Alright, I admit it.... I used PayPerPost recently to advertise MerchantCircle. OK, OK.... I used ReviewMe and CreamAid as well. And while I'm at it, I may have used a Swedish-made "pump" from time to time - but I swear it's not mine.
If you don't know, PayPerPost, ReviewMe and CreamAid are all pay for blog sites. You can check out the controversy on TechCrunch and ValleyWag. I decided to check out these sites on behalf of you, our merchants, who have asked whether paid blogs are a viable avenue in online marketing. We realize as the largest online network of business owners with over 130,000 signed-on in just one year, that we have a huge responsibility to take proactive steps to see what could work and what couldn't work for you in online marketing. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously.
I simply went to each of these sights mentioned and entered a campaign requiring a blogger to include a link to MerchantCircle.com and their favorite businesses in their area. Two of those chosen were Wedding Supplies Unlimited and Small Wonders Imaging. Average cost? About $10 a post.
First of all, let me critique these sites. PayPerPost, while the most popular and written about service, was by far, the most frustrating. I had several of my campaigns rejected because of the regimented nature of creating a campaign. Not only that, some of my queries took two or more days to be answered - some I'm still waiting for. (One e-mail question went like this: "Is anyone there?" - No answer.) The best part about PPP was that you could actually choose the minimum page rank of a blogger, how long the blog had to post for and even an Alexa rank. Of course, all of this raises the minimum suggested price. And believe me, I tried to lowball the heck out of them. Once I got going though, the quality of the blog posts were pretty good and consistent. They had depth and you could tell some research was done.
ReviewMe took a little while to approve my campaign, but the cool thing was you could rate and review the blogger who took you up on the offer. They even made it easy to flag a blogger who didn't follow directions. No word on what actually happens to these bloggers though. Overall, I saw some of the best blogs posts from ReviewMe and some of the worst. Although an e-mail about not having to pay these bad bloggers was quickly answered. One drawback, I get the feeling that ReviewMe does not have a large stable of bloggers since they took the longest to reach the maximum number of posts.
CreamAid was one of the easiest to get started. I don't even remember having to be approved - my campaign started almost immediately. And CreamAid had my number one favorite feature by far - you chose whether or not to purchase a blog after reading it! (How great would that be for dating? "Um, I don't think this is going to work out. I'm not paying for this dinner.") This feature was extremely relevant for this site though, a number of blogger were just flat-out awful. Broken English, grammatical errors, and sometimes a complete copy of another offered blog. I would say 70% of the bloggers on this site don't reside in the U.S. But hey, you don't have to pay them if it's not what you're looking for.
My results were inconclusive. I didn't see an immediate change in the businesses that bloggers chose to write about. Many of the MerchantCircle business pages they chose were already well-placed on search engines. I didn't ask the bloggers to write favorably about businesses, but almost all of them did - at least proving that customer service is not a lost art. Now if only those Swedes would take a cue or two and allow international returns.
P.S. This blog post was paid for by ValleyWag - with fierce competition from TechCrunch who ultimately refused to meet my $3 demands.