Sponsored content, sponsored posts and sponsored reviews have long been one of the most controversial aspects of blog monetization. Firstly, Google clearly states in its strict guidelines that being paid to place “do-follow” links on your blog is against the rules and bloggers who actively pursue this type of blog monetization may be penalized.
Secondly, the world of advertising disclaimers, privacy policies, cookie awareness, and sponsored review disclosures is rapidly changing. No longer can you simply write positively about a product or service that you are paid for without clearly stating that you are paid, or stand to earn money from the content that includes such copy.
While writing sponsored posts is one of the first ways that blogs are likely to earn money, it shouldn’t be your main source of income and you should always follow Google’s Guidelines and general ethics when earning money in this way.
In this post, I’m going to show you how you can ethically and legally earn some money through sponsored content without getting penalized by Google and without offending your readers.
What is Sponsored Content?
Basically sponsored content is when a company contacts a content creator and offers to pay money in exchange for creating content around their product, service, destination or brand.
Sponsored content can come in the form of sponsored blog posts, sponsored social shares or sponsored videos and generally involves a content creator talking about his or her experience with the company or product. While it’s not one of the best passive income ideas, it usually pays quite well and doesn’t take very long to complete the work.
Why Is Sponsored Content Good For Brands?
Traditionally if a brand wanted to pay for advertising, they would do so in print media like magazines and newspapers, on billboards or on ads in high-traffic pedestrian areas. While this type of advertising has been proven to work to an extent, it’s not nearly as effective, accurate and trackable as digital marketing.
With spending on sponsored content set to hit over $67 billion by 2021, this is the fastest-growing ad spend method in marketing today. By paying for sponsored content, advertisers are not only able to choose which influencers will likely have an audience that’s in line with their brand, but they can literally track every view, click, like, engagement and reaction through different digital media channels.
Social media and YouTube make it quite easy for influencers to share statistics with brands both before and after the publication of sponsored content. On blogs, it’s possible to use tracking links and Google Analytics to track data from a link placed inside of a blog post.
This makes it incredibly easy for advertisers to send traffic and highly-targeted potential customers to high converting sales pages and posts on their own websites or within their e-commerce store.
For example, if Pedigree dog food wanted to place an ad the traditional way, they’d likely place some ads in dog magazines, put up poster ads in and around pet stores and take out commercials on TV, which would offer them a pretty targeted audience. This is about as highly targeted as the ads could be for them and even if one of the placements was wildly successful, they’d have no way to track it and know where the sales were coming from.
Enter digital media.
Not only can Pedigree now target dog owners, but they can also target them within a certain age and household income range that matches their customer avatar exactly. They can use social media to get laser-focused targeting, and they can choose dog bloggers and YouTube creators who have the target audience they’re looking for.
They can then use link tracking technology to easily see which campaigns are the most successful and exactly where most of their conversions are coming from. If dog blogger X earns them $100 for every $10 they spend advertising there, while dog blogger Y doesn’t make any sales, they can increase their investment with the former and track sales as they roll in.
Sponsored content is tested, proven, scalable, trackable and wildly effective.
The Importance of a Disclosure
While rules for disclosing advertorial content are changing faster than I can update this blog, generally you need to tell your audience when you are being paid or stand to earn a commission from a blog post, social media post, email, ad or YouTube video.
In most cases, it’s not acceptable to simply have a disclosure at the bottom of the post. You should disclose any potential profit from affiliate links or sponsorship within the same paragraph as any links that you earn money from.
So if I were to recommend to you that you start a blog using Bluehost. In the same paragraph I should also say that if you do start a blog using my links, we receive an affiliate commission. It can get redundant and verbose, but rules are rules.
Even though we’ve already tried to go back on our old posts and update them to adhere to the new rules, we’re not perfect!
I personally disagree with the recent rebellion from some bloggers in the industry who take it upon themselves to act as their own renegade FTC force, attacking their fellow creators who fail to disclose an affiliate link or a sponsorship somewhere on their blog or in their videos.
We all watch TV shows and are unwittingly bombarded with undisclosed ads written right into the script, but we don’t have the same objections for NBC and CBS. We just absorb it, accept it and move on.
But for some reason, when small business owners, bloggers or YouTubers forget to state that they used an affiliate link or were sponsored for part of the content, the internet trolls unite to bring them down.
Do your best to abide by the rules. Get to know the FTC, Google, FDA and GDPR and don’t waste your time trying to discredit other content creators.
The Controversy Surrounding Sponsored Content
Technically you shouldn’t do a “review” for something you are paid for. No matter how much you believe it of yourself, your readers will never believe that your review is unbiased if you were paid to write it.
And I have to say in this case I 100% agree.
This is why we don’t personally do “reviews” for paid content. For example, if we are paid by a hotel to write a post or create a video, we won’t call it a review. In the past, we have called these articles “Accommodation Spotlights”. But we don’t just change the title of the post to avoid calling it a paid review. We write the post in a way that isn’t a review at all.
We’ll just simply say we’re highlighting our visit to the hotel and if we recommend others stay there, we clearly state that we were invited by the hotel. It’s always worth still saying things like “All thoughts and opinions remain my own despite any complimentary services offered” and never accepting any sponsored content that forces you to write in a positive way.
I will personally turn off a YouTube video if it’s a product review that is sponsored by the brand. The YouTuber could very well be 100% unbiased, but as a consumer, if I’m reading a review I want it to be from a person who paid for it just like I would. However, if the content is simply outlining some of the features the product has or showing me how to use it, then I don’t care whether it’s sponsored or not.
Really it’s up to you in the end, but fair warning, sponsored reviews are not a good way to earn money. Instead, showcase the partner in part of a larger piece of content or in a how-to post or video, rather than a review where you’re acting as a buyer’s guide for others.
Having said all of this, I feel that being paid directly by a brand to create a piece of content is very different to adding an affiliate link to a post that you might earn money from at a later date.
I believe you can have an unbiased review with affiliate links in it. Generally, it’s best to only be affiliates for the products and services you actually use and trust. If you write a review around the product and include an affiliate link, I believe that – while you should still disclose the affiliate partnership – you could write an unbiased review in this case.
Currently, there are no rules against paid reviews and affiliate reviews so long as you disclose them.
Is Sponsored Content Worth it?
After starting this article with the controversy and requirements, you might be thinking, is it even worth the money to publish sponsored content on your blog and in your social media accounts? In my opinion, it still is in some cases.
Sponsorships can be a great way to earn money and also a great way to share the products and services that you already use and love with your readers. Similar to affiliate marketing, you should try to work with sponsors who are inline with your brand and who you would use and pay for yourself, even if they weren’t paying you to promote them.
Don’t write sponsored reviews, instead, tell your readers that you already loved the product/service and now you’re sponsored by them. Explain to them why you like what you’re promoting and how it might benefit them as well.
Is Google Against Sponsored Content?
According to a lot of web SEO sources out there, search engines aren’t always against bloggers posting sponsored content on their websites. Google isn’t a strict dictator that doesn’t want you to earn money. They simply want to ensure that their users are being served the best possible information and only quality content appears high in their search results.
This doesn’t mean that you will get penalized for publishing sponsored posts on your blog. There are a few key rules that you should follow to ensure that you’re not going against Google guidelines when publishing sponsored content.
Rules For Sponsored Content & SEO
- Make Links No-Follow: Google is a mystery in a lot of ways, but one thing they’ve been very clear about is that you should never get paid to pass link juice to companies from links. To ensure that huge brands can’t simply buy their way into search results, Google penalizes brands and bloggers who engage in sponsored content with do-follow links. Any sponsored links you place should be no-follow. A no-follow link looks this in HTML:
<a href=”https://www.thecompany.com/” rel=”nofollow”>ANCHOR TEXT</a>
- Always Disclose Sponsored Posts: If you’ve been paid by a sponsor, Google wants you to disclose your partnership within the post. This can be done using a disclaimer, or clear language within the paragraph(s) where the link appears that states that you are working with the company.
- Don’t Post Thin Sponsored Content: Google’s main goal is to display the most in-depth, useful posts in their search results, so it’s no surprise that they hate it when bloggers publish short (under 800 word) articles simply because they were paid to do so. All sponsored content should be as useful and long-form as regular content. I also would avoid linking to thin content. If an advertiser pays you to write a post on your blog and link to their useless post of 300 words, I’d consider asking them to link to their home page instead, or a better piece of content.
A Few Added Steps
- Stay Within Your Niche: Whether you’re getting paid or not, you should only ever publish posts that your readers and followers will enjoy. The best way to do that is to keep your sponsored posts within your niche. If you’re a travel blog and you’re publishing articles about microwaves, not only do you make it easier for Google algorithms to spot and flag you, but you’ll end up disappointing your readers.
- Keep Anchor Texts Branded, URL or Soft: This is something I’ve always done when publishing sponsored posts. Unless it’s completely unnatural, I recommend using branded (The Company), URL (www.TheCompany.com) or soft (Click Here) anchor texts. Advertisers tend to over-optimize their anchor text profiles and this is a quick way to get penalized from Google. If you are one of 1,000 other bloggers who publish a post linking to Expedia with the anchor text “Best Hotels In London” on the same day, you’re bound to get penalized for it. In fact, Expedia has been penalized for running sponsored campaigns like this in the past.
- Write The Articles Yourself: I find it much better to simply write the sponsored content ourselves or have one of our writers do it. That way we can ensure the quality and save ourselves time editing.
- Charge Per Link, Not Per Article: Many shady advertisers will contact you and ask you to publish a sponsored post for $500. Then, when you get the post, you find that there are 10 sponsored links within it. As a blogger, you should charge per link placement, not per article. You may offer discounts for multiple links in the same article, but make sure you are paid for every link that appears in the post.
- Never Gambling or Porn Domains: No matter what you should never accept sponsored posts from gambling or XXX domains. This is the easiest way to quickly get penalized by Google and your readers will not appreciate it.
Can Sponsored Content Appear in Organic Search Results?
Yes, absolutely. While I’m not certain that Google has ever publicly addressed this question, we’ve personally had some of our sponsored content appear in search results. In my experience sponsored content, whether it’s part of a sponsored press trip or an endorsement campaign, has the same potential to rank in organic search results as a non-paid blog post.
Sponsored Posts vs Guest Posts: What’s The Diff?
These are two very different things. The way we differentiate between sponsored content and guest content is by the URL that is linked to. If an advertiser contacts us and says “I want to guest post for you. I want to link to my online booking website” then we know that this is a sponsored post because the link request is to a commercial domain.
If a fellow blogger contacts us and requests a guest post to their personal WordPress blog that doesn’t include any sort of storefront or commercialization, we will consider it a guest post and in most cases will publish it for free.
Please Note: We are not accepting any guest posts at this time.
How Much Can You Make From Sponsored Content?
Because there are different types of sponsored content, I’m going to break these down into different categories for the different types of content that you might get paid to create. Of course, these numbers will completely depend on the size of the audience, the quality of content you create and the advertisers who you chose to partner within your niche.
Sponsored Blog Posts
Sponsored blog posts can earn anywhere from $50 – $1,500 depending on the sponsor and the type of partnership you agree to. Whenever publishing sponsored blog posts, make sure you follow Google’s Guidelines. As an added measure, I always tell advertisers that the links must be niche-related (in our case travel/finance/lifestyle), any blog posts must be over 1,200 words and the anchor text must be branded (ie: TheCompany.com or The Company).
To earn more from sponsored posts, it’s a good idea to offer discounts for more posts. Not only will this give you the opportunity to make more money, but it will also help you to create longer, more meaningful partnerships with your sponsors.
The Sponsored Post Minimum Price Equation: DAx$10
At the very least bloggers should be paid $10 per Domain Authority point on their website. This means if you have a DA of 30, you shouldn’t accept less than $300 per sponsored link. The minimum any blogger should accept is $150 (even with a DA of zero). There’s time and work involved in publishing content, so don’t sell yourself short.
Sponsored Link Placements
Sometimes a company might contact you and tell you that they’ve read one of your posts and they think that it would be a benefit to your readers to add a link to their company from the post. In this case, it is still a sponsored link so you should always get paid for this.
Whenever you add a link to an existing post, make sure you add value to the part of the post where the link is placed. Simply adding a new text link into a blog post and hitting update is an easy way for Google to track your malpractice and if you do this a lot, there’s a good chance of getting penalized.
Instead, add an entirely new paragraph or two that introduces the new sponsor, discloses that it’s a sponsored link and explains why you think it could be useful for your readers. I never place a sponsored link without adding new value and updating the post.
Sponsored Social Posts
While we’ve all heard about the Kardashians making $1 million from a single sponsored Instagram post, that’s not likely going to happen for the average Instagrammer. You can use tools like Social Blade to estimate what a post on your channels might be worth, but in general, you might be able to get $100 for every 10,000 followers you have as long as your engagement is high (1%+ per post).
Sponsored YouTube Videos
Again, there are some tools like NoxInfluencer.com that can show you how much your favourite YouTubers are likely making, but this is calculated using CPM revenue which means it’s only calculating their in-content ads.
If a YouTuber creates a sponsored video, this will be above and beyond what their Adsense will be bringing in, but most times they’ll use the same CPM calculation to decide how much to charge for a sponsored vid.
In most cases, YouTubers charge brands around $10 to $50 per 1,000 video views. This all depends on the estimated total views that the video in question might garner (based on topic and average views of already published videos). In this example, if the video hits 1 million views, then the YouTuber makes anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 for that video alone.
Ongoing Sponsorships / Endorsements
In some cases, a company may contact you and ask you to continuously promote their product, service, destination or brand. In this case, you may be contracted to create sponsored content on a monthly basis. This type of sponsorship is also known as an endorsement/ambassadorship and can be very lucrative for creators.
We’ve had a few small sponsorship partnerships that have paid a few thousand dollars per month, every month for up to a year. But there are some creators out there who have earned tens of thousands of dollars per month, for months on end from high-end endorsement deals.
An example of an ongoing endorsement might be for a clothing company that pays you for every video, blog post or social media post that you appear in wearing their gear. Or, maybe you get a $40 million endorsement deal from a massive multinational brand like George Clooney and his Nespresso Deal with Nestle.
How Do Bloggers Get Paid For Sponsored Posts?
Generally sponsored posts are paid for using PayPal. It is wise to require full payment upfront before working on or publishing any content on your blog. Some companies will have you do all of the work, publish the article and then they disappear, never to be tracked down for payment.
If you don’t want to get paid by Paypal, you can also get paid by bank Wire transfer or other services, but many online companies will prefer to pay with PayPal as they receive buyer’s protection from the platform.
How Do Bloggers Find Sponsors?
In our experience, it’s not a good idea to go out hunting for sponsors to pay for links on your site. That tends to lead you down a rabbit hole into black hat, unsavory online marketing that can only harm your blog in the long run. Here are some of the main ways that bloggers and creators get paid to publish sponsored content.
Receive Unsolicited Sponsor Post Emails
Once you grow your blog to have 10,000+ users/month and a Domain Authority of 15+, you may find that you get some potential advertisers sending you emails requesting sponsored posts and links to be placed on your blog. As your blog grows, you’ll receive more and more of these emails until you eventually start ignoring most of them.
In most cases, the advertiser will try to offer you way too little. At the very least you should be following the minimum sponsored post price equation (above) and don’t publish anything you’re not comfortable/happy with.
Pitch a Sponsorship
If you have a product or service that you already use and love, you can reach out to the brand/company to ask if they’d be interested in a partnership. This is a great way to network within your niche while ensuring that all of your sponsors are relevant to you so that you can only write about products and services that you already use and trust.
A sponsorship pitch email might look something like this (you can usually find the company’s marketing rep’s name on LinkedIn):
Hi [MARKETING REP’S NAME],
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I blog over at [YOURBLOG.COM]. I’ve been using your [PRODUCT / SERVICE] for years and I really love if because [INSERT REASON HERE].
I am planning to share this amazing [PRODUCT / SERVICE] with our readers and I was wondering if you’d be interested in working together on a sponsored campaign both on our blog, our YouTube and our social media.
Our blog currently sees over [INSERT USERS/MONTH], while we have over [INSERT NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS] social media followers at the time of writing this email, as well as [INSERT SUBSCRIBERS] YouTube subscribers.
I was thinking that I could create some professional-looking photography, blog posts, social shares and YouTube videos around your [PRODUCT / SERVICE] to introduce it to our readers.
Our rates for sponsored content are very competitive and we’re confident that you will get a lot of ROI because if I love your [PRODUCT / SERVICE] this much, so will our readers.
Please let me know what you think.
I’m excited to work together.
Sign-Up For Sponsor Networks
You have to be very careful with many of these types of platforms because, in a lot of cases, they’re simply out to make money and don’t care much about FTC or Google Guidelines. By publishing a lot of low-quality articles sent to you through these influencer platforms you may run the risk of getting penalized by Google. Even if you do decide to join these networks, make sure to enforce the publishing rules set forth earlier in this post.
Sponsor Blog Post Networks:
- Tap Influence
- Blog Meets Brand
- Find Your Influence
- Hello Society
- Real Clever
- Activate by Bloglovin’
- The Blogger Programme
- Influence Central
- One2One Network
- Pollinate Media
- Social Stars
- Social Fabric
- Sway Group
- Bloggin Mamas
- Blog Meets Brand
- Collectively, Inc.
- Everywhere Society
- Open Influence
- The Mometer
Sponsored Social Posts Only Networks
Final Thoughts On Publishing Sponsored Content
Whether they admit it or not, 90% of bloggers out there have at some point made money from publishing sponsored posts. While there are some key things you need to keep in mind to ensure your sponsored content is legal and ethical, it’s really not a bad way to make money.
Make sure you disclose your partnerships, no-follow any sponsored blog post links and do your best to only work with companies and brands that suit you and your readers. Whether you join an influencer network, pitch for sponsors or simply wait for your inbox to get flooded with advertising offers, there’s nothing wrong with publishing sponsored content. As long as you do it the right way.
I hope this blog post has helped clear up some of the questions you have about creating sponsored posts. If you have any more questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll hit up the comments section with my best answers.
Thanks for reading. Happy blog monetization!
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