Saturday Featured Blog | Reviews by Cole
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Today I would like to welcome Cole from Reviews by Cole! I had a chance to learn more about herblog and here’s what she had to say…
Please tell me about yourself.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. The side of me that visitors see on my review blog is one of a discriminating, feminine geek who loves to eat more-or-less. That’s pretty accurate. Or you could just call me that crazy cat lady despite the fact that I only just turned 25. My cats are definitely an important part of my life. When I’m not dedicating time to them or blogging, I’m earning a living as a freelance writer and reconnecting with friends and family after moving home six months ago.
Please tell me about your blog.
Reviews by Cole has been a learning experience. It started as a blog featuring reviews of stuff I bought myself, the things I thought that people might find useful. At the time, I did a lot more paid blogging. Now, I focus on reviews and giveaways. I’ve been incredibly blessed to start relationships with companies that want me to review their products and/or provide items for giveaways. I also take the time to talk about shopping, commercials and consumerism in general. Because it’s semi-related, Reviews by Cole also houses information on blogging, reviewing and sponsored items as well as monetizing those blogs and making money online in different fashions.
How did you get started?
I’ve always had a personal website/page. Always. It started out when the first place I chatted allowed us to have a few pages for shout-outs to our friends. That eventually turned into blogging. My personal blog started because I needed to vent all the anger and angst of teenagerhood and depression. Back then, there were so few options and I stuck with blogger for a few years, before finally moving to WordPress. I went back to Blogger when I started Reviews by Cole, hoping to make a little cash with minimal effort but I just wasn’t satisfied with the restrictions of the platform.
What kinds of products do you feature on your blog?
I review so many things! Lately, there’s been a lot of food, books and smartphone apps. I also write about cat supplies, health and beauty, electronics, movies and music, home decor, housewares, video games, board games, restaurants, computer software and even toys. Phew!
What was your favourite giveaway?
I think my first giveaway was my favorite. I contacted a few sellers on Etsy and they donated products and services. One seller in particular offer both me and a reader adorable plush monsters that she made herself. I did a whole event out of it with review, internet and more. I still have the stuffie and, what’s more, one of my best friends was the winner and I know she still has hers!
Who does your blog appeal to?
My blog appeals to my friends, first and foremost. Conscientious consumers will find a lot of helpful reviews, if I do say so myself. I seem to have some great traffic for a few specific reviews (Deja Vu products, TGIF Orange Dreamsicle drink mix and a paper shredder I reviewed). I think if you’re looking for something I’ve reviewed that’s not on Amazon, you’ll find my site pretty useful. Because I also blog about making money online and finding sponsors and advertisers for your site, anyone who wants to get into that will enjoy it. There’s really something for everyone.
What direction do you see your blog going in the future?
I will continue to write reviews and post giveaways. If the recent past is any indication, I will be reviewing far more items that I have received for that exact purpose than items I have purchased myself which is both a blessing and a responsibility. I definitely don’t see the review blog as an outlet to make much cash, anymore, however.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far with your blog?
My review blog is an entirely different animal than my personal blog and I didn’t entirely grasp the difference when I started it. I put a lot of work into my personal website but, at the end of the day, it’s not meant to foster relationships for people. There’s a lot of information people can read and I blog but, these days, it’s much more passive. I write a blog post and forget about it for a while and we’re all good.
With Reviews by Cole, I had to make sure I was blogging at a certain frequency, in the beginning, to qualify for paid blogging opps. Then it was about raising my Google PR and when that dipped to 0, I started focusing on Alexa rankings. I spent a lot of time looking for sponsors for reviews these days and have joined a lot of websites and networks to that end. Some of those sites alert me but sometimes I just have to go on the hunt for sponsors. Then there’s the back-and-forth emailing to establish relationships and keep up-to-date with review or giveaway statuses.
As I post more giveaways, I have to advertise them, determine winners, contact winners, forward information or mail off prizes myself. It definitely adds up. I’ve recently finished adding more social media/network options to the site and going through all my running ads to determine which stay and go. Anyway, this all adds up to the fact that my “side project” has definitely become more demanding that my “main” blog, heh.
What do you love about blogging?
I love that I get to talk. If you can’t tell from this interview, I’m a chatty gal. Blogging is just like that, except the entire Internet gets to read what I think. LOL
Do you have a blogging pet peeve?
I have a lot, actually. I guess, because I started before reviews and giveaways were all the rage, I see things differently than some other bloggers. There’s also the fact that I’m not a mom. So many people lump mommy and review bloggers together and it’s hard to stand out from that. No one type of person writes a better review and I think that everyone needs to remember that mommies are NOT the only ones out there. Some people don’t even stop to think when they apply the label “mommy blogger” to reviewers.
The other thing that bothers me, I think, is how review blogging is definitely a quantity over quality situation. Companies, PR agents and even other bloggers are all concerned with numbers and stats. Visitors seem to mostly be concerned with winning giveaways. I don’t have steadfast follower and commentors on my review blog like I do on my personal blog, mostly because those types of blogs are just a means to an end. I know it because I don’t even read review blogs–I only visit for the giveaways, too. It’s a sad fact and sometimes I wish I just had more quality comments and visits but even when I look at the really popular sites in the niche, I can see they’re experiencing the same quantity-over-quality issue.
Do you have any advice for the readers entering your giveaway? newbie review bloggers?
Please read all the requirements and complete the mandatory entry.
For newbie review bloggers, don’t do everything the way everyone else is. Seriously. It’s boring, it’s bland and it’s not worth reading. Don’t be afraid to stand out even if that makes you feel a little like you don’t belong. That’s what makes you unique.
Tell me some of your favourite blogs that you read.
I don’t actually read a lot of blogs. I love the website that you have here because there’s so many useful articles. I read a lot of personal friends, like the one that belongs to my friend Dez (deltaechozulu.com) and Jenn (http://jenn.nu). I’m also quite the fan of the political Tumblr (http://www.stfuconservatives.net/) and read lots of amusing blogs along the lines of LOLCats and Passive Aggressive Notes.
How can people find you?
I have an Internet trail a mile wide. As mentioned, my review blog is where you’ll find giveaways (http://reviewsbycole.com) but if you want to get to know the person behind the blog, you should head on over to Her Realm (http://7and1.net). You can even see my sorely-in-need-of-an-update writing blog (http://lyrical.7and1.net). I’m “anaesthetic” on Twitter and “Cole” on Ning groups (Pitch It, Brand Buzz Network, etc). I participate in a couple of forums: Lavish (http://lavish.nu) and Daydreamz (http://daydreamz.net) specifically. I try to keep only friends, not acquaintances, on Facebook, however.