Let’s talk sponsored posts, shall we? Before we get started, and so you know that I know what I’m talking about, I have been taking sponsored posts for years now. It all started when one little company emailed me asking if they could pay me to write a post about them and put it up on my blog. I accepted, and the rest is history. Well, not really, but over the several years since accepting my first compensation for a post I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also changed my strategy drastically since that first post, and I’ve seen the benefit for it. Today, I want to share some of that benefit with you, and also help you understand the risks and rewards of posting sponsored content.
What is a Sponsored Post?
A sponsored post is a post that you publish on your blog that has been paid for by a company or someone other than yourself. Basically, any post you receive compensation for, or set up a compensation arrangement for, prior to posting.
Types of Sponsored Posts
Sponsored Content Post
Typically a regular sponsored post is when they pay you to write about their product. Sometimes they also provide the product for review, but often they just want you to share their message or ideas with the world. Typically you’ll agree on a price, they’ll tell you what they want mentioned and what links they want included, and then you’ll do your magic and share it with your readers.
An example of one of my sponsored content posts: Woven Name Tapes & Labels
Sponsored Guest Post
Guest posting is a good way to get your voice and message out, and sometimes paying to have it published on a more well known blog can have it’s benefits. Typically in this case you will credit the author and link back to their site, and so I often see it more from other bloggers than companies, but occasionally I do get companies asking to do so.
An example of one of my sponsored guest posts: Product Diversion: The Gross Reality
Silent Sponsored Guest Post
The most common sponsored post I’ve been contacted about lately are these silent guest posts. Basically the content is written by someone else and you publish it on your blog, but you don’t credit the author. It typically looks like it is something you’ve written for your site.
An example of one of my silent sponsored guest posts: How to Plan the Perfect Valentine’s Day
Sponsored Link Post
They pay you to put their link into one of your upcoming, or sometimes an already published post. I’ve had people reach out to me asking me to write a post that doesn’t focus on their product, but just insert their link in there somewhere, and I’ve had people write in and ask if I can insert their link into an existing post.
(I don’t currently have an example of this anymore. Sometimes they pay for a certain time and you remove the link later.)
How Sponsored Posts Can Benefit You
- Money. They pay you, and it’s nice to earn money doing something you love-like blogging. Especially since blogging can come with costs like hosting, advertising, image use, etc. Accepting some sponsorship definitely helps keep the lights on.
- They provide content. Sometimes you are at a lack for content, or sometimes an idea is pitched to you that you just love, and thus, you have more great content for your readers.
How Sponsored Posts Can Hurt You
- Quantity. Posting too much sponsored content, especially one right after the other, can be unappealing for loyal readers.
- Quality. If your posts don’t include actual story line and are just a straight up review or notification-they can read poorly and people tend to skip them. If you’re doing that every day? They wont come back.
- Lack of Originality. If your post is a sponsored guest post that has also been shared multiple places it can definitely be noticed, and people don’t love it when they find the same content in multiple places. Why read yours when they’ve read it so many other times?
How to Get Sponsored Post Opportunities
Contact Companies You Like
This can often be good for you because you know it’s something you can promote on your space because it’s a company you already like and support. Most companies have a “Press” or “Media” section where you can find contact info for them, and a lot of them even list their opportunities for blogger reviews and stuff like that. Most of the time, reaching out to them won’t turn up anything-and they may not even respond to you at all, but sometimes they’ll send you a little something for review or hook you up with whatever company they run their promotions through.
Join a Site Specifically for Sponsored Posts
I’ve belonged to a few sites before where I’d get paid for posts and/or reviews. Here are a few I’ve worked with, and my thoughts on them. Each has their own way of running things. Some of these email you when an opportunity arises
- Tomoson – I actually stopped working with Tomoson because the payout is pretty low, and the struggle to get their merchants to actually follow through with sending you something is real. They also rate you, and if you don’t post on time (whether or not you received the product) your ratings as a promoter can look pretty bad. I got so fed up I quit, but a lot of other people have had good experiences with it.
- Linquia (referral link) – Linquia is a really popular one that I’ve worked with a couple of times. The payout depends entirely on how many clicks the links get and not the actual post. This can mean you can make as much as their maximum price (I’ve seen them listed as anywhere from $60-$100+ typically) or you can make as much as .50 cents. I’ve usually made around $20-$40 on their posts, and for the most part they have their stuff so well laid out that they’re a breeze to work with.
- BlogHer Publishing Network – I’ve not written a sponsored post for the BlogHer/Momentum Publishing Network because to join the program they require exclusivity and I’m not ready to commit to turning away everyone else who wants to work with me or whom I want to promote. However I know lots of fabulous big time bloggers who do work with them, and I do social media promotions with She Knows, a part of the BlogHer setup.
- IZEA (referral link) – I joined IZEA because I used to belong to this really fantastic site for sponsored posts and reviews (I forget what it’s called) that was eventually phased out as IZEA took it over. I used to love that site, and unfortunately I don’t love IZEA as much as it. There are good opportunities in there, but I haven’t had a ton of success getting ones I’m actually interested in so I tend to avoid it these days. However, it is set up really nice, and there is typically a lot on there.
- Social Fabric – From what I can tell (since I only recently signed up), you have the potential to make a LOT with Social Fabric. Most of their opportunities run from $200-$700 payouts. I have not yet completed a “shop” with them, due to the fact that they have a lengthy course you have to go through first (and I’ve not taken the time to complete it) and the competition is high. You have to fill out a form for each opportunity explaining exactly what you’d write about, how you’d execute it, and why you should be considered. I applied for a couple and was never chosen or heard back.
- MassiveSway – This is one created by The Sits Girls if you remember or read them still. I used to follow their site really well, and their paid opportunities pay well, but the competition is super high and I have not actually done a post through them yet.
There are others that I don’t have much experience with yet or have never tried to work with, including:
- Blog Meets Brand
- Mode Media
- Clever Girls Collective (They have a lot of rules for your blog to apply-I did and was declined.)
- Pollinate Media
- Her Campus
- Weave Made Media
Wait for Sponsored Posts to Come to You
Most of my sponsored posts come to me. I recieve 3-5 sponsored post requests a week typically from companies. Some I have worked with before on sponsored posts, and some I have never even heard of. Some I say yes to, and some I turn down, but we’ll get to that later. In any case, you definitely want to make sure that you are not only encouraging companies to reach out to you, but you are making it easy for them to.
How to Encourage Companies to Contact You with Opportunities
- Make contacting you easy. Do you have your email listed on your blog? Make sure you have a distinct “Contact” page where companies can learn how to contact you, and don’t just put up a contact form. Also list your email, or install a button they can click to email you directly. Companies want to be able to reach you without jumping through hoops. I would recommend making sure your contact info is also easily available on any social media you use in conjunction with your blog.
- Make your location known. No, you don’t have to post your address, but some companies are looking for specific people in specific regions-so make sure you note on your About Page or in your author information what area you live in.
- Talk about products you love on social media. Love those shoes you picked up at Target last week? Tag them in your Instagram photo. Like the smoothie place you stopped at this morning? Shout out to them on Twitter. Once companies know you’re open to giving out the love, they’re more likely to reach out to you. Brands seriously do keep an eye on social media-they’ll notice.
- Include the sponsored post option in your sponsorship/advertise/work with me section. I not only mention several times that I accept sponsored posts in my Work With Me page but I also have a way to purchase one directly on my Advertising page. A lot of the time companies reach out to me by email because they’d rather pay another way, but it’s good for them to know that it is something I clearly offer.
How to Make Yourself Appealing to Companies
You want want companies to consider you for sponsored post opportunities, whether it’s because they reach out to you, you to them, or because you belong to a site where you apply. Here are a few things to consider if you hope to be chosen for these paid opportunities.
A Few Things to Check if You Want to Receive Sponsored Opportunities
Your Blog Design
Take a moment and look at your blog design. How does it look? Do you have a clear, concise, and inviting design? Does it look professional and clean? Can you clearly read the words in your posts without straining? Companies want to make sure that their brand will be aligned with not only appealing sites, but professional looking ones too. If you need ideas on how to make your site better in the design department, check out my post on blog design tips.
Your Previous Posts
Companies are going to get an idea of the way you’ll write about them from the other posts currently on your blog. Make sure all of your posts are cleaned up and attractive looking, and that you’re using good grammar and organizational skills in the layout. This is especially true if you’re writing about a brand or product-they want to see how you’ll write about them. Keep examples of your best work on hand in case they ask for it too!
Your Blog’s Searchability
SEO is HUGE right now, and a lot of the time a blog well set up for SEO is going to get preferential treatment. This means making sure your photos are all tagged with titles and alt tags, your links all work and are concise, and you have active keywords working for you on your blog. I’ll admit, SEO is still something I have a lot of learning to do with (which is why I recently enrolled in a course on it and use the SEOpp keyword tool to help me out), but luckily using my Yoast SEO plugin with WordPress has been a huge help. I’ve actually considered checking out seo services for some help too.
Do you have analytics set up on your site? If not, that is definitely working against you. Companies want real proof of the kind of traffic you receive-things like page views, unique visitors, time spent on your site, etc. You can’t guess at these things, so using a product like Google Analytics (which is an industry standard these days) will calculate it for you and provide you print outs you can share with potential sponsors.
Your Social Media Channels
If you don’t have active social media channels set up for your blog, you’re missing a huge market. Not only is it a great way to interact with your followers, but it’s one of the best way for brands and people to find you. Make sure they’re all clearly branded to match your blog, include your contact information, and that you’re using them both actively and professionally. Don’t complain, use terrible languag, or bash people. Be upbeat, use proper grammar and spelling, and make sure your voice shines through.
How to Know if A Sponsored Post is the Right Fit
This is a big one, and unfortunately not enough people are choosy enough about the sponsored posts they accept. Trust me, I can say this because I used to be one of them. I was so darn thrilled to be offered money to post on this little blog of mine that I just readily accepted payment. But here’s the thing-your space is valuable and your readers expect you to treat them to quality work.
Don’t just accept every opportunity that comes your way. Be picky. This not only shows brands that you they’re special when you work with them, but it shows your readers (who let’s face it, are the whole reason you’re receiving these opportunities in the first place) that you value the time they’re taking to read your posts.
A Few Things to Ask Yourself Before Accepting a Sponsored Post
Would I actually support this product?
If the product, service, or web page that you’re linking to or talking about isn’t something you’d actively use yourself and recommend to your friends, why would you recommend it here on the blog? If you don’t love the product and you say you do-you’re faking it-and readers can always tell. Your work is sloppy, your voice doesn’t shine through, and in turn you don’t get people excited about it. So it’s really best not only for you and your readers, but the company itself, that you turn it down.
How much are they paying?
Definitely work out how much money they are going to pay you before accepting the opportunity. Like I said before, your space is valuable. Value yourself, your blog, and your readers by asking what you’re worth.
What do they want from me?
Get a clear understanding of what the company wants before agreeing to the post. If they want you to promote their product and never promote a competitor ever in the future of your blog, is it worth it? If they want you to lie about their product, not disclose that you received compensation (which can be a huge no no-see why coming up), or do something that feels sketchy to you-turn it down! Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough that you should trust your gut when it comes to sponsored opportunities or working with companies.
The title of this section just about sums it up-disclosure is mandatory. This is not only just for the benefit of your readers, but it’s required of you by FTC (the Federal Trade Commission) guidelines. You can be fined heavily if you’re caught not disclosing that you have received or may receive compensation for that promotion. I always make sure to note where posts are sponsored, or if they are affiliate links, because it not only gives my readers a clear understanding of what I’m saying-but because I really don’t want to get my butt taken to court.
If you asked me to count how many times a company asked me to promote a post without acknowledging that it was sponsored or affiliate, I couldn’t. It’s unfortunately been too many times, and I always try to warn the companies that they could get a hefty fine too for soliciting such a thing-but that doesn’t stop them. In fact, just this week I posted a post with a sponsored link in it and the company emailed me to ask that I remove my disclosure about the affiliate link-I told them exactly why I could not. They opted to have me remove the link entirely even though I notified them that it was necessary.
Writing Sponsored Posts that People Want to Read – What Works
- Telling a story. People want to be engaged-even if a post is promoting something they’re not interested in, if you can tell a compelling story and get them involved in what you’re writing, they’re more likely to consider the product or at least remember it to tell someone about it if the opportunity arises. This is how you become a good influencer.
- Sharing personal anecdotes. Don’t just write a story about the product, write a story that shows who you are and allows your readers to not only connect with what you’re promoting, but you-the author-the voice behind the post.
- Promoting products/services/companies you feel strongly about. Whether you’re sharing them on your own, linking to them as an affiliate, or promoting them because they asked-make sure you’re sharing your true feelings in a way that shows your readers that you’re passionate about it.
- Sharing your promoted posts. Don’t hesitate to share these posts on your social media or in Facebook groups for blog promotion. That’s the best way to show real support and spread the word not only about your post, but the product in question.
- Big beautiful photos. Seriously, a picture is worth a thousand words and your photos are going to be an intricate part of your post. The post should be totally sharable to Pinterest and other social media, and it should be bright and clear. Your images really give one of the biggest impressions about your professionalism and creative style. I wrote about good photos in another Better Your Blog post about sizing and positioning photos.
Work for Free? NO WAY.
Oh man, along with people expecting me to not disclose what is legally required to be disclosed, I get countless emails daily asking me to promote their product for free. If you’re a blogger at any level, it is likely you’ve seen a few of these too. They’re not fun to receive, and they’re not fun to turn down, but it’s better than getting roped into some kind of scam that doesn’t benefit you in any way. I will never understand why these companies, who are getting paid for their time, expect you to do a job for them with no compensation. That’s not okay.
What Requests for Free Promotion Look Like
Sometimes these look like blatant requests for free work, but usually they are spun to look like they’ll benefit you in some way-even if they won’t. Knowing how to recognize good and bad opportunities is really important.
Examples of Bad Sponsored Opportunities
Example: “I see that you wrote about [insert previous post topic], and I was wondering if you could mention my company there?”
Why this is bad: They don’t want to pay you to promote their company, and they want you to change your already carefully constructed post that had nothing to do with them in the first place. #byefelipe
Example: “We here at [company/organization name] are promoting [event] and we want you to be a part of it! Write up a post talking about [your favorite things/what you would do if/etc.] and link to our company, and we’ll share our favorites on our social media channel!”
Why this is bad: Not only are they not offering to pay you anything, but they’re only offering you the chance at a social media share. They’re not even offering to actually promote you anywhere. The worst part about these ones is they almost always come from some huge company that could definitely afford to pay you for your time. Just say no.
It all comes right back to valuing yourself and knowing your worth. You’re worth more than they are valuing you at, and you shouldn’t be afraid to state that.
How to Handle Requests for Free Promotion
This is tricky, for reasons which include not wanting to offend companies that might come back with actual paid opportunities. Some of these people might not actually realize what they’re doing is not great. I think the majority do know they’re offering you nothing in return for your work, but some may actually be naive about what kind of work it takes to run a blog, write for it, and promote it. This blog is a full-time job that I balance with another full-time job, three other small part time blogs, volunteer work, and part time college.
Responses I Use When Asked to Write Free Sponsored Posts
“Thank you for reaching out to me. I definitely do accept sponsored posts and I love working with brands like yours! If you’d like to purchase an opportunity on my site, please check out my advertising page at mysocalledchaos.com/advertise for information and prices. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, I look forward to working with you!”
A few times, that has actually resulted in a response that is like “I can budget [x amount of money that may or may not be what I’m asking] for a sponsored post on your site as long as it includes [this, this, and this], will that work?” I always try to work with brands to fit their budget and what I need if they are respectful and willing to work with me like this.
Most of the time they just write back to inform me that they are not paying for this current promotion, but that they’ll keep me in mind for future paid opportunities. It is a great way to keep the lines of communication open between you and the company, and remain in good standing with their media department.
“I apologize, but due to a full content calendar and the costs of upkeep on my site which I run as a business, I cannot promote your [product/service/goods/message/etc.] at this time. Thank you for reaching out to me, and if you have any promotional opportunities arise in the future with fair compensation I’d love to be considered.”
Again, this one is polite and it gets the message across clearly that I run my blog as a business and I want them to treat it that way. In business you don’t work for free, or if you do-you’re doing it wrong, so why should they expect this to be different? It also helps inform them of what running a blog may entail, and it shows that I’m not hurting for content and sponsorship.
I’ll admit, there have been a few people that respond to these and just don’t get it-and I want nothing more than to be blunt and explain just why I’m offended that they would not want to pay me my value-but most of the time I just stop responding. There’s no need to keep trying to explain it if they’re not getting it in polite answers-years of working in customer service has taught me this!
Have a question about Sponsored Posts?
Leave your questions in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do for you.
The Better Your Blog Series is a series of posts written by myself, Angie of My So-Called Chaos, from my own personal experience as a long-time blogger, small-business owner, and as someone who’s worked with technology and customer service for many many years. They are written with the intent of sharing the knowledge I’ve acquired through years of practice and education (both self-taught and school-taught) with others in the blogging community.
In this collection of posts you’ll not only find tips for maintaining your blog, but also for anything that goes along with being a blogger and/or small business owner-like design tips and tutorials, social media, tools, and more.
The posts in this series are constantly being updated to make sure they stay current, and the series is constantly being added to. Please contact me if there’s something you’d like to learn.