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Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

When we click on a link to a product in a review, we are taken directly to a product page on a retailer’s website. No one is surprised to learn that the retailer with the most product links is Amazon. There will be product links to other sellers, of course, but Amazon dominates e-tail shopping. When Amazon makes a sale, the company that wrote the link that sent them there is paid a negotiated fee. A few get paid by click-throughs even if the customer doesn’t buy.

How do product reviewers make money?

Usually, they’re paid by the word. My assignments were to write 1,000-word articles that helped consumers make better purchase decisions and I wrote more than 400 of them. The product recommendations were mandated by others, as were the format, rules of writing, and number and type of product links. Each article had an introduction to tell readers what it was about, with a headline written to catch the eyes of search engines. Click here to read any or all of them.

I wrote hundreds of product reviews without using any products

A few sites buy lots of products and test them in labs, but nine out of ten freelance product reviewers go online and investigate a given category thoroughly, then distill what they’ve learned into a helpful, readable article that includes links to products that pay commissions to the parent company, not the writer. 

A good review:

  • Describes the category, such as kitchen spice organizers.
  • Identifies the subcategories, such as freestanding countertop spice racks, lazy Susans, tiered and stepped risers, and ones that go on the wall, in a cabinet, in a drawer, hang over a door, or stick to your refrigerator with magnets.
  • Shows you the pros and cons of each subcategory.
  • Helps you decide which product meets your needs, not someone else’s.  

I wrote many How-To articles, but mostly articles that explained what you need to know, what to look for, and how to decide.

Categories I wrote about included appliances, toys, tools, educational products, games, computers, sports equipment, bed & bath, lawn & garden, pool & patio, and many more. I particularly enjoyed writing articles that compared products from adjacent categories, viz., Tablet vs. Netbook vs. Laptop, published by The Chicago Tribune.

Here’s how I wrote them

I always start by searching online, using different terms and different engines. The search engines I use are Safari, DuckDuckGo, and Brave. I cannot speak for all of the dozens of web browsers, but I will say your search results will differ from mine if you use any of the well-known portals such as AOL, Bing, Firefox, Google, or Yahoo but typically not by much. When I use three engines at once, I find interesting things I would have missed by using only one of them.

The words you type in your search bar make a much bigger difference than most people think

Below are four different search results using four different search terms, each of the first three is more specific than the one before. As the key to all good research is to test the effects of only one variable at a time, I used DuckDuckGo each time to ensure the only differences are in the results, not in the algorithms.

1. DuckDuckGo search for <spice organizers>:

    1. verticalspice.com (direct sales)
    2. westelm.com (direct sales)
    3. amazon.com (direct sales)
    4. etsy.com (direct sales)
    5. amazon.com (direct sales)
    6. amazon.com (direct sales)
    7. etsy.com (direct sales)
    8. target.com (direct sales)
    9. amazon.com (direct sales)
    10. thespruce.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)

2. Duck Duck Go search for <kitchen spice organizers>:

    1. verticalspice.com (direct sales)
    2. wayfair.com (direct sales)
    3. amazon.com (direct sales)
    4. amazon.com (direct sales)
    5. amazon.com (direct sales)
    6. etsy.com (direct sales)
    7. homedepot.com (direct sales)
    8. amazon.com (direct sales)
    9. foodandwine.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    10. bhg.com (How-to)

3. Duck Duck Go search for <best kitchen spice organizers>:

    1. chicagotribune.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    2. bestreviews.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    3. build.com (direct sales)
    4. thespruce.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    5. foodandwine.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    6. kitchen-science.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    7. foodnetwork.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    8. realsimple.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    9. popularmechanics.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    10. thespruce.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)

4. Duck Duck Go search for <ways to organize spices>:

    1. hgtv.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    2. onecrazyhouse.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    3. bhg.com (how to organize spices – no product links)
    4. aarp.org (how to organize spices – no product links)
    5. realhomes.com (how to organize spices – no product links)
    6. homesandgardens.com (how to organize spices – no product links)
    7. sabrinasorganizing.com (how to organize spices – no product links)
    8. thespruce.com (reviews, recommendations, and product links)
    9. craftionary.net (how to organize spices – no product links)
    10. masterclass.com (tips  no product links)

The first three ways are how most people search

Search terms like those push a lot of products at us without giving us as much information as we need. The first two yield lots of sites that sell directly to buyers. The third set of search terms, delivers lots of reviews, recommendations, and product links.

My fourth search, <ways to organize spices>, is how I prefer to begin

I don’t want to start with links to products. I want to cast a wide net the first go-around and only then narrow my focus step-by-step as I take a closer look, saving the microscope for last. Note how I’ve made no mention of organizers because I’ve learned that approach gets me mostly recommendations and links to revenue-earning products. I want to start with an overview so I can learn the subsets of my category and hear about common problems people have and pitfalls and tricky situations they encounter.

Why I don’t like product recommendations

  • Paid recommendations are advertorials.
  • Their research is not as good as mine. I enjoy writing about things that are new to me because I get to learn new things as I investigate categories, sub-categories, and products.
  • They almost always leave out some good choices because they’re limited by contract.
  • The key to exceeding customer expectations is to understand their wants, needs, and expectations, but most product review sites don’t take yours or mine into account.

If you trust:

  • The New York Times, you are likely to trust Wirecutter, their $40/year product review site with recommendations.
  • Consumer Reports, your $39/year subscription pays for itself with the first product or two you buy.
  • If you trust any of the free product review sites, it should be only because they have earned it with past performance.

What do you need to know?

Because the primary goal of most sites that review and recommend products is to make money, you should be aware that give favorable reviews only to products made by companies that pay them a commission. So when you see the claim “best spice organizers,” understand these may be the best, but not necessarily so because the recommendations include only products sold by companies that pay for sales leads.

What should you look for?

The best product for you takes into account how many spices you use, how often you use them, and where you want to store them. A quick search turned up organizers that hold as few as six spices or as many as 60.

The more you cook, the more you want your spices near your prep and cooking areas. You want them to be easy to grip and easy to use. Avoid the common mistake of arranging your spices alphabetically. Instead, do as the pros do — arrange them by how often you use them, keeping the ones you use most often closest to your work area. 

Next, identify the different types of spice organizers

Here’s what I found, in rough outline form:

  1. Kitchen spice organizers
    1. Freestanding countertop spice racks
    2. Wall-mounted
    3. In a cabinet
    4. In a drawer
    5. Hanging over a door
    6. Other (magnets, cabinet fronts, undermounts, etc).

What are the points of differentiation?

  • If you store spices in the containers they come in, you need a solution that accommodates all the different sizes and shapes you bought at the grocery.
  • If you buy an organizer that comes with clear, refillable jars, they’ll all be the same size and shape and all fit nicely in the organizer. 
  • If you buy a set of jars, you’ll probably need to make your own labels, a plus for crafters.

Which organizer types will you rule out and why?

  • You’re not interested in a spice rack as a focal point of your kitchen, so you’re happy to keep yours out of sight when not in use. 
  • You know that freestanding and wall-mounted spice racks are out in the open, exposed to grease and grit, and you don’t want to bother having to clean yours frequently. 
  • You don’t have enough cabinet space, so cabinets are out, too.
  • You don’t want over-the-door racks because they’re too far from your stove and prep areas to be handy.

How to decide

Resist the urge to choose too quickly. It only takes a few minutes for you to learn enough to make a decision you won’t regret later. Let’s say you decide your best option is to keep your spices in a drawer near your stove and prep areas. Go ahead and dig a little deeper to find out what the next level of choices is.

The next step is determining which type of drawer organizer best fits your situation and needs.  

    1. Lie-flat drawer organizers are made of foam and come in rolls that have channels and ridges to keep your containers separate and prevent them from rolling around. You cut them to fit your drawer. 
    2. Angled drawer organizers slant your spices toward you, also called stadium-style because they’re tiered like seats in a grandstand. Your drawers are deep enough to accommodate angled organizers and you like how the slight tilt toward you makes your spices easier to find and grasp.

Now look for what they’re made of

Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and you probably have a preference for one over the rest, but it won’t hurt to look.

  1. Foam  
  2. Plastic
  3. Metal
  4. Wood

Let’s recap

  • You want an organizer that fits in your kitchen drawer.
  • You want to have room for two dozen spices (you only have 19, but you like the idea of extra space).
  • You want your containers to all be the same size and shape and you’ll refill them as necessary from larger containers you keep stored away.
  • You like clear jars so you can see what’s inside. 
  • You like the idea of labeling them yourself. 

Now we know exactly what our next search is:

<kitchen drawer spice organizer 24 jars labels>

Most of the results are products sold by Amazon. Not all of them match your search terms. Some are not made to go in drawers. A few don’t come with jars. Some are fixed-size and others are adjustable. Many have bad Fakespot ratings.

Here are the only two with thousands of reviews and A or B Fakespot ratings

You will most likely choose one of these, but only after you do just a bit more homework.

  • Wood 4-tier, non-slip, inclined rack, 24 square glass jars with labels. $30.
  • Metal 4-tier, inclined rack, 24 square glass jars with labels. $29. 

Eight out of ten Americans trust online reviews

Be one of the 20% who take reviews with a grain of salt. If you’re going to read them, go to the ones on the product description page. As an illustration, I’ll choose the YouCopia Adjustable Spice Drawer Liner, with 7,519 ratings and 4.7 stars.

Here’s how to look at customer reviews: 

  • Skip the 5-star reviews. There is little to learn from people who are over the moon about their latest shiny new thing.
  • Start with the 4-star reviews. Those who give 4 stars are typically buyers who like the product but feel it has a single shortcoming. Quite a few customers who bought the foam mat say it slides because the surface isn’t sticky enough and others wish there was adhesive on the back. The other common complaint from 4-star reviewers is a surprising number saying the roll is too narrow or it’s too wide. Like you, I wonder if they measured properly, if at all.
  • Read some 2- and 3-star reviews. These customers are unhappy with the product they bought and tell you why. Most of these folks say the product slides around too much (there’s that sliding problem again) or the roll doesn’t stay flat. Both are real shortcomings. Some of the reviews that mention lay flat say they solved the problem with tape or glue. Others tell us it arrives rolled up in a box but uncurls after a couple of days, so be patient.

Be on the lookout for what’s missing

Companies that don’t pay commissions are excluded from recommendations and you will see no links to their products.

Let’s say you’re looking for a chainsaw

Stihl makes all kinds of power equipment and power tools that are highly respected by pros and DIYers, but sites that review products and link to their recommendations won’t tell you that. 

My solution

After reading about the downsides of foam drawer inserts, I made my own spice drawer organizer. I took an old, wide, stretchy, resistance band, cut it in two, and put my spices on top of it. I don’t miss the ridges and grooves because my collection fits from side to side. And with the non-skid surface, I’ve eliminated the slipping and sliding that annoyed so many.

Bonus

In June of 2022, I wrote “Best Spice Drawer Organizer” for BestReviews, following their protocols and using their mandated recommendations, two of which had 5 stars and good Fakespot review grades. Click here to read it.

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