Purchasing blog reviews is becoming a part of the overall Internet marketing mix, albeit a controversial one. There are many reasons buying reviews on blogs can be beneficial; such as building brand awareness, social media marketing and when trying to get an honest review from a blogger, testing to see how bloggers or target demographics view your service or product for a substantially lower cost than running a market research group.
For search marketers however, we have to admit that the number one reason to purchase reviews from bloggers (via money, incentives or gifts) is to gain links.
Not only do blog reviews represent an easy way to purchase links to a site, but they also can result in multiple links from each review and the possibility of roadblocking certain keyterm results. As an example, if your company targets a niche industry keyterm, it is possible to use blog reviews and a mix of social media profiles from authority sites to own the search results, pushing your competition off the front page or taking up 40% or more of the front page realty.
Blog reviews are a tricky subject however, and since they are under the microscope of Google and other search engines as a possible form of link buying, some best practices should be examined before starting a blog review campaign, or mixing blog reviews into your link buying strategy.
- Flying under the radar. Ideally, the most valuable reviews from blogs should be negotiated and handled without any public knowledge of that blogger accepting payola to write a review or link to your site. Try contacting bloggers directly, and negotiating reviews on a payment basis, or try sending them a free demo of your product; whether via FedEx or a free download and software license. If that fails, just wire some money to their Paypal account. By working with the blogger directly, there is less chance of that review being considered a paid review.
- Using Blog Review Services. If you don’t have the time or patience to contact and negotiate with a blogger directly, using a blog review service like SponsoredReviews or ReviewMe is your logical alternative. Most of these companies keep 30% to 50% of the gross blog revenue and then pay the blogger themselves, so you can buy hundreds of blog reviews under one simple interface. There are some red flags to look out for in these systems, which will be discussed below.
- Pay for some high profile reviews. You’d be surprised at some of the high quality blogs listed under these services, and then the grand number of less than quality blogs. There is a much greater chance of high quality blogs denying your review, so be careful who you pitch to. Also, these blogs are more likely, since they are in the spotlight, to write an honest review of your business, so if your offering is not ready for the public, or controversial in its own right, be forewarned before buying a review on a high power blog. If you’re confident that your service is the best, then go ahead and pull the trigger.
- Beware the Review Only Blogs. When sifting for blogs to target using these blog review services, keep a close eye out for blogs which are set up only for reviews. These blogs have the highest chance of being penalized in Google for link selling and will not bring your business relevant or converting traffic. Before purchasing reviews on blogs, make sure that those blogs publish relevant and original content. If all that they publish are reviews, pass on those blogs.
- Beware the Review Badges. Besides ‘review only’ blogs, keep an eye out for the blogs which clutter themselves with review badges, these are ads on the blogs which link over to their profiles on ReviewMe and PayPerPost. Such badges take away from the quality of the blogs, and also identify them to search robots as being associated as review blogs. I’m not saying that all blogs with Review Badges are bad, it’s just that some tend to go overboard with their on-blog promotion. I would not want to tell a client that they have a great link, title tag and URL string from an authority WordPress blog, and then they see that the blog is littered with “Buy a Blog Post” or “Get Reviewed for $50” ads.
- Mix Up Your Review Themes. When ordering reviews from review services you are given the chance to write a description about your business and guidelines for the blogger to follow. DO NOT guide all bloggers to write similar reviews on your business. Ask some to do honest reviews. Ask some to just say they found your site online and found it interesting. Ask some to do comparisons with other products or better yet, lists of products. As an example, maybe a blogger could write a “10 Things I Want for Christmas Post” with one or two of your products being on the top of the list and then non-competitive products also being listed (with a link to donate to a charity). This would essentially be a very natural post with natural content. However, you’ll be paying a small fee to make sure your business is profiled to their readers.
- Mix Up Your Anchor Text. Just like when running a link building campaign, you do not want all blog reviews to link to you using the same exact anchor text. Mix it up a bit; on some blogs ask for keyword friendly anchors, on other blogs, ask for “click here” or “more information” to be linked, on others, ask them to link to internal pages using the link text they want to use. Such incentived linking behavior leads to an end result of more natural linking.
- Take Advantage of Review Marketplaces. SponsoredReviews.com offers a bid marketplace where the advertiser can list their offering and then blogs bid on the chance to write a review. Most of the time, you can get your reviews written for much cheaper by taking advantage of this system. Be sure to not keep the same opportunity running however. Change the business description, links and requirements on a daily or weekly basis, as stated above.
- Watch Out For .BlogSpot and .info Blogs. Just like a lot of the blogs using blog review services may be ‘review only’ blogs, some may also be of very low quality and using virtual freebie blogging platforms or domains such as .blogspot.com, .blog-city.com, or .info to host their blogs. Not to say that all Blogspot blogs are trash, as there are many high value Blogspot hosted blogs on the market, but just keep a watchful eye on these blogs when approving or purchasing reviews. In addition, some blogs hosted on subdomains can have inflated Alexa stats which influence their review pricing or ranking.
Ask for No Disclosure. If you have the chance to get a blogger to review your product using these services, in your requirements put something like “do not disclose this is an advertisement” and chances are they will not list your review under a sponsored review, advertorial or advertisement category or label it as being so. If your review is not labeled as an ad, can it be proved that it is one? More than likely not.
- Think Outside the Box. Don’t buy reviews only based on blog PageRank or relevant content. Chances are if you dig deep enough you’ll find blogs with an RSS following, excellent writers, link bait style posts, bloggers that market their blogs via social media or perhaps you’ll form a relationship with a blogger that can last a lifetime or result in you hiring them to do your writing. You may even want to do some reviews without direct links and ask the blogger to link to other blogs, your RSS feed or search results. How many times has a blogger naturally linked to your site via an alternative course? Given the popularity of viewing blog posts in Google Reader, I get bloggers linking to my Feedburner Feed URL’s daily.
- Market Their Reviews for Them. Get a Nice review from a blogger? Then take the steps to bookmark it, Stumble it, get it linked to or post it in Propeller or Digg. Juicing up bloggers who link to you can have long term effects on the traffic generated to your business and its long term web presence.
[Disclosure : I’m writing this from the view of an advertiser and marketer, not from the view of a blogger.]