One question I hear from a number of clients: When a blogger sends us an email asking for product to review, how do we decide whether or not we should work with that blogger?
Basically what they’re asking is this: What criteria should I use to rank bloggers against other bloggers?
I know, I know, there are tools you can use to do this. Agencies have designed proprietary systems around how to measure the influence of bloggers.
But, those tools are typically reserved for organizations with larger PR/marketing budgets. What about the legion of small businesses who don’t have that pot of money. Who don’t employ reputable firms like Edelman Digital, Golin Harris and Fleishman Hillard?
What tools and resources do they have?
Answer: Not much. They’re often left to fend for themselves, actually. So, I thought I’d share a few questions I usually suggest clients start with in evaluating bloggers when they reach out to the company. Below are 15 questions to ask before saying “yes” to that blogger.
What is the blog’s audience?
- Who is the blogger writing for? Make sure the audience syncs up with your key audience. If there’s an “about” page on the blog, that’s usually the best place to learn about the blog’s purpose and audience.
- How much traffic does the blog receive? (Use www.compete.com to get an estimate on monthly unique visitors to the blog; it’s not 100 percent accurate, but it will give you a feel for the traffic the blog receives)
- How many comments does each post receive? This is an indicator of how engaged the readers are in the blog’s content. Balance this against the number of unique visitors the blog receives each month.
What about the blog’s content?
- What is the tone of the blogger’s writing? Is it professional, friendly or casual? Or does it tend to be negative, caustic and “ranting”? The latter could be a red flag.
- What kind of topics does the blog cover? Are they in line with what your target market is likely interested in?
- Are there any frequently covered topics or expressed opinions that you would not want to be associated with? For example, severe political views.
- Is the blog well-written? Or are there typos and a lack of punctuation that might make the content difficult to read and take seriously?
- How frequent are the posts? Is the blog updated on a regular basis, or are there long periods of time without any posts? The latter might mean a less engaged readership.
- Does the blogger do product reviews? Are they generally favorable or negative reviews? Does the blogger disclose whether or not he/she received products for free in exchange for writing about it? Note: Bloggers frequently have “PR friendly” or “PR” tabs on their site that lay out how they work with PR firms or companies.
- Does the blogger do product giveaways? What are the rules for participating? How many people generally participate?
How about the blog’s appearance?
- What does the blog’s design look like? The design tends to be a good indicator of how seriously the blogger is about maintaining the platform.
- Does it appear to be a custom design?
- Does the design look outdated or neglected?
- Is it a crowded, busy design that makes it difficult to navigate the content?
- Design shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but it’s definitely a factor to consider along with audience, content and influence.
What about the blogger’s “influence”?
- Does the blogger write anywhere else, such as other blogs, magazines, newspapers, books, ebooks, and so on? These are all outlets that increase the blogger’s reach and influence online.
- What’s the blogger’s Klout score (check www.klout.com)? Not the end-all-be-all in terms of online influence, but it does give you a number to measure against other bloggers.
- Is the blogger active on social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest? These are all outlets that allow the blog’s posts to travel further.
- How many followers does the blogger have on these various platforms?
- How often does the blogger update on these channels?
- Look for bloggers that have larger Facebook and Twitter communities, at a minimum. Larger communities there give the blogger more opportunity to share content with a wider audience.
- What is the blogger’s tone on the above outlets? Does she take a strong stance on any controversial issues? Does she complain frequently about products and brands? You can identify red flags fairly easily here.
Note: Photo courtesy of Oberazzi via FlickR Creative Commons.