Fashion & SEO : How Sponsored Content Works
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This was originally posted by Alyson Woods of Alyson Is Neat

Trust me, search engine optimization and online marketing are extremely tricky and hard to understand.  I want to attempt to bring to light some recent situations and concerns happening in the blogging community.  First and foremost, my job is internet marketing.  That’s what I do, on an every day basis.  I go to conferences and get to meet some of the most gifted people in internet marketing.  There isn’t a whole lot of crossover between online marketing and fashion, but I’m going to start building that bridge.

Your voice is important. Your audience is important.

Last week, @_IFB tweeted: “if bloggers don’t talk, companies will continue to take advantage of them. #justsayin”

Let’s get real for a second.  There are companies out there, reputable companies out there doing some pretty shady things on the internet.  Unfortunately, there are too many bloggers out there hoping to make a little bit of money off their blogs.  Basically, what these bloggers do not realize is that by taking these companies low ball offers for links or content, they are pretty much whoring themselves out as well as damaging the entire fashion blogging community.  I know that is harsh, but its the truth and the truth is harsh.  Let me get on my soapbox for just a second and say: your voice is importantYour audience is important:  Your audience is worth more than the $25 a company paid you to post sponsored content.  Please, know no matter how low your traffic is; your voice and your potential audience is worth more than that.

Common Points of Negotiation

How do you know if a company is trying to take a advantage of you?  Let me give you a few tips.

They should offer you:

1.  Money or product equivalent of $50 or so dollars if you are beginner upwards of $1000 if you have a large dedicated following
2.  Editing freedom over the content you write or they write
3.  AND (oh yes these are all things they should be supplying) a link from their site to yours.

You should offer them:

1.  The option of writing content yourself
2.  An honest review
3.  AND an anchor text link (anchor text means that you link to their site through a keyword that company is trying to rank for).

I definitely realize that this asking price isn’t cheap.  But considering the advertising prices for print are incredibly high… this cost is relatively low.  Companies receive a lot of bang for their buck because unlike print ads, sponsored content is searchable, trusted, greatly benefits your online presence, and isn’t used to line the bottom of a bird cage a month after print (yeah, I just said that).

What is your experience with advertising and blogging?  Do you feel like companies under-appreciate the influence of the blogging community and the exposure provided by the blogging community?

Comments

  1. Beth Musni says:

    Is this $50 a month for beginners?

    I’m curious to know if there are any benefits from sites who do not offer any money or products but host links to fashion blogs on their websites. Usually it’s a very small section with hundreds of blogs. In exchange, the blogger hosts a link to the company’s website.

    I’ve been approached by several smaller companies, and I’ve yet to see any huge increase in traffic or benefits from this exchange. I wonder if there are any negative impacts involved in this trade?
    .-= Beth Musni´s last blog ..Skull Tunic and Lookbook =-.

    • It’s partly opinion on whether you should link to companies or not. i personally have always said that my link list is for non-commercial sites (and I only link people I actually visit and in most e-mails it is a site I’ve never been to) and that companies have to purchase a banner if they desperately want a link on my blog.
      If you are offered a link exchange you can look up their site on alexa and see what their traffic is really like. A lot of times they want a link exchange because they don’t have significant traffic and hope that your blog will drive them traffic.
      Anyway, my final word is: if I don’t visit a site, they’re not getting a link on my list!
      .-= The Clothes Horse´s last blog ..Detail Of The Week: Twinkle Toes =-.

    • AlysonIsNeat says:

      Beth,

      The $50 or equivalent refers to minimum payment for writing sponsored content. Sponsored content is when a company contacts you and asks you to write a post about them. This could also be in the form of a review (if they send you a product but not always).

      And I am going to go with Rebecca as far as link exchanges go. Also, something to be aware of, listing yourself in a link directory is not a bad idea. Especially if you are really able to target your niche (ie, budget fashion blogging or Los Angeles street style blogging) directories can benefit where you rank in search engines for those terms. However, they rarely provide substantial traffic.
      .-= AlysonIsNeat´s last blog ..Contributor post on IFB =-.

      • Beth says:

        Oh, now I wouldn’t mind getting paid to write sponsored content. I’m still in the stage where I just write for free and see if I can even get recognition for what I’m doing.

        So far the traffic to my site hasn’t changed dramatically because of the link exchange with the companies, but I’ll give it a few more months to see what develops. Thanks!
        .-= Beth´s last blog ..American Apparel Interlock and Cross-Back Bras =-.

  2. Beth– those people are trying to manipulate SEO, much like a text link advertiser. The link they’re offering you is pretty much worthless. Negative impact includes being stripped of your Google PageRank, which affects how much search engine traffic you have. Not to mention, if they’re doing a “nofollow” tag, you wouldn’t even be gaining page authority.
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup =-.

  3. Tamia says:

    It is going to be extremely important for bloggers to educate themselves about how these business interactions work. While we are often on the receiving end of inquiries about our site traffic, click-through rates, etc., issues like the ones presented above make me wonder if we shouldn’t be the ones asking potential advertisers & link exchange sites the same question.

    Blogger endorsement is often undervalued, because many companies don’t take into account that this type of sponsored content generates a much higher return on investment than traditional advertising.

    I wonder if it would help to develop some standard-yet-flexible terms and conditions for independent bloggers to set forth when dealing with advertisers. Hmm…
    .-= Tamia´s last blog ..Working Weekend =-.

  4. TracyAnn says:

    Wow, this is really interesting. I would love to be able to make some money from my blog, and have been very curious as to how it all works. I hope to continue to build content and readership and eventually gain a sponsor or two. It would be a fun way to bring in some much needed extra income!

    Tracy, The Wardrobe Wanderer
    .-= TracyAnn´s last blog ..White Lady with a Sash =-.

    • AlysonIsNeat says:

      Tracy,

      That is exactly the way to do it too! Don’t get me wrong it will take a while to get sponsors, but keep building good QUALITY content and make that your focus. Then you should start seeing results slowly.
      .-= AlysonIsNeat´s last blog ..Contributor post on IFB =-.

  5. HauteWorld says:

    I completely agree that in order to break this cycle of receiving low ball offers, bloggers need to stop accepting them. Everytime I turn down a $25 offer for a sponsored post, I see one appear (from the same advertiser) on another blog within days.

    I work in the advertising industry and I’m fully aware that an increasing number of companies (even big ones) are turning to blog advertising as a way to save money. I’ve had clients who within 2 years have gone from doing 4-page color ads in Vogue to publishing 1/4 page b&w ads in local newsapers to doing nothing but online banners. Many are thinking blog ads and sponsored content is the next step. It’s pretty much the equivalent to companies hiring interns for zero pay instead of full-time staff because it’s a way to save money. Interns keep doing it, because they feel it’s the only way to get into an industry. It’s the same with bloggers who feel that a little pay is better than nothing and that any sponsored content will help them build traffic.

    Aside from that, many companies DO know that blogger endorsements are more valuabe than traditional media. There’s a lot of research out there that shows that ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising (which essentially blogging is) is the best marketing tool as it’s considered a ‘real’ testimonial. Most people know that traditional ads or celebrity endorsements are relatively insincere and are therefore considered to be less trustworthy. If anything, that’s reason enough for bloggers to demand for a higher asking price (while still posting an honest review mind you).
    .-= HauteWorld´s last blog ..Orla Kiely (London, UK) =-.

  6. This is a really interesting piece. I felt like I knew something about blogging until I did a research project for a client involving beauty blogs, and I realized a HUGE percent of them are just SEO plays – I don’t care what anyone says, when a blog has 200000 little ads and review after review after review, I think we all know what’s going on. It really upset me, not to sound like a dork, but I just felt like there was so little integrity.

    I don’t speak for all … I found some amazing beauty blogs by dedicated, passionate, honest people.

    sorry, this was sort of off topic, I guess I am just saying, if you think it’s bad for fashion blogs ….

    xo ann
    .-= holierthannow´s last blog ..Feature =-.

  7. nookie says:

    Usually companies ask me to send my rate card and after, offer me ridiculous sums(4$…) saying that I have expensive rates. I’ve been blogging for 2 years, I know my value.
    .-= nookie´s last blog ..spring wedges =-.

  8. I totally had to tweet this because this is such a great and informative article. IFB is the best.
    .-= thefatandskinny´s last blog ..*New Video* "Why Don’t You Love Me?" Beyonce =-.

  9. NikStar says:

    Wow! This is quite interesting. I have just started to receive requests for reviews and whatnot. One offered a payment. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this article!
    .-= NikStar´s last blog ..Defining Dedication =-.

  10. grechen says:

    just to add my .02 – the ultimate question you should ask yourself when considering whether or not to accept an advertisement on your site is “is this going to benefit my readers?” period. same goes for posts, sponsored or not. if you feel like you will add value to your site and bring benefit to your readers by accepting a sponsored post, and you’re getting compensated fairly to do it, then that’s great. but too often i see text ads and sometimes sponsored posts that don’t add value at all to a site; they’re obviously there ONLY to benefit the blogger. and ultimately, once a blogger starts doing things that only benefit himself or herself, the blog no longer has a reason to exist…

    that is where we, as bloggers, need to tread lightly – and set a line that can’t be crossed. it’s hard in the beginning to know where that line is, and to feel secure in your readers enough to “know” them and want they want, but if you go with your gut and always hold true to yourself, then you will do the right thing.

    maybe i’m getting slightly away from the subject of the article, but i really feel like instead of letting your revenue opportunities come to you via requests for text links or sponsored posts, you should be as proactive as possible in attracting advertisers. identify who you want to work with, contact them with information about your blog (numbers), why you want to work with them, and benefits to THEM. if you reach out to enough people, you’ll get a few…

    and like nookie said above, know your value – BUT clearly, if you’re not getting any interest in advertising after you’ve contacted plenty of companies, you may need to re-evaluate how much you’re charging…figuring out what to charge is a hit or miss game sometimes, but you’ll know when you’ve hit.
    .-= grechen´s last blog ..why shouldn’t fashion bloggers make money blogging? =-.

    • Thanks for this comment Grechen–I haven’t been very proactive about approaching companies about advertising, though it’s something I have wanted to do more and more of… I think I’m just not sure how (even though I’m certain I have all the materials on hand.)
      .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup =-.

      • grechen says:

        ashe, the way i did it (and still do) is contact companies & designers i have written about or mentioned or added to my shopping lists and send them a link to my media kit. i usually write a note explaining what i do and the benefits to their shop of being featured on my site(s) and sometimes i offer an advertising special if they sign up within a certain period of time.

        first, they are usually very pleased to hear from me, and appreciate the traffic i’ve already sent them

        and second, as weird as it sounds, some may have not even thought about advertising online, or don’t have the time to figure out where to advertise. they appreciate that you’ve taken the time to send them information.

        anyway, even if they decide not to advertise, you’re on their radar, and you’ve at least made a valuable contact!
        .-= grechen´s last blog ..why shouldn’t fashion bloggers make money blogging? =-.

  11. Erica says:

    As someone who recently started blogging, but who has been an avid blog reader for years, it’s interesting to hear this kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say I’m a “fashion blogger” specifically, but I assume this happens no matter what type of blog you run.

    Thank you ifb for always keeping me informed. ♥
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Brain Sex: Changes. =-.

  12. glowingdoll says:

    Thank you this was a big help!!!

  13. d says:

    Great post. I’ve only done one post that resembled a sponsored post and the company was really great. It was product review and I was able to choose whatever I wanted from the site (i.e they didn’t just give me their cheapest product, although all products were selling for $60 upwards) and was told to write an honest review: the good, the bad and the ugly and only asked that i mention the company and if i could put a given link somewhere is the post. The reason I felt comfortable doing the post is because I had the freedom to express my honest opinion, and really felt that freedom.
    This company also I think really does understand the power of the blogger because they do often get bloggers to review their product and run competitions for bloggers
    .-= d´s last blog ..Fashion Spotlight: Rosemount Australian Fashion Week: Nicola Finetti =-.

  14. nookie says:

    @Gretchen:
    I do get interest and I have ads on my blog, don’t get me wrong. The low-balled offers usually come from companies who don’t have anything to do with fashion, they just want SEO. I invest a lot of time in my blog and I really don’t think my time is worth below 70$ for sponsored content:)

    Also, I got a request from a company I featured for free, to write again adding their anchor text links; they didn’t want to offer anything in exchange( sponsored posts, discount, giveaway) and they had the nerve to tell me that their post it’s very good for my blog. It really bothers me because I’m not that idiot, I study finance and talk&learn about money all day, I can clearly realize when a company wants to take advantage.
    .-= nookie´s last blog ..spring wedges =-.

  15. nookie says:

    @Grechen:
    I do get interest and I have ads on my blog, don’t get me wrong. The low-balled offers usually come from companies who don’t have anything to do with fashion, they just want SEO. I invest a lot of time in my blog and I really don’t think my time is worth below 70$ for sponsored content:)

    Also, I got a request from a company I featured for free, to write again adding their anchor text links; they didn’t want to offer anything in exchange( sponsored posts, discount, giveaway) and they had the nerve to tell me that their post it’s very good for my blog. It really bothers me because I’m not that idiot, I study finance and talk&learn about money all day, I can clearly realize when a company wants to take advantage.
    .-= nookie´s last blog ..spring wedges =-.

    • grechen says:

      @nookie – i didn’t meant to suggest that you specifically were charging too much, i was speaking more generally; for me, deciding how much to charge for advertising was very much trial and error. if i didn’t have all my ad space full, i was charging too much, if it’s full and there’s a waiting list, i’m not charging enough! you just have to find that happy medium.

      i’ve actually never done a post where i was asked to place an anchor text link – i have no idea how much is reasonable to charge. but you are absolutely right to stick to your gut with what your time is worth; that is the only way you will get the respect you deserve as a blogger…
      .-= grechen´s last blog ..why shouldn’t fashion bloggers make money blogging? =-.

  16. Katy says:

    This is a great post and the comments are so helpful too. Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this issue.
    .-= Katy´s last blog ..Flowers in Her Hair =-.

  17. What a great post, i totally agree with HauteWorld, as I have some advertising experience so know how much print ads cost. What I would like to know more about is negative impact and loosing you google page rank I had no idea about this, can anyone send me a link where I can read more? Thanks Pearl
    .-= Pearl Westwood´s last blog ..Underwear as Outerwear =-.

  18. Hillary says:

    With more and more blogs popping up and dying off each day, I think it’s great to have this forum where we can unite as a community and try to build relationships and strengthen our presence and value. Forums and discussions like these build awareness and may give some bloggers the confidence to be better negotiators and not to accept just any offer.
    .-= Hillary´s last blog ..First Dress of Spring! =-.

  19. eliza says:

    It constantly baffles my mind how far fashion blogging has come..Gosh, I remember when no one took any of us seriously and now? Well, this post is extremely helpful. I never quite know what the norm is, what I’m suppose to ask for etc etc…Great guide lines to go into talks with confidence and not get taken for a ride. I really appreciate this post, and this forum in general…Great conversations happening here.
    .-= eliza´s last blog ..Helmer @ Portes ouvertes design Montreal =-.

  20. diya says:

    I got a couple requests of … $10 for an ad. Really? I mean I’m a newbie blogger but that’s just ridiculous.

    Anyway, Grechen brings up some really good points and I’m definitely taking notes.

    One more thing- what’s the whole deal with “Paid on Results” and is it worth it? I keep getting emailed about that.
    .-= diya´s last blog ..simplicity =-.

  21. Apryl says:

    Thank you so much for this article Alyson! It’s very timely especially for fashion/beauty bloggers such as myself who are just getting into it all. The points of negotiation are so key and we as bloggers must not take our value for granted otherwise as you said we end up giving up our own power & voice.

    Also becoming familiar with what it costs for a company to advertise is particularly important – print ads are not reaching people the way they used to however just because our blogging content is search-able and above all TRUSTWORTHY and credible doesn’t mean it can come at a pittance to companies that want to utilize it.

    You are the radcakes! Pleasure to read your awesomeness :)
    .-= Apryl´s last blog ..Makeup Monday: M is for Mascara =-.

  22. Andrew says:

    Wow…what an awesome site!! I can’t wait to tell my wife about this! Great work!

  23. sirdorian says:

    i´m very late for this, because this was posted in may. there are some shady things going on which i posted at:
    http://stylishkidsinriot.com/wordpress/advice/companies-bad-behavior

    of course, companies trying the hell to get you for a post or campaigns. i´m receiving loads of e-mails every week from known and unknown pr agencies who are interested in partnership, collaboration etc.

    the highes figure i´ve every received since starting out in 2007, was around 300 dollar. not that bad, but most time they ask for 30 dollar a post. thats too less and the biggest shame: they also want to add some parts of their PR text.

    but there are still great agencies out there who understand the blogsphere and offer good deals like mobile phones, stuff for your wardrobe etc.

    let me say one thing: it really depends on the credibility of the agency or company. the big player like nokia, levis etc will never offer you bad deals. and most important: sponsorship should be a win/win situation for both sides and build a relationship for a long time.

    they are out there and probably interested in your blog, right now:)

  24. roni says:

    You guys always hit the nail on the head. I often get low balled for sponsored links. My site is no nitrolicious but you’re not going to pay me $100 for an ad that’s supposed to run all year long. I’m not stupid, I’m a blogger. Also I was just reading about how some giveaways can be classified as lotteries and that’s illegal. You guys should write about that too.

    Seriously, I have never done any of the “sponsored” post where a company flat out pays me for writing a post. A review yes but my disclaimer includes complete honesty.

    The best thing we can do and that you guys help us to do is stay educated. Know how much you are worth. Know how many backlinks/ inlinks you have. Know your traffic keywords, peak times etc. Know your blog like you know yourself!

  25. roni says:

    @ashe mischief, I read that the nofollow tag thing works in your favor too. If you’re doing a follow tag on a keyword from a sponsored link, your google rank drops. Do you know anything about this?

  26. Milly says:

    What an informative post. I wrote a post I was immensely proud of but after reading this I have gone and edited it because it reads like a sponsorship when in reality I got nothing for it, not even a thank you!

    I have had my first request for a write-up/review from a company I had purchased from and was very happy with service received and I thought nothing of doing it but I now feel warranted to go back to the company and ask for something in return for my time and readers attention.

    Thank you for giving me the insight and confidence to do this because even if nothing comes from it I know how to market myself better in the future.

  27. Piper Page says:

    My message is kind of long… sorry ’bout that…

    Sponsored content is a completely new subject to me as I’ve never allowed advertising on my blogs in the past.

    Sponsorship rates have always been something that I see as subjective and seems to vary from blog to blog (clearly) and even genre to genre within the larger community.

    I know of several large ‘indie’ craft-style blogs that are lined with adverts and sponsored posts for low costs and I’ve seen some of the mom blogs (and others too!) simply do reviews for the “free” products. I don’t mean to generalize or to apply those criticisms to only those specific genres. I’m merely using the two as examples that I specifically recall.

    I think many of the brands that expect little for nothing see this disparity across the various genres and often assume that it’s like a “Wild West” arena wherein few rules apply and everything is negotiable.

    For some bloggers, a little money is better than none and unfortunately it does bring the standard down for all.

    I agree that a standard set of guidelines might be beneficial but who would set them? What traffic levels would they be then applied to? So many questions!

    Also, for me, it would be much easier to accept a lower rate for a sponsorship if the company were start up, indie, charitable VS. a large multinational with an unlimited advertising budget. The problem is of course that these larger companies know this and attempt to, at times, take advantage of this sentiment with bloggers.

    The bottom line is, if you are allowing sponsored posts or any advertising you are in essence offering a service. As a service provider you should expect to be paid fairly for what you’re providing. Saying no to low-ball offers allows you to accept a higher caliber client in the long run. Your readers will notice this too.

  28. Alex says:

    This is a really great post and the tips are great. Something to certainly keep in mind when I’m being pitched.

  29. Vanessa says:

    Alyson, great article. It was good to read through everyone’s comments and learn about some of the ways advertisers are trying to take advantage of bloggers. Thanks for keeping us informed.

    I came across this Shopstyle thread about embedded SEO and Page Rank. I have since removed my widgets.
    http://www.abestweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=119828

  30. Red says:

    @Apryl

    I realise that web content should not be sold for a pittance – but you must agree that there is no way that every half decent respected fashion blog out their can charge anywhere near print-ad rates and their web equivalents? Ok may e the industry movers, shakers, icons and leaders…sure! Bbut the fact remains that there is literally too much content on the web to make anything like this viable whatsoever.

    Magazines and Print generally have HUGE readerships based from between 10-40+ years of coverage.

    A typical example:

    Vogue apparently began life in 1892 in New York by Arthur Baldwin Turnure as a ‘high society’ read. It seems absurd (even in this hard hit critical climate that jeopardises the world of journalism) that a well read blog of say 2-3 years could warrant the same monetising prospects as a 15 yr old+ branded print publication that has since diversified into the web with a ever growing sustainable readership.
    Journalists are having a hard time finding work as it is and turn to blogging as a source of income. This is saturating the mid range blogging scene and some sites are only a few steps away from the same level of strength that spam style sites deliver advertisers at a tiny percentage of the cost.

    In lieu of this – I wish there was a governing body/authority that dictated certain thresholds that blogger’s could charge. An authority that graded this threshold on:

    • Levels of influence
    • Degrees of marketability.

    (Something a bit more official, and watchdog – nothing like the standard set by that dying out green bar 2 years ago.)

    This way it would be a two way street – and people would be paying for what they got and bloggers would have a better sense of value.

    As an interim measure – maybe a panel should be setup of independent evaluators here on:
    Half a panel of bloggers and half advertisers – readers could then compromise the pricing structures of each to reach something more accurate and realistic.
    It would help bring the two worlds together that are both somewhat dependent and reliant on each other.

    ———————————-

  31. Red says:

    @sirdorian

    Re. “the big player like nokia, levis etc will never offer you bad deals and most important: sponsorship should be a win/win situation for both sides and build a relationship for a long time”

    This is true – do all bloggers want to promote the mainstream? The big brands?

    Smaller companies with just as much ingenuity, style, credibility and quality products will miss out. And if you are passionate about the up and coming scenes – you may be collectively killing them before they have even started!

    So as a blogger I urge peeps to think on about statements that they have made re. integrity.

    A lot here have said that they will only be willing to offer exposure for products they’d actually buy or brands they like.

    So…if you have a fashion blog and Nike offer you $1000s……..would you then say no to that? Would you reject a spring chicken fashion designer (1st gig) who could only pay $30 for a post?

    Or that store selling a really unique product (that you like) but are in a start up situation and can’t offer you any money…How do these factors affect any marketing rates? How does this affect your blogging integrity and ‘supposed’ interest and support for the up and coming scene?

    It’s not just one site that promotes a brand – it’s 1000′s, 10,000′s. When bloggers get greedy the newer scene suffers. The existing brands don’t even need to put the gloves on!!!! They’ve monopolised the web.

  32. I really enjoyed reading this and found that it is worth reading although it took time but that was not wasted, thanks for this good tips :) keep posting such a tricks..

  33. Allie says:

    Thanks, this was really useful!

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