Today I am very pleased to introduce you an amazing guy who only started blogging last year and has done some amazing things. His name is Robb Sutton and he runs a mountain biking blog where he reviews bike products, the only problem with this is finding enough products to review. Well just over a year of blogging and hes been given $100,000’s worth of FREE stuff to review on his blog giving him a huge advantage over his competition.
In this interview Robb and I will cover just how he was able to get so much great FREE stuff (some bikes are worth over $5,000!) and how you can to.
Message From Michael
To check out and buy Robb’s eBook showing you how he got given $100,000’s worth of FREE stuff from companys to review on his blog, click here. You can also check out Robb’s mountain bike review blog by clicking here! In the interview Robb mentions how he took part in Yaro’s Blog Mastermind Course, if you would like to follow in his footsteps, you can join Yaro’s course here!
Like I just said, you have nearly got $100, 000 worth of review products. Would you like to go over with us how you began to approach companies to get products to review?
Robb: Most contact is through email, obviously. When I go through certain companies looking for different products to review, I take a look at their websites and see who that first initial contact could be through email.
I then send out a… Basically I blast out not a form email but a personalized email towards the company showing them that I know what their product is, if I have used it in the past, and what I would like to do with their product on my site.
Luckily, in the beginning I had some initial relationships with people in the industry that were able to help me get going. But for the most part it is cold calling at this point, or they have, at this point, contacted me to see if I want to review their products on my site. So it is growing nicely and it is getting easier by the day.
I was talking to you earlier and you told me that you started about a year and a half ago. This is a crazy amount of money to be able to get in such a short amount of time; $100, 000 worth of products to review. How much of that do you actually get to keep? Do you have to send it back?
Robb: At this point we are right at about the $50, 000 mark on being able to keep it, which is pretty crazy. If you walk into my garage it is like a toy store.
A lot of the bikes that get up into the pretty expensive range are demo bikes that have to be sent back. But most of the components, several of the bikes, and a multitude of electronics and that kind of stuff all get to be kept after the review is complete.
Were you blogging much before you started this blog review site?
Robb: Actually none.
So you just jumped straight into this and…?
Robb: At first.
Wow. That is pretty impressive. Where did you find out how to blog? Were there any courses or books that you read? What would you recommend for anyone new starting off to learn what you had to learn?
Robb: Well originally I started off like probably most people do with a blogger format. And after about four posts I knew that wasn’t going to do it because I wasn’t able to customize it enough.
So I started reading sites like problogger.net, Yaro’s entrepreneursjourney.com; all the big guys that everyone already knows about. Luckily, they have a lot of really good content that is all buried in the site. So I just spent hours and hours reading.
After about three to four months worth of blogging I had seen pretty good success, actually, from what I was considering. And I decided to join Yaro’s Blog Mastermind course to just fine tune what I was doing.
Luckily, after going through the course I was pretty surprised. I was doing a lot of things right, but I was also hurting myself in a lot of ways as well. So that really fine tuned my margin of error. And after I cleaned up some things, got some different content up, things really started to grow.
Can anyone just start asking for products to review like you did, or would you recommend you start your blog and build up a bit? What is your advice on that?
Robb: I would definitely build up just a little bit. It is hard to ask someone to review their product if they go to your site and they don’t see any product reviews. So normally I tell people to review everything you can get your hands on. If you are passionate about what you are reviewing, you should have some stuff lying around, or at least your friends should.
So what I started doing was just reviewing everything I owned, everything my friends owned, and built up basically a little bit of a database of reviews on my blog, about 20 to 30, so that I had a track record to go off of when I approached companies for their review product.
I was able to point to search engine results, point to certain reviews, comments left on my site, and that kind of stuff. So if you build up your own resume it definitely helps during the process.
So it is great that you have got all these free products, but what is the point if you are not going to make money from it? So how do you turn these reviews into profits?
Robb: Well one, review products or reviews on blogs are very search engine friendly. When people are searching for something on the web, they generally go to Google or somewhere else, type in the product name review. So you can convert that traffic alone through advertising and several other conventional blog avenues.
But what I found is really the affiliate sales through product reviews is probably the most profitable from a product review blog post standpoint. For just about every single product out there, there are affiliate programs that are either online retailers or directly through the company.
So if you write an honest review that tells the good and the bad of the product, you normally can convert that into sales right at the end of the review, even if for a lot of online retailers it is only 5%. If you are talking about a $1, 000 product at 5%, you can see that adds up pretty quickly.
Robb: It is affiliate, direct advertising, and you can sell the product also if you are complete.
Not many bloggers actually know you can get products to review for their blogs. So does this give you a huge advantage over your competition? And if so, how would you drive traffic to these reviews and let people know about them?
Robb: Absolutely. I think there is a misconception out there that the free product for review is limited to big publications that have a lot of money backing. What companies are starting to realize now more than ever is that the concentrated audience you have as a blogger is exactly what they are looking for.
Lead generation from companies these days is extremely expensive. So for the price of one product, they can reach your target audience that is looking to purchase things in that niche.
And what a lot of people also don’t realize is that it is not the retail price that they are counting. It is the cost to the manufacturer. So there actual cost to give you, say, a $1, 000 product is probably only about $500 or $600 max.
So once you realize that you are really able to play off of that and provide a real worth to the company that is about to give you something to review.
It also takes a little bit of time and effort on your part. I don’t think a lot of people out there really want to take it seriously. They have this idea in their head. They love to get free stuff, but they don’t technically want to put the work into it.
So the people that actually want to put the work into it and show that they are serious have a pretty easy time getting in free stuff to review.
So it is clear you have got a great passion for biking. Do you think your blog would be anywhere near successful if you didn’t have this passion for biking?
Robb: Oh, absolutely not. I probably would have given up six months ago.
The thing about blogging is you have got to do it everyday, and you have got to write, and write, and write. And if you are not passionate about it you are eventually just going to fizzle out because why are you doing it then?
Most of blogging, the first six months of the year, you are not making much, so you have got to have something to keep you going through the growing times. And the only thing that keeps you going is enjoying what you are doing.
So you have mentioned that you have got to blog pretty much everyday. Do you ever get blogger’s block where you can’t write anymore? How would you overcome this?
Robb: Every now and then. Sometimes you brain just locks up and you are like, “Wow. I have got to put something up, ” and you can’t seem to think of anything!
Whenever I do that, I really just imagine myself in the situation that I am blogging about. With mountain biking, it is real easy to think of last weekend when I was out riding. Or, I just get out and ride.
Interacting with your subject matter is probably the easiest way to come up with topics. If you are blogging about blogging, you blog, and then that comes up with ideas. Or if you are blogging about gardening, you go out and plant a flower. I don’t know.
You know, it jumpstarts your brain and it gets you thinking inside your subject matter instead of on the outside just trying to write an article.
So you actually wrote an e-book on exactly how you have managed to get all these free products for review. Do you want to share with us just a bit about this e-book and what we can expect to learn from it?
Robb: Yeah. The e-book is Ramped Reviews. It actually happened on accident. After about eight months of blogging with the mountain biking site, I started getting a lot of questions from other bloggers on how I got in on this free product to review.
And when I started researching around online I saw that there really wasn’t a good resource to show you how to build a review blog. So I just filled that need. My background in corporate America helped me write an e-book like this, because I had actually been on the other end of the spectrum.
I have had people call me asking for my stuff I used to sell for review. So I took that process step by step from day one all the way to the end on how to start a review blog, how to write a review, how to contact companies, and what to do after they have given your product a review.
There is a lot of that back and forth conversation that I don’t think a lot of bloggers out there have had before. A lot of them come from Internet backgrounds but not business to business relations. It is basically everything you need to know about review blogging.
So you have mentioned how you get the product, and you have mentioned that you need to write review on that product. But how do you write the review so it actually makes you money, because you said you have to promote product, but it is important to write in a style that will actually sell?
Robb: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. The glorified advertisement no longer works, especially in the blogging world. If every review you put up is how great the thing is just because you are trying to convert sales, you are not going to convert any.
People have become really skeptical of reviews that seem like it is too good to be true. So as long as you stay completely honest with what you are doing, those convert very well into sales. It really just boils down to honesty is the best measure.
So pretty much what you are saying is nothing is perfect and you have to point out what is good and what is bad.
Robb: Yeah. And it is also good to tell the readers who is the perfect person for this product. Kind of spell out, “Look. If you do this, this, and this, this is probably for you. If you do this and this, it probably isn’t.” Really, pinpointing your lead is basically the best way I could put it.
At the beginning of the interview you mentioned you were doing some things right, but you were also doing quite a few things wrong. So if you could just jump in a time machine and go back to when you started, what were those things you did wrong and what would you do differently?
Robb: I am paying for some of those right now. In the next 60 days we are going to fix some things. One of the biggest things that I have come across is that when I picked the URL, MTBtrailreview.com, it had a lot of meaning for what was going to be a user submitted site. But it was hard to remember. And at that time I really didn’t think about it.
So if I could jump back, I would have picked something a lot easier to remember that I could tell people as far as, “You can get to my site by going here.” When you say mtvtrailreview.com people get like, “What? I need to write that down.”
So a URL that is related to your subject matter that is easy to remember would be the first step. Try not to get too complicated. The other thing would be… I am pretty happy with the way I did a lot of things. But organization from the beginning is a big thing also; categories, tags.
I had to go back later and fix a lot of that stuff, because I made way too many categories and was using way too many tags. So there was a lot of wasted time in cleaning up old posts that could have been avoided if I would have stayed more organized from the beginning.
And really, that comes down to having a clear game plan and not just winging it. If you sit down and really plan out what you want to do at the very beginning, you can get over a lot of headaches in the future.
Earlier in the interview you also mentioned about SEO and making sure people could find you on Google for each review. Obviously this is very important to you, so would you like to just quickly share a couple tips for writing, on how to write for the search engines to make sure people can find you?
Robb: Yeah, definitely. And this is actually a funny subject, because I emailed a manufacturer of a bike last week and I told him to search for one of his bikes, and I popped up in the number one ranking above him. He got a good laugh out of that.
But the biggest thing I found is title selection is incredibly important. When you go to pick your title for your post, it needs to have all the necessary elements of a product review. If your model year is very specific, you need to have model year, make, model, and the word review.
I see a lot of review bloggers try to get really creative with their titles, which looks great when you are looking in your RSS reader. But when Google is searching for relevant content related to that product, it needs to be able to find it quickly and easily.
So by having a very specific title, “Widget Review 2008”, or something like that, it is very good for search engine results. I have also found that as many pictures and as many multimedia objects as you can is also a good thing.
Labeling all your pictures correctly, from the file name, to the alternate text, to any captions helps your keyword density. If you are going to use title tags, which most people do, H2, H3’s, make sure you have the product name in each one of those.
Basically, you want to spread the product name throughout the post as much as possible without sounding like you are just trying to repeat the product name over and over again. You are writing for the reader and you will always be writing for the reader.
But there are certain ways that you can tweak that article, so that Google and other search engines see that as a relevant topic for their readers that are searching.
I would probably say the title, title tags, doing images, and other multimedia correctly is probably the biggest.
Search engines obviously bring you quite a lot of traffic. Is there anything else you do to drive traffic, anything else you would recommend to other review blogs?
Robb: Yeah. Luckily, since I was already so embedded in the industry, I was a member of several different forum sites that are pretty large. So once I started, especially in the early days of starting the blog, I would put the link to my blog in the forum signature. If something came up that I thought people would find interesting, I started a thread on that article.
The key there was is that I wasn’t just at that forum to promote my blog. I was actually integrated in the community, so it wasn’t looked at as spam. You run a risk with forums and they are very sensitive to spam.
So if you just get on there and you have only got five posts, and all of a sudden you are promoting your stuff, you are just going to get laughed right out of the forum site. You really need to be an integrated part of that forum before you start pushing your own stuff.
I also partnered with the largest mountain biking forum in the world in helping them star their product review section of their site. So I was able to promote my blog through my reviews that I wrote for them as well, and that helped out a lot.
Quick Fire Questions:
The first one is what is the best advice you have ever been given?
Robb: Never give up.
What do you like least about the Internet?
Robb: People that like to put you down just because they can’t get what they have got going; negative comments, that kind of stuff from anonymous people who would rather not say their name but have nothing wrong with saying something negative.
Michael: Oh, yeah. I get that pretty much every day of the week.
Robb: Exactly. You get immune to it, but the first ones sting.
Michael: Yeah. Definitely the first few times you are just sort of sucker punch. You just want to take a few minutes out. It can affect you but you have just got to look past it and get used to it.
Robb: Normally if someone is saying something negative, you are doing something right.
Michael: Yeah. Exactly. All publicity is good publicity they say. When you do something wrong and people pick up on it, it is not always a bad thing.
What do you like most about the Internet then?
Robb: The social media aspect of it. I have met a lot of people through my websites and that kind of stuff. I have got friends all over the world now where 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible.
Who do you look up to most online? Who is your role model for your business?
Robb: That would probably be split between Darren and Yaro. Darren just topped 300, 000 subscribers on his digital photography blog, and that in itself is amazing. That and Yaro’s ability to create member sites and really live that dot com lifestyle that everyone talks about is a pretty cool deal.
I know there are probably a lot of people that probably go to them as their go to, but after dealing with them on a professional level and personal level, they are both great guys.
Is there anything you want to share with us before we end this interview? Anything personal, business, perhaps a biking event?
Robb: The biggest thing I always just try to remember is that the only thing that stands between you and success is yourself. A lot of people give up way too early. Just when it gets the hardest is when you are about to make it, so you have just got to keep pushing through. If you know you have a good idea, just stick with it.
To check out and buy Robb’s eBook showing you how he got given $100,000’s worth of FREE stuff from companys to review on his blog, click here. You can also check out Robb’s mountain bike review blog by clicking here!