Should Bloggers Accept Money For Reviews?

By Yaro Starak
32 Comments

Wow, this is interesting however I don’t know what is the best way to approach the situation so perhaps you can help me, in fact I really think you are the best person (people) to offer feedback since ultimately it’s you I care about and I believe this situation could damage our relationship if I went down this path.

Let me explain from the beginning…

Whether it is coincidence or not in the last 24 hours I received a few emails relating to being paid to do reviews on my blog.

The first was an unsolicited contact to enter into a discussion about reviewing a site in exchange for a three figure amount. I declined this offer because I felt I didn’t have time to do the necessary research to conduct a review or even determine whether I believed the review would be relevant to my readers. I also am worried that it might not appear genuine since I was being paid to do it – my credibility and the credibility of the review may be reduced.

Then I get an email from the TextLinkAds.com crew that a new service just launched called ReviewMe and that my site has been pre-approved AND if I act quick enough I could get paid to do a review of the ReviewMe site.

Since the email came from TextLinkAds.com I felt compelled to check it out and quickly signed up to ReviewMe.com. I created my account and had a look inside the system. I like what I saw, a simple interface and a simple idea – this might just work, and here is why…

Reviews Rank Well

Google loves reviews. Reviews generally rank very well in search engines, especially if you publish the review on a blog with reasonable authority rank (solid search rank). Nearly every review I publish on my blog eventually makes it on to the first page of Google results when searching for that particular product name keyword. Try a Google search for “Butterfly Marketing” or “Butterfly Marketing Review” for example and you will see the reviews I did on this blog on the first page of results.

Reviews Are Instrumental In The Buying Decision Making Process

Not only do search engines love reviews, people love them too. When someone is deciding whether to buy something or looking for options to solve a problem, they will often narrow down their selection to a few products or service providers then go hunting for reviews.

People generally trust reviews done by other people as opposed to “media reviews” which smell biased. What is one the best things about blogs? – They are personal and very much an expression of the blogger as opposed to a corporate robot-voice sales pitch. That’s one the main reasons why blogs work. Reviews written by bloggers with a reputation for unbiased opinion and expertise in their area are going to be perceived as a trusted source.

Reviews from bloggers are effective because of the credibility of the blogger. Combine that with solid search rankings for reviews and a buying process that often leads people to search for reviews online and you can see why a service like ReviewMe has a lot of potential.

I Could Get $125 Per Review

ReviewMe works much like TextLinkAds.com in calculating payments. Based on an authority and traffic assessment of your blog, including things like AlexaRank, Technorati Rank and estimated RSS subscription numbers, determines how much you will be paid per review.

In my case this blog is a 4 out of 5 star ranking earning me $125 per review and charging the advertiser $250 per review (at the time of writing this when the system launched).

Will advertisers pay $250 to have their product or service or website reviewed on my blog? Possibly. I can definitely say a review drives a lot more traffic and ranking juice than a text link in the sidebar does, but you pay a bit more than what you pay for a single text link. The thing about a review is it appears like natural content, heck it is natural content, but not the way I think Google wants to see natural content generated – in exchange for money – but I could be wrong. If it’s valuable content then perhaps Google doesn’t care what the motivation is for producing it.

The search engines are going to look at all the keywords around the links in the review and the anchor text in the links that point to the reviewed website, and no doubt pass on some authority ranking points. This is appealing for advertisers from an SEO point of view.

If a new online company had a few thousand dollars available for marketing online, spending the money for a slow rollout of say, 20 reviews of their product on 20 authority blogs in their niche, would be a pretty good strategy in terms of SEO. The spinoff might include more backlinks as well, as the reviews on blogs generate discussion and awareness on other blogs and forums online.

What About Credibility?

Herein lies the problem – credibility. If a blogger is paid to do a review, and as the ReviewMe terms of service clearly states that bloggers must disclose when the review is a “sponsored” review, will the readers of the review no longer consider that review of value? From a search engine point of view it’s still going to rank well, but remember it is humans who come through from search engines, so when they see the “sponsored review” notice will they click away, lumping the blogged review along with all the other media-sponsored reviews that may be bias and not worth trusting? I think some will, but not all, depending on how genuine the review reads.

Does the blogger lose credibility for accepting money in exchange for doing reviews? What about if they only do it now and then, perhaps four reviews a month? A blogger like me could quickly be earning four-figures from my blog just by doing 10 reviews a month assuming there were that many advertisers, but if I did that would I be reducing the quality of my blog, losing readers and eventually dropping the amount I earn per review.

Affiliate Product Reviews

Currently I do reviews on my blogs and usually, not always, the product I review has an affiliate program, so in effect I do get paid for my review – sometimes a little (err, nothing), sometimes a lot (up to a $1000 at best in my experience, and that comes from over many months). Although in this case instead of being asked to review something I review things I personally have used and know will appeal to my readers. The potential for affiliate income is good motivation to get something of value out to my readers. It’s win-win since I can help my readers make a decision whether a product is appropriate for their situation and if they decide to buy I get “paid” for my work producing the review. Will a review coming from a ReviewMe.com advertiser be quite so natural a process? I don’t think so.

ReviewMe Review

I don’t see myself accepting sponsored reviews very often, if at all. Personally I really need to feel I know a product and the industry it caters to well enough to talk about it. I will be surprised if any of the review requests I receive “tick enough boxes” for me to go ahead and do a review (e.g. appropriate for my readers, relevant enough to research it, matches my own personal needs to use it, I won’t damage my credibility by writing about it in a sponsored format, etc.). Then again there may come along something worth writing about, like in this case, ReviewMe.com itself, where I can craft an interesting article on a topic I care enough about to spend some time writing that happens to include a review that I am paid to do as well.

Which leads me to…a sponsored review of ReviewMe.com.

ReviewMe.com
Despite all the potential issues mentioned above I do think conceptually, ReviewMe.com is a fantastic idea. It’s a many-to-many business model so expandable as long as there are bloggers and advertisers wanting to use the service. The website itself is clean, has a very very easy to navigate system which took me about five minutes to come to grips with and potentially can make a lot of bloggers some good money and help a lot of advertisers gain exposure.

There is a ton of money flooding into online advertising and I think ReviewMe is positioned perfectly to start enjoying some of this cash. The system is so easy to use that any individual can start requesting reviews immediately and carefully select which blogs they will like to appropriate. This in turn will encourage bloggers to accept reviews as they see the potential for earning some good money on a regular basis.

I like the general concept of reviews since I think they can be genuinely helpful – I look for them nearly every time I buy something online. I am worried how much good a 200 word review can do (that’s the minimum length required of bloggers by ReviewMe) and I suspect some bloggers will attempt to abuse the system and write tiny reviews and no doubt have trouble getting their reviews approved. The established bloggers with authority who can potentially earn the most from ReviewMe have enough street smarts to not throw away their previous work by pumping out 200 word reviews in exchange for some quick cash. While the short term gains may be good, in the long term it will hurt their blog and credibility.

I believe the most successful application of the ReviewMe service will be when a product so closely matches the audience of a particular blog that the blogger can easily craft a review that fits nicely into their blog flow and provides value, despite being paid to do it. Therein lies the key for bloggers to have success with ReviewMe – provide enough value without being perceived as selling out for the money.

Lately more and more services are launching to help bloggers monetize their blogs and I think ReviewMe has a good chance of being one of the successful operations. There are enough bloggers out there ready and willing to use this service given the potential payoffs and I expect there are also enough advertisers. ReviewMe may quickly become a staple income source for professional bloggers and an effective advertising tool for anyone looking to promote and generate buzz online.

What do you think?

Yaro Starak
Reviewer

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32 Comments

  • Bloggers usually are known to speak their mind. This may somehow control that factor.

    Blogging was first originated as an online diary where one’s thoughts are freely published for the world to read. Then it slowly became a money making source.

    Getting paid to review a certain product or service may hinder the aspect of speaking to your audience ‘unhindered’. Consequently, leading to lack of credibility issues. Similar to search engines ranking sites based on money received from the webmaster.

  • Your concern on this issue alone, proves that you’ll maintain a fair balance between educational content and reviews.

    I say go for it! You’re an entrepreneur right? Some people might actually find you LESS credible by NOT doing as an entrepreneur would do, and ACCEPTING this money-making opportunity.

    You know what’s best for your audience; and I’m sure you’ll manage the operations of this blog with our interests in mind. Go make that money…

    bizMAVERICK-
    Brad Williamson

  • Great post Yaro.

    I think if advertisers are keen enough to get a review, then they’ll probably have a degree of confidence in their product. So, most of the reviews done should be pretty truthful. Whether the readers perceive this – I can’t vouch for it. I’d be extremely skeptical if I read a sponsored review.

    In a sense though, I also believe that if a company can afford to put out a bunch of reviews then they must be doing something right.

    Finally, I think that if you abuse your relationship between you and your readers, they will get up and go – and it won’t be a good thing for the reviewee (is that even a word?) either.

    I really think your review of ReviewMe was down-to-earth and truthful and you’ve held my respect all the way through. Let’s just hope other blogger will follow your lead.

    Rob.

  • You’ve given a lot of consideration to this issue, which is to be commended. However, I wonder when are entrepreneurs in general going to stop apologizing for generating income? If you and other bloggers do their best to give great content, is it really wrong to get something in return for your efforts?

    If you disclose that you’re being paid, you generate good content, and users trust you already, I would hope that any sane human being realizes that even the honest require food and creature comforts. I could be wrong.

    Accepting opportunity and taking hold of it responsibly, in my opinion, is the best example you can pass down to your readers. That’s what this is really about.

    I’m probably the minority opinion, but it bugs me that we have to “justify” opportunity, instead of taking hold of it and showing the world we can be responsible.

    Not even going to go into the social parallels of this issue.

  • [...] Although the best review of ReviewMe comes from the uber famous Yaro Starak. Check it out its well worth the read. This post was sponsored by ReviewMe, a great company that pays bloggers to write reviews for other companies, products, or websites. Sign up today! Technorati: text link ads, bloggers, blogosphere, yaro starak, murdoc That was a kickass article. What do I do now? 1. Subsribe to the hottest content on the blogosphere 2. Likewise you can submit this to the Reddit crowd 3. Bookmark this post on del.icio.us [...]

  • Right now – I have read the “greatest thing since slice bread” reviews … and the “great product but here’s some suggestions for improvement” reviews … and “neutral” reviews ..

    But – I wonder if I will even see those downright awful and rejecting type and “really hate this” type of reviews .. I personally don’t think so.

    BTW .. I initially signed up a few blogs (2), but when I got rejected on the third and most popular blog (because i.m.o. technorati OUTED me) .. I deleted everything and will not be participating. While this may be like a cash debit card to some bloggers .. I think time will tell of its success in 3 months after the credit card purchases from XMAS is due.

  • It is interesting, the growth in the paid to review market. I can see positives in that bloggers would be getting paid to do a review that they may have done already.

    On the negative side you have readers perceptions. Everyone is going to have their own opinion and some are not going to like what you are doing.

    As an aside I have also noticed bloggers doing this for themselves. Essentially selling posts on their blog without the third party. There does seem to be a market for this.

  • [...] Should Bloggers Accept Money For Reviews ? [...]

  • ReviewMe may be a good idea for bloggers who want to make money. But then would these reviews have any credibility? Would people be paid for reviews which are critical and counterproductive to the product’s success? Most internet marketers write ‘positive’ reviews because they want to sell the product through their affiliate links. Sites like ReviewMe will further kill that spirit of honesty and affect credibility of the reviews.

  • I feel you will lose some readers, especially the new ones who have not yet gotten accustomed to your style and your “integrity/ethics”. I feel, that some of us gain a lot from what you do and decide to do so you will not loose somebody like myself, who likes your style, and feels like I have a lot to learn from you. At least you are open when it comes to your desicion making.

    Best of luck in your decision

  • I followed a link from ProBlogger to get here, and really enjoyed the article. I agree with the commentor above that bloggers shouldn’t be apologizing for attempting to monetize their blogs. I feel that, if people are going to put the amounts of time and thought into blogging that they do, then they deserve to make a little something off of it, as long as the sponsorship is disclosed. No one expects television, radio and magazine to go ad-free, and I think blogging shouldn’t be any different. I wouldn’t say that every blogger should advertise, but nothing stays free forever, and things like hosting costs and time get expensive.

  • [...] ** By the way, a recent blog post by Yaro Starak touched on a related subject to this post, Should Bloggers Accept Money For Reviews? [...]

  • [...] Review Me is a site I came across on a couple of blogs I read (Yaro Starak and Darren Barefoot with some good screen captures). Both had signed on with Review Me to experiment with the site’s offer to pay bloggers for voluntary reviews of products.  Good reviews, bad reviews…doesn’t matter.  The interesting twist is that full disclosure is expected and required. [...]

  • I personally prefer independent reviews, look at movies. How many times have the professionals have hated a movie & the public loves per box office numbers. I believe eventually the public will figure out & stray away from such reviews, but it will be after they’ve been burned.

    I wonder if anyone would pay for a bad review or post one?

  • Jimmy

    Don’t become a Paul Stamatiou who sold out for the money, and then had the nerve to call the company he reviewed as shady.
    I personally will never patronize any blogger that becomes a paid reviewer, your suppose to be unbiased.
    Stay the course you have a great site, don’t sell out.
    -

  • I’d be the last person to object to a blogger monetizing his/her blog, but I do have to say the paid reviewing makes me a little uneasy. It definitely makes it better that it’s being sponsored is revealed up front. Like some of the other commenters, I’m watching to see what happens with this.

  • Chris

    Doing an honest paid review (and clearly disclosing that it’s paid) is better than reviewing a product and placing an affiliate link. If you write a bad review of a product and place an affiliate link, you know that no one is going to buy it. Whereas if you write a bad review of a product from ReviewMe, you’ll still get paid.

    As long as you can convince your readers that you’re being honest and that you’re not selling them out, then I’d say you’re in the clear.

  • Well, sites like ‘review me’ and ‘pay per post’ came into existing because people want incoming links to their sites to improve their rankings in search engines. But if you are following PubCon news, you must have seen that this issue has already come under the radar of Google and other search engines. If Google tweaks their algorithm to penalize the advertisers in any way, sites like ‘Review me’ will face a natural death.

  • m

    At home time, people thought Goto.com was evil to accept payment for search engin results. But they got profitable very quickly and where purchased by other search engines.

    If you refuse to ever buy blog advertising, your going to be stuck with options like PPC.

    If your low on cash and exist in a expensive PPC industry, life won’t be easy.

  • m

    It’s your blog… The Search engines are not God, if you want to offer reviews go ahead.

  • [...] You may recall I signed up for ReviewMe and began with a review of ReviewMe, taking advantage of their opening promotion to pay bloggers to help spread the word about the new service. My review was more of a discussion of the viability of bloggers being paid for reviews, which you can read here – Should Bloggers Accept Money For Reviews? [...]

  • Reviewme is pretty good revenue making scheme for bloggers. I recently joined this site and got my first review offer for a technology product.
    Good luck for all bloggers.

  • If people want their blogs reviewed , fine but maybe just to see how good or bad they are. Money might become a greed factor in who has the best blog on the Internet.

  • Also how are we going to know if the person who is reviewing the blog is a person who knows about the specific subject(s)?

  • Luq

    You mentioned that search engines like reviews, Google virtually hates paid reviews now, because of the misleading PR and search engine results it produces, you probably havent mentioned anything about it bcoz this post was in nov 06, also i am suspecting thats the reason for your PR3 even though you have 5000+ backlinks according to Google. Some PR3 blogs have been downgraded to PR0 which shows what they feel about paid backlinks.

    It’ll be great if you could leave a comment of what you feel about paid blogging based on what google feels about it coz i just ignored this idea even though i get $35 review requests from PayPerPost which is a good fee considering i get only around 50 visitors a day to my blog.

  • I think a sponsored review isn’t an issue. I mean, at least the reviewer doesn’t benefit from the extra sales if he did a good review.

    He only benefit from actually reviewing the product.

    If we can tolerate “affiliate links” review, I think sponsored review should be ok.

  • Some blogs may be able to pull this off while others may not. If your readership values your opinions and sees that you are selling yourself out, they may elect not to come back.

  • I appreciatie your sharing this dilemma and it speaks a lot about your integrity. Would appreciate where you are now on this issue as the post was written so long ago.

  • Hi Yaro,

    I can understand the dilemna here. The trust of your readers is more likely to be tested when you are obviously being paid for your opinion. If people don’t know you, they could perceive anything else you do or recommend as dodgy and question your real motives.
    I think, stick with your gut and it is telling you to only review things honestly and that you feel give a real benefit! I know I can’t sell stuff I haven’t tried and personally like!

  • Nice…. some people tell me my blog will be banned in search engine if i wrote review,
    but after read this, i will start to make review
    regards, from indonesia :p

  • what a nice post.

    Thanks
    Misbah Mumtaz

  • good article. Never gave much thought to reviews but now I will since I am trying to market 6th grade science fair projects.

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