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How to Write a Review

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cnetreviews-logoReviews are one of the most difficult kinds of posts bloggers commonly write. Where most can tell a story, offer instructions or even voice an opinion pretty well, writing a review that is complete, useful and reasonably short is extremely difficult.

Too often blog reviews come across as biased or simply mean or seem to have no real purpose. Writing a review of a product, service or event is not as simple as saying what you think, one has to be complete, thorough and honest, both about themselves and their opinions.

Fortunately, there is a formula that can help you ensure your review is complete and useful. It’s good not just for blogs, but for reviews you put anywhere, including online stores and auction sites. It’s also a flexible format that can be used for short reviews, less than 200 words, to lengthier ones like what Ars Technica sometimes does for major new products.

Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to learn and, once mastered, is almost impossible to forget.

The Basics

A basic review has five parts which, when used in order, help give a complete picture of the subject of the review.

  1. Introduction: The introduction is more about yourself and how you came review the item, tell a story of you must. This is a place to be upfront with your personal biases and issues. (IE: I’m usually a Mac user but decided to give Windows 7 a try). This not only puts your prejudices out into the open, but establishes where you are coming from and helps like-minded readers connect with you.
  2. Background: Next, talk about the subject itself but only discuss facts. Who makes it, what’s its history, what is it designed to do, etc. This not only gives you a chance to flex your knowledge and research some, but also lets you frame what’s to follow by talking about the expectations the subject creates for itself.
  3. The Good: Next, talk about what is good with the subject. This can be very difficult when dealing with a bad review, but it is important to talk about what you liked. Even if it isn’t much. If you can’t find anything, it’s best to abandon the review format and write a rant or opinion piece instead.
  4. The Bad:After talking about the good, talk about what went wrong. You can, if the review is “bad heavy” flip this with the item above it but these have to be separate and at least somewhat balanced. This can be difficult to do, but can help give a review a balanced feel while still making your opinions clear.
  5. Conclusions: Once you’ve done all of that, you need to bring it all together. This is where you tie everything up, express your opinion in a nutshell, being sure to pull from what came above. This is what you want the reader to leave with and be sure to try and speak to them, listing cases where subject might be better or worse.

In short, the object is to frame the story with information about the reviewer, information about the subject, provide details on both good and bad elements and then tie it together with well supported conclusions.

If you can do that, you should walk away with a review that people will find to be balanced and fair, even if they disagree with the conclusions.

Scoring

Another element many, if not most, reviews have is some form of score. Whether it’s thumbs up/down, out of five stars, out of ten or out of a hundred, most reviews try to tie up their opinion with something that can be understood at a glance.

Doing this is dangerous as it can be very difficult to summarize a complicated opinion in a simple number. To make matters worse, you might not enjoy a product but might think it useful for someone else, thus a weak numeric review might causes others to ignore it unjustly.

If you give a numeric review, it is important that you make your average, well, average. For example, with video games, average review scores, out of ten, tend to be between 6-8, though five is the mathematical average.

When giving a score, start with the average and work forward or backward and try to avoid giving perfect scores, good or bad. It can put you in a real bind if something better or worse comes along later.

There’s nothing wrong with giving a score (or not giving one) but be sure to use them well and do not put too much emphasis on them.

Bottom Line

Writing a good review can be difficult. But if you’re willing to follow the structure above, it becomes much easier to make sure your review is complete, balanced and useful.

Though it isn’t the only formula for a review, it is the easiest one of I’ve found to follow and remember. Best of all, it pretty much forces you to be complete and thorough though you can use it to write much shorter reviews, such as the ones you might post on Amazon.

In fact, you’ll find that many sites that accept user reviews, including Cnet sites, push both their reviewers and the public to use a similar structure (Pros, Cons and Summary).

It’s simple and effective and that’s reason enough to at least give it a try.

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Writing

4 Blogging Tips for Freelance Writers

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Freelance writers, do you blog?

You better be blogging.

Running a well-stocked, self-hosted, WordPress blog showing off your writing skills is the most direct way to earn a lucrative living through freelance writing. Why? People with ample means get to see what you can offer through your blog, then, pay up. Both parties win. You have fun rendering a useful service. Clients get helpful, business-building content.

Blogging is a skill freelance writers need learn, and practice, to grow their business through blogging.

Follow these 4 tips to make money freelance writing through your blog.

1: Show Off Your Writing Skills by Publishing Content

Most aspiring freelance writers expect to make money freelancing without showing off their writing skills for free. Why in the heck would anybody hire you if they have no idea what you do, how you do it and why you do it?

Show off your writing skills by publishing content to your blog. Be generous. Publish one post weekly, at a minimum. Running a freelance writing blog seems smart to me. Along with teaching people how to be a skilled freelance writer, you build your friend network and show prospective clients your writing stuff.

Note; do not hold back. Many freelance writing blogger newbies publish one post and expect the floodgates of traffic, profits and clients to open up. Nope. Be generous, patient and persistent to gain client trust and to build your business over the long haul.

2: Network with Fellow Freelancers to Grow Your Reach

Get out of a competitive, poverty conscious vibe.

Enter into an abundant, generous, vibe.

Comment genuinely on fellow freelance blogs. Promote freelancers on your blog. Promote freelance writers on social media.

Here’s how money works, guys; if you do not fear losing money or clients to other freelance writers, you make tons of money through freelance writing over the long haul because all freelance buddies you make through your generosity promote you, endorse you and heck, some may even hire you.

Be generous. Help people. Make friends. Amplify your reach. Grow your business.

3: Build a Clear Freelance Writing Services Page

If you claim to be a freelance writer you better publish a clear, easy to understand, freelance writer page.

List specific services offered. Be clear to attract ideal clients who love what you offer.

Consider adding your writing rates to avoid tire kickers and other folks who want to bargain, barter and do other silly stuff. You are a business person. Bartering is for people in a Middle Eastern Souq. Set fixed prices. If people cannot afford your prices they can move on to another freelancer. Have posture.

Feel free to show off client testimonials if you have these endorsements but I have found this; if you get clear on your writing skills, show off your work through free content and clearly state what you offer, clients will find you and hire you. I did not even have a freelance business page when I landed my highest paying client. This shows you the power of clarity and mental alignment.

4: Build Blogging and Freelance Writing Posture

Please guys, do not barter, bargain or debate your writing rates. Do not charge $5 for a 600 word post. Do not work for peanuts just to say you landed a client. Do not work for demanding, overbearing clients. Never work for someone unless the person aligns with you, your values and your work.

Work for nice people who appreciate what you have to offer. This is the path toward great success online.

You choose clients. You pick clients. Have posture. Think and act abundantly.

Most freelancers struggle terribly because they have little or no posture. Believe in yourself. Believe in your abilities. Have faith. Trust in yourself.

The more you practice writing the more you gain confidence and clarity in your offering.

Enjoy your freelance writing success!

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Writing

3 Rewarding Benefits for Bloggers to Consider Joining An Honor Society

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Over approximately one million students are members of the National Honor Society (NHS). Many of which are likely bloggers, freelance writers, and/or have a passion for writing or pursuing their own path in life.

High school students with outstanding achievements are joining the organization every year. But you may not be familiar with the NHS and what it does, and also how it can benefit you as either a blogger, affiliate marketer, or an entrepreneur.

You may be asking, “should I join an honor society?” Is it really that important? Before you become an honor student yourself, you should weigh the benefits.

Here’s your guide to the benefits of the National Honor Society.

Should I Join an Honor Society?

In order to join the NHS, you’ll need to know what they do.

Established in 1921, the foundation recognizes students who have achieved excellence in several different ways. These include areas of service, leadership, character, and of course, scholarship.

Members need to meet certain criteria to join. Students who want to join should have at least a 3.0 on the GPA scale. They should also show great leadership and a commitment to volunteer work.

If you think you may be eligible, here are three rewarding reasons why you should join the NHS.

1. Making a Difference

One of the great aspects of the NHS is the opportunity to make a difference. Given the foundation’s emphasis on helping others, each student must meet a service hour requirement.

As a member, you’ll be a part of service projects whether individually or as a team.

This is not only an amazing way to get involved in your community but a way to meet new people. Volunteering opens up so many doors, personal and otherwise. It helps you find yourself and connect with people in the process.

The service you complete may also open other doors and interests for you along the way.

2. Building Your Resume

Every college and university knows what an NHS membership suggests about a student. This makes it a wonderful addition to your resume or college application. It makes you competitive and helps you stand out in a sea of students.

An NHS experience shows that you’re an outstanding citizen who’s engaged with the world. It shows that you have great academic standing and the potential to be a future leader. However, academics aren’t everything, and if you can compile all of your achievements and goals into an online resume website, you may win over some new audiences and personal opportunities as well.

Joining the NHS will help you turn your goals for the future into a reality and set your professional life into motion.

3. Developing Skills

To become an NHS student, you need to exhibit certain traits and character. But your experience as a member will also help you further develop your skills. The NHS is an excellent avenue for becoming even more well-rounded and capable.

The NHS helps students flex their skills as a leader and a part of a team. The volunteering component will help you develop great time management skills. It can also motivate you to maintain your good grades.

You’ll also learn a lot about networking and professionalism during the process. This will be indelibly valuable in the future.

Learn More

The answer to “should I join an honor society?” is a resounding yes. There are no downsides to becoming an honor student and so much to gain from the experience, and if you are thinking about launching a website or blog of your own, the experience and skills you will gain from such an environment and community will only help.

Not only does being in the NHS prepare you for what’s to come, but it’s also a nice way to celebrate what you’ve already worked so hard to accomplish.

To learn more about school and lifestyle tips, be sure to visit our blog.

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Blogging

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

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The Dos and Donts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

The Dos and Donts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

Your very first blog post is a very big deal.

For businesses, it’s their way of attracting more clients by creating content that resonates with your target audience.

For hobbyists, it’s their chance to of sharing to the world your thoughts and ideas about their topics of choice.

Either way, nothing validates your online identity more than a well-written blog post.

Therefore, you need to make the most of this opportunity by writing the best possible blog post. Assuming that you don’t have much experience in writing, you can always keep things simple by following the basic do’s and don’ts of writing a blog post for the very first time.

Do: Come up with a topic that your audience would like

The success of bloggers stems from the ability to determine what their audience wants to read. To reach their primary goals, bloggers must appeal to the need of their target readers for useful and relevant information. Doing so allows them to attract lots of visitors with the content they publish, resulting in increased conversion rates.

Therefore, you need to approach blogging deliberately. You can’t just pull a topic out of thin air and expect your audience to come in droves. You must find out what makes your readers ticks and what their wants and needs are.

That means research, research, and more research!

First, you need to come up with a reader persona that you will target for your post and the succeeding ones. The persona you will develop will embody your demographic such as age, gender, hobbies, and others. Researching these factors will help you refine how you will write your post and what you will write about. From here, unearthing blog post ideas to write about will become much more convenient for you.

Don’t: Veer away from your branding and persona

Your brand is what defines you online. Your audience will associate all your online activity with the brand you’ve developed. Part of your brand is the persona you project from the blog posts you will write.

The best blogs exhibit unique voices that set them apart from the rest. The Onion is popular for its tongue-in-cheek humor veiled in satire. Lifehacker is famous for producing informative blog content geared towards readers who want to find ways to simplify their lives.

The brand and persona these sites exude help bloggers develop consistency in their writing. By observing their persona on all the posts they write at all times, they allow readers to create a level of expectation every time you publish a post. By meeting their expectations with every post you write, you can develop a sustainable stream of blog traffic over a period.

Therefore, it is crucial that you develop a writing voice that resonates with your readers and then sticking with it. You need to play your brand and persona across all your blog posts, starting with the very first post you’ll be writing.

Do: Edit before publishing

Before hitting the “Publish” button, you need to make sure that there are no grammar mistakes and errors in your writing. Your command of the language is crucial if you want to send the right message to your readers.

A post that’s filled with errors will cause readers to leave your blog and possibly not read another post from you. If you can’t write correctly, then why should your audience read your posts?

Double-checking your post and reading it again can do wonders for your edits. It’s best to take time between finishing the post and reading it for review. The time allows you to get your mind off from writing so you will have a fresh perspective on the post, which lets you spot errors easier.

If you’re not comfortable with your editing skills, then you could use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. Both will make recommendations on how to tighten your sentences and improve your blog post. Keep in mind, however, that these tools are meant to complement your editing process and not replace it entirely.

Don’t: Worry about word count

If you’re counting words when writing your post, then you’re blogging for the wrong reasons.

When writing, your focus should be communicating ideas as clearly as possible.

For SEO reasons, you want your post to be as long as possible. According to the latest studies, your post should be at least 1,890 words if you want to rank on top of Google Search.

However, if you can’t reach that many numbers of words, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Having lots of words doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great post.

What’s more important is that you can share everything that your readers need to know about the topic. By focusing on the quality of the post and not the number of words, you can engage your audience and keep them longing for more.

Do: Promote your post

Promoting your post is not part of the writing process. However, part of your job as a full-fledged blogger is to be a marketer as well.

Sharing your first blog post is your step towards reaching out to your online audience. After all, your post won’t promote itself. You need to proactive share your blog post to the right channels, so you show it to as many people interested in your topic as possible.

One of the best ways to promote your post online is to hop on Facebook and Twitter.

“If you have created high-quality content on your blog then social media is a great way to your blog to go viral.” said Scott Chow of The Blog Starter.

You can also submit your post on platforms that allow you to reach out to your audience more effectively. I have detailed the best sites where you can send your post for promotion in this article.

Don’t: Set unrealistic goals

Starting at the bottom and working your way up to where thousands of blogs are also vying for the attention of your readers will be a tumultuous journey. Therefore, you have to curb your expectations as a blogger. It is ideal to set the bar with attainable goals in mind instead of aiming for the moon.

Don’t get me wrong – reaching thousands of visitors for your blog post in a day is not impossible. However, like catching lightning in a jar, it’s more improbable than anything else. In fact, this problem is what plagues most bloggers. They set high goals that are difficult to achieve. As a result, they get discouraged once they realize that they can’t fulfill them and stop blogging altogether.

Therefore, it’s always better to follow a tried-and-true template that you can sustain for a long period. You don’t want to be one of those flash-in-the-pan bloggers who fizzle out as fast as they started.

Did I miss any other tips for first-time bloggers in preparation for their very first post? Chime in with your advice by commenting below!

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