Blog reviews: To pay or not to pay?

Photo credit: pneumatic.transport
Review You, Review Me - Part 2

Paid blog reviews for the majority of bloggers will not come to fruition in a big way.

That's a bold statement. Here's why I'm sticking my neck out: Many bloggers are keen to have their sites reviewed but they're not willing to pay for such reviews. Why should they when there are blog review sites offering free reviews with links thrown in for good measures?

Likewise, there are plenty of blogs doing voluntary reviews of other blogs. Usually they will pick on blogs that they feel are similar to theirs. Or for the simple reason that a particular blog has great content and information that makes you want to write about it. I'll call this "goodwill gesture" and it'll also help to build links and traffic.

It does not matter whether one writes a short or long review. What's important is that people want to build bridges (links) and, as a blogger, this is a good, friendly gesture towards your blogging neighbour.

In a nutshell, here are some of the reasons why a review is written:

  • they like the content posted on your site
  • they have a kind of rapport with your blog

  • they hope to get tit-for-tat links, a reciprocal etiquette in blogdom

  • they want to create good karma and get the same back
Link Love vs the Money Factor

I have every reason to believe that doing free reviews is more gratifying. Everyone can do it without considering the money factor. It's gratifying because you're giving out link love without putting a price on it. You'll be getting the same from those blogs that you have tagged. It's an investment that will boost the "friendly neighbourhood" concept and has a more lasting value in terms of your blogging experience.

As a reminder, we are not really talking about writing reviews of commercial products or services via sponsoring companies like
PayPerPost, ReviewMe, Sponsored Reviews and others.

No doubt, this particular aspect of money-making opportunities has received tremendous response from publishers (bloggers) and advertisers. It will remain popular as long as advertisers want to promote their products and services and willing to provide these opportunities to bloggers.

And just to put a few things straight, I'm fully aware of money bloggers who move in the fast lane. It's their choice to charge as high as possible for a review based on the rankings of their blogs. And there are also the price under-cutters who will charge less for a review without using a middleman.

But you can bet there's not going to be many paid review offers from individual bloggers coming your way like a cattle stampede if I may make a parody of this statement. When reality sets in, you'll realize these offers are few and far between.

A blog that's not in the top half of the PageRanks can forget about advertisers coming to you for a review. Most bloggers are not advertisers, so paying for overpriced review fees has never been an issue at all, it's just not on in the first place.

Here are some reasons why most bloggers won't pay:

  • They are basically blogging hobbyists
  • They don't see a need to pay for a review and it may not be worth the price
  • There are other ways to get links and traffic without parting with your money
  • They are not in the same league as so-called probloggers in the fast lane
Why paid reviews did not catch fire?

It was considered cool to write paid reviews when the idea was first introduced but it has fallen flat. Look around your blogging neighbourhood and see how many review posts you can find that really look like a paid review. Maybe a few, maybe none at all. While you can get a viral buzz and exposure, paying for hundreds of dollars for publicity is out of reach for many bloggers.

The problem with paid reviews is that it can be a dicey proposition. There's a kind of uncertainties about them.

  • Will it get you a sudden spike in traffic following a paid review especially from a high-ranking blog?
Yes. It can help to kick-start your blog but there's no guarantee.

  • Will the traffic juice continue to flow or die off over time?
That depends on the flavor of your posts and how you keep up with your blog. A continuous flow of good, informative content will help to attract readers. But if you slack, the juice will start to dry up.

  • Can you do all the above without paying for a review?
Yes, so many blogs have succeeded without going down that path.

"Hire Me for $xxx" Widget: Eyesore or Decorative Device?

Did you notice that nowadays, most blogs don't show the amount of money that they want to charge for a review, especially if they are using a PayPerPost widget? All you can see is that "Hire Me" widget. Some bloggers, including yours truly, have taken the widget off completely.

Has the truth sunk in that there's hardly any taker despite these widgets?
Well, it's plain to see that these widgets are starting to make us look like duds. Even a beggar standing on the corner will have better luck with people dropping coins into his cup.

If you're still hoping to do some paid reviews from advertisers (that includes me), then it's better just to indicate that you're available by showing this as a text link on your blog's sidebar. Don't have to shout or moo about it.

Advertisers will know where to look. If they feel that you're up to it as a reviewer they will contact you in their own good time. They can tell by reading your blog posts. They don't need some silly widgets to make them jump.

Isn't there a better way around the paid review syndrome?

Yes. Write a post to let visitors know that you'll be willing to do reviews, not for money, but for a fair exchange of links. Specify that blogs wanting a review must have content that are relevant to your own blog but, sometimes, this is not necessary. You can also state the number of words for the reviews. It's your call.

Better still, just go ahead and write a review of any blog you have come across that catches your fancy.
You can read two of them which I did here and here.
You have the freedom of choice and you're not obliged in any way to sugar-coat the review. Just do a fair and honest assessment of the blog, highlighting some interesting aspects of its contents, layout and design and point out certain weak points and so on. And don't forget to add a link or two in your post.

As pointed out earlier, if the blogger understands blogging etiquette, he or she will link back to you unless you chew up the person's blog so bad that any reciprocal action will be thrown out of the window.

The best approach is to be a little picky about a blog. Pick a blog that is readable with good content which will put your mind in a positive frame when it comes to writing about the site.
Or you can seek out those specialized review sites where you can get your blog reviewed for free. Some will require you to do a reciprocal review of a blog that did a review of yours. You are required to link to their site and you get a backlink from their review of your blog.
Here's a site that provides free reviews not only for blogs but also for those who want to promote their websites, businesses, and organizations. I found this in a post at Hong Kiat's blog.

ReviewBack is a free review swapping and exchange network. You can say it's a marketplace and trading ground where bloggers and copywriters alike can get in touch with one another and help each other increase their exposure.
Another site that provides free reviews is Bloggeries.com which is also a blog directory. They will accept donations to be used for compensating their reviewers for their time.

Of related interests:

Review You, Review Me - Part One
Blogging With Amazing Grace
Are You One Of Those "Bad Apples?"


Review You, Review Me - Part One

Blog or website reviews have come a long way with more and more bloggers jumping on the bandwagon. The monetary aspects of it as propagated by ReviewMe, PayPerPost and a host of other Internet establishments have lured bloggers into this area of making money online.

In no time, some individuals have even bypassed sponsoring companies to offer reviews directly to any taker who's game for it. But in this case you have to establish or hype yourself as someone who can do the job well. Your credentials depend on the posts that you write on your blog. A certain Japanese woman blogger has done quite well so far by striking out on her own to do these paid reviews.

To be frank, it's easy to offer to do paid reviews but it's NOT EASY to get customers. Why? Because it's not cheap to get your blog reviewed by someone who's gonna charge you from $400 to $1,000. If you charged $40 for a review, it sounds like a fair deal, but still not everyone is going to beat a path to your gate no matter how good you claim yourself to be. And for much, much less you may go for it but there's no guarantee that you will get a quality job done. It may turn out to be a crappy review.

Paying to get your blog reviewed is fundamentally a way to publicize your site, especially for large companies, and hopefully turn your ROI (return of investment) into more inbound links, viral buzz, feedbacks and traffic. That's about the main reasons for doing this. When the idea was first mooted, it sounded like a great, cool idea.

Some individual bloggers who can afford "big bucks" will paid for a review from some high-ranking blogs. They will come back and do a review of their reviews and, usually, the conclusion is that they have seen an increase in traffic and are happy with the results. Well, to me, it smells like BS although it's correct to say they have gained extra visitors. But how will this stake out farther down the road?

In the early days of blogging, as far as I know, those who have reached big time today did not pay for any reviews. It's the content they wrote that pulled in a huge stream of followers to their blogs. Maybe some of them may have slacked a bit today in their blogging knowing they have already captured an audience, but that was how they did it without paying for a review. With a huge following today, these big-time blogs are getting reviewed in some form almost everyday by their blogging fans or otherwise - for better or for worse.

For most bloggers, you can bet they're not going to pay for any kind of reviews whatsoever - whether it's only for $4 or $400. Isn't there a better way around the paid review syndrome? I'll write about this in another post soon. Meanwhile, your feedback will be appreciated.
Of related interests:
Writing paid reviews: How is it going?

How cool or uncool are these "Hire Me" widgets?


Are you one of those "bad apples"?

Bloggers who write paid reviews, especially those who signed up with Sponsored Reviews, will have to "clean up their act" soon. Sponsored Reviews will be on the lookout for "bad apples" because their advertisers are not too happy with a number of reviews submitted by bloggers.

They are planning to introduce a new rating system for bloggers so that they can weed out those who deliver poor quality reviews.According to Sponsored Reviews, the new rating system will allow advertisers to provide feedback on completed reviews and rate their favorite reviewers.

Obviously, paid reviews have reached a point where sponsors have found that some poor quality reviews had slipped through, got posted and payment made to the bloggers. Moreover, there were discrepancies in the bidding price among bloggers which just don't make sense anymore.

What are the reasons advertisers are not happy with some reviews?

Here's Sponsored Revews' list of bad vibes that advertisers dislike:

  • Poor grammar and spelling
  • Requirements like word count, links, etc. were not followed
  • Bloggers made non-factual statements
  • Duplicated content
  • Over-pricing based on quality of post
  • Showing a price higher on site than what was the bid.
It's surprising it took them a while before they realized that remedial action has to be taken.

What do you say to all this?

Well, if you're an advertiser you surely would like to see that any review of your product is of high quality. Paying for links is one thing but the writing must be up to standard as well. You don't want to see poor grammar or any slipshod spelling that reflect badly on your product or company.

Let's get real. This is business. Your image is at stake!

Look at advertisements in newspapers or magazines - and do you think the advertisers can afford to be slipshod with their copywriting or artwork? They are paying big bucks to get their advertisements in print.

Do they know that there's this breed of people known as editors or copyeditors? They are the ones who take care of the language and the writing style. Do the sponsoring sites have editors or copyeditors to do the job?

In fact, Sponsored Reviews are not the only one facing this problem. The competition like
PayPerPost, ReviewMe, Loudlaunch, Blogsvertise and others are probably facing the same issue. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this point.

I know of one blog that had complained about a poor review and I had the same experience earlier on, too. There are probably many others, mainly advertisers, who have also seen poor reviews. That begs the question: How did those reviews get approved? No doubt, the reviewers got paid, too.

Hopefully, paid-post programs will evolve, fine-tuning themselves to provide better qualified services and greater values to advertisers by accepting only quality posts that can only do justice to their products.
Of related interests:
Shocking quality of blog reviews revealed
Can you do ReviewMe?
Blogsvertise are doing some cleaning up
Sponsored Reviews open the doors


Blogging With Amazing Grace

I've come across a new blog that has really caught my attention without any sceptical reservation on my part about its potential.

More often than not, most newbie blogs have the tendency to be more interested in riding the money trail of blogosphere. You see their intentions from the word go when you look up their new blogs. But not this one although there are the usual widgets, affiliate banners and programs on the blog.

Now I would like to introduce you to one lady blogger who's known by her blogging name Grace - and she truly has this remarkable blog that's so divinely called Shine With Grace. What strikes me at first sight is the "spic and span" appearance of her blog. You won't be wrong if you say it's simply immaculate.

The fact that I bring up this point is that it looks like it has been around for quite some time. But, according to Grace, this blog only got off the ground about two months ago. And within that short period of time, she has really covered a lot of ground in the layout and design of her blog, putting various page elements in their proper places without stumbling all over. Okay, I may have missed some incongruous setting along the way. It took me more than two months to put up a fairly decent-looking blog and I'm still tweaking to get it right.

Now before anyone of you gets to say "Aha, here's a sponsored review!" I can assure you this is not one of those "ReviewMe" posts. In fact, I'm intrigued and charmed by this amazing blog because of its contents that are well-written without being bombastic. The choice of Grace's subjects are also interesting - from motivational topics to the arts. So I'm motivated to write about this new blog.

Only the other day, I spent a few hours browsing through this blog and was simply amazed by the organization of the site. Every nook and corner of this blog must have been planned with a fine-tuned mind. It would be beyond most bloggers, including myself, to be able to spend such a short time gathering images, graphics, and conjuring up words to fill the space. That's amazing.

I know something that is unique when I see one. I had commented on her blog that I've visited many blogs - from crappy ones to well-designed sites - and Shine With Grace is definitely head and shoulder above most newbie blogs in looks and contents, and it surely beats the hell out of many more so-called established blogs, too, if I may say so.

It's a revelation to discover this blog.

Gracing the fine art of Chinese paintings

Other than the motivational stuff found on her blog, the other captivating aspect of this site is her interest in Chinese art and she has presented some great information about Chinese painters in her posts. I was drawn to the paintings shown in her posts and I take the liberty to show a couple of screen captures here.

For example, Grace posted about the works of the infamous late Chinese painter Lin Feng Mian in her "Breathing Space" article, detailing the background of this pioneer of modern Chinese art who died in 1991. Read more at Grace's blog.

How motivated is Grace as a blogger?

For starter, in her profile, Grace believes that everyone is "born to shine." She has recently been motivated to come out of her "comfort zone" to face the new challenges and express herself. Blogging is probably one of the best ways to fulfil her belief.

BlockquoteI hated failure and defeat - and therefore, I always played safe, which translated into avoiding challenges and choosing, many times, the second best - and kept feeling unfulfilled," says Grace in her blog profile.

In one of her posts, Grace reveals the good feeling she gets "walking around the blogosphere and listening to what people are talking about."

Since joining the blogging fraternity, I would say she has been graceful with all the other bloggers she came into contact with, including yours truly. There's no snobbish air about her - that's a bonus. Looks like she's doing her level best to make things happen. So now, through her blog, she'll be expressing herself, share ideas, explore, experiment, learn and communicate with others. That, according to her, is her mission.

Of related interests:
Even grandma can handle this site builder...
How to succeed online - Have the right focus
Russian artist makes American debut
It makes sense to give link love


John Cow: Catching Mad Cow Disease

This is a sequel to my previous post regarding an unusual event that has taken roots with a cow-sense vengeance. Read on:

It looks like mad cow disease is rampant in the blogosphere. Although some blogging authorities are not forthcoming in acknowledging this sudden bovine outbreak, cows on blog pasture are mooing louder than ever before and showing signs of delightful hysteria.

According to some mad cow scientists, these are indications that the disease is catching on. Normally, cows grazed quietly but when they start to moo more than a couple of times, it's a clear sign that cow sense is going wacky.

Bovine medical experts have warned blog farmers and cattle barons to look out for the following symptoms:

* Mooing - as in coughing - sporadically the whole day

* Without any rhyme or reasons, hoofing it to the blog farm of JohnCow.com for some free milk which they could bladdery well generate themselves

* Posting cow-sense comments at the blog farm hoping for that extra pail of milk

* Instead of trying to make money online, they've switched to making mooney online

Here are some comments from suspected carriers of the disease gathered by blog newshounds that, more or less, sum up this moo fever. But be warned - all the comments may not make sense to you...well, unless you got it yourself...

BlockquoteI like milkshakes, shaken not stirred."

BlockquoteI like the thick milkshakes that are really thick, but still drinkable with a straw!"

Blockquote"Moooove on over, I'm steering in a for a win, myself...To win is only human; to give is bovine!"

BlockquoteCan I trade the cash for a cow instead? A blue one, please?"

BlockquoteHmmm!! great offer and I am gonna be one of the calf to suck the milk from the cow"

BlockquoteMoooo damnit moooo"

Virally infectious. That's how the whole darn situation is.

The JohnCow.com community farm at MyBlogLog has grown to a herd strength of 140 at latest count and still counting.

According to John Cow, the stampede has taken Technorati by storm, crashing down the gate at paddock number 66,454.

P. S.
Now, here's the latest from bovine experts who may well have come up with a remedy to this mad cow shenanigan.

When you detect the first sign of the symptoms, quickly head to the nearest grocery and grab a crate of beer. Yes, good ol' beer! Booze it up and you might chase the milk cow blues away.

To make doubly sure of that, play your best Mootown sound on your hi-fi, enjoy the beer and soon you'll be counting sheep.

Mooooo! Here's one for the road!!

Of related interest:
There's a lot of good cow sense at John Cow


John Cow Shows Up A Lot of Cow Sense

Hats off to an ingenious idea that has appeared to take on a viral form of its own this past week. It's awesome. It's a phenom. Okay, that's how I view it. I'm talking about some creamy cow sense that rocks.

Welcome to the blog farm of JohnCow.com where making mooney online or moo-lah if you like has gone on a kinda spin reminiscent of mad cow disease.

Forgive the hyperbole, but that's how it is over at the land of milk and mooney. Almost all the blogging gliterrati are at the farm party. No doubt the milk there must be top quality stuff. As John Cow puts it, milk is good for you.

Like I said earlier, I noticed this stampede to JohnCow.com along the cattle trail and I followed the herd which I rarely do. For once I was not disappointed when I arrived at the farm.

The looks of JohnCow.com somewhat resemble the other big farm over at Big Beef's. But Old MacDonald would have been proud to see that the welcoming signboard shows two cars...oops! sorry! I mean to say two cows. That's our country boy!

But there are other differences. No sir, I don't get goosepimples here as I moved around listening up to most of the comments posted by some cow boys and cow gals. One gets the feeling that there's no feeling of evilness in the clean country air here. There seems to be more camaraderie at JohnCow.com.

By the look of it, this young upstart of a calf has grabbed the bull by the horns with an awesome idea that will surely shake up Cow Country. I guess, there'll be more demands for cows rather than cars in the days to come if I'm not wrong. Animal farms may well be the next big thing ever since sliced bread. How about some ducks, cats and dogs...?

So far the dairy products (or posts as we earthy bloggers call them) are good for the eyeballs with sensible ramblings and wise cracks that are worth plenty of moo-moos.

And to celebrate this new-found fame, JohnCow wants to increase the herd by giving new cowhands a chance to make mooney online too with a new competition he has branded with his big hot iron as "Cash Cow Cowpetition!!"
I say "moo" to that.

Survey the farm site and write a full review of it. If you get into John Cow's good book you stand to win a bundle of mooney or moo-lah, whatever that is. Teasing apart, if you can make the cow jump over the moon, $100 cash will go straight into your PayPal account.

But that's not all the milk you can squeeze from the cow, you also get a one-month link in John Cow's pasteurized sites section and a permanent 468x60 banner ad at the top of his site.

Now you know where free milk is available. It's rocking over there. As reported by John Cow, the Alexa stats were all shook up in no time as the cow site hit 13,985 as I write! John Cow's bacon is sizzling, man!

Of related interest:
Mad cow disease - a John Cow sequel

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