Once you’ve established your blog in your niche and started to grow your audience, you may be approached by an advertiser or sponsor about doing a sponsored review of a product or service on your blog or website. In order to proceed successfully with a sponsored review, avoiding as many possible hiccups as possible, you’ll need to know a few things about the process. So, we’ve put together this post about the best practices for doing a sponsored review on your blog, including pricing guidelines, tips for negotiating terms and legal requirements.
What is a sponsored review?
A sponsored review is a review of a product or service in return for complimentary use, or monetary compensation. Although reviews are paid for by the sponsor, they should be in no way bias and reflect an honest, fair opinion of the product or service by the user. The sponsor is paying for your time and effort to use the product or service, and write a review for maximum exposure. They can hope for a positive review but it is important to remember that they are not and cannot buy your opinion.
What types of sponsored reviews can you do?
Many professional bloggers have mixed opinions on doing sponsored reviews, especially because most sponsored reviews don’t compensate bloggers in cold hard cash, but instead provide free access to use the product or service.
This is great if you are just starting out and looking for new and interesting products to review, as well as something new to talk about. However full-time, professional bloggers would argue that you can’t pay the bills with ‘freebies’.
It all depends on your blog’s business strategy. If you have set out to make your blog your main source of income, then accepting free gifts may not always be the best way to go about monetizing your blog.
However, working with a high-quality brand to review their product or service is definitely a great way to establish yourself as an influencer in your niche, demonstrating your authority and knowledge on the topic. Working with a high-quality brand is also a great way of establishing credibility among your peers and other future sponsors.
There are plenty of situations where you can use your influence over and access to a niche audience in order to receive products or services free of charge. Professional travel bloggers often help to fund their continued travels by getting compensated stays in hotels or hostels, in return for a comprehensive review on their site. Fashion bloggers may be sent the latest beauty or skincare products to test over the course of a week or more, in return for a ‘before and after’ video or written review. Mom or family bloggers might be asked to try the latest household or baby products for the same reason. All of these scenarios are great for bloggers, as long as you have another reliable way of monetizing your blog.
Guidelines for writing a sponsored review
The most important thing when writing a sponsored review is to be honest about your opinions and open with your readers about the fact that you have been compensated for doing the review.
Maintaining the integrity of your blog and a positive influence in your niche is extremely valuable to your work as a professional blogger.
The FTC regulations in the USA state that you should always disclose any paid content on your blog, including when you have been paid or compensated to write a review. Although these guidelines apply to the USA, it also includes bloggers who use services based in the USA, like WordPress, Google, hosting etc. This will therefore include the majority of bloggers worldwide.
Disclosing sponsored reviews is very important for your blogs integrity. If you consistently publish sponsored content, without disclosing it to your readers, they will become fed-up and probably stop reading your blog. If a reader finds out that you have been paid to write a review, and you haven’t disclosed that information on your blog, they may not trust your opinion anymore, even though you were honest in the review. Losing credibility as a blogger is one of the worst things that can happen, as it takes a long time to build up that trust and reputation again.
Make sure to set guidelines with the sponsor before doing the review, informing them that your review will be unbiased and honest, and that you will be disclosing the fact that you received complimentary use of the product or service to your readers, in accordance with the FTC guidelines.
How much should you charge for a sponsored review?
The difference between a sponsored post and a sponsored review is that you will generally spend a lot more time testing the product or service for a sponsored review, before you even start writing.
A common misconception among bloggers is that a sponsored review is not much work and just a ‘freebie’. This is not the case.
You are not really receiving something for free; you are exchanging services with a sponsor. You need to spend time testing the product, writing a comprehensive review and promoting the post.
The best way to charge for this kind of service is by the hour. Set an hourly rate for your time spent using the product and then charge your normal rate for writing a sponsored post. See our suggestions on what to charge for a sponsored post.
So, our recommendation for what you should charge for a sponsored review is:
Hourly Rate For Testing Product/Service + Standard Rate for Sponsored Post = Rate for Sponsored Review
Of course, the hourly rate may not always be applicable. Use your own judgement to decide a fair price for both you and the sponsor.
What happens if your experience is negative?
When you genuinely like a product and use it on a regular basis, you will be happier to work with that brand and promote their product on your blog. To avoid having to write a negative review about a product or service, try to only work with brands that you like, or products that you would normally use yourself. This maintains a positive vibe on your blog, while also allowing you to impart some of your personal knowledge and experience about the product into the sponsored review.
However, if your experience of the sponsors’ product or service is negative, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting into hot water with them. It is important to be open with the sponsor about your experience of the product. This can be discussed privately via email and a solution to the issue can often be reached this way.
If the experience was so bad that you feel the post would be nothing but a series of complaints, then you can choose to refrain from publishing the post. This is a risk that the sponsor must accept when working with bloggers on sponsored reviews.