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Sponsored Post – Are you getting ripped off?

As marketers and link builders stray from the traditional home page or sidebar text link, their efforts focus on buying a sponsored post from bloggers.  This seems to be the hottest topic in the blogging community at the moment, with offers ranging from free to just barely reasonable.  We are searching for clarity on what to charge, what variations exist and how it can impact our blog.

Sponsored Post Questions

Seriously, someone is getting $600USD for a sponsored post?

Isn’t $80USD reasonable?

They are giving me free content!

It’s a guest post, why should I charge them?

They are willing to write the article with professional writers.

If it’s a sponsored post why am I writing it?

Is this the same as purchasing a text link in an article?

Why would I charge $500 for that?

Are you hearing these same questions asked throughout the blogosphere?  I hear them and I am eager to help provide answers.  The best answers, however come from our collective experiences, so please, add your comments below.

I have provided guidelines on what to charge for a sponsored post in a previous article, so if you are looking for exact price suggestions, go there.

Bullshit offers to Bloggers

Bloggers get these a lot, and we will continue to receive them as long as bloggers accept them.

Most recently several bloggers in the travel industry have received an offer from Only-apartments, a multinational apartments rental company.  They actively sell text links in the travel blogging community.  Their starting offer for a “guest post” (disguised sponsored post) is $80USD.  That’s $80USD on a blog that has a Google PageRank of 4, receives 20,000 unique visits a month, has 7,000 twitter followers, 3,000 Facebook fans and a Klout score of 68.  That’s just wrong.

I get in touch with you because my company really likes your blog and would like to collaborate with you as a guest blogger. Of course we would pay you for this as the posts would have to include one or two links to our SEO page. We can pay up to $80, I know it’s not that much money, but in return, we can offer you travel related, quality content. I write new articles everyday for several travel blogs.  Articles could be weekly, every two weeks or monthly with one or two links. I think both parts gain, my company for promotion, you because of the new, quality content and being paid and I, personally, as a professional.

Some will be frustrated with me for sharing that email, but who are we kidding, this is the majority of crap bloggers receive.  I am not saying I won’t work a deal with Only-apartments, but I am saying I won’t work a deal for $80 or anything close to that.

There are many ideas being thrown about in this email request for a “guest post”.  They are offering to write it, they want 1-2 text links in the article and they would also consider repeat business.

Recurring Blog Revenue

We love recurring revenue and thats where Only-apartments is going to attract us.  For those of us that accept sponsored posts, we know it’s a hard deal to negotiate, agree upon and ultimately close a deal.  Repeat business doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  Repeat business also means you are expected to discount.  How much should you discount?

Blog Advertising Discounts

Discounts are hard to suggest.  It’s offered based on the added value you receive from the deal.  If you struggle to book monthly deals, then recurring business is important to you.  Do you prefer to write the article yourself?  Do you prefer placing contextual links in an article which can be written about anything you choose?  Discounts can be offered if they write the material, if they sell you two articles at one time, if the content includes images and if there is only one text link.

Contextual Links not to be confused with a Sponsored Post

Pricing is very different for placing a single link in an article of your choosing versus a sponsored post.  Be aware of this before negotiating a deal.  A sponsored post typically refers to an entire post being handed over to you with 1-2 text links embedded in the article.  A contextual link is just a text link that is placed in an article instead of the traditional sidebar or footer.  A contextual link shouldn’t exceed three words for it’s anchor text.  Example: holiday package deals.  If a link builder wants “holiday package deals” placed in your next article, then price it differently, price it lower than that of a sponsored post.  Why?  Because it’s not impacting your writing, nor your audience.  You will write as you always have, but you will find a way to include the contextual link.  Some link builders will ask to include a sentence or two at the end of your post with a link in it.  Again, the more content they want, the more you charge.  This should be priced higher than a single contextual link, but lower than a sponsored post.  We will dive deeper into these link methods in posts to come.

What are you and your blog worth?

My feelings are that unless your starving, get what you deserve.  We know the efforts put into blogging are tremendous.  It’s extremely time consuming and pays little to nothing, but we do see potential.  The potential relies on marketing and PR departments gaining an understanding of the benefits working with bloggers for promotion.  It relies on company budgets shifting from traditional media to social media.  It relies on bloggers hanging in there until business changes.  If you aren’t going to starve by saying “No” to a deal that you don’t feel is fair, then say “No”.

About Jason Castellani

Senior Consultant for ATCS Inc. and Principal of Castellani Media LLC., a collection of blogs focused on providing unique content and entertainment. Began blogging after quitting my job and backpacking for 1 year with my wife. I became fascinated with the impact of social media and how social media marketing can help businesses grow. My goal is to continue building consulting services in an effort to remain digital nomads. @JasonCastellani

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15 Responses to Sponsored Post – Are you getting ripped off?

  1. Adam October 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    I can tell you as a link-builder that some of your facts aren’t quite right.

    • Jason October 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

      It’s an opinion based blog, not a fact sheet. Although my Blog Terms page is sort of factual.

      C’mon Adam, tell me what’s bothering you with the above article. If you have knowledge that can benefit both bloggers and link builders and make our dealings more harmonious, please share it. That’s the idea with the blog. I lay out my experiences and opinions and the community comments with their feedback, opinions or experiences.

      Typically in any business deal, each side wants to get their fair share. A link builder wants to purchase a link as cheap as possible and a blogger wants to sell a link as high as possible. That’s business in our world. So, since I am a blogger, I speak for the blogging side.

      Price offers are all over the place today. What does that mean? It means that in the general business of blogging, neither side knows what is reasonable or what value they are getting for a service. This is typical for a new business. But, is blogging new? No, blogging isn’t new, however companies beginning to find new value in blogging is.

      Bloggers need to steer that new business in a direction that makes us sustainable / profitable. How many businesses exist to not be profitable. None. Even not for profit businesses must raise enough money to remain in business. Bloggers have to charge rates that keep them in business, while explaining their value in an effort to inform the industry.

  2. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot October 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    There are so many people trying to “rip off” bloggers but I don’t think many of them even know they’re doing it. Most of the emails seem to be generated automatically anyway. I noticed a huge hike in the number of unsolicited requests for links from my travel blog after it was listed in some big travel blog directories.

    I’ve had my blog two years and only just created a media kit to try to sell advertising and sponsored blog posts. Once I had that every time I got one of those emails I was able to reply with a standard response and my media kit attached.

    I was surprised to sell a sponsored post the very next week.

    It seems like it’s something I should have tried much earlier:)

    • Jason October 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      It’s becoming more popular than the link in the sidebar or homepage and that’s because it a higher quality link, more difficult for Google to identify and penalize and it has the benefit of spreading through the web in all forms of social media. That last point is less significant. There are a lot of automatic emails. Don’t fall for the, “We have been following your blog from the beginning and think your audience would love our product.” That’s crap. I have 2 different blogs and received the same email request on both that appeared personal at first.

  3. Katrina October 5, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    Found this post very timely as I was, just today, exchanging emails with someone from Only-apartments.

    One issue that I don’t see mentioned here (though you did mention it here: http://blogadvertisingrates.com/2011/09/09/what-is-a-sponsored-post/) is how advertisers/sponsors often want their links presented in such a way that they are made to look like the blogger is endorsing the product — without drawing attention to, or even disclosing, the fact that it’s a paid link. The person even sent me a link to a sample site that showed what they were looking for. I looked around the site — no disclosure anywhere. Tempted to leave a comment and quote some FTC guidelines at them now.

    Them: “Ideally we would like to have one post (guest posts or sponsored posts) with 1 or 2 of our links appearing on your site every week and that over an initial period of 6 months.”

    Me: “I’m afraid that would imply an endorsement on my part. I would be happy to include a related link at the end of posts stating that the post was made possible by only-apartments.”

    Them: “The thing is that we are looking to buy links that are incorporated in the body of the main text.”

    Me: “I’m sorry, but inserting links into body text would, as stated, imply endorsement on my part, a betrayal of the trust I’ve established with my readers. If you are interested in any of the options previously presented, please let me know.”

    I didn’t even think to throw the FTC angle in there. Just emailed back with a little postscript and a link to the gov’t website: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

    Anyway, thanks for helping me feel good about making the right choice!

    • Jason October 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

      Disclosure is required by the FTC. A lot of these issues arise because link builders aren’t looking for promotion, they are looking for SEO benefits only. Unfortunately, it’s one of the only ways we as bloggers can make money today. There are other ways, yes, but not many options for the small bloggers. Press trips are typically about promotion and less about SEO. SEO is still there, but it’s more about sharing your experiences of the trip with your audience. The tourism board wants your readers to see what you see in their city, as long as you enjoy it. This is promotion, and this is better, but again, it’s not our primary source of income.

      Even though we call it a “Sponsored Article” it’s really not as much about promotion. That’s why they don’t want a disclosure on it. They are doing the article for SEO only purposes, which means, disclosure could possibly jeopardize that benefit they are willing to pay for. For bloggers, leaving out that disclosure jeopardizes your relationship with your followers. It’s a tough thing to balance.

  4. Steph October 8, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    YEAH! Name and shame! I’ve heard people complaining about Only-Apartments lately too. I agree that $80 is a ripoff for posting any sort of content on your blog. As writers, our content is the most important part of our business! If I’m going to compromise it by working with an advertiser (I don’t accept advertiser content I only write my own with their links/whatever), then I expect to be paid a professional amount.

    • Jason October 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

      That’s a good policy Steph. And now, advertisers seem to prefer just adding a link in our articles, which I actually prefer. That way, the content is unchanged, meaning I was going to write that post anyway.

  5. Michael October 8, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    Jason, you freaking rule. So glad you’re pointing them out. It’s so funny because I got really ranty on them too on email. They offered the same exact thing. I kind of went off a bit on them. It was awesome.

    They offered a really great deal for their widget that I have so I don’t understand why they would try to rip us off on the sponsored post deal. They definitely have the money for it.

    • Jason October 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

      Hey Michael, sorry for your comment sitting in the spam folder so long. My bad. I think we need to point out those that are just so far removed from what is reasonable. This blog is sorta like my rant too.

  6. Roy Marvelous November 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    I was once offered $50 for one. Really?

  7. Joe November 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    I personally offer bloggers a price based on none of the above metrics that you mentioned. That’s not to say that other companies don’t take those into account however!

    I can see why you guys see it as insulting when offered a low price because a blog is a personal thing. But many blogs are seen as business nowadays by SEO companies and now a lot of bloggers too. So if I can save my clients some money and build more links why wouldn’t I.

    I am also in the process of making my own blog. And I’m going to squeeze as much money as I can from SEO companies. Way of the world.

    Drop me an email if you want to chat dude! Would like to get a bloggers perspective : )

  8. Cristina January 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Firstly, I find your blog posts such a resource for bloggers, so a huge thanks to you! I didn’t realize how much my blog could command in sponsored posts & link placement and am thankful that I’m now much more informed and ready to know what is and isn’t so acceptable.

    I’ll be reading your blog with frequency, that’s for sure!!

    Cheers!

  9. Adam Beaumont August 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Good tips here. Feel free to contact me for guest/sponsored posts. Thanks

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