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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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?