There are a gazillion websites on the internet. Out of those gazillion websites there are several that accept money and/or products in exchange for posting. There are just as many, if not more companies that see the benefit in this practice. Sponsored posts are common for both webmasters and companies.
So why are sponsored posts frowned upon?
The primary concern for many when it comes to sponsored posts is Google. Google frowns on “selling” pagerank. They don’t like people who manipulate rankings by throwing links into a post for the sole purpose of increasing the linked page’s pagerank. This is what we call a black hat strategy. It’s naughty and unethical.
Selling Pagerank is a no no!
That does not mean sponsored posts are a no no. To keep it white hat and compliant with Google’s guidelines all you need to do is add a nofollow tag to the link. To do this add [rel=”nofollow”] (without the brackets) after the closing quotation mark of the link’s html. So, if I were linking to Google, the html code would look like this:
<a href=”http://google.com” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>
It’s as easy as that. The link will not pass on any link juice and is therefor in compliance with Google’s linking guidelines. The nofollow tag needs to be added to any and all links contained in a post that you received money or product(s) for.
Many people think if they pay for a post Google will strip the pagerank of both parties. This is highly possible unless you add the nofollow tag. Adding that will keep you in Google’s good graces.
But wait – what’s the point in a sponsored post if it isn’t for pagerank?
When you search for something online the results show up according to a secret algorithm. A huge factor in that algorithm is SEO – Search Engine Optimization. When a writer knows what they’re doing in terms of SEO they’ll rank higher up in the search results.
Company Z hires Blogger A to publish/write a sponsored post about product x. Since Blogger A is familiar with SEO they incorporate that within the post. Google User 357 does a search for product x. In the first page of search results is Blogger A‘s post. Google User 357 clicks on the sponsored post and then clicks on the link within said sponsored post to learn more.
But paying a blogger to write about a product is unethical
Blah, blah, blah. Seriously – I see/hear this daily. It’s a load of crap. What this translates into is either “I’m too cheap to compensate someone for their time” or “I don’t understand the rules 100%” or “I expect others to work for free while I get paid“.
Is it unethical for a company to pay for ad space in a magazine? No
Is it unethical for a company to buy a commercial slot during the Superbowl? No
Is it unethical for a company to plaster their ad on a billboard/park bench/bus? No
Is it unethical for a writer to expect to be compensated for advertising on their website? No
It’s the age of the internet people. More and more people are flocking to blog posts to gather their information. It’s no different than advertising on the television, radio or print media. It’s all marketing. At no point does compensating a writer for their time demand a biased opinion.
Are there writers that sugar coat everything? Sure there are.
Are there bloggers who tell it like it is? Of course, I love them!
It’s all about choosing the right people to work with – those with readers in your target market, those who give honest feedback and those who blog with integrity (complying with FTC disclosure laws is key here). Sponsored posts are not positive reviews – they are informative posts. You are not buying an opinion you are paying for time. How is that unethical?