Please, Stop Selling Links
You call them ‘sponsored posts.’
I call them ‘paid links.’
You see, when you say ‘sponsored content’, I think of something like this:
But in reality, you’re talking about something more like this:
Now, those two links are exact match anchor text, dofollow links:
That’s why I call them ‘paid links,’ because the purpose of that entire article was to get a link from your blog to whoever paid for it. It’s not a collaboration, it’s not branded content, it’s not a review.
So, the ad rate/media pack you sent is actually a very formal – and sometimes convoluted – way to tell me how much you will charge for a link.
I’d like to say there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I believe in.
Let’s talk about it, shall we?
The Blogger’s Case for Getting Paid in Exchange of Sharing Content
I always reply back to bloggers letting them know that we don’t have a budget for sponsored content and every now and again they will argue against it.
Last month, I exchanged quite a few emails with one person that helped me see the situation from their perspective:
I’ve written about why we don’t pay for links before, but this email made me think about it a bit more.
I get it, this is your job.
You didn’t create your blog to share your views with the world; this is your source of income.
I know many people who blog for a living, and they tell me about how difficult it can be to monetise their site.
Believe me, I get it. I used to have my own blogs too, although as an affiliate.
Being a blogger in a world where advertising is not the almighty force it used to be is certainly a challenge.
But that doesn’t mean I will disregard the fury of Google penalties:
Link buying is a highly scalable link building technique: you put money into one side of the machine, you get links back to your site from the other.
Their algorithm needs links to function: The cleanest the links, the more accurate the picture they present to their users.
Creating content in the hopes of earning links is not scalable. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it always takes time and costs money.
As a blogger you have a choice:
If you like the content and you think it fits your blog, you can feature it.
If you don’t like the content, you move on.
Now, if I tell you I’m giving you the content AND £200 – will you say no if you don’t like it?
Every blogger that gets back to me with their media pack doesn’t even address the content. They don’t tell me if they liked it or if they think their readers will like it.
Frankly, it feels like they don’t care about it:
A big difference when compared to those bloggers who don’t charge:
But at the end of the day, it’s your choice to make.
And that’s how the best content raises to the top, or how it should be anyways.
That’s viral videos.
That’s what we get paid to do: Creating content people will want to share.
And as I said to a blogger during a we-don’t-pay-for-links discussions, if our content is not good enough it shouldn’t get links:
So the argument “they paid you to get them links but you’re not sharing the pie with me” doesn’t apply.
They paid me to create a piece of content and share it with relevant people who might like it enough to share it: you didn’t like it, that’s fine.
I’m not the middle man between my client and a link.
And my team is not working their butts off to get an invoice paid at the end of the chain – that’s not fulfilling work for anybody.
So let’s not make it into a this-is-so-unfair situation because the choice is all yours to make.
Why Bloggers Should Care About the Risk of Selling Links
At the end of the day, I’m doing this for you too.
Yes, I’m protecting my client. Yes, I’m protecting our reputation as an agency.
But I’m also trying to save you from losing everything you’ve worked so hard for.
And you know this.
You are aware that there’s a big fat chance that Google might penalise you too:
Bloggers that have become influencers (who now offer consultancy services and collaborate on massive campaigns with brands) are not getting back to me with one sentence emails explaining how much it will cost me.
You don’t get to that point without caring about the content you put on your blog, without caring about strengthening your relationship with your readers.
This is a big picture situation, you’re missing the forest yada yada yada.
If you build a business model around selling links, you’ll be the last one standing after a game of musical chairs.
Google penalties are getting real:
Google wants you to nofollow all links coming from sponsored content and for the posts to be tagged accordingly.
But SEOs don’t want to create patterns so having lots of links with the word “sponsored” in the URL or containing “sponsored” within the body of the content sounds risky.
And let’s be honest, they are not looking for nofollow links either.
That’s where the deals get dirty, because then we find a workaround:
This is a rebrand: It’s not ‘sponsored content’ anymore, it’s a ‘collaborative post.’
These are dofollow links too, by the way:
How long do you think we can get away with it?
A few years, at the most?
Is this part of a short-term business strategy, where you just want to make it to next summer?
Agencies Play a Big Role in This Situation
Listen, I’m not blaming bloggers here – I’m just trying to show them the big picture.
If it took me less than 5 minutes to put together a list of 15 mummy bloggers who get paid in exchange of links, how long do you think it will take Google?
We’re talking about a business that relies on links not being manufactured, and a $498 billion business at that.
What kind of relationship are you building with bloggers anyway?
Do you plan on maintaining these relationships 5 years down the line, or are you just looking for one-night stands?
If all the work you put into creating a piece of content has the goal of getting those 10 links that you will pay for anyway, why do you even bother?
Every time an agency pays for a link,
a puppy dies the cycle continues.
Do you really want to be running around like a headless chicken every time there’s a new update to Google’s algorithm?
I guess not.
So, I’d recommend you have a think about the position you’re putting all these bloggers in.
Why I’m Even Writing This Article
A month ago I started pitching content every day; it’s been a year or so since I had a front row seat to outreach.
I love pitching content and I love building links, but the fact that nothing has changed hit me like a ton of bricks. Well, some things have changed: the rates bloggers are charging now are way lower than I remember.
Every time I launch a campaign, I receive 5-10 replies asking for money within the first few minutes of sending the email.
And the responses that follow my email saying that we don’t have a budget for sponsored posts are getting nastier.
I have shared my post about why we don’t pay for links with a few bloggers but I feel they still don’t get it. They think we’re being cheap, that we’re trying to scam them.
I’m hoping that this post will give me the chance to explain.
This is not about changing their minds from one day to another but then again, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Image Source: Thomas Galvez