How to continue to get freebies & giveaways when the bubble bursts

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I was talking with some people in a large bloggers group on Facebook and one thing that I warned about was the bubble bursting on your site getting free giveaways and products for review if you don’t start planning now.  Right now you see tons of companies doing giveaways, reviews and giving free products for bloggers to try out at shows like BlogHer or PR companies reaching out to individual sites.  They pass them out to everyone, even people with no readership or even to sites that aren’t relevant to their products or clients.  Just like other sites and companies in the past who had a ton of power, Bloggers are starting to peak and will be on a downfall now, unless they get smart and shows like BlogHer start bringing in speakers who have been through this to provide real advice to people (Not that they don’t have some quality speakers already, they should just start to bring in some new ones who can give solid and relevant information that is currently lacking from the show).  Think about Wikis, Directories, Forums and other groups that had all of the power for years.

Eventually they got greedy and the ones who couldn’t produce a positive ROI ruined it for almost everyone else.  They also got dinged by the search engines for poor quality and lost their highest traffic posts, categories, etc…  You now have bloggers with a PR of 0 or 1, maybe 2 or 3 visitors a day and no shares, likes or comments, except from themselves, spam bots or friendly and family making insane demands and requests.  These sites are demanding $100 to $500 for a post and also a free product.  They also get mad when you tell them no and some flip out on you.  This is what is eventually going to cause the downfall of many of the product and Mommy Bloggers as a power source.  If you want to survive the burst when it happens, here is what I would recommend as a way to begin helping your sites last when everyone else falls.

How much money do I get back with every $ I spend. My goal is a 3:1 ratio when doing a media buy.

Think about all of the directories and other places people bought ad space at for sales and backlinks.  It was “branding” to be listed in them, a great backlink and all of this other stuff.  Eventually because directories sold the space and links they got dinged in the search engines and the sites that were focusing on directories for SEO also got penalized.  Guess what, mommy bloggers and product bloggers are openly saying they are selling links just like these did.  Also, because many of them don’t send a return on investment when you list with them, companies will start to ask things like “How much did we get back for what we spent?”  Using a bullsh*t statement like “It’s branding you get with my site” only works if you have a ton of activity.  You need to be able to provide a return on investment greater than what the company spent.  3:1 or higher is what I usually look for.

How many legit and non incentivized (giveaways, etc…) newsletter sign ups do I get from the buy so I can market to them and generate sales later on.

Besides direct sales from the post, there are other metrics that can be used to measure a positive ROI.  Did the people who visited come and sign up for a newsletter where they purchased later?  Did they come back again later on and buy a product from you and was the blog the initial touch point in the process?  How many active twitter followers and Facebook fans liked or followed you and did they then shop afterwards?  These are things you can use to help show the value of your site and continue to get free giveaways when other sites start to fall.  You will need to learn how to track all of this information though.

How long do the customers from the media buy stay for and when do I break even.  After 2 months, 5 years, etc…

One site that gives a ton of sales up front may never send a repeat customer, but one that drives a few sends customers that always come back and over a longer period spend a lot more and are actually more valuable.  If you can get a pixel placed or use a trackable link (which won’t count for SEO usually), you can keep in contact with the advertiser and see the average life of the customer and how much they spend over time.  This is an amazing metric that can easily help you to justify why an advertiser should go with your site instead of a giant one.  The giant one may just have people who want to win a contest, but your smaller audience actually shop and stay loyal.  This means you are more valuable than the big one.

How many comments (not just responses to giveaways) does every post have on average. How many non contest tweets, facebook posts, pins, etc… I compare this to non giveaway and promo posts.

One thing to keep track of is how many actual comments you get.  This does not mean people saying I would love to win the contest or how they would use the product.  It’s actual people who come back, read and are actively participating on your site.  These are real readers who trust you and may trust your opinions enough to actually shop and buy a product when they need it.  You can also consider non incentivized shares, tweets, pins and other things. If they are on a giveaway or incentivized, it doesn’t count and will hurt you instead of help you when an advertiser expects to see you readers sharing, but because they aren’t incentivized, they don’t and the advertiser pulls you from their PR list.

How big is your newsletter list, actual FB following, Twitter following (excluding follow me I’ll follow you, etc…)

One thing you should always include is how large your newsletter list is (with your open rate and click through rate), how many actual Facebook fans you have, Twitter or Pinterest followers you have, etc…  These can all be solid indicators of a successful campaign that can turn a positive ROI for your advertisers.

As advertisers get smarter, having a PR5 sites won’t matter. 

Your homepage may be PR5, but if the link coming from their site to yours isn’t on that page, chances are the PR is going to be a lot lower and less valuable.  If you are going to use something as a metric for why they should work with you, you need to know what that actual metric is.  Find out what the average PR of your site is on similar posts and how long it takes to reach that PR.  If you are promising a PR5 backlink or mentioning it, you need to give them the link from your homepage, not a new post that has a lower PR.  Metrics are tricky and if you don’t give advertisers what you are telling them, they could come back and demand you pay them back the money because you didn’t give them an actual PR5 link.

If a PR company or marketing firm is offering content to you, and actually read your site or seems real, why not take it and not charge a fee? 

Bloggers get a ton of requests for guest posts that are usually really crappy pitches or the quality is really bad.  However, sometimes someone will write to you and pitch you after actually looking at your website.  Instead of being excited that someone is going to give you high quality value adding copy for your blog, many of them say that it is a marketing piece and you have to pay their fee.  If the post is non promotional and actually really good, why not take it and give them a link for writing it for you?  Quality content is one of the most valuable things you can have for your site and when someone is going to create it for you, you should be happy if it really is high quality.  They are doing you a favor and you shouldn’t be greedy and demand a fee.  They are helping you and adding value to your blog and your readers.  This is another thing that took out many sites in the past and will eventually take out the power that many bloggers have right now because of the name mommy blogger or product blogger.

If your site is just giveaways and reviews, you are not helping with SEO. 

SEO is heavily based on relevance and quality.  If your site is just reviews and giveaways, it probably isn’t very relevant to the advertiser.  This lack of relevance can potentially hurt their SEO and your backlinks will count for less because the search engines know you sell links.  Even if you do reviews and giveaways, make sure that you have more value adding copy than reviews and also that you are extremely relevant for your niche.  This is how you can offer SEO value in your media kit for advertisers and keep relevant advertisers giving you free products for reviews and giveaways.

Tons of types of sites have had a ton of power in the past and each one of them peaked and died off.  The larger blogs will probably always exist, but for the rest of them, not having sales data and being able to provide an actual return on the advertiser’s investment will end it for you.  Because of this you should start collecting data now, putting together a media kit and showing how your site adds actual value and not just a fake thing like branding.  Branding is something that lasts for a long time, your blog post only helps for the life of it being on your homepage and until your reader base has seen it.  Unless your post actually ranks for a high traffic term and your review is amazing, branding is a fake measurement and one that you should avoid as there is no actual ROI on it if you aren’t collecting data and always in the attribution line of the sales process.  In order to keep getting giveaways and freebies from advertisers, put together your media kit and prove to them that you can add value.  That is how you will be able to continue to survive as other bloggers start to fall when the bubble bursts.

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