Over 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)