There is a blogging guideline that is a deal breaker for me. Honestly, it has taken away many prospective clients from me but it is all fine. Ultimately, I believe that the brands I work with understand that I have their best interests in mind. I am talking about ‘Sponsored Posts’ and the best blogging practices one should follow when it comes to Influencer Marketing.
What are Sponsored Posts?
A sponsored post is a blog post in which you as a blogger is paid – in cash or kind – to publish on a blog. It usually requires a link or two to the product which you are sent to review and thereby, promote a brand. These are products that are usually related to the niche of your blog – be it food, books, travel, beauty or lifestyle.
Based on the numbers (like your blog traffic, social media follower count and engagement, DA/PA, Alexa Rank) a blogger can earn significant amounts of money through such posts when compared to ad networks. In the current times, it is not just about writing a blog post, but also publishing sponsored content on your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter.
There are some general principles that you should follow when you accept a sponsored post to write in a professional and ethical manner. This is a touchy area where the sponsored content is concerned but be sure, to be honest at all times. Ultimately, your reader will know if you are promoting a product without even using them and will call your bluff.
a. Accept to do sponsored post for products that are related to your niche. As a food blogger, promoting a spice brand or kitchen appliance makes more sense than me talking about a makeup product I use.
b. Choose trusted brands and services. I am not against startups or promotion of new ventures. However, make sure that you use the product/service before writing a sponsored post.
c. As I mentioned before, be honest at all times. If you do not believe in a particular brand, deny reviewing it in the first place.
d. Last but not least, follow the FTC guidelines while doing sponsored content on your blog.
So, What is FTC?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal agency which aims to promote consumer protection and prevent deceptive and unfair business practices. For bloggers, the concept is simple. Be transparent.
FTC clears it up for you. Imagine you want to buy a new phone. You read lots of reviews and is also convinced by a tech blogger about its amazing features. Will that recommendation affect your decision in choosing that phone? Or imagine you are traveling to a place and you find a gretat recommendation by a blogger, of a resort that you are planning to stay. Will it factor into your decision in choosing the resort? Of course, yes. Now if the blogger has mentioned that he/she has been staying in the resort for free for about a week, or had been paid to write a review of the resort, it will definitely affect the weight you give to the blogger’s recommendation.
FTC Rules and Disclosures for Sponsored Posts
a. Don’t assume that your followers know about your brand relationships. Always DISCLOSE your sponsored content.
b. Ensure that the sponsorship disclosure is not hard to miss. I have seen this practice only in India, where bloggers write their disclosure at the end of the post in the smallest possible font ever.
Your sponsorship disclosure should be in the lines of ‘Thank you XBrand for sponsoring this post. However, all opinions are mine’ and should be placed at the beginning of the blog post. Your reader shouldn’t have to search for it. That’s the idea. And as a blogger, that’s your legal obligation.
c. In social media platforms use hashtags #ad and #sponsored to disclose your brand relationship.
d. FTC clearly says that a disclosure built into a platform is NOT sufficient. So, even if you have a blog page with disclosure policy, you MUST add a disclosure with every sponsored blog post.
e. Here’s another important rule about the freebies you receive. All freebies are considered an ad even if you are not paid for it.
Of course, FTC isn’t going to check each and every blog out there in the World wide web. However, in case of any complaints, FTC takes this seriously. It is always better to be compliant, don’t you think?
What is a no-follow link and why should you use it in Sponsored Posts?
Bloggers often get confused between a no-follow and do-follow link. A no-follow link must be appended on all sponsored or paid content in order to be compliant with Google regulations. Otherwise, you, along with the brand, be page rank penalized affecting your Domain Authority.
A no-follow link is just that. When you add a link in your post, you are asking your reader to click the link, inadvertently directing her to another URL. Same with Google and other websites too who would follow such links increasing the other site’s Page ranking and credibility.
Now, Google doesn’t want that. It thinks that it isn’t right for the brands to ‘buy’ your page rank and SEO. Brands hate a no-follow link because it doesn’t make much of a difference to their Page ranking. They can only increase their online credibility through links and endorsements from a blogger with high ranking. That’s why you should add a small code to any sponsored post link. In WordPress, this is enabled by default.
Typically a link looks like this:
With a no-follow link, a sponsored link will be:
<a href=”https://websitename.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”> It means the link is a no-follow and it opens in a new page.
When you add a link to WordPress, it automatically makes the link to this format:
<a href=”https://websitename.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>
Note that it doesn’t make a difference to the reader. But it is important for following Google regulations.
We hope that you got the basic guidelines to doing sponsored posts. Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comment section below.