Sponsored Posts – a pot of gold or the devils touch?

blogThere’s no denying that blogging can be a great way to make some extra money, supplement an income or even in some cases become your income.  One of the most lucrative ways is through “sponsored posts” – some brands will pay anywhere up to £200 for a sponsored link on your blog.

I have and probably will continue to include some sponsored posts on my blog.  BUT I would only do this for brands I have either used or love. I was really surprised recently when someone commented on a post of mine that “sponsored is exactly that – sponsored. It’s not an endorsement, they pay you to write it”.  Which got me thinking, am I being naive? Should I be totally cashing in? Or should I stick to my integrity?  If I was to post something about a brand on either this blog or Charlie Moo’s I would believe that MY READERS would think I was endorsing that as a product/brand/service.

So as per usual I asked around :-

“I wouldn’t write about anything you don’t believe in JD. I read your blogs on the basis you know what you’re talking about which is what makes you special.” Chelle Davey volunteer for Little Pickles Markets.

Which was my initial concern – and to be honest I will continue to only write about brands I like and trust.

“I think blogging should be about sharing experiences and views, making money from your blog should be from advertising, and selling products linked to what you are blogging. Blogs with the intention of promoting a product which you are paid to write will never be written in the same spirit as a blog you have written because you have genuinely fallen in love with a product or service. Sponsored or endorsed I think blogs should be laser focused on a niche or topic with genuine content. I also think it lessens the reader experience when a blogger is generating content just to get paid and not giving any value… I love reading blogs where content is new, original and where you can tell the writer has enjoyed writing about that topic. Basically, I think there are far better ways to make money from blogs with a really good structure than through writing sponsored posts.”  Dave Gillard Marketing Masterplan

I agree with Dave in some respects, there are other means to use your blog to make money.  I’m not sure that my writing is affected by the “cash value” as I write copy for lots of businesses on subjects that aren’t really my cup of tea but I think I pull it off!

“Most ‘sponsored‘ posts will come with set anchor text that doesn’t make any specific brand mention (to make it more natural). You can write and include this however you want. If you are creative you can slip in the link without it compromising your blog at all.” Gemma Chamberlain blogging over on My Mills Baby 

This is what I tend to do. I wrote a blog about Marriage on Charlie Moo’s with a sponsored link in but I think I hide it well (although I did post a disclosure at the end).

“There’s two types in my eyes ‘Guest posts‘ where they write it and you host it, and ‘sponsored‘ where I write it. I don’t publish anything that isn’t something I dont believe in product/service etc. But when the going gets tough you can’t be as picky it has to be said!”  Hayley Glenister blogging over at Simply Hayley

Hayley is totally right in ensuring that you know what kind of post they are asking for, some requests will make it sound like they are writing a guest post for you and its only on reflection you realise they are asking for a live link to something.  I posted the question both on business and blogging groups – the groups with more mummy/family bloggers said that in times of financial need they would post sponsored posts for brands they have not used or don’t like.  Business bloggers were much more regimented and restricted – I wouldn’t post something just because I needed the money. But this is by no means a reflection on who is right and who is wrong.  I guess we have to remember that our blogs are just that “ours” unless you are breaking the law there is no hard and fast rules – what works for me won’t always work for others and visa versa.

Some top tips for Sponsored Posts.

  1. Establish beforehand exactly what the PR is asking for.  Are you writing it or are they? Are they expecting a follow or no-follow link?  How much are they paying you.
  2. Make sure you have a Disclosure Policy on your website and also that you link to this on posts and state if they are sponsored – be open and honest.

What do you think? Are you a blogger do you make money from sponsored links? Or maybe you are totally against sponsored links.  Are you a reader of blogs and didn’t know this happened? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do leave a comment good or bad!

17 Comments

  1. August 27, 2013 / 3:39 pm

    I have to admit one thing I’d not considered until a Facebook conversation was the possibility that by writing a sponsored post for a company, any company is a type of endorsement. As you say I don’t see a right and wrong as long as people are working within the law as it comes down to personal circumstance and opinion and how can anyone judge that?
    x

  2. Michelle
    August 27, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    I wouldn’t judge anyone, its nice to have a bit of free stuff and we all need to pay the bills but whether I’d carry on reading long term is another matter so I think you’ve got the balance right. A couple of times I’ve read “this is a sponsored post” at the bottom and had to go back and check because I couldn’t spot it! ;0)

  3. August 27, 2013 / 4:32 pm

    Great post. Really balanced. I just think you need to ensure you are providing content for everyone – a nice mix of reviews, commentary, and sponsored posts. This way you don’t put off your readers, keep paying the bills, and hopefully get some nice products to review. Balance is key.

  4. August 27, 2013 / 6:28 pm

    Super post, really thorny issue this for bloggers. As a reader I am concerned that while taking money from a brand that you truly connect with, and would endorse anyway, is a happy compromise, it is a process that can lead down a path of compromising your values. It’s only a small leap to say ‘well that brand is also ok so I’ll take the money’ and ‘wouldn’t be my first choice but it’s good enough’. A blogger going down this path is no longer telling us the truth. I would imagine it takes a lot of integrity to maintain an appropriate balance.

  5. Karen
    August 27, 2013 / 8:21 pm

    Following our conversation on twitter here is my view. I loathe sponsored posts and can spot them a mile away, even ones that are good. I have no time for posts that are irrelevant to the type of blog I am reading, say promoting a loan or gambling company on a parenting blog. This often forces me to stop reading certain blogs where posts like this are all too frequent. Even if the post is relevant, I really don’t like advertising in that way and it wouldn’t sway me to a product or service.

    However, I do find some review posts really useful, in the same way that I would any product review online. This is particularly so if the blogger includes pictures. Its much more real when a blogger has actually tried and tested the product and I know from reviewing myself that we do actually say exactly what we think. No sugar coating.

    Having said all of this, if I really really like a blog/blogger and that person writes good posts alongside the odd sponsored post I continue to stay tuned into that blog and merely flick past the sponsored posts that I am not interested in. There are some bloggers that write so well that they have me hooked, they are the ones that (if you don’t mind me copying your words), define a good blogger from blagger.

    I understand that we all could do with a bit of extra cash in hand, and that’s fine while brands are willing to pay and bloggers are willing to write – but as a consumer, sorry brands you’re wasting your money.

  6. August 27, 2013 / 9:02 pm

    Absolutely agree with most of the comments so far. Karen raises the interesting question about how effective sponsored posts are in achieving the brand’s marketing goals. I wonder if and how they measure results from this type of marketing because as Karen says the vast majority of readers probably filter out the paid for content. As a student of the dark side I might take a look and see what research has been done in this area. I know that the jury is still out on the true value of paid Facebook content.

  7. August 28, 2013 / 6:31 am

    Sponsored posts have never bothered me – if I don’t want to read them I won’t and most are brilliantly written and there are even a couple that I haven’t spotted as they were weaved in so well.
    I have accepted and will continue to accept some sponsored links and work hard to make sure they fit in with my blog. I’ve been asked to do gambling and payday loan links and I’ve refused as I don’t believe in promoting that, but a site wanting to promote children’s beds – why not……in fact I’ve just replaced my kids beds thanks to a couple of posts on that exact subject!
    At a time when we are all struggling to make ends meet, it helps pay for those little bit extras – I certainly won’t rely on it, don’t expect it to be a regular thing and won’t have a problem with anyone who chooses to do one.
    Personally I’d rather have paid ads in my sidebar but I’ve only ever had two and they rarely get offered!

  8. August 29, 2013 / 11:50 am

    I was recently approached to do sponsored posts and after a lot of thought, I decided I couldn’t do it. I am afraid that my blog would no longer be the type of blog I want, but rather filled with product reviews. I have no problem with someone else doing it, but I actually don’t like some blogs because that is all they do, and they look like one long television commercial.

  9. August 31, 2013 / 7:39 pm

    Great and informative post. I do write and publish sponsored posts but always try to stick to brands links I’m happy to promote and generally turn down financial services, gambling etc. Having said that there are times that needs must if the price is right.
    I understand and agree with a lot that Karen has said, however usually where sponsored posts are concerned they just want a link to increase their page rank (it’s not necessarily a promotional exercise) to raise them in Google search. You could write a post saying how much you hate ‘pay day loans’ link to them and still get paid. I haven’t gone down this route but it’s tempting!

    • September 2, 2013 / 6:02 pm

      Thanks everyone such a variety in comments. It’s really interesting to read what both bloggers and readers think.

  10. October 3, 2013 / 9:41 am

    Hi Kara I totally agree with you, There are some very professional and honest people out there using blogger out reach programs, they can be lucrative for bloggers, especially if you want to be a stay at home mum and its hard enough to live and stay at home with children these days. I have been an entrepreneur, started my own business at home and for a while and it did work for for a while. Beside that point, if the marketer does their homework correctly using the right tools, they understand what blogs there are looking for and which ones to approach, without wasting a bloggers time. I have seen a lot of school boy errors i bloggers and from a marketers point of view. Of course not every business can afford to benefit from a sponsored post. BUT, all the big brands do it not to name any, but they all get exposure from somewhere particularly bloggers because they can tap into real and normal readers rather than stats given from the magazine or tv from the exposure of an advert.
    So some blogs will watn to make a living from it some don’t and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

  11. October 3, 2013 / 10:26 am

    Hi all, I love all the comments here. I am a small shop awnings business in Bolton and we have a great old 50 years in business. We have a small reputation helping to serve local businesses. Our customers tell us they prefer to use businesses that a local. I feel the same way, I don’t get any business exposure, but I am always looking to get real honest reviews, its not something i make a habit of. So if anyone would like to make a review for me, I would love it if you would be interested. Maybe i could connect here?

  12. November 4, 2014 / 6:03 pm

    A very thought- provoking post. I don’t have an issue with sponsored posts but I do think to some extent accepting them is an endorsement. I don’t think I would accept a sponsored post from a company or product I wasn’t happy to be linked with or endorse.
    Louise recently posted..The truth about… the 20 week scanMy Profile

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