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Is Offering Paid Posts a Bad Idea for Blog Monetization?Published by Kenny Novak • Category: Content Marketing

I am of two minds about paid blogging. On one hand, it’s a good way to get more content from your blog, and it’s a good way to monetize that blog. Done properly, there aren’t any SEO issues to worry about. It’s safe, effective, and lucrative.

On the other hand, very, very few people do it right. I hesitate to promote the concept simply because I know too many people will take the idea, but won’t research how to do it properly. They’ll try to do it on their own, they’ll earn a search penalty, and they’ll complain about it later.

I decided rather than writing about the benefits, what I’ll do is go through what it takes to do it right. You can make the choice yourself whether the effort is worth the benefits.

Full Disclosure

Sponsored Content

The first thing you need to know, to avoid getting in trouble with your sponsored blog posts, is that you need full disclosure. The FTC requires that your sponsored posts have at the very least a line disclosing that they’re sponsored, and by who. All it takes is a byline at the end, something like “This post was sponsored by Brand Name.” It’s like an affiliate disclosure.

In addition to the legal mandate to disclose sponsorship, it’s just a good idea. By being up-front and honest with your readers, you build trust. Or, rather, you avoid a loss of trust. If users buy a product based on your recommendation, only to later discover that your recommendation was sponsored and written by the company who sells the product, they’re going to feel betrayed.

Link Awareness

Googles Stance on Paid Links

The primary reason Google doesn’t like sponsored posts, and the reason so many bloggers end up penalized when trying to use them, is the idea of paid links.

Google’s algorithm thrives on links. They’re the backbones of the Internet. They’re how the search engine knows how widespread and valuable a piece of content is. Because they’re so important, Google has a lot of categories for classifying links, and they’re quick to issue penalties if you abuse some of them.

This is a problem with sponsored posts, because all too often a shady company will try to purchase a place on your blog specifically to get a high quality backlink.

It’s best, when you’re accepting sponsored posts, to either restrict all links to the site owned by the sponsor, or to limit it to one flagged, nofollowed link in the byline of the post.

Content Focus

Another place too many blogs go wrong is in the focus of the content. When you’re running a blog, you have a certain niche and a certain focus. If you’re writing a tech blog, you wouldn’t write a post about the best pizza place in town, would you? Of course not. So you shouldn’t accept a sponsored post from a pizza place promoting their shop.

Always, always make absolutely certain that any post you publish looks like it fits on your blog. It needs to fit the topic, yes, but it should also fit your general opinions. You don’t want to write a whole bunch of posts about how Windows sucks as an operating system, and then run a sponsored post promoting the values of Windows 10. The cognitive disconnect drives away your readers.

Content Quality

Content Quality

In addition to the topic and focus of the posts you publish, you also need to pay attention to the quality of the post. Typos are an immediate rejection. Careless or nonsensical progression through the post is also grounds for rejection, or at the very least, a revision.

The general rule of thumb is to never publish something written by a sponsor if it doesn’t meet the minimum quality standards you have for the posts you write yourself. If it’s not up to par, it’s going to stand out, and if it stands out, more people will realize it’s a sponsored post. People will wonder if you’re selling out, and you’ll lose the trust of your audience.

Pricing

There are a few common algorithms out there designed to tell you what you should charge for a sponsored post. They’re somewhat complex, using figures like your monthly viewership numbers and your Google PageRank, among other things. These are pretty much all bunk and you should ignore them. Heck, PageRank isn’t even being updated any more.

With these algorithms, you might be happy getting $100 for a sponsored blog post. Meanwhile, the advertiser is happy they managed to get a sponsored post for $100, when most other bloggers they find want $1,000. It’s a huge difference, and you’re being scammed when you take such a low rate.

You can read more in depth about sponsored post pricing here, but for now, I’ll just give you some general tips.

  • You can charge more for being more exclusive. If you only have one or two open slots for sponsored posts each month, that scarcity allows you to charge a premium.
  • Any additional exposure – prominent links, associations with influencers, social sharing, and so forth – allow you to charge more for the promotion.
  • If you’re the one writing the sponsored post, and you’re just taking the topic and opinion from the sponsor, you can charge more for doing the work yourself. Don’t forget to get paid in advance if you’re expected to do the work.
  • If you have a highly engaged set of readers, you can charge more because the post is more likely to receive that engagement.

That said, it’s difficult to jump into the deep end. Your first sponsored post isn’t going to net you $1,000, not unless you have a high profile blog. You’ll need to start small and work your way up. I’m just here to tell you that your small start doesn’t need to be the pittance of $30 you might get from some small-time advertiser. Have standards.

Follow the rules, be exclusive, be high quality, and you’ll be able to succeed with sponsored posts. It’s only when you sacrifice or cut corners that the technique stops working.

Written by Kenny Novak

Kenny Novak

Kenny is an SEM and SEO professional. He uses blogging and content marketing as a launchpad for small businesses looking to grow their online presence.

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