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 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, 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
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.
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.