If you do SEO, run Affiliate Programs where you recruit content sites or you do PR, you’ve come across crappy little sites with no traffic that try to bill you an arm and a leg for a post. If you’re a Blogger or Webmaster, you’re probably tired of getting spammy PR pitches from half rate marketing companies and PR firms that have definitely not actually read your posts and are sending a generic spammy email. Both of you are tired of the same responses and the same story over and over. That’s why I’m writing this post. It’s for PR companies to know how to approach a site and what a Blogger should know, especially if they charge for a post or a review.
How to charge for blog posts & how to pitch a Blogger
- The main thing to remember is that if you continue to charge for blog posts, you have to prove an actual ROI (return on investment) and not just pretend you have a following or offer “branding”. This starts with a media kit, delivering results and measuring so you have ammo for new advertisers and when you approach companies. If you cannot deliver an ROI, companies remember it and you fall of the face of the Earth with them.
- If you are approaching Bloggers and want them to write about you, in order to get the good ones, you need to write something custom about their blog to let the Blogger know you read their blog, the email is for them only and you are not the 99.9% of companies that spam the same generic message everyday.
Here is how you can add value and help provide an ROI when an advertiser spends money on a blog post as well as how to present yourself to compete and win in a very saturated marketplace.
10 ways to charge for blog posts and survive.
1. Bloggers – Spending money to make sure the advertiser gets the exposure you promise.
If you charge $50 for a post, spend at least $5 on Facebook or $10 on PPC to bring in relevant traffic for the topic. This not only helps them to gain exposure, but it helps to build your site and drive relevant traffic to the post for the advertiser. This helps grow your site and deliver value to your advertiser if you can bring in relevant traffic. Because you are advertising your site, you may also want to talk to your Accountant and see if this is tax deductible. It could be a great way to offset some of the costs of your site. (I have never used this as a tax deduction and cannot give tax advice, please ask a licensed Account or Tax Attorney for actual legal advice.)
2. Bloggers – It’s time to act like a business.
If you are going to charge money for blog posts, not only do you need to be aware that many media companies will report your site as being paid for advertising, but you may also need to declare the income on your taxes. What you don’t want is to have a letter come from the IRS asking for their money. Because you are accepting payments in a business setting, you may owe the IRS money for your income or business. Anything via paypal, check, coming from an Accounting or Finance department, etc… is measurable and trackable. Start keeping track of paid reviews and declaring them since you are earning an income from them. Also, anything $600 and over in a year needs a 1099. If you haven’t been doing them, contact your Accountant now to see what you should do now.
3. Bloggers and Advertisers – Guarantee results or stats within a specific time or give the Advertiser their money or a portion back.
I’ve had a lot of Bloggers get angry, mad or offended when I ask them this at trade shows. I’ll ask if they would be opened to a guest post. The Blogger says it’ll be $XYZ for the post. I ask them to put in writing that if the site doesn’t stay live with the link and post in tact for the next X amount of years then I get my money back. I also let them know that there are tools that check for links to stay in tact and can send an alert if it goes down. This is a big eye opener that they are now businesses and by accepting money and monetizing their sites, they need to start planning for the future of their sites.
Look back to number 2 on this list and if you are a Blogger and be prepared to guarantee that when someone is spending money for a post, a link, exposure, etc… that the post is there for a lengthy period of time, or give people their money back. Tons of Bloggers, especially Mommy Bloggers abandon their sites and let them die off, even if they’ve been paid for posts and been given awesome content. This hurts the company and ruins the reputation of Bloggers for everyone who is serious about Blogging and wants to continue to run their business.
In my opinion, this also means they have breached the agreement and need to reimburse their advertisers who have agreed to exposure for a specific amount of time or who were told the post would last for at least a few years. Unless you buy media space (not backlinks) on a month to month basis, you paid for that post to exist and need to request a specific amount of time or get your money back. One thing you should check on every year is if your links and posts are still live.
If the Blogger gets scared because of a new announcement from Google, etc… they react and pull down things that advertisers paid for. It could be the entire post or just the backlinks. They may also turn do follow into no follow. Other times you paid for the post and then they added in an auto monetization tool that can turn the direct link into an Affiliate link and you now need to pay every time a commissionable item takes place, even though that wasn’t part of your agreement. Many Bloggers know they shouldn’t have been selling posts or links to begin with, and if they did sell links, they should refund the advertisers since they no longer kept up their part of the agreement. The same goes if they decide to use auto monetization tools on the links they were already paid to add.
4. Bloggers (but Advertisers should read this) Create a real media kit.
Showing you have traffic is great. But if it’s only on one or two posts that rank well or have a ton of social traffic coming to them and the rest of your site is dead, your site is useless unless you put everyone’s ads on those high traffic posts. This will destroy you in the search engines and your SEO if you do it so I strongly advise against it.
I did a ton of posts on media kits and I encourage you to build a real, accurate and honest one. It is one of the only ways you will survive with the Blogger bubble starting to fill up and burst. If you cannot drive sales and all your traffic is there for freebies, be honest about it. There is a huge difference between a following that reads your site and a following that only wants freebies and contests. There is also a demand for both types of traffic.
There is also a huge difference in a site that has a couple of pages that get traffic and a site that has a following that comes back every time you post. As long as you can accurately describe what the advertiser will get, where your traffic is and not some bullshit thing like “branding”, then they may be happier to come back again and again and your site will survive when the Blogger bubble bursts.
5. Bloggers and Advertisers – Make sure you know how to properly read your analytics and what you are offering/getting for your fees/spend.
I come across a ton of Bloggers with media kits that are very inaccurate and PR Reps that don’t know the right questions to ask to verify if they can deliver on their traffic, branding and sales. You need to know what everything in your media kit means and that your media kit accurately describes your site.
If you say you have a PRX site, you actually only mean the homepage has a PR of X. The rest of your site doesn’t. If you have 10K visitors, but they are all in one section or category, that makes a huge difference in the value of your homepage and other sections. You also need to think about bots, spiders and other things that can inflate your numbers from what is actually there.
If you say you have a huge social media following, but you follow around the same amount of people on Twitter that follow you, you actually don’t have a solid following in my opinion and chances are that your following cannot deliver traffic or results. If your Facebook page is inactive, then it is pretty useless as well. It doesn’t matter that there are 10K likes. Did you buy them or did they come because they are part of a scheme of people who like everything so their profiles don’t get removed.
PR Reps and Advertisers. If there are not legit shares, the comments on the site are all spam (small phrases or things that appear on every post or across a ton of other blogs) and they don’t have a 5 to 1 or 10 to 1 ratio of followers to following, you should probably have a huge red flag. Make that you measure everything you do with these sites in clicks and sales, as well as the time on your site so that you can let the Blogger know if they have an active or real following, or if they need to rethink their media kits. At the same time, there is always the very small chance that the followers just didn’t like your content. However, that would only be with things like when a Blogger has 10K followers on Twitter, they are real accounts and the Blogger is following 100 and not a follow you follow me scheme. It does happen that your products or service aren’t right for their audience or the pitch wasn’t one that gained their interest.
6. Bloggers – Do not list or promise a backlink on your site.
I did this post about guest blogging not being dead. In order to not be one of the Bloggers or Websites that can get killed by the attack on Guest Blogging, make sure you adhere to best practices with Backlinks. If you don’t trust the site or if someone pays for a post, no follow it by adding rel=”nofollow” within the <a href=”url”> tags. If you honestly like the site, it adds value to your readers and you think the site and page will be around for a long time, then make it a do follow link. If you do sell links, one thing you need to do asap is remove that you sell links from your site and stop saying it publicly. If someone gets mad, a competing blog or an Advertiser, they can easily report your site and send it to the Google missed sites tool for Penguin. If your site gets reviewed and they find you are selling links, your site could get penalized and so could all of the people who bought links from you.
Other companies can find their competitors that bought links from you, report them to the Google Penguin missed sites tool and you’ll find your site ending up on more and more disavow sheets which may put you on Google’s radar which is never good. You should never list that you sell links within posts or your media kits. If the post is high quality and the link will add value to your readers or the post, and you trust the page and feel it will be around for a long time, then link to it with a do follow. If the post and link does not meet that criteria, and you still want to link to it, make it a no follow link.
7. PR Companies and Advertisers – Quit being lazy and make your pitch about the Blogger.
I get a ton of emails coming through this blog about joining Affiliate Programs, allowing a guest post or selling backlinks. I very rarely get one where the person took time to read a couple of my posts and then actually comment about them in the pitch to me. The only ones I respond to are the ones written to me directly, that researched me and my site and made an effort to actually do research before writing to me.
I don’t ever sell links, I don’t allow guest posting unless it is from a friend and the post is something that will benefit my readers and I never guarantee or promise a backlink. If they include a link and it is relevant and adds value to the post, I’ll leave it. If they want a link, I’m always happy to give a link to their social media accounts so they can grow their following that way. Again, the only time you should give a link is if the content quality is awesome, the link adds value to the post and you think the site/page you are linking to will be around for a long time and is trustworthy.
8. Bloggers – Try clean Affiliate Programs to measure and show success.
One thing that some Bloggers don’t realize is that even if they have a small audience, they can be more valuable than someone who has 100K readers going for freebies that don’t shop or spend money. You can use Affiliate Programs to measure clicks per day, week, month, year. You can also measure how many times people come back again by pulling unique clicks vs. total and you can also gather sales data with conversions. Because you have different options for advertisers, you can also break it out for companies for your media kits.
- Niche A at price level 1 results in X clicks and Y sales over Z period of time.
- Niche A at price level 2 results in X clicks and Y sales over Z period of time.
- Niche B which offers services at XYZ price receives X clicks and Y conversions during a time frame of XYZ.
Having this data can give you an amazing advantage over other sites. The trick is finding a clean Affiliate Program (which can be difficult depending on your niche) so you have a good shot at accurate numbers for your media kit. You also don’t want to count Amazon with it because amazon goes by clicks and total products ordered and not clicks to total sales. They may have a report for this, but I haven’t played around enough with it. Clicks to total products will almost always be higher than clicks to sales so it is not an accurate measurement. Also, Amazon is a comparison site that sells products and not a retail store so there is a difference in that as well since the person may shop for multiple things that the Advertiser doesn’t carry and isn’t relevant. However, Amazon is an amazing resource to see what else your customers buy so you know what else you may want to test.
What to look for in an Affiliate Program to make money and measure results for your media kit:
- A clean sales funnel with no leaks.
- They do not have any active Affiliates ranking for or trademark bidding on url + coupons or other branded terms that can poach your traffic. Go to the sites ranking for these terms and see if they have active Affiliate Links by clicking on them and looking for their cookie or tracking code.
- Do not work with programs that work with adware and toolbars. This is another way you can lose commissions depending on which toolbars are in the program.
- Make a test purchase to see if everything tracks well and run random clicks to make sure reporting is working.
- Look through their website demographics and try to see if they match your reader base to try and make sure they are similar. This could help you to have a better chance at converting sales by sending the right demographics to the right store with the products that your demographic shops for.
There are other things to look at, but this is a good starting point and should eliminate most programs since numerous programs do not offer a safe environment for content sites like Bloggers.
9. Bloggers – Ask for a tracking link and results.
If you don’t want to go through all of the trouble above, which it really isn’t much trouble and can actually help you to find a revenue stream for your site, ask the Advertiser for a tracking link and a report at a 1 week, 1 month and 1 year time frame from the post. If they give you -ecommerce data with clicks, visitors, time on site, etc… you now have a really strong pitch for other similar companies, products and niches. This also gives you a ton of solid data to go after getting free products for reviews from other companies and getting new advertisers since you can now help to estimate their ROI on their spend. If you can get data on how many were/are new customers, this can be even more valuable to new brands and some will happily take a loss on the ad spend since these are new customers that can shop multiple times.
What you need to know about charging a fee for a guest post or if you buy guest posts from Bloggers.
The main thing to remember is that if you charge advertisers for posts on your blog, you are now a business and that is potentially considered income by the government. You should probably declare it on your taxes and also make sure that you are able to deliver results for your Advertisers so they come back. If you have a media kit, make sure everything is 100% accurate and that if you cannot deliver what you promise, you are ready to give a refund.
If you are a PR or Advertising rep, remember that having 10K visitors doesn’t mean they have traffic across the entire site or any traffic on a new post. Having 20K followers on Twitter doesn’t mean much if it is all follow me I follow you and if there aren’t shares, comments and likes on their Facebook page, it probably isn’t an active audience. There are exceptions, but they are usually pretty rare.
Blogging is a business and there are a ton of amazing sites that can drive traffic and sales, the trick is knowing when and how to charge for posts, when and where to buy them and how to make sure there is a happy medium that can deliver the results that the Advertiser is paying for. By asking them for tracking links or by promoting clean Affiliate Programs you can help to determine what may work best, measure and gauge your audience, and also have a huge advantage over other sites that don’t have this data.