In our recent survey on how parent bloggers make money from blogging, one in five Tots100 bloggers told us they make money via sponsored posts.
Writing half a dozen sponsored posts a month can represent a significant income to many parent bloggers. But there’s a problem. Google ranks sites in its search results based largely on the number and type of links posting to each website. Something with lots of high quality links (from blogs, for example) will rank higher in search results than other sites.
Obviously, this opens the door to manipulation. Brands can use sponsored posts to effectively buy huge numbers of links and boost their own Google ranking. Naturally, Google doesn’t like this, and has always insisted that paid-for links (such as those found in sponsored posts) should be ‘no-follow’. Sites that don’t comply can be removed from Google results entirely. Recent changes suggest the rules are about to be implemented more strictly. And the result? Chaos.
Bloggers are getting emails asking them to add no-follow tags to links, amend advertising banners, remove content, or add complex new code that restricts how ads are displayed. Ads are being cancelled and pulled. And a worrying number of bloggers tell us they’re now being asked by SEO and PR agencies to write paid-for posts that don’t include any mention of payment. This is a really worrying development. These brands are asking parent bloggers to flout the ASA guidelines on disclosure of commercial content, and asking bloggers to mislead their readers. On every possible level, it’s just shady.
Here at the Tots100, we suspect the days of the sponsored post are coming to an end. Nobody wants to risk losing their Google ranking – blogger or brand – so why take the chance?
If you’re a blogger and asked to write a sponsored post, we would advise you to use a no-follow link. If you choose to use follow links, make sure you’re aware of the risks, and are compensated accordingly. No matter which link you use, always, always ensure your readers aren’t misled into thinking paid-for content is independent. Remember, anyone asking you to be dishonest does not have your best interests at heart – are you sure you want to do business with them? (If you’d like to know more about no-follow links and how to use them, you can download our free guide to making money from your blog)
Our message to brands is – bloggers are a great community and deserving of your respect. Take time to build relationships and generate word of mouth conversations around your client’s brands. We work on lots of fun, engaging campaigns with brands that don’t rely on sponsored content. Don’t ask bloggers to compromise their integrity, to meet your short-term goals. We’re worth more than that.
Have you experienced any of these issues in recent weeks? Have you changed how you blog as a result? Have you got any great tips on keeping income and integrity? Do let us know your suggestions – we’d love to hear them.