How to Make Money from Sponsored Posts on Your Blog
Sponsored posts are far from the only way to make money from blogging, but they’re definitely one of the more popular ways – as well as being one of the most controversial – so let’s dive right in and take a look at how you can make money from posting sponsored content on your blog.
I say “thorny”: sponsored posts might be popular with bloggers, but they can be really UNpopular with readers – and with search engines, as I’ll discuss shortly. First, though, for anyone wondering what on earth I’m talking about, here’s a quick explanation for you:
Sponsored posts explained
Sponsored posts are, as I’m sure you already know, posts which brands pay a blogger to write and publish. The brand will normally provide the blogger with some kind of brief for the post, which can range from very detailed and specific to incredibly vague, but which will generally include things like the links they want to include, the timescale they expect the post to be published by, and sometimes a specific topic for the post. They may or may not also provide an item of clothing or other product which they want the blogger to feature in the post, and they’ll normally expect it to be promoted on social media, too.
Sponsored posts have long been popular with bloggers, because they can be highly profitable: what you earn from them will differ from brand to brand, and from blogger to blogger (If you have a huge amount of traffic/followers, you can expect to charge more than someone with a much smaller blog), but some brands are willing to pay quite a lot of money to appear on the blogs of their choice, so it can be a good way for a blogger to earn money without selling traditional advertising.
The problem with sponsored posts, of course, is that readers almost universally hate them. Don’t get me wrong: not all readers are vocal about their hatred of sponsored posts, and many are willing to tolerate them, on the understanding that bloggers need to make money somehow, but I don’t think there can be many people out there who say, “Oh, great, another sponsored post: those are my favourite!”
Part of the issue is simply that posts which the blogger has been paid to write can seem unauthentic to the reader: they don’t feel they can trust them, and see their appearance as evidence of the blogger “selling out”. Other times, sponsored posts can be problematic because they seem totally out of place on the blog: they might be on a subject the blogger hasn’t previously shown any interest in (but is now claiming to be ALL ABOUT), or the brand’s requirements regarding the way they’re written might make them totally different to read from the rest of the content, which is off-putting.
Whatever the reason someone has for disliking sponsored posts, the fact is that they are generally disliked by readers, and they’re positively HATED by search engines… as I’ll get onto in a minute, I promise. First, though..
Why Google hates sponsored posts
As I mentioned above, Google hates sponsored posts – and makes no distinction between traditional sponsorship and so-called “gifting” (Which is when a brand sends a blogger an item as a “gift” – the obvious implication being that the blogger is expected to write about the item, or promote it in some other way…) , viewing both as scenarios in which the blogger is essentially “bribed” to write about a brand. To understand WHY Google hates sponsored posts so much, you have to understand why brands pay bloggers to write sponsored posts in the first place. There are basically two reasons for this:
1. In order to sell products – the brand hopes that when the blogger writes about them, and links to them, the blogger’s readers will click through and buy something.
2. In order to improve their search engine rankings.
Point one is pretty self-explanatory. In order to understand point two, you need to know that one of the factors search engines like Google take into account when deciding how to rank websites, is how many links each site has pointing to it, and what the anchor text on that link says. (The “anchor text” is the words you click on to open the link.) So, in theory (and I’m greatly simplifying this), if I want my blog to rank highly in Google for the search term “green midi dress”, the more people who link to me using the words “green midi dress”, the more likely I’ll be to appear in Google’s search results for that term. So, brands pay bloggers to write about them, using specific anchor text: and Google sees that as an attempt to manipulate their search results (Which it is: they want the sites that are most relevant to rank highest, not the ones with the deepest pockets…), and it penalises the brand AND the blogger.
Yes, Google can and might penalise your blog if you accept money (or products) in exchange for writing about a brand: they do it by bumping your blog down the search engine results, or even removing it from the Google index altogether. (One of the best known examples of this was when Interflora managed to get themselves completely banned from Google for placing paid links: whoops!) Obviously, this can be catastrophic for any online business, blogs included: so does this mean that you can’t ever write sponsored posts?
How to accept sponsored posts without upsetting Google
Don’t worry: you CAN still write sponsored posts (or accept gifted items) without getting yourself banned from Google. The way to do it is to simply add the “nofollow” tag to the links within the post. Now, I’m not going to write a tutorial on how to nofollow your links (Because Google have already written one, which you can find here), but basically the “nofollow” tag is a way of saying to Google, “Hey, don’t bother taking this link into account when you’re working out how you’ll rank the site I’m linking to.” By doing this, you can accept sponsored posts and gifted items, without waking up one morning to find yourself on the Google Blacklist.
The downside to this? Well, nofollow is all well and good IF the brand who’s sponsoring you is doing it for reason number 1: to sell products. The problem is that a huge number of brands do it for reason number 2 – to improve their search engine ranking – and a nofollow link is no use to them whatsoever in that respect. (This is why some bloggers don’t disclose sponsored posts or freebies: so that Google doesn’t know the post was sponsored, and therefore doesn’t penalise them for it.)
For that reason, it’s becoming harder and harder for bloggers to make money from sponsored posts. (Which is good news for readers, I guess.) Personally, I only accept sponsored posts or gifted items from brands who are happy to get a “nofollow” link. There are still some of them around, and they’re great to work with, because they understand how the internet works: they’re interested in building a relationship with the bloggers they work with, and they’re not going to ask you to do anything that will get either of you in trouble.
For every brand who’s happy to sponsor my blog on this basis, however, there are many, many more who lose interest as soon as I tell them I’ll be disclosing the sponsorship and nofollowing the links. (Some even specifically ask me NOT to do these things: those brands aren’t ones I’ll ever work with.) And that’s why, as I’ve said in my other posts in this series, if you want to make money from blogging, it’s a good idea to use a few different methods of monetisation, so that if one stops being effective, you don’t completely lose your income.
How to land sponsored posts for your blog
Which bring us – at last – to the point I’m guessing you’ve been waiting for: how, exactly, do you land these sponsored posts, anyway?
Well, different bloggers go about landing sponsored posts in different ways, but here are some of the main ones for you:
- DIRECT APPROACH FROM THE BRAND.
This is probably the hardest way to land brand collaborations, because it essentially relies on the blogger simply waiting for the brand to come to them, as opposed to actively seeking out sponsorships. And how do you get brands to approach you, I hear you ask? By working hard, building the kind of blog that brands will fall over themselves to be featured on, and making sure they notice it. So, pretty straightforward, yeah? Of course. ‘NO’ is the answer to that particular question, but I guess the one benefit of waiting for brands to come to you is that it leaves you free to concentrate on building your online presence, and once you DO have the kind of blog that brands are desperate to work with, the good news is that you should have no shortage of offers from them.
If you want to take a more pro-active approach, however, that brings us to option two:
- CONTACT THE BRAND YOURSELF
A lot of bloggers are understandably shy about approaching brands: they worry that they’re going to look pushy, or that they’ll be rejected – and, of course, that’s always a possibility. Being rejected, however, is literally the worse thing that can happen in this scenario, and it’s hardly the end of the world, is it? On the other hand, if you decide to approach a brand and ask to work with them, they just might say yes – and you’ll never know until you try, will you? So, do a quick Google search to find out how to contact your chosen brand, and go for it: what do you have to loose?
- USE AGENCIES TO CONNECT YOU WITH BRANDS
Finally, another popular way for bloggers to connect with brands is via agencies, which exist for this very reason. There are tons of agencies out there, but I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to share their details with you, for the simple reason that I’m not a member of any of them. Once again, though, Google is your friend here, and should provide a starting point, at least: and, failing that, I find Facebook groups like UK Bloggers an excellent source of information on this kind of thing.
And there you have it: now, go get your very first sponsored post!