Friday, January 14, 2011

Avoiding marketing schemes is its own reward

It's time once again for bloggers everywhere to participate in a clever marketing scheme known, a bit ungrammatically, as the "Blogger's Choice Awards."

What do I mean? Well, a blogger wrote this about them back in 2007:

I was just cruising the blog over at Pay-Per-Post and what did I see? I saw that the whole Blogger's Choice Awards is a Pay-Per-Post scam!

The thing to understand about Blogging "Awards" is that all of the benefit goes to the award giver and not the award getter. Why is this you ask?

Back Links

See, when you post the graphic and link on your site you are providing a back link to the site that "gives" you the award. This was very popular in the late 90's when everyone won an award for something. All you had to do was nominate yourself and you were practically guaranteed to win an award.

By getting all of these back links the site that gave out the awards would gain tons of search juice and importance on the web.

In other words, the company hosting the Blogger's Choice Awards, which used to be called PayPerPost and is now known as Izea, gets most of the benefits from the awards in terms of site usage and advertising. When people nominate blogs--and anybody can nominate any blog for any award--the blogger of the nominated blog gets all these handy "Nominee!" buttons to place on his or her blog or website. All of that translates into a lot of back linking for the award site itself.

The awards are essentially a glorified popularity contest, as most blog awards are; there's no actual data involved (e.g., sites aren't rated on quantifiable things like number of readers or quality of posts), and there's no real competition other than to see which blogger can strong-arm the most of his or her friends/readers/followers to go and vote. Worse, though, the site requires those who wish to vote for their favorite blogs to create an account, giving PayPerPost/Izea their names, email addresses, country, city, state and postal code and date of birth--and nowhere on this account creation page is it stated that this information is being kept private or not being sold to third parties, which is something I always look for before I give anybody that much private information.

And who is Izea/PayPerPost? They are a site which exists to facilitate agreements between bloggers and companies whereby the bloggers will be paid to review the company's product or service. Well, theoretically, anyway; there are lots of complaints like this one out there:

At this point I was a little more than peeved that what had started as a “consecutive posts” issue was turned into yet another unrelated issue. The clincher was the fact that my blog had been approved and I was paid for three posts regardless of the Disclosure Policy. Again, I contacted support and stated the fact that if my blog were to have a Disclosure Policy, this should have been addressed at the time of my blog’s approval. [...]

Consequently, the staff at PayPerPost declined both of my posts and cheated me of $60 for two opportunities I had completed due to their own lack of professionalism. Granted, the loss of $60 is not the issue, the issue is that PayPerPost was not responsible for their own mistakes and did not make amends and tried to continuously turn the situation around on me to avoid making a payment.
This is the company that hosts the Blogger's Choice Awards.

Now, I'm sure some bloggers might defend the company; after all, people can follow a link from the award site and check out any nominated blog; the blogs that end up on top of the categories get linked to as that year's "winners," meaning the potential of even more clicks; and everybody understands that it's not a serious award and thus all in good fun. Perhaps that's true. But I tend to shy away from link-baiting situations, let alone from companies who entice promising writers to shill for products instead of pursuing the dream of being paid to write legitimate published essays or articles for established web publications or even print media.

Of course, some bloggers are perfectly comfortable shilling for products, and do so on every page of their blogs not only in peripheral advertisements but in and among their posts as well; for these bloggers, the Blogger's Choice Awards are startlingly suitable.


L. said...

What do you consider "shilling for products?" Do you mean promoting specific goods and services, or just having ads (from Google or AdSense, etc.) on one's blog?

Red Cardigan said...

L., though I don't have any ads for goods/services on my blog I don't really have any problem with bloggers doing that to offset their costs and make a little money (though I've been told that it's a *very* little money, which is one reason I've never bothered).

To me, "shilling" for products means being paid to write a blog post praising Widget X, telling everyone how wonderful Widget X is, etc. while burying the information (or omitting it altogether) that the Widget X company has paid you to write the blog post (or that you've received goods or services for free from the company in exchange for the post, etc.).

The one slight exception I have here is that frequently a person asked to write a book review will receive a copy of the book for free (though it may be an electronic advance copy that isn't even in the final form). But if any other goods or money exchanges hands, or if there is any pressure to write "good" reviews in exchange for being a "regular" reviewer who will continue to receive free books, then I tend to lump that in with the whole "shilling" thing.

Charlotte said...

You know *I* am for sure thanking you for writing this.

Red Cardigan said...

Thanks, Charlotte! :)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Thanks for the heads up-- I think a lot of the bloggers who link to this contests DON'T know it's a scam!

As far as 'shilling' goes-- I've found my Amazon Associates account really helpful. Not for making money (in 2 years, I've never crossed the 5$ threshold-- and you have to hit 5$ before they send $$!), but for being able to easily include cover-shots of the books I like! I know I've turned several people on to new authors that way, and that's a great reward! :)

LarryD said...

Hmmm - you've given me food for thought. Thanks. Might explain why other bloggers don't mention their blog's been nominated.

I'm not sure this is related many of the categories at the Bloggers Choice Awards, a lot of the 'voters' are robo-blogs or spam sites. They even show up in the Religion category.

I've considered this 'contest' just a bit of fun, and never considered the host site. In the interest of keeping my readers safe from disreputable sites and practices, I'm strongly leaning towards removing the links at my blog.

It's not like I would have won anyway. Besides, the Crescat's award contest is a lot more fun! ;-)

Red Cardigan said...

Agreed, Larry! Categories like "Hifreakinlarious" (do I have that right?) totally trump the "Blogger's Choice" thing.

I don't really care much one way or the other about blog awards--but I do dislike third-party link baiting.

The Crescat said...

"Bat Shit Crazy" is also a fun category and one I've never won myself... on my own damn awards!