Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blogging the Write Way: Set Your Price

This is an entry you can take or leave. Many will tell you otherwise - they'll say this is just my personal opinion and possibly even bad advice - but I assure you, I have been doing this for over 10 years now and have been taking sponsored posts for three, so I know what I'm talking about:

You set your price.

A fair price for a sponsored post, in my opinion, is $5.00 for a review of up to 200 words with one, no "nofollow" link. For every 50 additional words, add $5.00; for every additional link, add $5.00. The posts may be "permanent," in which case I would choose to deny all trackbacks - you do not want to rank high in the engines for sponsored posts unless they are pertinent to your theme/niche - and always deny comments. In general, the only people who will comment on sponsored posts are spammers, looking for a free plug to their own, similar product/service.

This is just a (very) generalized rate. You need to base yours on your PR, ranking within the network, subject matter and appropriateness of the opportunity, and more - but this is a good base from which to work.

In a perfect world, these posts would have a limited shelf life; you should be able to either delete them or attribute them with "nofollow" after a set period of time. The better networks allow you to do exactly this. There are at least 1000 reasons I say this: outbound links lower PR and higher PR helps you, the advertiser, and the network; campaigns come and go in cycles and numerous outbound links of the same nature and/or to the same site add-up - and scream SPAM!; and 998 more. But it is mainly just good form: you did your job, you were compensated appropriately, the advertiser garnered the benefits of the campaign, and the campaign is over - no need to leave behind outbound links which only pull-down your PR. Still, the above is a fair price, even for permanent posts.

In case you do not know, "nofollow" is a REL tag attribute which tells search engines not to follow the link. Google is against "juicing" sites, especially by selling links, and may penalize your PR if they think you are participating in this behavior. When you do a sponsored post, it should be to review a product, site, and/or service and get the word out to your readers; it should not be to help said site boost its Google standing by giving them a backlink to improve their PR.

Advertisers launch "campaigns" and the purpose of these campaigns is to generate "buzz." When you receive a sponsored post opportunity, dozens, hundreds - even thousands - of other bloggers do too. Many times, the advertiser also does TV commercials, radio spots, magazine ads, and more. During the length of that campaign, the advertiser has all of these links pointing in his direction. This is called "saturation." When the campaign is over, leftover links begin to look like spam and lower the PR of your blog.

Advertisers offer opportunities based largely on your Google PR; whether or not you are eligible for a campaign depends largely on your PR, as does how much you are offered. Common sense tells us that generating and maintaining a higher PR on every blog possible is good for everyone.

However, we do not make the rules. The truth is that the sponsored post networks are at fault here and they are the ones who should change their ways. Instead of telling advertisers sponsored posts will improve their Google PR, tell them they will do what advertising is supposed to do: help generate "buzz" and increase awareness of their business, product, and/or services! Until the networks do that, our hands are tied; either we abide by Google and only use AdSense (which does not make money) or we simply do not get paid for our efforts.

It seems obvious to me that the networks do this to increase advertisers' desire to work with them, as well as keep payments to us low. But this doesn't really help anyone! By setting your price, you will certainly lose some money here and there, but believe me when I tell you it's worth it. I truly regret all the $2-3.00 posts I ever did: they simply weren't worth the return, regardless of how badly I needed the money at the time. And believe you me, when you've been smoking for 20 years and can't afford to buy a pack, $3.00 sounds great!

In the sponsored post arena, you are going to get a whole lot of offers that are simply no good. One recently asked me to include no fewer than five links (without the "nofollow" tag), a hosted and hyperlinked image, a logo, and use at least 300 words! Even more, they required the company name be the title and had a tracking image!!! Google, and other search engines, view every one of these as outbound links to the site. These outgoing links not only boost the site's PR, they lower yours - especially when they are in a single post! Further, this was from a network which does not allow you to remove the posts after a certain period, meaning the post would be a permanent fixture! You will never be able to raise your PR if you have several of these. This is real bad form and the networks should never accept these ads.

But the real kicker is that none of this was apparent until you had already accepted the offer! That's right: so far as you know, this is just another opportunity requesting one, maybe two, links and possibly an image or some other requirement (such as the title); it was not until you had accepted the offer that you learned they wanted to prostitute you and your blog... and I mean like turn you out! This is the lowest form of advertiser and every, last one of the networks should ban these kinds of ads and advertisers; this is flatly predatory! But again, we do not make the rules.

Other things to look out for:
  1. Misleading links. Several recent campaigns were for various products and services - such as DVD Players - but required a linked image... which led to a casino site!
  2. "Needed within 1-2 days!" This is spam; this means they are looking to generate as much traffic as possible, as quickly as they can, before they get shutdown. You want no part of that. But this is different from offers which grant bonuses based on quick-turnaround: those want a quick turnaround to maximize their campaign saturation.
  3. "Join our network and review it." Some of these are legit, but if you are not going to use the services regularly, you should not be asked to join! The advertiser should grant you access via a general/generic account which allows you to review it (as though you were a member) without forcing you to share your personal information. Obviously they want to swell their ranks, so make sure they swell the payout to match. NEVER accept any "Do not bid until you have joined" offers; those are ALL spam! They will not pay you.
Regardless of what a narrow portion of the hobbyists - and Google - say, sponsored posts are a great way to bring some much-needed cash into your home and/or business. If done properly, they can help grow your business, giving you more time to focus on your blogging because you are not having to find time to blog; so long as you are making a return, you can afford to spend more time blogging.

Don't let bad advertisers and opportunities take advantage of you or take over your blog. No matter how badly you need the money, set your price and stick to it. It's a long-run game and one you will likely get upset playing (time and time again), but it really is worth it. Stick to your guns, stick by your ethics, and stick to your price!

If you want to make a few extra bucks online outside of blogging - quickly, easily, and in such a way that it doesn't even feel like work - consider MyLot.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

2 comments:

Urbain said...

This is a helpful post, and I appreciate the time you spent in writing it. An aspect that should affect how much a post is "worth" is the blogger's ability to write coherently. Some of these folks have terrible grammar and their posts make no sense. For a decent writer with a healthy blog, what you are saying is on target.

mommyto2 said...

Very helpful information in "terms" I could understand. I just started doing sponsored posts with several different companies and I will keep this info in mind before accepting another post. Thank You.

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