The internet is full of businesses looking to sell products and people willing to buy them. It's also full of companies (and scammers) selling knock-offs, setting up legit-looking sites to steal information, or any of a million other ways a consumer can fall victim to a bad actor.
One way people use to protect themselves and one another is product/service reviews. When you're shopping for an item, you read reviews of the item, comparable items, and people selling the items. Through these reviews, you make a decision whether or not to buy the item, and if so, from where.
This leads to the logical next step of businesses working to get more reviews. There are, to put it simply, hundreds of different ways to get reviews. You can email your customers, you can push website-based pop-up CTAs, you can include a card with every product you ship that asks for it, and on and on.
Or, you can just pay for them.
If you're trying to get more reviews for your business or your products – whether the reviews are on your site, on a third-party site like Google, Yelp, or Amazon, or whether they're just sent to you to use as you wish – paying for them is a quick and easy shortcut.
Should you do this? If so, how? Let's dig in.
There are two questions in play here.
The first is, should you pay for reviews? The answer here depends a lot on how you're planning to use them. If you're looking to just buy reviews on Google, Yelp, or what have you, chances are you probably shouldn't. Yes, I know that many, many companies do and that a huge amount of the reviews you read online are fake. That doesn't mean you should stoop to the same level.
The problem is, when you buy reviews, those reviews are caught and removed sooner or later. Sites like Google and Amazon regularly purge accounts and all of the reviews they leave. Other sites not only do that but also leave a report behind showing how many fake reviews you had, which can be worse than just losing the reviews.
On the other hand, you can incentivize reviews. You need a real person to really use your product to leave a review, but you're certainly not prohibited from sending them a review copy or paying them to write the review. Or, rather, whether you are or not depends on the site in question and how obvious you are about it.
For example, sites like Google and Amazon prohibit incentivized reviews. But at the same time, the entire industry of affiliate marketing is nothing if not incentivized reviews. So, it's just fine, depending on how you do it.
The second question, meanwhile, is whether you should pay writers to write reviews. In this case, the answer is a solid maybe, leaning towards yes. Writers can create deep, compelling review content, much better than your average ten-word 5-star Yelp review. Paying an experienced blogger to write and leave a review on their blog is way better, in general, than just another textless 5-star rating on an app store or Amazon.
The trick is figuring out how to use the reviews you pay for. That's what I'm digging into for the rest of this post.
The first option on deck is a combination of affiliate or referral marketing and blogger outreach.
Bloggers are writers, or they hire writers. So, you can approach them with an offer to write a review of your product or service for their blog. You can offer to pay them a flat fee or a percentage of the sales they refer, and you can do it through an official affiliate program or a more unofficial arrangement.
If you want to pay a writer to write this review, you either target a blogger who is a writer, or you pay a writer through a freelance hub or content mill to create the review for you. You then approach the blogger and ask if they'd be willing to publish the review for a fee.
You can also make your review more editorialized and call it sponsored content. Hiring a writer to write a review and then hiring a blogger to post it is among the more expensive options. However, it can also be highly effective, as long as your review is skilled enough and the blogger has an audience that is willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
There are a lot of quirks to writing reviews of this format. Long-form reviews are tricky to create in a way that is both compelling and reasonable. It's far too easy to step over the line into pushy, unbelievable sales.
Another option is to pay writers to write testimonials. It's against various terms of service to post these on sites like Yelp, Google, or Amazon. It's not, however, against any terms to publish them on your own site.
There are all sorts of ways you can pay for testimonials. You can take to the content mills and post projects asking freelancers to write you reviews for a few cents per word. You can find review specialists and hire them. You can even reach out to higher-profile writers in your business niche and offer to work with them directly; send them a review copy (and a payment) and ask them to write their honest opinions for you as a review.
Once you get these reviews, you can then use them on your site. You can use them on landing pages and on your homepage, and you can make a testimonials page to publish them. If the reviews are legit enough, you can even ask the person you had write them to post them on other review sites.
There are also sites out there that allow you to pay them to gather customer reviews and testimonials for you. They're pretty easy to find, though many of them likely just launder back to content mills.
The key with paying for testimonials is that it's only legal if they're real. The FTC has guidelines against fake testimonials as a violation of truth in advertising. So, at the very least, you need to get real people to write reviews based on their own usage of the product. Paying to incentivize those reviews isn't illegal, though if you hide it, you may run afoul of disclosure rules.
There are quite a few different platforms out there that pay people to write reviews, use products and apps, and generally, actually leave feedback on the things they do throughout their lives. You can find whole lists of them when you search for "get paid to leave reviews." You know, just as an example.
One of the most popular is Swagbucks. Now, if you go to Swagbucks, you'll see that the site is entirely focused on getting people to get paid to leave reviews and other engagements. How does this help you? Well, if you go to the bottom and click their Advertise With Us link, you'll find the other side of the coin. Swagbucks is part of a network of services by Prodege. You can pay them, and they will use their tools, their network, and their writers to leave you those reviews.
Swagbucks is far from the only site doing this. The caveat here is that you're not paying writers for reviews directly. Instead, you're basically paying market research and advertising agencies, and they pay other people to leave you reviews. Those people are generally not likely to be writers. Though, if it's just the reviews you care about, you might not be worried if they aren't professional writers on the other end.
Similar to the first item on this list, paying influencers to review your products is the core of what you'd call influencer marketing. You have a few options on how to do this, and it depends on the influencers.
The first option is a private deal. You approach an influencer, ask them if they'd be willing to publish a review of your product and ask them what their terms are. You may just pay them and give them a product and let them do the rest. Or you might produce your own review copy to give them to publish. If you do that, you'd probably want to hire a writer who can mimic the influencer's style unless you're going all-in on your own style with an "account takeover" type of marketing.
The second option is to go through an influencer's agent or representative. Some influencers offload the business management side of their fame to an agent, who will do things like handle the brand deals. You'd have to work with that agent, likely using their terms and processes. You may need to provide your own copy, or you might not.
A third option is to go through a third-party system. On the low end, you have reviewers on Fiverr who will work with influencers. On the high end, you have influencer marketing platforms where you can make private deals with specific influencers. It all varies.
The final option is simply to buy reviews directly. There are all sorts of platforms for doing this, and they can do anything from post directly on your review sites to send you review copy text to use as you wish.
The tricky part here is that a lot of these services are shady and can get you slapped with things like Yelp Consumer Alerts when (not if) they are detected and removed. Different sites have different ways to handle this kind of disclosure, so know what you're risking when you buy reviews. Some sites, like Amazon, don't really do a whole lot more than just remove blatantly false reviews. Others go out of their way to stigmatize brands that buy fake reviews.
That's why I always recommend buying real reviews, which means providing the writers with access to your product to make the review. It's just a lot more genuine that way.
If you're interested in hiring writers to review your products or services, there are a few things you can do to make it more likely to be effective.
The first is to provide the writer with a copy of the product or access to the service in order to write the review. It's fairly obvious when a writer is writing a review based either entirely on other existing reviews (if there are any) or on features pages or assumptions. First-hand, hands-on experience makes a review that much more realistic and compelling.
The second is to ask for honest opinions, not blindly positive feedback. No product is perfect. Different people have different ideas of what they want, what works, and what doesn't. What comes across as simple and intuitive to one person may be arcane and obtuse to another. A realistic review will mention troubles and blemishes; an unrealistic one will not.
Another tip is to limit where you use these reviews. Social media, your own site, your landing pages, and your email newsletters are all good places to use a review you paid a writer for. On the other hand, posting them to review aggregators is less likely to be valuable to you and can potentially even backfire.
Where can you go to find writers to buy reviews? That varies as well. Any of the content mills will allow it. So, too, will most freelance hubs, though it depends on the writer you hire whether or not they want to do reviews. Doing manual outreach to industry bloggers and journalists is also an option, as is posting jobs for review writers on job boards. It's all up to you; anywhere writers can be found, you can likely find people willing to write reviews for a fee.