Companies of all kinds have long given independent bloggers free samples of their products so they can be reviewed (hopefully positively) and increase their audience and ultimately their customer base. As a marketing investment, it’s relatively low-risk for a company confident in its product – the cost of a single unit is nothing when you compare it to the potential impact a positive review from the right blogger could have. Additionally, the blogger will probably include a link back to the website or a product page in their review, which has tangible benefits in terms of SEO, so there’s no real downside.

You would be forgiven for thinking that, as a marketing or PR manager, all you need to do is send out a sample to a blogger and watch the benefits roll in, but there’s a bit more to it than that. In fact, Google has recently released a best practice guide for the bloggers writing the reviews, but these can be flipped around to apply to the company asking them for those reviews.

Nofollow links

Although we cited inbound links as a benefit of product reviews, the reality is that any links the blogger might include in their post back to your website should be nofollow ones. This is because Google’s Webmaster Guidelines favour organic, editorial links – that is, links that haven’t been gained through sponsored posts. Additionally, many blogs may have Trust Flow ratings that aren’t particularly high and that your site might not want to be associated with.

With this in mind, you should ensure you remind bloggers to include nofollow links back to relevant pages – if they don’t know how to do this, send them a link to this For Dummies guide.

Choose the right bloggers

The whole point of this promotion technique is to make as many people as possible aware of what you can provide them with, so it’s important that you choose the right bloggers to spread the word. Ideally they will have a lot of traffic (which you can get an idea of before approaching them with a tool like Alexa) because they cover a niche that is valuable or create content that is unique but relevant.

You can find these bloggers by searching long-tail keywords based around the questions users who might buy your product would ask, or by using Google Alerts to find blogs that employ relevant tags. These are two examples, but there are many more ways of identifying them.

Disclose the relationship

Users are becoming savvier about the type of content they consume – they tend to respond less well to advertorials or sponsored content if it isn’t specified as such, which will make them less likely to become customers. Additionally, some countries have passed legislation that makes the disclosure of sponsorship mandatory.

It’s important, therefore, that you ask a blogger to disclose the fact that they have been sent the product to review for free at the top of the post so that users can see that the content has been sponsored immediately. They’ll then be reassured that the review is impartial because they know the background to it.

Like any marketing technique, giving products away to be reviewed is something that has to be strategised and carefully considered in terms of its execution, otherwise it won’t have the impact you hope and expect to achieve. There’s more to this than getting a blogger’s address – you’ve got to target the right ones in the right way to reach the right audience.

Do you send products to bloggers to be reviewed? Will these guidelines alter your process? Let us know @rocketmill.