If your website has grown to the point that you’re getting significant traffic and rankings, it’s likely that you’re starting to get requests for sponsored posts. A sponsored post is one where you’re being paid by an outside individual or organization to run a post on your site that promotes their site or product. There’s nothing wrong with a sponsored post, either from a standpoint of SEO or from that of ethics, but you’ve got to do it right.
One of my other sites has really been doing well in the rankings lately, and as a result, I’ve started getting requests for sponsored posts on an almost weekly basis. Up to this point, I’ve ignored the occasional sponsored post request, but they are coming so frequently now that I decided that it was time to actually craft an official policy for the site. It also seemed like it would be a great time to explain that policy over here at Branding Juggler.
This one couldn’t be much simpler, but you’ve got to put a statement somewhere on the post that clearly says: “This is a sponsored post.” I would do so at the beginning of the post, although I suppose you could put it at the bottom. This is only fair to the visitors of your website, and while I’m not a lawyer, I’d be shocked if you’re not legally obligated to disclose this information. They won’t be surprised to see it. We’ve all seen those sponsored articles in magazines that are quasi-news/quasi-advertisement. When they’re well done, I’ve read quite a few of them.
Links Must Be “No-Followed”
This one is an absolute must from Google’s vantage point. If you don’t add a “rel=nofollow” tag to the link in the sponsor’s post, then you might as well have sold them a link. As we all know, Google considers buying and selling links the ultimate black hat SEO. If you get caught, they’ll nuke your site right out out of the index. Don’t ever consider compromising on this.
This one could be arguable, but I wouldn’t agree to take on a sponsored post if it’s a duplicate of something that the sponsor had posted elsewhere on the web. It is easy enough to check with a tool like Copyscape. Yeah, you might be ok if it’s just a single page of duplicate content, but where do you draw the line? Two pages, four, ten? Personally, I wouldn’t risk it.
Clear, Easy to Understand English
I don’t want to overgeneralize, but it is clear that a significant percentage of the sponsors I hear from are writing to me from overseas. If I cannot understand the two or three sentences they are sending me to make the request, I’m a little skeptical that they’ll be able to write a grammatically correct post free of spelling errors. I’m not going to edit their post for them, so I would insist that they pay someone to proofread it.
Set Your Rate High
The site I’m setting a rate for fluctuates between 15,000 and 30,000 unique visitors per month throughout the year. Depending on the Page Rank update, it’s between PR4 and PR5. I wouldn’t accept less than $100 for a sponsored post on my site, and that’s a site with a lot of “one off” traffic, meaning it has a fairly high bounce rate due to a high level of organic search engine traffic. That’s a site in an educational niche. In a niche like finance, insurance, etc, you might be able to command a rate that is much higher.
Do I Hate Sponsored Posts?
No, I don’t, but frankly, I have no problem at all with potential sponsors reading my policies and walking away. The income from a sponsored post here and there is nothing more than gravy. It does nothing to build my brand or add long term value to my site. All I’m saying is that before you open yourself up to do a lot of sponsored posts, I’d set your standards high because unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there that will try to come in just at whatever level you set the bar. There’s no reason that sponsored posts should hurt you from an SEO perspective, but you need to be careful to protect yourself and your readers. By clearly defining your standards at the beginning, it will be a lot easier to stay out of the “gray areas” that could get you into trouble.
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