February 20, 2022

It’s the sort of problem that even professional reviewers have to deal with. Advertising certain products is your meal ticket (or what you’re hoping will be your meal ticket), and so you want to review some of the products your website centers around. For instance, let’s say you’ve signed up for an affiliate marketing program that emphasizes skiing because you love the sport so much. One great way to fill out your website is with reviews on skiing products, such as the skis themselves, ski wax, glare-cutting goggles, and so on.

However, not every product is going to be great, or good, or even average, and if you’re handling your rating system right, “average” is how your rating system should average out. And if you’re going to tear apart a certain product, then why would that product bother advertising on your website?

The Crux Of The Debate

As I mentioned, this conflict of interest affects even professional reviewers. Hobby magazines were the best places to find information about sports equipment and all sorts of other products, but these magazines were also supported in large part by ads for sports equipment since the manufacturers wanted to target the people buying the magazines. And so to keep that ad money coming, reviewers would often have to swallow their real opinion and write a glowing review for a product that just happened to take out six months’ worth of two-page ads in the magazine.

And now that everything has gone online, the problems are getting worse instead of better. Many websites that would review these products honestly now rely on ad revenue exclusively, so they have no choice but to bend to the paymasters. Major newspapers and popular magazines who could afford to be fair thanks to getting money from all different sources are reducing the number of things they review to save on money. Consumer Reports is still a subscription-exclusive organization, but then to see what they have to say you need a subscription.

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The Case For An Affiliate Shill Job

If you’re an affiliate marketer and you’re writing product reviews, whether it’s for a website, in social media posts, or in email campaigns, there’s a definite urge to shill for the products whose links go out right alongside your reviews. After all, you might not have to deal with the pressure of negotiating an ad buy or dealing with a per-click revenue source, but your income is still directly tied to getting people to click your links and buy the products at the other end.

A shill review doesn’t have to be obvious, after all. You just need to accentuate the positives, deemphasize the negatives, and maybe award the product nine stars out of ten to avoid being too obvious. You’ll be motivating people to buy the product, the product sellers will compensate you for the trouble, and everybody wins. So what’s the harm?

The Case Against A Shill Job

At the end of the day, every reviewer out there has to come to terms with the fact that his or her opinion isn’t the one that really matters – it’s the person who buys the product and tries it out for him or herself. People will read or watch reviews to give them an idea on what to buy since they can’t buy everything, but after that, the public gets a chance to review the product for themselves and make up their own minds.

There are always going to be people who love bad products and hate good products thanks to strange preferences or strange circumstances, but by and large the most trustworthy reviewers are the ones whose opinions line up with the most common responses. And the way you’re most likely to reach this opinion is by being as brutally honest as possible.

A good review lets you know what you’re in for, will tell you a product’s strengths and weaknesses, and will tell you which people will want to buy it and which people will want to avoid it.

This sort of honesty has its own rewards, although it makes for a more long-term investment than shilling does. By reserving your best reviews for the best products instead of your best sponsors, people will be more likely to trust your reviews and will thus keep coming back when they want to learn some more. The fact that an affiliate marketing program only pays out on commission and not per ad or per click gives you the chance to be honest in a way that supposedly independent reviewers can’t.

It’s certainly not what you’d expect from a job with the word “marketer” right there in the title, but it’s true: you’re free to be honest because your first goal is to build an audience who will click on your links and buy products, not to justify why an advertiser is spending money on filling up your website with ads.

So while you may feel tempted to go to bat for the products that pay your bills, honesty is a better long-term investment and the affiliate marketing program can give you the freedom you need to be as honest as you want. The commission-only payments mean that the affiliated companies will only pay you for concrete sales, and while that can result in you taking a longer road to get to a good monthly payment, it also means you’ll have a more solid and trustworthy reputation when you finally get to that point.

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