Last year, someone in a Slack community that I was in asked this interesting question:
“How do I write product or software reviews without trying them out?”
I proceeded to give a concise but direct answer but couldn’t help thinking about how I struggled with the same question for months before adopting a standard process to tackle it.
You know why?
I was scared, with imposter syndrome taking the better part of me.
Not just me now but also other writers who wanted to get into writing SaaS product reviews.
Let’s factor in Google’s newest page quality guideline (The first E in E-E-A-T which talks about writers or content creators possessing first-hand experience in specific fields especially YMYL topics to create truly valuable and people-first content) and we’ll see that this fear is actually justified.
How did I overcome this challenge?
I can hear some answers –
Testing the product in question to write good reviews. True.
Applying for free plans, demos, or signups for a limited period of time to get suitable information. Also True.
But here’s the twist. It’s almost impossible to review every SaaS tool without incurring insane expenses or going through wild processes.
As a matter of fact, I’ve written 30+ SaaS long-form product reviews in less than a year and I observed that a lot of SaaS companies especially in the HR and HCM field don’t offer free trials or even share transparent pricing. You’ll be required to contact customer care directly after which a member of the sales team will give you a software walk-through. This process can be hectic for you as a writer, and most companies will decline (or give funny excuses) since they’re aware that you’re not a potential customer.
This leads us to the big question – How then do you craft great reviews that are objective, accurate, and fulfill E-E-A-T? This blog post explains all you need to know (from a first-person point of view).
First, What are Product Reviews and Why are They Important?
Product reviews are evaluations or assessments of a product by customers or experts who have used or tested the product. These reviews provide valuable insights into the quality, performance, and usability of the product. They can be found on e-commerce websites, social media platforms, and other online forums.
Product reviews are important for several reasons:
- They help potential buyers make informed decisions about whether to purchase a product or not. By reading reviews, buyers can get an idea of the product’s strengths and weaknesses and determine if it meets their needs.
- They can help businesses improve their products. Feedback from customers can help businesses identify areas where their products can be improved.
- They help businesses build trust and credibility with their customers. Positive reviews can serve as social proof that a product is of high quality and can be trusted, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.
A Peep Into My Writing Process
Some months back, I performed a random experiment that I shared on LinkedIn – starting a new writing project and timing myself to see how long it’ll take me.
I shared that the process took me 6 hrs 10 mins (in 2 days) to complete a 2272-word review piece on a SaaS tool on max productivity. That little experiment however shed light on my streamlined writing process alongside useful tips to write great content.
Here’s how it went:
1. Assignment Review
This initial process which took me about 15 mins was really important. During this time, I studied the content brief and outline trying to make sense of the objectives, competitors’ content to outrank, the keyword(s) to target, existing content structure to replicate, and other important instructions.
2. Examination of the SaaS Tool
After understanding the required expectations, you want to immediately examine the SaaS software you want to review. I do that by visiting the website of the tool and going through the pages briefly. The idea is to get a quick grasp of the features and importance of the software so I can go ahead to try out a demo account or free plan (if available).
Playing with the tool a bit to get more details about its functionalities, features, and user experience allows you to put together a worthy objective review. If you can’t try out the tool for any reason, just do well to study the site content really well and take extensive notes of the software features. For my experiment, this process took me 25 mins.
This phase which took me 4 hrs 30 mins was quite hectic and involved a LOT OF RESEARCH. During this process, you want to fill in as many sections as possible:
- What is X?
- Who is X meant for?
- What are the features of X?
- Pros and Cons of X
- X pricing and plans
- How to use X (with screenshots and images)
- X comparison with similar software
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Final Editorial Judgement
I’ll digress a little here. AI writing software is best used as a writing assistant to speed up your writing process. I sometimes use Copy.ai to get a head start to stop mulling over the ‘perfect words’, or even fall back on ChatGPT by feeding data to it and asking it to summarize the main points.
To get started on the right foot, I suggest that you study the top-ranking pieces so you can identify loopholes in their content to leverage. Explore the SaaS website to extensively cover all the features and unusual twists you need to write about.
If you’ve never used the software, how can you tell its pros and cons? I used to struggle with this until I started taking advantage of review platforms such GetApp, G2, SoftwareAdvice, Trustpilot, and Capterra. By quickly going through 30-50 reviews, I can easily grasp the good and bad of the software. The point is to be totally objective and include the pros and cons that were commonly discussed. For my experiment, I got this done in ~18 mins.
For the FAQs, I took a look at Google’s “People also ask” section to extract some secondary keywords to answer in my content. You can also leverage Google’s auto-complete as a tool to get similar queries to rank for.
4. Editing & Proofreading
This is the last process where you ruthlessly edit and proofread your content to ensure it’s up to expectations. This took me 1hr then.
If you can get someone else to edit, please do. But here’s how I handle my editing process:
- Change fonts: It’s a good idea to change fonts so that you get a different look and feel of your content. I normally start out with Arial font and end up with Lato.
- Look at spellings and Grammarly suggestions: Ask any writer about editing and you’ll get a Grammarly suggestion. Grammarly is a popular tool that helps to identify easily missed writing and grammatical errors. It can also identify sentences that seem to have poor flow. I’m a big fan of the Oxford Comma so this software comes in handy to help with that.
- Read aloud: Reading aloud helps you to catch any grammatical errors you may have missed.
- Watch out for readability and recurring words: Writing the same terms can make your content sound monotonous. Ensure to include varieties to keep your audience engaged.
- Validate all definitions: Ensure that written facts are accurate and up-to-date.
Best Tips for Writing Great Product Reviews
I’ve shared my exact writing process with you but this section presents some best practices for you to follow:
Understand the Product
Before writing any product review, it’s essential to understand the product thoroughly. It’s not just about knowing the features and benefits, but also about how it works, how it solves problems, and how it stands out from the competition.
One way to understand the product is to use it yourself. By using the product, you can experience its features firsthand, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also see and understand how it compares to other tools in the market.
Carrying out plain research is another alternative. This includes studying the product documentation (whitepapers, success stories), watching demo videos, and exploring the product’s website. As I mentioned earlier, you should endeavor to read reviews from other users to give you a well-rounded understanding of the product.
Understand Your Target Audience and Their Needs (a.k.a Search Intent)
Before writing, you should identify search intent so that you can write a review that resonates deeply with your target audience. This info will also determine the knowledge capacity of your readers – if they fare well with technical jargon or if they need to be provided clear and concise instructions on how to use the product and how it benefits them.
Explore the Features
When writing a review for a SaaS tool, you should explore every available feature. Ask yourself questions like
- What does the tool do?
- What problems does it solve?
- What are the key features that make it stand out from other tools in the same category?
With that, you can write sections dedicated to individual features that the tool offers, alongside its limitations and drawbacks. Tables and bullet points are useful here to help organize information and make it easy to consume. You can and should also include screenshots or videos to illustrate the tool’s functionality and user interface.
Test the Product
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the product, it’s time to test it. You should look to:
- Test the product’s features and functionalities to ensure they work as advertised (functional testing)
- Evaluate the ease of use and intuitiveness of the software (usability testing)
- Test the product’s compatibility with different devices and other software to ensure it works seamlessly across all platforms (compatibility testing) etc.
When writing, do keep in mind that your readers are looking for unbiased and honest opinions. They want to know the good and the bad of a product alongside a fine print that may be obscure to readers beforehand.
Writing quality product reviews takes a balance of technical knowledge, experience, and a keen eye for detail. The process can be time-consuming but it pays off at the end when you’re able to provide your readers with an honest assessment of the product.
If you found this useful, do well to share it with your friends and drop a comment below.
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