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a wealth of reviews, comparisons, best-of lists, worst-of lists, and “this product changed my life” content.
The demand is huge, no matter what kind of product we’re talking about.
So how do you edge into the noise with review content that’s helpful for both users and Google? That’s what this guide is all about.
What is review content?
Review content, or product review content, is content that attempts to provide information on how a product works, looks, and/or feels.
Review content is especially useful for online shoppers who can’t physically vet a product in person before purchasing it.
They rely on helpful, objective review content to help them decide and get details that are impossible to ascertain based on the average product page: the real user experience of a product.
How to write high-quality review content: 9 must-dos to win with users and search engines
Creating review content isn’t as simple as listing a product’s features, writing a paragraph about why you liked/didn’t like it, and adding a star rating.
If you want to rank at the top of Google with useful reviews that provide boatloads of information for discerning shoppers, you need to go deeper.
Ultimately, your goal should be to write a definitive review for that product, focusing on quality and originality. How do you do that? Let’s explore.
1. State the practical facts (introduce the product/your review outcome)
First things first. Every review should start by introducing the product.
Provide the practical facts the reader needs to know to understand what you’re reviewing, what it’s supposed to do, and where they can buy it.
Don’t waste time on generalities (like talking about why many people love biking if you’re reviewing a bike), but rather get to the point. Most review readers aren’t looking for an essay on the product type or category – they want to know whether they should buy a specific product.
So, focus on that product. In your introduction, include details like:
- Product name: Include the full product name as it’s written on the packaging or product website.
- Company/brand: Who made the product?
- Price: How much does it cost?
- Where to buy: Where can users buy the product online? In person? If multiple retailers exist, link to them.
- What the product claims to do/what it’s used for: What is the product supposed to do? What claims does it make (i.e., what’s supposed to happen when a person uses this product)? What problem does it solve?
- Your rating: If you’re producing a lot of review content, using a set rating system with standards for each score might make sense. For example, you might rate products on a scale of 1-10 or 1-5 stars.
- Review summary: Tell readers whether you recommend the product and why/why not in a quick summary.
Tip: Note that your rating and review summary are included as pieces to share in your intro. That’s important. Share the conclusion of your review within the first few paragraphs. Don’t bury this information at the end.
Why? A lot of online buyers want the facts up-front. They won’t stick around your page if they have to scroll through paragraphs of text to find the information they need.
Meanwhile, the people who want every tiny detail about the product will spend time scrolling to understand why your review was favorable (or not).
For a great example of this, check out Wirecutter. Every review tells you right off the bat what the results are. In their product comparison of the best photo editing apps, the first paragraph tells you the winner.
After this quick introduction with the winner, they then dive into an intense, exhaustive review with every facet covered to explain why they arrived at their overall choice.
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2. Write from a user's perspective
As you create review content, always think about how helpful your review will be for the person on the other end using it to make a buying decision.
If you were considering buying the product, what would you want to know?
While knowing the basic features helps set a baseline for understanding the product, they don't actually tell you how the product works (not to mention, the user can find all the product features on the product website). Instead, you'd want to know about the product's ultimate benefits.
For example, say you were reading a face cream review. Which of these statements would be more important to your decision-making process?
- The cream has nice packaging. (This is a feature.)
- The cream brightened the reviewer's skin. (This is a benefit.)
Every purchase results from someone trying to solve a problem in their life.
That means, to write effective review content, you need to approach the review from the user's perspective of whether the product is successful or not in providing a solution.
3. Prove why you're qualified to review the product
Why should users trust you or care about your opinions?
Why should they use your review as part of their shopping research?
You need to be able to answer these questions in your review.
Particularly, you need to show that you're knowledgeable about the type of product you're reviewing – a trusted expert.
There are a lot of ways to do this.
Explain your background inside the review
Explain what makes you qualified to review the product.
For example, if you're reviewing a mountain bike, you could say that you have been mountain biking for 10 years and have participated in dozens of amateur mountain bike races nationwide.
Explain how you tested the product
How did you use the product leading up to your review? Did you pit it against any others?
For example, maybe you tested a face cream by applying it every night before bed for a month. Or maybe you tried out three different blenders by testing the same set of smoothie recipes on each one.
Include a short author bio
You can also include an author bio at the end of the review that mentions your experience/expertise in the product category you're reviewing.
For some products, you can be inexperienced and still provide a useful review – but only if you represent a typical product user.
For instance, in this curling iron review, the reviewer provides context for why you should trust her – she's not great at styling her hair and never has been, but this product is supposed to make it easy.
4. Help users understand the product on a deeper level
How can you give users a deeper understanding of the product beyond what they can find on a product description page?
Tell them how to use it
If the operation of the product isn't straightforward, explain or demonstrate how it works in simple terms. This ties into the next point.
Add pictures and video
Include a video of you demoing the product, or add pictures of the product from angles that help demonstrate its look and feel.
Consider close-up views as well as pulled-back shots. If applicable, capture the product in motion or operation.
Tell a story about your experience using it
Include sensory details and additional context about when/where/why you used the product.
For example, for a face cream review, maybe you used it at night at the end of a long day, and your skin felt parched from the dry winter air.
When you put it on, the cream felt silky and cool, and your skin felt soothed and hydrated immediately.
Great example: In this Kitchen Aid stand mixer comparison by Your Best Digs, the reviewer described how they tested out each mixer's capabilities: by whipping egg whites and cream, mixing cake batter, and kneading pizza dough.
5. Compare/contrast the product to similar ones
Even if you're not doing a straightforward comparison of multiple products, it's worthwhile to mention how the product you're reviewing compares to similar options on the market.
For example, there are often well-known alternatives to products in a specific category. Think Apple/Android, Coke/Pepsi, Revlon/Maybelline, etc.
Have you tried competitor products in the same category? How do they stack up to the product you're reviewing?
6. Explain who the product is for/not for
What type of user would benefit from using the product? Who wouldn't benefit?
Including this section is a great way to empathize with your audience while giving them vastly useful information.
Whether or not they fit the profile of a person who would benefit from the product, you're helping them visualize that product in their personal lives and narrow down what they actually need from such a product.
For example, in the mixer comparison, the reviewer recommends a particular model for enthusiastic bakers ready for an all-day bakeathon who don't mind a large, heavy piece of equipment sitting out on their counter at all times.
For those with smaller kitchens and everyday baking needs, the reviewer recommends passing on the product.
7. Include pros and cons
No product is perfect. And if you review a product as if it is, then that puts your authenticity in question.
That's why it's a great idea to include the pros vs. cons of the product in your review. (Or, add one section about where the product falls short, even briefly.)
This will help the user understand the product's limitations and what they should be aware of before buying.
For example, perhaps the product is great overall and works as expected but is missing one small feature that may be important to some people.
Returning to the face cream example, it may make your skin look glowy, amazing, and youthful, but the smell is off-putting. Or perhaps you hate the packaging or don't get a lot of product for the price.
These are all important trade-offs to mention to maintain honesty in your review.
Ultimately, balancing the great points of the product with its downsides will help your readers make a better purchase decision – and that's the main goal.
8. Follow Google's product review guidelines
If you've been following all of the tips in this article for what to include in review content…
You're already well on your way to following Google's best practices for writing high-quality product reviews (these were updated in September 2022, with an even bigger emphasis on quality than before).
Along with all of the above guidelines for making your review useful, there are some additional categories we haven't touched on that Google considers important:
- Google recommends linking to other useful sources that might help a user make their purchase decision. For example, you could link to a review of a comparable product, or a detailed guide on how to use the product.
- Link to multiple sellers so users can buy the product from their preferred merchant.
Standards of performance
- Every product has specific performance areas that most affect the successful use of the product. Google recommends identifying these at the outset and basing your review on how the product scores in each area. For example, Google lists three major performance areas for reviewing cars: safety, handling, and fuel economy.
- If the product has multiple models, versions, or releases, compare and contrast these to the newest version and what improvements are apparent.
- At every turn, Google wants to see evidence of why you're reviewing a product a certain way. In other words, provide proof that the product worked for you – or didn't. Your experience alone will often serve as proof, so you need to document that honestly and well.
- Use visuals and audio to support the authenticity of your experience with a product.
9. Format your review content for ease of reading
Lastly, format your product reviews to help readers find the information that matters most to them.
Divide your review into sections
Using the above suggestions, label each section with a unique header. Use subheaders if you need to break a section down further.
Consider adding a table of contents
A table of contents at the beginning of your review gives readers a bird's eye view of what you'll cover in your content.
Add plenty of photos, screenshots, videos, and other visuals
Get creative with it. For example, some review content creators employ comparison charts and tables to summarize the differences and similarities between two products.
Here's one from the stand mixer product comparison:
Create review content that makes a big impact
Modern shoppers depend on review content to help them make big and small decisions about what they should buy.
Since your content has the potential to affect their choices directly, take the time to create product reviews that are useful, balanced, and informative.
Go deep and detailed. Describe features, but dive into how those features translate to benefits. Include details about why you're qualified to review the product.
Help the reader understand the experience of using the product. Compare/contrast the product to others, include pros/cons, and explain who the product is for/not for.
Finally, follow Google's product review guidelines. The more details you provide in your review, the better.