All About Content

Monetize Your Blog with Sponsored Reviews

Posted by Melanie Phung on Saturday, May 19, 2007 at 10:05 am

Note: I wrote this post in 2007. The link landscape has changed since then, and am not recommending or nor do I endorse this service.

A while back I had a couple of thoughts about various paid blogging services, including SponsoredReviews.com. From the advertiser’s perspective, I didn’t think SponsoredReviews.com offered anything better than its better-known competitors.

I’d been wanting to try going through the process of writing a paid review for the service to see what kind of experience it provided to the bloggers. I had a choice of either waiting for someone to approach me directly (a la ReviewMe) or bidding on an open project. However, none of my bids were being accepted at what I considered to be a reasonable fee.

Finally, this week a company called My Content Website accepted my bid of $5.00, 35% of which goes directly to SponsoredReviews.com. That’s the lowest net payout possible of any of the services available for this method of monetizing one’s blog.

Plus, because the blogger has only 5 days to finish a review after the bid is accepted, but at the same time doesn’t have any idea when an advertiser will accept the bid, the odds are pretty good that you’ll miss that opportunity (and once you’ve missed the opportunity, you can’t rebid).

If you’re looking to monetize your blog via paid blog posts, I wouldn’t recommend SponsoredReviews.com.

This has been a sponsored post (which is enough to pay about enough to buy a decent cup of coffee).

Update:
By the way, if SponsoredReview.com doesn’t accept your post, check that the URLs and anchor text match the request exactly — the automated system that checks the links is case sensitive!

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Category: Paid Content

Get Thee Thy Own Domain

Posted by Melanie Phung on Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 6:49 pm

I was just taking another tour of the Blogsvertise FAQs and came across this little tidbit:

“We are no longer approving WordPress blogs [for inclusion in the Blogsvertise program] because WordPress has made the decision to delete blogs with paid content on them. Sorry, please consider submitting another blog for consideration.”

It struck me as way over the top that WordPress would just start deleting accounts because it contained paid links and I was surprised I hadn’t picked up any stories about this before, given that I follow the industry very carefully. I did some digging around and found this item from November.

The WordPress terms of service include several restrictions on what can be posted, including: “the Content is not spam, and does not contain unethical or unwanted commercial content designed to drive traffic to third party sites or boost the search engine rankings of third party sites.”

After another read-through I determined that you’re not allowed to use their hosting and domain if you’re going to use your blog for commercial purposes; but that it’s fine to use the WordPress publishing platform to post paid content, affiliate links and that type of stuff to a blog that’s on your own domain and host.

This actually seems quite fair to me. If you’re going to be using up their bandwidth, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to ask that you not profit off a service they provide to you for free.

Whether you’re intent on monetizing your blog, or you just want to be seen as credible, you absolutely need to get your site onto its own domain. If you’re successful — apparently you can earn up to $10,000 in a month with PayPerPost — the domain registration and hosting fees will absolutely pay for themselves.

Click here for more info about Domain Name Registration.

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Category: Blogging,Paid Content

An Advertiser’s Perspective on Blogsvertise, ReviewMe and PayPerPost

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 10:27 pm

Note: I wrote this post in 2007. The link landscape has changed since then, and am not recommending these tactics/services for link building now.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to paid blogging services recently and thought it was time I shared some thoughts.

Several months back I signed up for the 3 major paid blogging services to evaluate one of the newer ways publishers have to monetize their sites (although I haven’t necessarily been too keen about what I saw as a lack of transparency). To give a balanced perspective, I decided to also sign up as an advertiser on each of these services — ReviewMe, Blogsvertise and ReviewMe. A 4th player in this game is SponsoredReviews.com, which I’ll give a short mention but haven’t had long enough to evaluate properly.

ReviewMe
ReviewMe is the paid blogging site you turn to when you’re looking for exposure on high-quality sites, but that quality comes with a higher price tag. ReviewMe was created by the same people who operate Text-Link-Ads.com, so if you’ve used TLA the interface will look familiar.

Once you’ve selected the blogs you want to approach and added these reviews to your cart, you’ll be asked for the link and instructions for each of blog — essentially this is your chance to pitch the blogger. It’s important that your pitch be well thought out since on 50% of your reviews (on average) will be declined by the bloggers; if that happens, you’ll have wasted your time researching the blogs and writing your pitches.

The same is true if the bloggers you target don’t get around to checking their email for a while; if a blogger doesn’t respond to your request within 3 days, the order is cancelled. Three days, in my opinion, is too tight of a deadline to require a response.

The advertiser admin interface is best suited for ordering between 1 and 5 reviews at a time since inputting a large number of instructions at the same time (assuming you’re not simply cutting and pasting) can get unwieldy.

Interestingly, ReviewMe does not require any text links within the body of the post, although most posts of any substance will include some.

Pros: Access to high-quality blogs/bloggers, you control who does the reviews
Cons: Higher cost, about half the bloggers you approach will decline, orders expire after a scant three days, no control over tone of the text or anchor text

Blogsvertise
Blogsvertise, of all the services, gives the advertiser the least control. To spin it another way, Blogsvertise is very low maintenance, which might be attractive to advertisers who just want links, links, links and don’t care where they come from. (Blogsvertise requires that each post contain at least 3 links to your site.)

Each time a blogger submits his post for payment, an editor at Blogsvertise reviews it to make sure it has met the criteria and then forwards an email to the advertiser with a link. In my albeit limited observations about Blogsvertise’s review process, they don’t have the tightest QA control since I’ve seen quite a number of Blogsvertise-initiated blog postings with broken links — something the advertiser obviously isn’t going to find worth his money.

The admin is surprisingly basic: you indicate what link you want placed and how many posts you want to buy. The price is preset for you. There’s also a space for notes to the bloggers — which the bloggers are instructed not to copy and paste, though that doesn’t seem to stop some of them — where you can request specific anchor text. There’s nothing else to do except watch the new links proliferate (although unfortunately there’s no way to pace the rate at which the new links are created so you’ll get the majority the first few days

You can pay by credit card or PayPal (for some reason, though, you can’t save your credit card info to your account and then pull up the card on file when it comes time to pay. A minor point, but an inconvenience nonetheless.)

Pros: Very low maintenance
Con: Low quality blogs, no control over pricing or targeting

PayPerPost
As the first of these services to go out and heavily promote text link ads, PayPerPost has also appeared to take the brunt of the criticism from folks like Jason Calacanis. (I even wrote a post called Pay Per Shill, when I first learned about it.) I don’t doubt that PPP’s strong and frequent reminders about disclosure requirements has more to do with that than with potential FTC scrutiny.

PayPerPost, in addition to being the first of these services to catch the Blogosphere’s attention, is also the most aggressive in terms of appealing to advertisers and is therefore probably the most well-known.

Of the various services, this one allows advertisers the most control. You decide how many posts you want, at what price, with which anchor text, and even if you want the blogger to use images in the post. My favorite feature is the one that allows me to create or add different link/anchor text combinations within a single opportunity even after it is already live.

Among the enhancements that have been made since launch is an easy way for advertisers to restrict who can take an advertising opportunity. The ability to segment by a blog’s link popularity, subject matter and PageRank also allows advertisers to offer bigger payouts to those bloggers who are more likely to generate a higher ROI (either in terms of link juice or eyeballs).

Pros: Ability to set prices, filter bloggers to target, specify number of words, specify anchor text for links
Cons: The overall quality of the blogs isn’t as high as you can find on ReviewMe.

SponsoredReviews.com
I only just recently began checking out SponsoredReviews (the latest entrant to the paid blogging game) and my initial impression is that the bloggers who are part of this network have an over-inflated sense of their own value to advertisers. The asking prices from many of the people who bid on the opportunity I posted were way too high, given that many of them had practically no link popularity, authority, history or readership.

One of the features that probably appeals to bloggers — the ability to barter over the price — turned out to require way too much of my attention and maintenance. For example, if someone offered to write a review for $40 and I replied saying that I thought their review was only worth $8 to me, I’d get trapped in this offer-counteroffer cycle that could go on indefinitely. It seems much more straightforward simply to use PayPerPost and just make the payout $7 across the board and not think about it again.

PPP vs. Blogsvertise vs. ReviewMe: And the winner is …
PayPerPost is my recommendation for paid blogging services because of the control the service gives to advertisers over the quality of blogs participating in their ad campaign, while at the same time being easy to use and not requiring too much work from the advertiser to begin a campaign. The latter is what makes PayPerPost scale much better for campaigns that are likely to grow fairly large.

So… should you go out and start buying blog postings by the bushel? Well, while the Web purist in my cringes at the thought, I do think the return on services like these is pretty good. But, as I always caution, moderation is key. This is something you should test for yourself.

Keep in mind that paying for blog “reviews”, if you decide to do it, should supplement a broader, more traditionally “white hat” link-building campaign. Don’t rely on paid blogs to replace natural links.

This has not been a paid post, but I do have affiliate links if you’re interested in signing up and trying any of these services:

My ReviewMe affiliate link.
My Blogsvertise affiliate link.
My PayPerPost affiliate link.

Comments (1)

Category: Monetizing,Paid Content

Sponsored Post: SponsoredReviews.com

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, March 12, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Note: I wrote this post in 2007. The link landscape has changed since then, and am not recommending these tactics/services for link building now.

SponsoredReviews.com launched in beta today and of course I went and signed up right away. (Damn, that’s one more site I need to include in my review of paid blogging services, which I said I’d do last month and still haven’t gotten around to.)

Right off the bat, the thing I already like (from an advertiser’s perspective) is that the system more closely resembles an RFP system; that is to say, you post an opportunity (here SponsoredReviews.com uses the same language as PayPerPost) and bloggers can submit bids to do the reviews for you. You can accept a blogger’s bid, haggle over the price or reject the bid outright (if the blog is off-topic, of poor quality, too expensive, etc.) None of the other paid blogging services allow you to reject specific bloggers.

Within 30 minutes of posting an opportunity to see how well SponsoredReviews.com worked, I had 2 bloggers bid on it — which seemed decent for a service that just launched earlier that morning. After about 2 hours I had about two dozen bids.

Like ReviewMe, SponsoredReviews.com allows you to actively approach specific bloggers with your opportunities, which they can then choose to take on if they wish. The mechanism by which to search for relevant blogs to approach is similar to ReviewMe; advertisers can browse by keywords the bloggers have chosen to describe their sites.

As far as the service goes from a blogger’s point of view, I haven’t had much time to play around with it, but I like that I can pursue specific opportunities (like PayPerPost) and that the payouts tend to be higher (like ReviewMe, except the likelihood of actually getting to do a review are much higher. I have yet to be approached by an advertiser through ReviewMe since I signed up).

If you’d like me to review and link to your site, you can do so from my SponsoredReviews.com profile page. But I’d caution you to read the paid reviews I’ve done of other sites first (read: if your site sucks, I won’t hesitate to lambaste you).

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Category: Link Building,Paid Content

PayPerPost Segmentation Benefits Advertisers, Bloggers

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 11:33 pm

I’m still working on that (unpaid) review of the various pay per blog services, but in the meantime, PayPerPost is really trying to get the word out about the upgrades they’ve made to their blog marketing service.

The most important update allowed for segmentation — that is to say, for advertisers to narrow down which bloggers could take an ad “opportunity” according to blog topic, Alexa rankings, Google Toolbar PageRank and other criteria.

Unfortunately, the interface was really buggy the first few days after the new release, which is never a good way to launch an upgrade. Advertisers were unable to increase the number of blogs they wanted to recruit for any given ad campaign; bloggers found that their Alexa rankings and Google PR were not adequately reflected in their accounts, so they were excluded from participating in ad campaigns they should have been eligible for.

Luckily nearly all of the major bugs appear to have been ironed out now. And that distraction aside, the upgrade was a good one. Because advertisers now have more control over the quality of sites their “ads” run on, they are willing to pay more for those links. There are some campaigns paying as much as $1,000 per post … if you happen to have an on-topic blog with PR7 or higher.

These higher payouts make paid blogging more attractive to serious bloggers and is probably attracting bigger, more reputable sites that might not have considered PayPerPost as a revenue opportunity (not when they could get $200 at ReviewMe, and the usual payout for PayPerPost pre-segmentation was less than $6).

I’m pretty bullish on PayPerPost (which has nothing to do with this being a paid post – Scout’s Honor!), and if they keep innovating (and keep aggressively reminding participants that disclosure is mandatory) I think the service will continue to attract new bloggers and advertisers.

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Category: Link Building,Monetizing,Paid Content