There are two recent threads that I found at forums I typically do not cover much on the topic of pay per post reviews. The posts are at HighRankings Forums and at SEO Refugee Forums. I am going to pull in all sources I know of, to give you the perspective of the search engines, advertiser, SEO and the blog writer.
Search Engines View of Pay Per Post Reviews: Earlier this month, I reported at Search Engine Land on Pay Per Post Reviews Acceptable By Some Search Engines where I quote SEOMoz's coverage of a SES Chicago session.
Specifically, Tim Converse from Yahoo starts off saying that "there would be no discount of link value for paid blog material." The rest of the search engines, including Google, represented by Adam Lasnik nodded their heads, according to Rand. Now, this was not just shocking to Rand, I was shocked by the response after Rand told me this on Thursday.
Yes, shocking... would Matt Cutts of Google say something like that. No! And I quote his comment at SEOMoz and at Search Engine Land:
Just to chime in and expand on Adam's comment: Google wants to do a good job of detecting paid links. Paid links that affect search engines (whether paid text links or a paid review) can cause a site to lose trust in Google.
The specific guideline for doing paid reviews or paid links is to make sure that your links don't affect search engines. You can do that via a nofollow attribute on your links, or an internal redirect which goes through a page which is robot.txt'ed out, or several other methods.
So in short, Google doesn't like this model but the other search engines haven't commented much on it. Perhaps because it is not a huge issue right now, in terms of hurting the current state of search relevancy algorithms. They know it can be an issue but currently they cannot do much about links within the main copy of the site, without removing or devaluing trust side-wide, which may be extreme in some cases.
Advertisers View of Pay Per Post Reviews: Bottom line, they want their message, product, or service in the public eye. Be it on a blog, forum, radio, TV, or billboard - they want people to know about what they have. Blogs tend to do a good job spreading this stuff. So a little money to encourage some bloggers to review your product/service can't hurt the advertiser. Unless, they give a poor review for the product or service.
SEOs View of Pay Per Post Reviews: An SEO wants the link, it is a link building strategy, and its one of the best types of links. They do not care if the review is positive or negative, they are perfectly happy with the link. In reality, the more extreme the review (positive or negative) the better off they are. More eyes catch it, more bloggers pick it up and you get free viral links out of it. Adding a nofollow attribute to those links, will make the links worthless.
Bloggers View of Pay Per Post Reviews: Well, a blogger, by nature, writes about items they buy, try out or consider buying. DazzlinDonna puts it well from the blogger's point of view...
Over the years, I've had a ton of people email me and ask me to review some seo tool or something, and most of the time, I would (for free). It gave me something to blog about for one thing, without me having to rack my brain, and it also was of interest to the readers. So I figure I've earned the right to get paid every now and then for a review, and I'll continue to also do free reviews when I want. Either way, I'll state my opinion of the product, good or bad, and money doesn't play into it. I don't mind disclosing the payment, although I have to also agree that it's kinda weird considering all of the celebrity endorsements that have inundated us for decades (as Robert Paulson brought up). But Dave's point is well made. I think (hope) that over the years, my straightforwardness has come through on my blog, and I assume people will know that I'm telling it like it is - paid or not. But I imagine there's probably a million or so bloggers out there who may not have that same level of trust because they just don't care one way or another. So, I can see how it could be useful. If I stumbled upon a blog from someone I didn't have any kind of trust relationship with, I might want to be reassured that the review I'm reading is an honest opinion - paid or not. Of course, who's to say whether I could believe that or not. I dunno. I think the big bru-ha-hah is a little silly, but whatever....
In short, I tend to do a lot of reviews of products I am personally interested in at my personal blog. I also review products I have bought in the past, and I write the good and the bad. I rarely ever nofollow a link, unless I am trying to make a point. A blogger's job sometimes goes unappreciated and for granted. Pay Per Post and ReviewME offers models where, at least, they can review products and services they find interesting and give a fair assessment of those products, while being appreciated ($$$) for it.
In Summary: That is a tough one... Let's look back... E-mail is a great thing, but spammers got to it and make it tough to use sometimes. The Web is a great thing, but spammers got to it (spyware, adware) and make it tough to use sometimes. Search engines are a great thing, but spammers got to it... Blogs are a great thing, but comment spammers got to it, making it tough... Paid blogger reviews are a great thing, but they can and will be used by people with bad intentions. As a blogger, I believe you can judge for yourself if a review is for a link or for a review. It is up to you if you are willing to risk a site-wide trust devaluation by Google or other engines. You are the only one who can judge, but don't let Google scare you - do what you know is right.
FYI - this was not a paid review of anything.