Why Sponsored Posts are Not a Monetization Strategy

If you build links or recruit Affiliates, you’ve probably come across a ton of Bloggers that demand money for a sponsored post or ads.  This is a warning sign to me 9 out of 10 times that they have no traffic, do not know what they are doing, they probably use follow me follow you for their social media accounts like Twitter and Pinterest (or worse buy fans and followers), and they rely on uneducated PR firms to let their clients be ripped off.  That isn’t all of them, there are a few that have rightfully built a traffic and sales generator that can drive sales and are worth spending money on.  I did a presentation at Pubcon on how to tell the difference between a legit blog and a fake one the other week and will eventually post it on here or on a large SEO site I guest blog on.  Anyways, if you are a Blogger and you think sponsored posts are good, can help you and are a decent monetization strategy, you have a somewhat good start, but not the right strategy, plan or idea.  We’ll go over sponsored posts with a one time payment for a sponsored post and also signing up with networks that provide constant flows of advertisers with sponsored posts in this post.

Why sponsored posts are usually bad for Blogs and Bloggers

There are a ton of reasons why sponsored posts are bad for you if you are a Blogger. If you rely on them for money, it’s even worse. It is not a long term strategy and can do a lot more harm than it can good. At the same time, not all sponsored posts are bad and can be a nice boost in income and content, but you have to make sure they are the right ones to do. Here are some of the things to think about from a Blogger point of view and a Merchant, PR firm or SEO point of view if you are working with Bloggers.

Short term vs. Long term revenue

Some Bloggers believe that this is a great way to completely monetize their sites.  The problem is that they are doing it as a one off and not measuring any actual metrics.  If they are being smart, they will include adsense, affiliate links and other things within their sponsored posts.  By using multiple ways to monetize your site, if it does rank and build traffic over time, you now have multiple streams of revenue.  Taking a one time payment and “selling a backlink”, which most of them do and is 100% against google’s TOS, is not a revenue model and you will probably never make a lot of money online.  It can be a nice bonus, but is not a real or long term business strategy.

Short vs. Long term relationships and money with sponsored posts

One argument that some Bloggers will make with using Sponsored posts as a monetization strategy is that they sign up with networks and have constant flows of sponsors coming through.  This is also a very flawed strategy for many Bloggers because they do not know how to use this properly.  Here are three reasons why and a way to use this to make passive income for the long run with sponsored posts.

  1. If the Blogger isn’t measuring sales and actual metrics like click throughs per post over a week, month and year they cannot prove they added any value or any return on investment for the sponsored posts and advertisers.  Having this data will help you to approach similar companies and even get them to buy ad space or come to you directly removing the middleman and generating more money per sponsored post.  If you don’t collect this data, and the main reason is you don’t have real traffic or a following, eventually the brands and advertisers will pull and you will have nothing left except a ton of sponsored posts and a dying blog.
  2. If you sign on with these networks and get stuck working with specific brands for sponsored posts, the products might not be relevant for your readership.  Vacuums may seem great for a recipe site because you might assume your visitors are moms with families or houses, but people want recipes and are there for cooking.  What if they have a maid service, what if they don’t have families or what if the vacuum isn’t relevant to their income level.  Give them products from the sponsored posts that are useful and relevant to your blog.  Cookware and cooking products could be more relevant and something to use for sponsored posts.The product can be better for your audience and you can tie it in more easily because it can be used with what you would have been posting anyways.  This keeps people reading your blog and hopefully keeps your audience going.  Also remember that you don’t just write about the product, give a ton of ways to use it and how/why it  is better or worse than others.  Show a video of it being used and compare it to other products.  This adds value and shows why you have agreed to let product xyz do a sponsored post.  Also, if the product from the sponsored post ends up being worse, show it.  It’s not your fault their product sucks, you were honest with your readers and they still got the paid sponsored post that you agreed to.  If they take the money back, you still have a post written that can drive traffic and you can still make money with it.
  3. If you do fall into the “lets start reviewing because I can make money”, you could bore your audience and kill it off.  In the long run, it may be better to do the sponsored posts and instead of just taking the money, set up between 3 and 5 ways to monetize the sponsored post.  Then do your keyword research, write it for your audience and the search engines and use it to grow your site and also generate a long lifespan of traffic and revenue.

Sponsored posts are a once off thing.  However, if you do get paid or have the same advertiser coming back over and over again, you could make a little bit of money.  If you do your research and build in other ways to monetize your traffic, then you can turn this into a passive income post instead of a sponsored post and potentially make more money in the long run.  If you do not have real traffic that can or will not shop, or the products are not relevant for your readers if you do have a real audience, the advertisers will eventually pull, you will cause damage to your readership and all of the hard work you did will have been for nothing since you have to start from scratch.

Content quality for sponsored posts

One thing that is important is the quality and relevance of your content.  If you have a cooking blog, your sponsored posts need to be well researched keyword wise, include all of the important SEO features, internal links and multiple ways to relate to your audience.  The products don’t just have to be cooking products either for the sponsored posts.  Using a cleaning wipe or disinfectant can be good as well.

Have your family or friends make a recipe that is sloppy or eat messy food like fondue while you video tape it and the mess being made.  Show everyone having fun and making a mess.  Once the mess has had time to dry and get stuck to everything, shoot a second video and display the effectiveness of the product that paid for a sponsorship vs. the products you would normally use.  This lets your readers have a real life situation (especially during the holidays) and actually shows a real life example of if the products from the sponsored posts work and how well they actually work.  This is great for sponsored posts.  You can also monetize the videos and sell products using this tool including the products from the sponsored post and competing products as well.

You can add in other forms of monetization like CSE widgets, datafeed product links, etc…  Now you have a quality piece of content that may add value to your current readers, can index well in the search engines if you wrote it properly with them in mind and shows that your blog (including sponsored posts) has awesome content when new visitors find.  Your blog and sponsored posts are also working with you to make money multiple ways instead of a one time payment.

Charging for posts that are actually value adding content instead of being sponsored posts.

One thing many Bloggers forget is that if someone comes to you with quality and non promotional content, like the examples above, don’t try to pitch a sponsored post or request money for sponsored posts.  Make sure there is a difference in your mind and your media kit.  If the post they write is amazing, relevant for your readers and well written for the search engines, take it!

Not only does this create less work for you, but it gives you a post to keep in case you have writer’s block, are swamped and cannot update your site or just want to take a break and not have to write something that day.  Chasing away content that could rank well, add value and drive traffic is one of the dumbest things on earth and shocks me when I see it happen.  By saying you want them to pay for a sponsored post, you might make a little bit of money, but the content will not be as good, will be more promotional instead of value adding since they are spending money and it will hurt you more than help you because you just chased away amazing and well written content.  Think about long term revenue instead of the quick little amount you charge now.  The well written and properly SEO’d post could bring in revenue for years instead of a quick and small one time fee.  If I have to pay for a post, I usually walk away.  If it makes sense to pay for the post, I will not do keyword research and the article will be nowhere near as good or rank even closely as well as a properly written and pure value adding post would have.

Telling Google you are selling links is probably not a smart idea just like buying links because the post is listed as a sponsored post.

One last thing about the majority of blogs I see that sell sponsored posts is that they list you will get a backlink or link back to your site if you buy a sponsored post.  This is 100% not a good practice for Google.  Even if it is no follow.  No matter what, you should not sell backlinks, even as part of a sponsored post.  It is easy to take a screen shot of your site selling this and submit your site to the engines for selling links.  You can take the advertisers using you and report them to the Penguin reporting tool and show the bad SEO neighborhood they are using to rank their site in, which will in turn can hurt your site, your advertisers and your revenue.  It is bad for everyone involved and all stemmed because you thought you should do sponsored posts.

Using sponsored posts as a main way to monetize your site is not smart.  Not only do you set up a huge welcome mat for the search engines to come destroy you, but you can do real damage to your readership if you do not have the right kind or the right type of sponsored posts on your site.  Using sponsored posts as a boost every once in a while can be ok, but make sure you also keep the number of review or sponsored posts to a minimum, keep your sponsored posts relevant to your readers and also make sure you have multiple forms of monetization within the posts so that you can continue to make money in the long run.  The difference between the people who last for a long time and the rest of the 99% of the Bloggers is that they keep everything relevant, use multiple strategies to monetize their sites and don’t fall for the easy sponsored post route.

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