What do you do when you get asked to promote a product or business? As a beginner freelance writer, the answer seems simple, do it, take the money, and sit back and relax.
The reality, however, isn’t nearly so clean cut.
When you’re freelance writing business starts taking off, you start getting traction online and your social media profiles are updated regularly, you might notice some strange new emails showing up in your inbox.
The “Hey I saw your business and you seem perfect to review my [insert website, blog, product, advertisement here].” email. At first, it might seem flattering, to be picked out of the slew of writers online and asked to review something. But sponsored reviews should be a territory you tread with caution, and here are a few reasons why:
1. How popular are you…..really?
When I started getting emails asking me to look over certain websites and products, I was a little suspicious because my online engagement was nothing to celebrate. Less than 1,000 twitter followers, few website visitors, and a nearly invisible Facebook page, why would someone think my opinion mattered? Well, it probably doesn’t, it probably just boosts their testimonials page and Google search hits. Look at your own engagement and think about your audience, does it justify a sponsored post?
2. What are they asking?
I’ve had marketing people straight up request a positive review regardless of my own personal feelings. So, it’s constricting my own voice with no paycheck attached except “visibility”. Plus, what if I don’t actually like the product or think the website is any good?
3. Affiliation Promises
Being an affiliate comes with similar soul sucking consequences. The idea is a website reaches out to you, asks you to check out their product/website and talk about on your own platform with links back to the website you’re reviewing. Anyone of your readers who decides to follow affiliate links on your website to the product/blog in question can potentially give you some income in your pocket. Which is why I am always looking at the reviews and the links involved, if it’s overwhelmingly positive, chances are there’s something in it for them.
Writing sponsored posts, agreeing to be an affiliate, writing requested reviews by a company all have the potential to work against your credibility. Your readership might be inclined to trust you less and feel like you’re selling them something instead of just sharing your voice and opinions.
5. Getting in bad with Google
When the Google bots evaluate your website pages and posts for ranking in their search engines, one of the things they look at is links out and links in. If you are linking out to a lot of affiliate offers, questionable websites, etc., their algorithms chalk up a mark against you. Also, if you have a lot of links out and very little links in, or questionable links in they also mark this against you. Better to link out to websites, products and services you really have used and/or done your research on. And earn links in by getting published content on other credible writing sites, and getting your content out on social media where it can get shared and hopefully linked to organically.
There’s nothing wrong with writing reviews. The internet is pretty much entirely based on people like me spouting opinions. And there is nothing wrong with making affiliate income from products and services you can honestly recommend, such as the links to Amazon on this site for the books I recommend. If you really love something and want to share it with your readers, by all means, go ahead, like I did with my “Why aren’t you on nDash”, article.
Tread carefully, however, when considering affiliates, sponsored posts, and promotional reviews and your website, audience, and platform will thank you for it.