Sponsored content in blogging is a bit of a tricky topic. As a blogger, you want your website to earn you money. However, publishing sponsored content may not earn you much love with your audience, which puts you in an awkward position.
Usually, I’m not a big fan of sponsored content of any kind. However, growing a lucrative blog is no easy task, and there are some situations in which running sponsored content may not be as big of a deal. If you know how to spot them, then you can avoid ethical dilemmas.
In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into the world of sponsored content and its pros and cons. We’ll also discuss if it’s acceptable or not to publish sponsored blog posts, so let’s jump right in!
What Are Sponsored Blog Posts?
Let’s say you run a blog about cooking where you publish recipes and product recommendations. The way most people monetize that kind of blog is through affiliate marketing, which is to say, promoting products.
Affiliate marketing can get tricky because some people fall into the temptation of promoting products they wouldn’t use themselves. The way to avoid this is to be as honest as you can during your product reviews. That way, you can build trust with your audience, and they’ll know if you recommend something, it’s worth their while.
Now imagine that instead of promoting affiliate products, you got an offer direct from a kitchenware company. They’re asking you to write a glowing review about one of their new products, and in exchange, they’ll pay you for it.
That would fall under the category of sponsored content. It may sound like a dream for a growing blog, but it opens up a lot of ethical dilemmas, which we’ll go over in a minute.
For now, let’s say that sponsored content comes in many shapes and sizes. In some cases, instead of offering you money, companies will tell you to keep their products, which is another form of payment. It may also be that other websites offer you a payout in exchange for backlinks, which is a big issue in blogging nowadays.
The Pros and Cons of Sponsored Content
Even though I’m not a big fan of sponsored content, I can’t deny the practice does have its upsides, such as:
- Sponsored content tends to pay well.
- You often get to play with and keep cool products.
- If you have a sizable audience in a profitable niche, you’ll get a lot of offers to publish this kind of content.
Publishing sponsored content can be quite lucrative depending on the size of your blog. However, it’s not all roses and rainbows, so let’s go over the cons now:
- It only takes one lousy product recommendation to sink your credibility.
- The FTC requires you to disclose sponsored content (which is why you see it marked as such on social media).
- Sponsored content might not inspire much engagement with your audience.
For me, that last one is the biggest deal breaker. The best way to grow a blog is to make sure you write about things your audience cares about, and that you give them valuable information. When you start relaxing your site’s standards in exchange for money, people can lose interest quite fast.
Should You Publish Sponsored Blog Posts?
Personally, I’d recommend you stay away from sponsored blog posts. However, that’s not a hard and fast rule. In some cases, publishing sponsored content can be acceptable, for example:
- If it’s an offer to write about a product you planned to cover anyway.
- When you genuinely believe your audience will care about the subject you’re asked to cover.
- If you can negotiate an agreement where you can review a product honestly and still get paid anyway.
That last type of agreement is not as uncommon as you might imagine. I’m a big fan of YouTube tech review channels, for example, and it’s normal for those guys to get free review units from smaller companies. Those companies get exposure and if they’re confident in what they’re selling, a recommendation.
I’m emphasizing product reviews because most sponsored content falls under the category of advertising. Companies know a lot of people will ignore traditional web ads, so they get creative. They ask bloggers to write glowing recommendations for products or services and both sides benefit.
In most cases, companies are the ones that benefit from those arrangements. They can simply move on to other blogs if yours isn’t sending them enough business anymore. However, it’s not so easy for a blogger to rebuild his audience unless he starts a new blog from scratch, which can be quite a lot of work.
There are a lot of blogs that earn a nice sum by publishing sponsored content. Some of them do it under the guise of guest posts, which is a growing problem within the community. If you do decide to publish sponsored content, then you need to be transparent about it and make sure those posts provide real value to your audience.
Once you start to publish low-quality content to earn a quick buck, your blog’s credibility will tank in no time. With all the effort it takes to grow a blog to the point where it’s profitable, I don’t recommend you jeopardize yours for a quick turnaround.
What do you think about sponsored blog posts? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.