How Not to Sell-Out Your Blog

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Are fashion bloggers selling-out?” was the title of an article I was interviewed for in 2010; but we were talking about selling-out way before that, and unfortunately, we're still talking about it now. Whether it's real or perceived, the issue of being influenced by money hangs over bloggers heads and sets the bar even higher for us.

I'm not going to argue whether it's fair for bloggers to be singled out over journalists (it's not), or who is or isn't selling-out their blog – that's not as important as learning where the idea that bloggers are selling out comes from. What are bloggers doing that feed into that perception? Here are some of the things I've found that raise a red flag for readers/critics of blogs:

Too many gifted items

If your outfit is made up of all gifted pieces, you're doing it wrong. There's nothing wrong with accepting items from brands you love and wear on your blog, but when you start wearing them all at once, you become inaccessible to your readers. How can they relate to getting an entire outfit for free?

Along these lines, be sure that the brands you work with aligned with your style and budget BEFORE you started working with them. If you're a thrifter/target shopper when you start blogging and suddenly you get an offer to review a luxury bag that costs more than your rent, think twice about accepting it. Sure, it's wonderful to receive such an offer, and you can accept it, but don't get defensive when your readers accuse you of selling-out your blog. Your style will evolve naturally over time, especially if you started your blog in college and then began your career; LET IT. Don't be in a hurry to “grow-up” just because you're getting offers. A good rule of thumb is to never accept something from a designer or brand that you couldn't afford to buy yourself. That way, your message stays consistent and your readers can still relate to you (presumably they have a similar style/budget).

Disclosure

This should go without saying, but you should always disclose if you got something free from a brand to review. Make sure you have lots of links all over your blog to your disclosure policy, and consider adding an editorial, or review policy to that as well. Be transparent with your readers and explain to them what it means when you are “gifted” something to review.

Too many giveaways

Giveaways are a nice way to have fun on your blog and reward readers, but doing them constantly will get tedious for your readers (unless that's all you do). Giveaways are great when they're done in conjunction with reviews, and again, for something that you love or would purchase anyway, but if they're irrelevant to your readers' needs, and/or they have to do 15 different things to even enter the giveaway, think again about the message it's sending.

Irrelevant ads

At the heart of this is simply serving the wrong content to your readers. If you normally write about a specific niche, but serve ads from a company in a different niche, it disconnects your blog from your readers. The ads you choose to run on your blog and the brands you work with should be relevant and provide something of value to your readers. If you're taking advertising that is NOT relevant or valuable to your readers, your readers won't “click” and the campaign won't work anyway, but even worse than that, they'll wonder if you did it just for the money. There are times when you might want to work with an advertiser you really do believe in, but maybe doesn't align 100% with your message up until now – that's okay, but closely monitor how your readers react to it. If it's an affiliate relationship, you should be making commissions from the campaign, if it's an advertiser, they should at least be seeing a healthy click-through, if not sales. If after several months you don't see the results you wanted, it's time to re-think working with that advertiser, if they don't do it first.

Secondary to that, displaying too many affiliate ads is also a problem; you should set yourself apart by choosing a few affiliates to work closely with (the ones you would write about anyway, even if you wouldn't get a commission) – don't just plop a bunch of affiliate ads up on your blog and expect your readers not to feel bombarded.

What do you think? Have you seen anything else that you would consider that a blogger is selling-out her blog? How do you avoid that perception?

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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11 Responses

  1. Rachelle P

    I’ve seen pretty successful bloggers do this, every single item in the outfit is a gift. I mean come one, I’m ok with getting some free swag but don’t wear them all at once. That’s tacky, and this behavior makes us look bad. My blog is not that popular and I’ve turned down offer that I didn’t feel were right for me or my blog. Of course I was scared and wondered if anyone would reach out to me again since I don’t get that many offers, but it was really for the best 🙂
    xo
    http://pinksole.com

    Reply
  2. Likkie Xiong

    Most of the blogs I follow do this, it’s so common to see now days. It feels like they became corporate, and they lost their personality. Only a few successful bloggers I followed do this and still maintain their images still by at least promoting smaller brands and designers they find that no one knows about. Most of them promote lots of Chinese online boutiques and it’s cool when they have giveaways but I’m a tad tired of the same thing over and over. xD

    http://thedippster.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  3. Allison

    I think the problem with bloggers accepting so many freebies, is that I can’t tell what they like anymore. I start to trust them a lot less. How am I supposed to know if they really like a brand or item of clothing if they are constantly getting them for free?

    For example, this week a lot of fashion bloggers whose blogs I’ve been reading for a while were ALL wearing dresses from Old Navy that they were gifted. I’ve never seen any of them wear Old Navy before.I can’t help but lose a little respect for them.

    Reply
  4. Sabrina + Mariana

    I think your first point is the most important. Too many gifted items is my pet peeve.. sometimes I see bloggers who look like they belong in a catalogue, wearing everything a store provided them. It’s hard to relate to and it doesn’t look genuine.
    Great post!
    Sabrina
    xo
    http://polkadottedpearl.com

    Reply
  5. Sarah's Real Life

    You left out one thing that I’ve noticed! When a blogger makes a weekly habit of making an entire post dedicated to what they’re “coveting” or what’s on their “wish list,” I think that can be a sign of selling out. Of course, I’m talking about the ones where each item is accompanied by an affiliate link. It’s one thing to link to the clothes you’re wearing in an outfit, because I know you would ACTUALLY buy and wear those things (because you’re doing it). When it’s a “wish list,” I can’t help but wonder if the blogger is just pushing things that will get them more commission. I think the more appropriate place to post “wish list” items is on Pinterest, so you’re not forcing it on your blog readers.
    Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s ALWAYS wrong to post shopping links…I do it myself sometimes. But when it’s every week, that’s when it starts to look like the blogger’s just trying to make money off her readers.

    ~Sarah of Sarah’s Real Life

    Reply
    • Grechen Reiter

      your comment is so funny because i do this pretty much daily – my blogs are definitely shopping blogs – so all of my posts are focused on what i’m obsessing over at the moment, random things i love or what i find on sale. i actually did a post this week on slouchy pants and my next two outfits featured two new “slouchy” items inspired by my post.

      i guess it depends on the blogger, but i feel like if you “trust” her to begin with, why would you think she’s “just” trying to make money? as opposed to posting things she loves? if it’s not a “normal” thing, or she’s posting things that don’t seem to fit with her aesthetic, then maybe it’s fishy, but i don’t see these types of post as generally “bad.”

      maybe i’m a little biased on this, because shopping posts are what i do, but if i see something i like i post it. period. whether or not i get a commission for it.

      Reply
  6. Peter

    I think if you accept gifts, it is not bad. You can add more things to your blog and now is more wealth of entries. For example, in some blogs I have seen this clothing store: http://www.ivorybrand.com And it have nice clothes. If I had not read this entries, I would not know this great store.

    Have a nice day!

    Reply
  7. Souri

    I was wondering how all these fashion bloggers can afford their outfits. Op Shops are a great way of getting stuff fairly cheap … I love them.

    Reply
  8. natalie famula

    It’s great to see bloggers evolve over time. I personally follow a few that I’ve seen go from wearing lots of h+m to high end brands. I think it’s more related to what you do with the items, if you style them in an interesting way with great photography and backgrounds then it can still be artful and interesting. Personally I like blogs that have more of a magazine aesthetic. At the end of the day, fashion is a business and bloggers are a part of that too.
    http://www.torontofashionspot.com

    Reply