Paid or sponsored reviews are one of the key monetization instruments of bloggers who make money online. There are a number of arguments against sponsored content as many believe that it would gradually kill the hard-earned quality and cause for which a blog stands. Also, if not carefully done, it can take toll on the readership as well.
However, there are a few good things about paid reviews as well. If done the right way, it can make the readers aware of a good product that was probably less or never advertised before. Paid reviews can also offer the bloggers some breather from their usual topics as well as satisfaction due to the payment received instantly. In this post, let me talk about a few simple tips that would help anybody to write great sponsored posts without hurting any.
#1 Stick to your niche: Well, it is really hard to always get the topics that you want. But as much as possible one should pick paid review topics that are closely related to what the blog stands for. The readers will easily get annoyed if it is an off topic review.
#2 Pick review materials that add value: After short listing the niche (or a number of domains) to review, you need to worry about the reputation of the product itself. If you are not convinced on that, it is better to avoid such reviews regardless of what kind of money comes in. Marketing a bad product can really kill your blog and your readers may trash you.
#3 Be choosy on the Advertiser: You need to understand the history of the advertiser (with the help of review sites statistics as well as by browsing the web) before writing about his products. There will be always some products that were relaunched and rebranded after being unsuccessful in the market or due to unethical past or low customer satisfaction index.
#4 Set terms, conditions and expectations upfront: In order to avoid any conflicts or differences in the future, it is better to clearly mention what you could do with the review before accepting the contract. For example, the number of images embedded, number of words written, backlinks to the product site, tone and type of the review, disclosure etc.
#5 Avoid pre-built content: A lot of advertisers provide you pre-built reviews – more like spun articles – that they want you to market via your blog and its popularity. Most of the time you are only allowed to make minor changes in such cases. You must avoid such reviews as it wouldn’t do any justice to your creativity or reviewing skills.
#6 Avoid negative reviews on competition: The worst thing that can happen is when you write a negative review about a competitor of the advertiser on his request. Be careful when somebody asks for comparison reviews with other products or even try to influence you to be negative with others’ products. His competitor could be your next advertiser and more over, there could be legal and defamation cases filed as well.
#7 Do your research: You may be a pro in your domain, but everytime you are on the hunt to write about something new, be sure to do your homework and adequate research. Providing half-cooked or unconvincing information to your readers can backfire instantly.
#8 Use the product yourself as much as possible: Well, it is not always practical to write about only those products that you have thoroughly used. But as much as possible, you should be the firsthand customer of the product before writing about the same.
#9 Be at your natural best: You don’t need to put an artificial change around the way you write when a paid review is taken up. You may treat it just like any other post and your original way of writing should reflect as well. As much as possible, your opinion should be based on how the product influences your life and basic needs. This point is closely related to #8.
#10 Disclosure: Unless your advertiser is adamant on the disclosure part, you should inform the readers that what they are reading is a paid review. Unless they are marketing a bad product, most advertisers are quite openminded when it comes to your disclosures.
#11 KISS – Keep It Short & Simple: Unless you are talking about the technical details of a Digital Camera or exhaustive test drive report of a vehicle, it is always better to keep the content short. i.e. something like 200-500 words because people really don’t have time to read five pager reviews. Just in case you have to write a longer review for some reason, organize it in such a way that the reading can be interesting. It will be also helpful to inform the users up front, in such a case.
#12 Be unbiased: When you get paid by the advertiser, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are his slave. You still are at liberty to write what you really feel about the subject or object being reviewed. Impartiality of the content is your credibility!
#13 Spice it up with some screenshots and nice images: It does not matter you are reviewing a software product or dog food, you could always post a couple of great pictures or screenshots of the product. This will make the reviews look beautiful and easy to scan and read. You could always add images other than that of the product as well. For example, a nice cartoon or graphic, if that complements the context very well, why not go for it? While embedding images, please make sure that you are not picking blurred or low quality images. Most advertiser get upset with such unprofessional support material added to the content.
#14 Post title and keywords: If the advertiser has any preference on keywords and post title, you need to abide by that. Otherwise, you may pick it the way you usually do.
#15 Engage your readers just like any other post: Most of the paid reviews that I have seen, usually have relatively low participation from the readers. This is mainly due to the tone of the content. It would not harm if you set the tone and engage the readers with rhetoric questions just like the way you do for your other posts.
#16 Thank the advertiser: Once the review is completed and posted, if at all the advertiser contact details are available, you may leave a short ‘Thank you’ email to the advertiser for the opportunity provided. This will fetch you good ratings by the advertisers and the sponsored review services that you are using. This good gesture can also fetch you more opportunities and rate increment per paid post.
#17 Set the frequency of your paid posts (and stick to it): You should be very clear on how often you want to write a paid review on your blog. I personally believe that one should write no more than 1 paid review per 10 unpaid or regular posts. There are people thriving on paid reviews alone but this would definitely affect the blog’s long term reputation and ranks.
#18 Be aware of other consequences: As most of you know, if you write too many paid reviews (and in turn more no ‘nofollow’ backlinks), usually the search engine page ranks of your content will come down. Basically, getting quick money for providing paid content can take toll on the reach of the content itself. Hence, maintaining the balance and deciding on the paid post frequency are the keys to success in this matter.
#19 Backlink tips: Many advertisers purchasing paid reviews will ask for three or four backlinks to their product site or services. As much as possible, try to provide these backlinks after the ‘more’ or ‘continue reading’ tag. This will make sure that the PR impact (as mentioned in point #18) is on a single post alone and not when that post excerpt appears on archives, home page etc.
#20 Listen carefully to what your readers are talking about your reviews: Sometimes it is very difficult to understand the readers’ tone from their comments about a paid review. A lot of people will laud your efforts and some will be too diplomatic. A few others will really criticize and even trash your views. Be positive and remember the tips above. If you did a bad job, admit it and if you are convinced about your work, you needn’t worry about the criticisms (or even any treatment from Google). And that is because ‘Content was always and will be the King‘!
I hope this post was useful to you. The other day somebody asked me why I write a lot of TTT (’10 tips to’) posts and I thought of doubling the number of tips this time though I might still list this under the ‘Ten tips’ category of my archives.
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