Blogging 104


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This post is a continuation of:

Blogging 101

Blogging 102

Blogging 103

Blogging 105

As was the case with the previous posts, this is in no way a comprehensive or exhaustive list.  Rather, I am touching on a few aspects of blogging based on reader requests and each and every point is my opinion only, of course.

Picking up where we left off:

13. Product Reviews

Bloggers must make the decision if this is something she wants to do or not.  Some bloggers do them, some don’t.  I have run the gamut from doing lots to doing almost none.

I enjoy sharing my thoughts, knowledge, and opinions about various products that I am sent for review but I also don’t want readers to get turned off or feel like my blog is an informercial for that product or products in general.

To each her own where she draws the line with how many product reviews she does, and how in depth, she reviews them.

For me, it’s usually a quick and more causal mention:

“Hey, I was sent these cookies from ABC company.  I liked the way they tasted but I like my own cookies better.  However, if you’re short on time and can’t make your own cookies, these are good.”

Other bloggers go into much greater detail analyzing the cookies’ taste, texture, price, etc.  And that’s her prerogative and if her readers care that much about the cookies she ate, awesome.

I don’t think they really do, though.  Which is why my product reviews are more product “mentions” and I make all companies aware of this before they send me things.  I have a Press Page with links for vendors to view how I typically review things so they understand my style and format.

Things that a blogger should disclose when doing product reviews:

The products were sent to you for free and/or you did not pay for the product.

You were not compensated for the review.

The FTC has establish very strict rules governing this and you could be fined $11,000+ if you don’t disclose these things.

I always use language that reflects that the products were sent to me, such as:

I received

I received for free

In the mail I was sent

And so forth,  so it’s very clear that I didn’t use my own money to buy that $2.99 box of cookies.  It’s certainly not worth an $11k fine!

For a few recent examples of product reviews see:

Stevia & Chocolate (food)

NuStevia vanilla

Barre3 (dvd/product)

Barre3 dvd

and On a Stick! (book)

On a stick sign


14. Receiving Free Products as a Blogger

Readers, and other bloggers, often ask me how do I get free stuff?

Two ways:

1. If I truly want to try a product out, very occasionally I will write to a company asking to receive a sample.  I describe myself, my blog, my stats, daily page views, readership demographics, and what the benefit to the company would be for having me review their product.  I used to do this more but rarely, if ever, do it now.  It was how I got my feet wet with doing product reviews but those days have passed.

2. What happens is that as your blog grows, companies find you.  Somehow they find you and will write to you asking if you’d like to review their products.

I used to say yes to almost every company that contacted me.  However, not every company is a great fit for me, my blog, and my readership.  People don’t want to read a review about power drills on a food blog.

And in addition, it goes back to the informercial thing I touched on in point 13 above.  I don’t ever want to turn readers off and review or feature too many products.  This is a my blog, not contract ad space or a corporate free-for-all and I won’t feature everything I am asked to review.

Plus, the pressure of feeling like I have to write out reviews can be stressful at times and I hate letting them pile up

Above all else remember: Nothing in life is free! Including “free” products.  I have to photograph the items, blog about them, answer reader questions about them, and work with the company’s point person and arrange shipping, link back info, product details, etc. and that all takes time.

So it’s all a balancing act which is why some bloggers just say no to the whole thing.

15. Running Reader Giveaways or Contests

All the considerations just discussed re product reviews apply to running giveaways.  Now you’re giving things away to others, not just reviewing them and keeping them for yourself.

I never buy things with my own money and give them away.  It’s always companies/vendors who supply the product or service.  It’s very important per the FTC rules mentioned above to say this or write this in the fine print of the giveaway/contest post. i.e. “I have partnered with ABC company and they are supplying one lucky reader with a dozen granola bars.”

With giveaways, me and my site become a “host” of sorts.

The vendor/company is happy because they are featured on my blog and get lots of free press and advertising.

My readers are happy and rewarded with the chance to win something.

I on the other hand deal with lots of excess emails from contest entries for a few days, but not a biggie.

Make sure if you are with an sponsor like FoodBuzz or BlogHer or similar that you are can run giveaways.  I pre-clear all the giveaways or contests that I run with my sponsor, FoodBuzz.

Most bloggers choose winners by using a site like and then relay the winner’s shipping info to the vendor, who ships directly to the winner.

There is a lot of behind the scenes leg work that can go into running giveaways but as a blogger, I feel it’s one way I can reward my readership for their loyalty and reading by hosting giveaways.

For an example of recent contests and giveaways and how I drafted and structured them, see:

Coconut Oil Giveaway

Business Cards Giveaway


And that concludes Blogging 104.  Whew.

From my last post showcasing some of my favorite sights from my local Farmers Market over the weekend, thanks for the compliments on my photos.

Various produce at Farmers MarketI truly loved just walking around with my camera on my birthday click-click-clicking!

And it was interesting to hear who thinks they get better deals at their farmers market and who believes they do better financially-speaking at the grocery store.  As discussed, I believe that later.  But of course, there are reasons why supporting farmers’ markets are beneficial and wonderful even if it means paying somewhat more.

All that blog talk makes me want to dive into some chocolate + peanut butter and go dig into some of the remaining Nutella & Peanut Butter Graham Bars with Chocolate Frosting

Nutella & Peanut Butter Graham Bars with Chocolate Frosting stacked on plate


1. What was helpful?  What did you enjoy reading about?  Did you learn anything?

2. What do you want me to answer in the future?

I plan to do one last post in this series, Blogging 105.   One question I know I am going to tackle is how to handle revealing yourself to the world when starting a blog.

Anything else?

These posts are also linked in my Popular Tab so in case you need to find these again, that’s where they’ll be.

Have a great day!

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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  1. Thanks so much, Averie. I started my own blog a couple of weeks ago and these posts have been a pseudo-bible for me! So grateful to be able to resource a pro!

  2. Hi,
    I just found your blog, and have read the blogging series. What an inspiration! I really love cooking, and love the photography. I absolutely love sharing my recipes with friends and family. Even though I learned a lot here, I’m not sure how to get started with my own blog. I mean, do I need to have certain amount of recipes in order to start? Do I need to be knowledgeable in “technical stuff”? (right now its all like foreign language to me)

  3. I am baffled by the companies that want to send me things sometimes … I have been offered products/software that has NOTHING to do with my blog!

  4. hey averie,

    thanks for doing this blog series, super informative for a newbie blogger like myself!

    i think you’ll really like the first pic on my homepage right now, something right up your alley!

  5. Wow, I have learned a TON from reading all of your Blogging posts! As a reader, I have to say again that I have loved this behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in creating and maintaining a blog. My husband thinks I should start one of my own to tell my story. I think he thinks I have more to talk about than I do! lol But, if I do start my owm blog, I know the first posts I will reread to prepare myself!

  6. I’ve been on the fence with reviews, too. Sometimes I definitely sound like an infomercial since when I review it’s usually a whole post. BUT, I like to take whatever I’m sent and make it into a recipe so that maybe it’s a good “meeting point” between too infomerciall-y and just a regular post. If I receive something I love, I want people to know about it; especially if it’s a smaller company or something. And if I get something I hate, I let people know, too :P Luckily that doesn’t happen often and I don’t think it’s happened at all with something I was sent for free.

  7. ahhh perfect! thanks girl! How long does FB typically take to clear a review/giveaway as ok?

    1. not more than 24 hours usually and it all depends on one’s contract. some FB or BlogHer bloggers may not have to do this, some may. Just depends on the fine print and better safe than sorry type thing :)

  8. Averie, THANK YOU for this series! Yours was one of the first blogs I found when I started blogging in October, and it’s been such a wonderful inspiration! :)

  9. This has been a great series, and I agree with everything you’ve said in all the posts. I think this kind of thing would have been great to have read before I started my blog too! I had no idea the amount of work it would be, but if I had I may not have started. As it is, I wouldn’t trade the work for not blogging ever. Totally worth it!

  10. Just great–I love how you lay it out there, and all so true.

    Those photos of farmers market veggies are just stunning. I envy your proximity and appreciate you bringing it to my screen.

  11. Thanks so much for this. As a new blogger I’m looking for all the advice I can get. Hearing these things broken down by a ‘veteran’ blogger makes it seem so much more manageable and realistic.

    Thanks again, and I especially look forward to the next part!

  12. Love this post Averie! I just got to the point in blogging where I’m making the decision to host reviews on my blog. It’s great to get an experienced blogger’s view on this subject. I’m going to check out the other 101 posts now!

    I just commented on your last post and totally forgot to tell you that your pics were absolutely gorgeous! Love the tomato shot!

  13. Thanks so much!! I have all of your posts in this series bookmarked and ready to be reread when the time comes to start my blog!! This entry was really helpful. A few questions I have include: when you say blogging isn’t your primary job…how is it a job for some in the traditional sense of the word? I don’t really see how blogging can make money! Also, what’s your number one tip on getting your blog out there and read?


    1. Also, what’s your number one tip on getting your blog out there and read? = comment on other people’s blogs

      Job..well, it’s all relative. I need more money than my blog brings in, to live on. Google blog sponsorships or blog advertising and start reading. :)

  14. wonderful post. “nothing in life is free” –> so true!
    I love this picture of the farmers market! I have taken soooo many on markets, myself. Also, today, I went to a stall of a nearby farm today and bought freshly picked local strawberries that were 3x the price of regular ones from a supermarket. And they taste phenomenal, the best strawberries I have eaten in a while. Sometimes, the higher price is so worth it :)

  15. great post Averie. I really respect and admire your opinions on blogging because I know how much experience you have, so thank you! When I first started my blog it was just for fun and I never imagined anyone outside immediate friends and family really reading it. But over this past year it has really grown and I’m just blown away by how huge the virtual world really is, and the healthy lifestyle blogging community specifically. But blogging IS a lot of work, like you mentioned, and I think there is a healthy balance of time management with blogging. I’d love to hear more about how you manage you blogging and blog reading time, as well as revealing yourself to the blog community. Thanks so much!!

  16. this post came at the perfect time! I’m now starting to speak with a few companies and last night I literally was trying to compose an email for about 2 hours! it was terrible and stressfull! People always say know your worth. So last night I kept telling my fiance, I don’t know my worth! I don’t know my worth!! LOL it was funny but terrible at the same time :) It’s always a learning curve.

  17. Very helpful! Thank you! I do want to be able to give things away to my readers, but I do not want to be preachy about anything and I don’t want to promote anything I don’t use and I’ve realized that that means standing up for how I want to do things and not how companies want things done. I mean, it is MY blog, just because they’re giving my readers(or myself) something shouldn’t mean they get to call the shots even for one post, right? Thanks for this post, I’m looking forward to the next one too :)

  18. Very great post, Averie! I love this series. You’ve been around so much longer than many of us and just understand the ins and outs and how to approach things, it’s great!

  19. I’m finally starting my own blog, and these posts have been very helpful! You are always so informative and I LOVE your photos. Thank you from a newbie blogger :)

  20. Very helpful post, thanks. I always wondered how you score so much free loot. :-) I’m getting more contacts, but it just takes awhile.

    1. Yes. You views on product reviews and info on free stuff.
    2. Can’t think of anything at the moment, I guess content selection, etc.

  21. Great post! I like to do product reviews too and totally agree that you have to disclose if you got the item for free.

  22. Great tips for beginning bloggers! I will make a larger “review” if there is a giveaway attached. More likely than not, I always ask the company who contacts me if there is “anything in it for my readers”, meaning: if I like the product, I want to host a giveaway! usually most companies are great about it!

  23. When I saw “Bloggin 104” pop up on my Reader, I was beyond excited. Thanks Averie, I love these posts from you. They’re extremely helpful & it’s wonderful for them all to be condensed into a mini sort of e-booklet. ;)
    In the future, I’d love to learn more about different commenting programs (I use disqus right now – just changed to it – but I’m thinking of changing again as it’s pretty confusing to me :S)

  24. I love the blog posts Averie! I have done giveaways in the past and it was always stuff I bought on my own. It was a pain in the ass! Plus I messed up and didn’t specify that you had to be in the US to win (I had no idea shipping to Canada was so expensive) and I ended up having to pick a different winner! I felt awful.

  25. Averie! You are a mind-reader! I’ve been struggling with the decision of whether or not to do a giveaway and you just answered all my questions. Thanks so much–we newbie bloggers enjoy receiving advice from successful bloggers like you :)

  26. Love these posts and would love to see more posts about the “tech” side of blogging. I can figure things out but sometimes I get so frustrated with updating my theme or adding new sidebars that I just give up.

  27. this was a fascinating read, averie – perhaps the most useful of the blogging series, so far.
    “Nothing in life is free!” – – > this is an important reminder…like you say, the blogger has to put in a lot of time to organize the giveaway, not to mention the partnering company many have expectations. i’ll look forward to your blogging 105 post, too – i’d love to hear about how you decided what to include/exclude from your personal life.
    thanks again for all the info – i like your giveaway approach.