It’s increasingly challenging to monetize your website, blog or social media channel these days. For example, ads are packing far less punch than they used to, thanks to banner blindness. Many users won’t see any element that looks like an ad, even if it isn’t one. And that’s to say nothing of the growing popularity of ad blocking plugins. One solution that’s worth looking into: sponsored content, a.k.a. paid content or sponsored posts. This is a great way to open up a healthy revenue stream while still maintaining control over your website.
- What is sponsored content?
- Finding companies that will pay for sponsored content
- What should you charge for a sponsored post or paid review?
- Legal responsibility: To disclose or not to disclose?
- Best practices for publishing sponsored content
What is sponsored content?
- Sponsored content are articles or posts that a blogger, influencer or website owner is paid to publish on their own sites by companies, businesses, and brands related to that site’s niche or topic.
- Sponsored posts can be written by either the site owner/blogger or by the sponsoring brand itself. If you’re hired to write the post as well as publish it on your site, obviously you’ll charge a higher rate than if you’re essentially just renting space on your site. If you accept guest posts, make sure it’s unique and original content.
- Sponsored content can take a variety of formats, such as paid reviews, summaries of an offer or offers, announcements of a sale, roundup/list posts, product announcements, videos, infographics.
Finding companies that will pay for sponsored content
To find sponsors willing to pay for posts and paid reviews on your website or blog, content marketer and strategist Kristy Ellington recommends that you start with smaller national brands and companies:
Another good source of sponsors for beginners to build up a portfolio and some experience is local businesses. Identify businesses in your niche who are located near you. If they can’t afford to pay you, you may want to explore some form of bartering. Once you have some experience under your belt, look at partnering with marketing and PR agencies. Form a good relationship with one (or a few), do consistently excellent work, and then you’ll get more work from them in the future.
Similarly, sponsorship market sites such as Cooperatize, PayPerPost, Sponsored Reviews, and Tomoson can help you find sponsors by performing a middleman function, leaving you to concentrate on the writing. For additional resources on where and how to pick up more sponsors, A Beautiful Exchange offers a number of tips for working with media companies and pitching companies directly to build a business relationship and make money online.
What should you charge for a sponsored post or paid review?
Finding companies and advertisers is the first step to earn money with sponsored content on your website or blog. However, as even the most cursory Google search will prove, the going rates for sponsored content vary wildly. So how do you begin to know how much to charge for writing and publishing a sponsored post on your own site?
SuccessfulBlogging.com’s post on the subject of fair fees for sponsored blog posts suggests that complicated algorithms may not be the best place to start, especially ones that include PageRank as a factor. Rather, traffic and audience alignment should be bigger concerns for reputable brands (and your writing ability, of course). However, some brands may place more importance on other metrics.
One good place to start is to create a media kit for your website or blog. This is simply a collection of documented information about your blog and its readership, including the major analytical metrics such as unique pageviews and bounce rate. A media kit gives potential advertisers a quick overview of your traffic, reach and audience. Finally, you can get an idea for going rates by looking for posts such as this Babble roundup of 25 bloggers and what they charge per sponsored post. Then adjust for your relative traffic/readership size and your experience level.
Legal responsibility: To disclose or not to disclose?
Publishing paid content to your audience also comes with a legal responsibility. The biggest issue with sponsored posts is whether or not you should disclose that they are, in fact, sponsored content. For U.S. bloggers, the answer is pretty clear: Yes, you should disclose. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission requires it.
If you’re in the U.S. you must include a clear and conspicuous statement with every sponsored post identifying that the post was paid for by the sponsoring brand. While many bloggers and site owners put their disclosures at the end of the post, the disclosures really should be placed at the beginning. The exact wording of the disclosure is up to you. You can even get creative with the disclosures – just don’t make them so creative that they lose all meaning.
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking is an interactive guide that explains more about the disclosure requirement, when it applies, and what sufficient disclosures look like. Even if you’re in a jurisdiction where the FTC rule (or something similar) doesn’t apply to you, it’s still a good idea to let your readers know. Your readers could lose trust in you and your brand if they feel that you’ve misled them, even unintentionally.
Best practices for publishing sponsored content
As you can see, earning money by publishing sponsored content isn’t rocket science. If you want to start a blog and earn money online, there is some more important advice to consider. Here are a few additional tips and best practices for sponsored posts and paid reviews on your own website or blog:
- Add rel=”nofollow” tag to sponsored links. Many agencies (especially SEOs) will try to insist that you do not add this tag to paid links. You can certainly comply, but if you do, charge a lot more and also take into consideration that by doing so, you’re risking your own website’s rankings.
- Time your publication of sponsored content carefully. Releasing five sponsored posts in a row will most likely turn off your readership. Create and use a good editorial calendar to avoid this.
- Tie the post to your audience. What purpose would the post serve from their perspective? What problem does it solve for them? How does it make their lives easier? If the sponsored post doesn’t help your readers, don’t accept that assignment. Always make sure to publish high-quality content that is suitable for your niche.
- Choose your clients and projects wisely. Niche yourself, develop your own expertise, and be brave enough to turn down any inquiry that doesn’t meet your own criteria.
- Add value with high-quality images. This will help justify higher rates for sponsored content across the board. If you can work personal images in – for example you or someone you personally know enjoying the sponsored brand or product – so much the better.
- Keep your tone authentic and relatable. You need to hit the sponsor’s major talking points, but try to do it in an organic way. Entertain and educate at the same time, wherever possible.
Conclusion: Offering sponsored content on your website, blog or social media channel
Monetizing a blog may not be as easy as it used to be, but sponsored posts are still a viable, valid way to add an income stream to your blog or website. Just be smart about the process, follow the best practices, and commit to being transparent with your readers about your sponsored content. What about you? Have you written sponsored posts before? Do you have any tips that we didn’t mention above? Let us know in the comments section below!