This series of articles is dedicated to seeking out ways that a small time blogger can use to build a steady income of $100 to $200 a month with their blog. This part examines paid review brokers. Like paid links, this method was one of the best ways for a blogger with very limited traffic, but decent PageRank, to make money before the Google crackdown on paid links. In the post-crackdown world, are paid reviews still an option for you to make money on your blog?
Why Pay for a Review?
There are two reasons that an advertiser would want a paid review.
First, they would like to create buzz and, hopefully, traffic for their web site. Word of mouth or viral advertising has been shown to work well on the Internet. Tossing in a little money to fan the flames can help build traffic and establish a target site as an authority.
Secondly, they want to borrow some of the blogger’s ‘link juice’ to improve the PageRank of their site. As I noted in my article on Paid Links this model is no longer a viable option due to Google’s strict enforcement of their link policy. In any case, this probably wasn’t the best link building strategy for an advertiser anyway since on most blogs the article moves rather quickly from a PR rich front page to an unranked secondary page on the blog. Magazine format blogs like OpTempo never even have the full review article on the front page, only an unlinked excerpt.
Advantages for Bloggers
First, let’s look at the plus column.
The money is generally good, even from the start. You can easily get between $5-15 for a single review even with a no PR site like OpTempo, although you’ll probably need to show some traffic in Alexa. Once your blog gains popularity this number can go up to $30, $60 or even over $100 per review. This is better than what you’ll get from Adsense or most other advertising programs during a month unless you’ve carefully crafted your blog around a profitable niche.
Also, it’s easy to do as long as the site or product to be reviewed is good. If you’re a decent writer you should be able to produce a nice, professional, 200 word review in under an hour.
Disadvantages for Bloggers
There are several problems with paid reviews though.
First of all, taking them can damage your credibility with your audience. If your content has a lot of paid reviews you’re likely to lose your readers. Other bloggers may think of your blog as being spammy if you overdo the paid reviews. People can tell if you’re sincere or not and, unfortunately, most paid reviews don’t come off as being sincere.
Secondly, even if you have a loyal readership they’re likely to skip over the paid articles because they don’t fit the theme of the site or simply because they’re seen as an advertisement and not as important content. For example, did you skip over my previous post, Review: Bad Credit Offers, because it was a sponsored review?
Another factor with paid reviews is the PageRank issue and the larger disclosure issue. Most advertisers do not want you to use ‘nofollow’ for links to their site in your post in direct violation of Google webmaster guidelines. Is your PR ranking worth the money you would earn from the review?
As a result of the crackdown, some unscrupulous advertisers are asking bloggers to not disclose that a review is a paid review in any way. This is in violation of the US FTC regulations concerning disclosure and may violate laws in the EU and other countries as well. Is the relatively small amount of money you earn from a review worth breaking the law?
Some Review Brokers
Now let’s take a quick look at some paid review brokers. Most of them have the typical rules that you might expect such as the blog can’t be a ‘bad neighborhood’, has to have original, not scrapped, content and so forth. All in all about the same as qualifying for most other advertising systems. Most, but not all, also require that your blog be at least 3 months old. However, each broker may have additional rules and qualifications.
Sponsored Reviews - This is who I’ve used for the two paid reviews I’ve done here on OpTempo. Unlike some of the other brokers they don’t have PageRank or blog age requirements although this does affect how they rank you in their system to advertisers. There system is a little different in that you pick the advertisers and they get to accept or reject your review offer and you can set the price to some extent. I like this since it allows me to not sign up for offers that request ‘do follow’ links, only want 100% positive reviews or don’t want disclosure to be made. The disadvantage of this method is that advertisers can take their sweet time about approving your bid for a review.
Review Me - This is the review broker that John Chow made famous. While I haven’t used them myself I’ve heard that opportunities for lower ranking bloggers are few and far between there. If you’ve worked with them, what were your experiences.
PayPerPost/Izea - They’ve been at the center of the paid link Google storm. Most bloggers who used them as a broker had their PR cut or even eliminated. Using them right now might be a risky move although they’re working on their own blog ranking algorithm. Unfortunately, most of their advertisers were looking for link juice not buzz, so this will hurt them. Plus, their rules are obviously geared toward buying PageRank, not marketing a site or product. What have your experiences been with them, pre and post crackdown.
Smorty - This broker reminds me a lot of PayPerPost in the way their rules work. I also don’t like that they require all links to advertisers to be ‘do follow’. That right there will keep me from signing up with them. However, I’ve heard some good reports about them from other bloggers. Is dealing with them worth playing Google Roulette with your PageRank? What do you think?
Blogsvertise - I’ve only recently noticed this broker but they seem to be attracting some attention. If you’ve used them, what were your impressions of them?
There are some others around that I didn’t mention so if you’ve used them and want to comment about your experiences feel free to do so.
Paid reviews used to be the best monetization option for the average blogger. Is it still that way? I’m not so sure. There is value to advertisers to build some buzz through reviews but the idea of using reviews to build links and improve search position for certain keywords is now gone. This may devalue what advertisers will pay for reviews, particularly to smaller sites.
As with links, the crackdown may send review buying partially underground. Money may exchange hands but it will be well under the table and the risk of detection by Google will be high in most cases.
What are your thoughts on paid reviews? Leave me a comment and let me know.