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Why do so many small business owners dislike giveaways and reviews now?

Mommy Perks logoOver the last few days, emotions ran high for many of us: business owners and bloggers alike. Words were flying and heads were spinning over the DoFollow / NoFollow debate and in the end, Google stepped in to answer and cleared things up once and for all (thanks, Google).

End game: Small business product reviews are considered advertising and therefore, they get a NoFollow link that search engines cannot crawl.

This has upset many small business owners because they didn’t realize their reviews need to be given NoFollow attributes, removing their links from search engine eyes. Some bloggers have been giving NoFollow attributes for a while now but lots of small owners were unaware (or not informed of what their business contract with the blogger was getting them). You can see my own policy here now, updated and clearly specified: Services and Terms

I have made my own advertisers and clients aware so that they can make informed choices about giveaways, reviews, sponsored posts and so on. We are not all that sure how this issue stayed on the down-low for so long but it did. We are all grateful to be more up to speed now in regard to Dofollow and NoFollow.

That said, I think it would be helpful to write a post from the small business perspective, sharing some of the opinions I’ve heard over the years.

So… why do small business owners care so much about the SEO on their reviews, anyway? Why are they so upset to be seeing that go away?

Hopefully this can help to explain it…

I found the Mommy Perks site back in 2005. I paid for advertising in order to promote my children’s book business. Soon after the owner asked me to become her partner. After that, I had another partner for a while and in early 2009 I bought the website as full owner. In 2005 blog reviews were just starting to become popular. Small businesses thought this would be a good way to get sales and bloggers agreed.

Sales rarely came from the reviews and small business owners became discouraged.

Then, they shifted their thinking and decided to get reviews for the traffic and clicks. Again, the reviews rarely brought them anything much (many of them tracked through analytics, yes). On top of this, some bloggers began writing so many reviews that each one was soon buried under many others, never to be seen again. So the promotions were very short lived and usually not worth the loss of the product shipped.

After this, small business owners decided (and were told) to look at their reviews through the eyes of Branding. It will help them brand! I’m one of the people who told them this: just do it for the Branding. Again, this didn’t do much for most of them because the reviews were so short lived and so lightly promoted that the few clicks they got from it hardly made the effort worthwhile.

Next, they were told (and assumed) that they could at least count on the SEO from these reviews if nothing more. If they were not getting sales from reviews (most often), they were not getting much traffic from it, they were not getting much Branding from it, what WERE they getting? The SEO from the searchable link. That’s what. And they have clung to this idea for some time now.

I won’t even go into details about the countless bloggers who asked for products from business owners and never followed through on a review (i.e. stealing). A financial loss for the business owner…

The business owners I work with did not realize that this was actually against Google policy. Many of them enjoyed sending products away to people who could use them for their children or homes, etc, and in trade they were getting a little bit of long term help for it (through SEO).

Some of the small business owners I know have been trying giveaways and reviews for years now. They have a great deal of data to analyze – they are certainly not newbies to the review world. In fact, some of my clients have tried out hundreds of reviews in hopes of something really sticking. They have worked with small bloggers, mid sized and large. Many times, it’s the smaller bloggers who work harder to promote them and in turn, they end up building relationships with those bloggers and the bloggers promote them into the future. Often times, the larger blogs just don’t have time to promote much. The post goes up, it’s buried within hours as other posts go on top, they tweet or facebook once or twice and that’s that. In fact, I worked with one large blogger who forgot to tweet or facebook the post at all! I had to remind her, which was rather frustrating.

A large number of my clients have shipped products for the review blogger, more products for their giveaways and sometimes they even pay cash on top of that for the time spent. So one review might cost them hundreds of dollars. If they do this a few times per month that adds up fast. Most of them just couldn’t afford that and so they stopped.

Without any real quantifiable feedback, some of them simply don’t want to be involved with this any longer. They want to find other ways to promote. The majority of us watch each day on social media outlets as reviews and giveaways spin by us, one after the next after the next after the next. We ignore them for the most part because it’s overwhelming. The market is saturated. When you overdo something, it becomes far less valuable. If I ate pizza every night for dinner, I’d end up hating pizza :-)

That’s how lots of us feel. Like… this whole thing has had it’s day in the sun and it’s over now. Time to move on and rethink our strategies.

This is not to say that we dislike all bloggers, either. Some of the reviews are really helpful, yes. Some of the giveaways bring traffic, yes. Some reviews can help to Brand, yes. Some posts are really well written by bloggers and continue to give some SEO through well written text rather than searchable links, yes. We understand all of this.

However, this doesn’t really help the business owner’s bottom line nor does it feed their kiddos. “A little of this and a little of that” doesn’t go all that far when all is said and done.

Large companies can afford to run lots of reviews and giveaways, even without the DoFollow links, because they make income in other ways to cover their marketing costs. Small business owners don’t have that advantage. They are always seeking ways to promote that don’t cost their home in the process.

I realize this doesn’t matter to all bloggers. I’ve been told by a few that they don’t care about small business owners. They are focused on helping themselves first and foremost and that means building their blogs up so they can catch the eye of large companies and land ambassador contracts. If that is what they are in this for, that’s their business. Small business owners just need to keep in mind that such bloggers are not going to go out of their way to help you. They won’t tell you about search engine requirements, they won’t give you anything more than a short bit of their time and attention because they can’t. They have bigger fish to fry and you are just the butter in the pan…greasing the way to their larger contracts with bigger companies. They have a ladder to climb and that’s THEIR bottom line.

And now an additional word or few to small business owners

If you don’t mind working with bloggers who have an end game of fame or fortune, fine. Keep trying to get such bloggers to work with you or even reply to your emails (that’s another article entirely!). If you do mind, I suggest you find other bloggers to work with who express a desire to get to know you, who will care about your products and may even remain in contact with you even after the review/giveaway is done. Help them promote their blog too! Help one another and work as a team. In all my years of marketing, this has always been the most helpful approach for me: give and take. Not take, take, take (from EITHER party – the blogger OR the business owner). Give and take. Give and take.

I also think it might serve all of us who blog (myself included) to  keep in mind: large companies always care most about their own bottom lines. If the blogger stops helping their bottom line, they’ll move to someone else for their ambassador needs. Faster than a hollywood marriage goes down in flames. This is not about relationships for large companies – it’s about the bottom line. And any blogger who stops helping them to that end (with a loss of traffic or stats, etc) will be dismissed in no time flat.

In our community we value relationships and friendships and kindness and loyalty. You don’t find those things when money and fame are the only end game.

A final word about reviews or giveaways

I would still see value in these options if you are seeking short term promotion. For instance, if you have a new coupon code to promote or a new product line, a quick review might help to bring fast eyes to your Brand, link or sale, etc. For those reasons, a review or sponsored post might be quite helpful. And when you are told by someone that the “mom blogger influence” can help push sales, ask for quantifiable evidence. The burden of proof is not on the business owner in this case; it’s on the blogger. If the blogger claims to have the power to help you push sales, ask to see it. Perhaps they are darn right! If they can show you proof, from their own blog, that they pushed sales for people because of their buyer influence, wonderful. By all means, promote on their blog and watch the sales rolls in.

This goes for me, too, by the way. You have every right to ask me how I can help you promote and hold me accountable for telling you what I can, and cannot, do. If I claim to have influence over the buying habits of other moms, ask me how. Ask me to show you market research about the search and buying habits of moms and ask to see customer testimonials from my own blog/site as well.

As far as multiple random blog reviews go… you need to reconsider shipping out product after product. Pick and choose blogs to work with who fit your niche. Tamara from Pea Wee Baby has some great ideas about this and I encourage you to ask her about it! Better yet I’ll ask her to guest post for us.

Coming soon…(if she agrees)

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27 Responses to “Why do so many small business owners dislike giveaways and reviews now?”

  1. Tamara says:

    I’d love to write about this Shara. I do think there is some benefit to sending product to a specific type of blogger. I’ll write something up and send over in the next day or two!

  2. Jessie says:

    Thank you for sharing the small business perspective.

    As a blogger, it can be frustrating when a company (big or small) doesn’t want to work with you, and they don’t always explain their reasons to you.

    I do think that you can build lasting relationships between bloggers and businesses, but it has to be the right match for both parties. And I completely agree that there has to be a give and take from both sides to make the relationship work. I love when businesses help promote posts that I wrote about/for them. It helps both sites get more views, and it is nice to see that the business really did like what I posted.

  3. Jessie,

    I completely agree with you. I review kids books and interview children’s books authors from time to time on my blog and really appreciate the ones that promote these posts alongside me. These are the folks that I collaborate with on future campaigns.

    As a small business owner, I have opted out of reviews/giveaways except when targeted and paired with growing my email list.

  4. Shara says:

    Tamara – Thanks so much! I agreed with your comments from the other threads and would love for you to share more about that with our readers. Thanks for your time.

  5. Shara says:

    Jessica – You are right. I love it when someone really enjoys a review I wrote and thanks me over and over again for the write up, tweets, facebook links, etc. I try hard to promote my posts so being thanked is nice, yes. And thanks for sharing more insight from the blogger point of view.

  6. Shara says:

    Bola – that is actually what I do here at Mommy Perks with our monthly enter to win page (as you know). I run one giveaway per month (outside our blog). I don’t ask for any fans, etc, for Mommy Perks. I just ask entrants if they want to join the sponsor’s email list. Each sponsor gets lots of new email addresses each month which really helps them. They then have a quantifiable figure to work with. After all my years of doing this, that seems to be working best so far (for the business owner).

  7. Ava Parnass says:

    HI Shara
    Once again let me thank you for all your hard work on doing the research and teaching what we need to know! I appreciate it!
    I dont have much to add you really cleared up the situation!
    Thanks again and its always a pleasure interacting with you and mommyperks community:)

  8. Leah D. says:

    I’ve owned my business for over 6 years, I’ve had many ups and downs. At this point, I make a profit, not huge, but consistent.

    Over the years, my polish pottery has been reviewed and given away multiple times. It has been mixed results. What I have found out is how important SEO is and NOT how big the blogger is – there is more to a review than just the links – there are also tags, keywords, SEO of reviewer, relationship of reviewer to followers erc. This is why I only do 1 or 2 giveaways a year and 1 of them is with Mommy Perks, because I KNOW what I am getting for my money and it is WELL worth it! – relationships

    As a small business owner, I also try to support other small businesses. I can’t expect them to buy from me if I’m not willing to support them – relationships.

    Also, I give outstanding customer service – years and years of retail experience has taught me to always put the customer first = referrals, return customers – relationships

    Thank you for giving the small business owners a voice, always looking out for us and teaching us – it is very much appreciated.

  9. Leah F. says:

    This post really resonates with my experience with reviews. I’m afraid I’ve completely lost my taste for them. It’s a shame too, because I really WANT them to be my main method of promoting. I really WANT them to work for us, because I think they are fun for the bloggers as well as their readers.

    But in our case, I’m afraid I can’t say that they have been effective. Now that I understand they also won’t boost our SEO…I’m going to put them down for a while. Maybe we will revisit the topic at some point, or occasionally try a review here and there.

  10. Sandy says:

    Thanks, Shara.

    I appreciate your taking the time to write about this. I missed the first discussions as I was busy writing…ummm…SEO, that Google seems to require now, even though Matt Cutts from Google says, “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”

    So do I spend time on SEO or developing the content my members want? I guess both. But, my main goal is providing for my membership and visitors to my site.

    So do we not link to others? Do I not give credit to people who are guest bloggers? Why did things get so complicated in the last few months?

    Thanks again, Shara for your time.

  11. Shara says:

    Leah D – Great comment, thanks! Yes, I will be learning even more now about on-page optimization so I can better help all of you when I post, etc.

    And I’m going to focus more again on customer service posts. It’s so important and lots of people get angry quickly, don’t reply to others politely, jump the gun, etc. That hurts them with business and their reputation. I’ll have you guest post about that soon.

    Relationships, yep! By the way, thanks for letting us use your house when our town was out of water :-) So glad we have built that relationship over the years!

  12. Shara says:

    Leah F – I hear ya. When I blog about small business owners, I always want the small business to come out on top (doing what is best for them). I can’t work miracles for them with sales or traffic and they need to know that and not go into reviews/giveaways with eyes closed. I feel like so many of them have had their eyes closed over this (expecting too much and being told that they CAN expect a lot). It’s time to stop that now and be honest and real about what they really are/are not getting. And then they can choose what to do from there.

    And you are right that businesses should be more selective rather than tossing products to the wind thinking, “Oh, well. Even if the promotion is low, at least I’m getting SEO for it.”

  13. Shara says:

    Hi Sandy: Thanks for coming to comment! I really appreciate it, knowing how busy you are. With a page rank of SIX I think it’s great for folks to see someone like you comment, too. Google has taken traffic away from you even though you have page rank of 6. I think you’d rather have your traffic, eh? LOL

    You are one of those business owners who has always focused on doing things to be helpful to others, kind, thoughtful and useful to the searcher. You have a very large website and many years invested. You have never focused much on SEO but rather, as you say, just doing what is best for your user!

    We’d probably all do well to learn from you.

  14. Michele says:

    Thank you so very much! We have been toying with the idea of having our service reviewed. In fact, we contemplated paying a high ranking site $7,000 to have some of their top affiliated mom bloggers review our service. I won’t be doing that now. You have saved me a bunch of money.

    Thanks again!!!!

  15. admin says:

    Michele – Wow. I can tell you that one of my clients paid another such service $20,000 for lots of ‘high profile’ reviews. In the end, they demanded their money back. The promises were not kept and small business owners simply can’t afford those rates. Big companies can but not the little dudes.

    I’ve always felt this high sense of obligation for what I charge. You know? If I charge you 5 bucks for something and you don’t get much, oh well. Get over it. If you pay me 20k for something, I had better bloody well deliver. LOL

    Out of mere curiosity, did this high ranking site disclose that you’d be getting NoFollow links? Since they were entering into a business relationship with you, did they give you the legal details of what you’d be paying for? Just wondering.

  16. Michele says:

    I sent an email in reply to your question. Thanks again!!

  17. admin says:

    Thanks, Michele. What you were looking into was actually more detailed… marketing research, focus groups, etc. Along with blog reviews. So the cost makes more sense now :-) And perhaps they just don’t know about NoFollow yet? Anyway, thanks for the exchange of info!

  18. Sandy says:


    I do have a question. If bloggers are going after larger companies for giveaways and promotions, and are concerned about their traffic and bottom line, then aren’t they ALSO a small business?

    Why the “we” and “they” mentality? We all work hard, we all need each others support.

    Shara, you are on top of things. Thanks for sharing your research with us.

  19. admin says:

    Hi Sandy – Actually, you are right. Some of the larger bloggers have stated that they refuse to work with small businesses when in fact… they are one.

    Good point.


    And you are right that we need to be supporting each other. I sometimes lose sight of that when I get upset or feel the need to vent. I have to re-center and go back to my happy place. There are lots of great bloggers who really want to help the small business owners. Bola said that she saw some folks like that writing on blog post threads this week and she wrote down their information. I’m sure she will share that with me soon so I can put small biz owners in contact with those bloggers.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason.

  20. This is interesting. I’ve been helping small business with their social media. I’ll have to think of more creative ways to help them.

  21. Shara says:

    Melanie – We’d love to hear any creative ideas you come up with! Feel free to pop back over here and share :-)

  22. I love working with small businesses. Not only because I want to support them, but because I find that they create innovative products that are a great match for my audience.

    But, here’s the rub. If you rewrote your statement like this:

    “This is not to say that we dislike all small businesses, either. Some of the products are really helpful, yes. Some of the giveaways bring traffic, yes….However, this doesn’t really help the blogger’s bottom line nor does it feed their kiddos. “A little of this and a little of that” doesn’t go all that far when all is said and done.”

    I think that’s why some bloggers have a hard time building a career working only with smaller businesses, particularly smaller businesses that want “a lot for a little.” Yes, a small business might have a small marketing budget, but an independent blogger doesn’t have a staff at her disposal to write content for her, either. Her time is valuable, just as the small businesses’ product is valuable.

    I say this as somebody who almost never writes reviews, but does the occasional giveaway or sponsored post. It’s a lot of work, and ‘free stuff’ doesn’t put food on the table. So I think a lot of time it’s not that the blogger is unwilling to work with small businesses, or doesn’t CARE about small businesses, but that she can’t afford to write high-quality content and then promote it in exchange for product or very little money.

    Thanks for the discussion about nofollow/follow, Shara. I’ve always used dofollow links but I *think* because I do so few giveaways/sponsored posts, that I am unlikely to be penalized. I admit the rate at which this stuff changes makes my head spin.

  23. Shara says:

    Hi Meagan. Long time no see! :-) Thanks to stopping by.

    I’d like to clarify, because you make great points and I don’t want anyone thinking I said such things without consideration. I was actually told by a few larger bloggers that they cannot stand working with small businesses (won’t even reply to their emails in fact) – as though they are ‘poison’ to them. They feel that small businesses cannot pay enough, give enough, etc. And they cannot; this is true. They cannot compete with companies that make a revenue of millions/billions per year.

    You are right, though, that we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I have been the blogger in this situation many times over. I’ve gotten countless emails from small biz owners asking for the moon for little or no payment. It’s annoying yes :-) I generally reply & offer cross promotion ideas for start-ups & those on a tight budget. Some reply while others do not.

    Anyway, I think that what this all boils down to is that many small business owners just can’t afford to ship out products & pay on top of that. So reviews/giveaways are perhaps not all that beneficial for them. But if bloggers keep their reviews/giveaways to a minimum, the sponsors certainly benefit more, yes (because the content isn’t swallowed up within hours, etc). So I like your approach. I’m doing the same thing now: only 2 reviews per month. I probably won’t charge anything (just the product) because I make income in other ways. So this is a service I can afford to offer, I guess. Not everyone can. You are right. Thanks for pointing that out.

    On another note, I do tell my clients to be willing to pay for good quality posts by good quality writers such as yourself. There’s a big difference between fast reviews that simply copy an ABOUT page and a real solid review with good promotion to follow.

  24. Thanks for the clarification Shara! I’m really amazed that bloggers would outright say such a thing about small businesses. I have really enjoyed the connections and relationships I’ve been able to form with small business owners via my blog – and am often willing to do a lot more for them for less than I would a big business simply because I really want them to succeed! But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by human nature, eh? Thanks again for the info…and it’s nice to run into you again, too! A fellow blogger linked to this post and I said, hey, I know her!

  25. Shara says:

    Meagan – You’re welcome. Well, I’m glad you saw the post! And I’m very much like you – go above and beyond for what I’ll do for the small biz – wanting them to succeed.

  26. Dawn says:

    Thanks SHARA!! I knew I was with the right person in you!

    Thanks for making some sense out of the entire thing.

  27. Shara says:

    Dawn: Thanks for the nice comment! It’s great to see you around again – I’ve missed ya.


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