Ok, so when I started blogging in 2007, I did not know a thing about the publishing industry. Not. A. Thing. In retrospect, I wish I had someone with experience sit down and tell me what was what, because I made A LOT of mistakes. I still make mistakes.
But, in seven years of blogging, six years professionally, I can tell you what I have learned, so you don't have to make the same mistakes I did.
If you want to be a professional blogger, you have to learn the ropes. And somehow do so with grace. One thing I notice about some of the top professional bloggers: Tina Craig, Chiara Ferrangi, Andy Torres, Bryan Grey Yambao, Susie Lau, Amiee Song, Nicole Warne, is that they all act with grace and enthusiasm for what they do. You can be demanding when it comes to working with brands, but if you want to go that route (even if you don't) you'll need to know the language of the PR and Marketing world. You may not think some of it is fair. You may not like what I have to say. And by all means, if I am wrong, if my experience has taught me wrong, please share your experience.
If you're a blogger, you might be getting these emails in your inbox. How do you know what they mean? I'm here to tell you.
(This J.Crew Collaboration was published on my blog as a result, of a Press Release)
Press Releases are usually written communications (emails) from brands, notifying you of what is happening with their company. Press Releases usually contain information about a product launch, a new product, a sale or sample sale, some event that happened with their products (like a celebrity wearing their product, or placement in a large magazine). Often they may offer high resolution images, videos for you to post on your blog. They may even offer samples, but in my experience most of the time “samples” are really only for large websites, many brands still do just put bloggers on a list and blast the releases to anybody and everybody without really knowing who they are contacting.
Why you might want Press Releases:
If you want to be in “the know” and have content while it's still “newsworthy” getting Press Releases is something you need, else you'll be scraping content from larger sites, or digging up older content. If you want your readers to come to your blog for the freshest content around, it helps to have relationships with PRs, so you get the scoop.
Who sends Press Releases?
For larger brands, the PR department or an external agency sends releases. For smaller brands, usually it's in-house, or the business owners themselves.
Do you get paid to post Press Releases?
NO. The only websites that get “paid” to publish Press Releases are wire services like PR Newswire. If you want your blog to be a wire service, maybe that can be your business model, but for most bloggers, Press Releases are sent in hopes of editorial coverage. You can post anything you want (as long as it's true, don't commit libel!) with information given to you with Press Releases. Newspapers, magazines, large websites, TV stations don't get paid to publish this information, so you won't either.
For more information on Press Releases, see the Wikipedia page here.
Product Seeding (Gifting):
(This pair of Paige jeans was posted on Eat, Sleep, Denim, as a result, of product seeding.)
When a brand offers to send you free product, whether for “review” or to style and post on your blog, etc. it's called Product Seeding or Gifting on the brand side. Us bloggers usually call it “freebies” or gifts. Product Seeding is a marketing strategy where they offer products or services to a select group of influencers in hopes that it will stimulate the market for the said product. Sometimes products are seeded to gain information about how the market might respond to a particular product, but most often, it's done so with the hopes of getting people to spread the word amongst themselves, rather than through paid advertisement (which people have different responses to). An example would be, say at the Oscars, actresses are loaned gowns to wear that might cost tens of thousands of dollars, but instead of paying for them, they can wear the dresses for free. Or a TV station might be sent products in hopes that they will use them in a segment. For us bloggers, brands have identified our “influence” and hope that we will talk about their product on an editorial level. While many newspapers and magazines have a “No Gifting” policy, many magazines and blogs do accept gifts. The ethics behind this is under debate. However, it is generally accepted among all levels of the publishing industry that a publication does not accept payment merely for coverage of seeded products.
Why you might want Seeded Products:
If you like to talk about a variety of products on your blog and showcase them in a way that's editorially unique (say you take your own photos) or if you want to examine and use products before you post about them, then receiving Seeded Products may be in your best interest. Do note, this MAY come at a cost to you editorial integrity, and you DO have to disclose when you publish a product given for free.
Who sends Seeded Products:
Like Press Releases, product seeding usually comes from a PR agency or internal PR department. Sometimes the designers themselves send the product.
Do you get paid for Product Seeding?
Again, no. Unless you are required to use specific links, post specific verbiage or do specific tasks in relation to the gifting. If you are being sent a product, you are at liberty to post in whatever context on whatever time frame you deem appropriate. If celebrities don't get paid to wear a pair of jeans, you aren't either. If a TV station isn't getting paid to include a product in a morning segment, you aren't either. The PRs goals are usually just to generate buzz about a product. PR agencies are generally not allocated advertising budget, which sponsored posts may fall under.
For more information on Product Seeding, see this Wikipedia Page here.
(Here is an example of a blogger campaign with Makeup Forever and Sydne Style)
A Blogger Campaign is where a brand, marketing or advertising agency has a specific message they want bloggers to publish. This often comes in the form of a sponsored post, a sponsored video, a sponsored event, a design collaboration. You may be a one-off or part of a larger group of bloggers delivering the same message. The scope of these campaigns is very wide because it's really only limited to the imagination of the brands and or the bloggers working in it. A blogger can be asked to provide a specific service on a specific timeline in exchange for money, or whatever is negotiated. For example, if you are part of a blogger network like Style Coalition or Glam, you may be contacted about a sponsored post opportunity, that is a Blogger Campaign.
Why you might want to be a part of Blogger Campaigns:
If you want to work with brands and make money, you absolutely want to be part of Blogger Campaigns. This will help you gain experience working with brands, learn how things tend to operate behind the scenes, and also give you ideas on how you want to structure your business model. If you're new and still building your traffic, you might benefit from seeing what requirements you'll need to sign up with a blogger network like Style Coalition, Glam, Federated Media or DBA. Or, if you have a lot of ideas and are good at pitching yourself to brands, you can also give that a go as well.
Who sends Blogger Campaign opportunities:
Blogger Campaigns only sometimes come from PR agencies, mostly they come from blogger networks like those mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs. They might also come from Digital Marketing agencies, or even SEO companies. These entities are allocated different budgets than a PR agency which is why you probably won't get a sponsored post deal from a PR agency, unless that PR agency offers digital marketing services.
Do you get paid for Blogger Campaigns?
YES. This is where you get paid. This is where brands WANT to pay you, because they have a message they want to get out. It helps at this point that you have a clear understanding of the value of your work, the value of your readers and the willingness to accept these opportunities with enthusiasm.
I really did not mean to make this a 1600 word post, but, with all the confusion on BOTH the brand side and the blogger side, it's worth opening the discussion. It would be nice to say “I deserve to get paid for everything I do.” That sounds great! I would love that! But that's not reality.
Many people think the blogosphere is the “Wild West” but already in 2014, there is a very clear standard that has been set for what warrants a paycheck and what does not. You CAN ask to get paid for EVERYTHING you do for a brand, but you risk shooting yourself in the foot. Like ANY business, it's important to have a CLEAR understanding of what exactly it is that you are selling, what it is worth, as well as HOW your industry works. Once you have that in place, the world really is your oyster.
Go get 'em!
I really appreciate all of this info. I’m getting more and more emails from brands regarding each of these types of promos and it’s easy to get taken advantage of as an up and coming blogger.
I have been blogging for four years now, so I have learned a lot the hard way, too. However, I am still confused with google guidelines regarding sponsored posts with “do follow” links.
I do not accept publishing this type of posts but it hurts me loosing the extra income 🙁
Do you know what we should do ? I am sure I am not the only one bombarded with this type of emails?!
I don´t know if this is the case, but I have heard that sometimes brands want bloggers to include their links in their posts for free. This has something to do with SEO, because if there will be many links to some particular site, it will be ranked higher by Google. On the other hand it is forbidden to pay someone to spread the links round the web, when Google finds out it penalizes the site.
That’s a good question, unfortunately I don’t know the answer…
I think I’ve found the definite page explaining this from Google (at last! It was like finding the Holy Grail!):
It clearly states that you MUST make a link “no follow” when the post “includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”.
So links in sponsored posts links MUST be no follow, and links for gifted items MUST be no follow. Take that, the PR contact who sent me a condescending email insisting that I must make my link do follow in a gifted item post(!), and the brand that refused to pay me for a sponsored post unless I changed the link to do follow – both times I made it clear before the post went out that the link would be no follow.
Many people who’ve seen me on a few Twitter chats will know that I’ve been trying to find this answer for a while (apologies for boring so many people with the question). I’m sticking to what Google say – and sending the link to any brands or agencies who try to get me to do otherwise. And here’s Google with an explanation for what a no follow link is in case I’ve lost anyone:
I hope that helps! 🙂
Thank you so much Catherine. I have been saying for months now that I don’t accept do follow links due to google guidelines.
However, I had so much pressure from Agencies, I started doubting myself. Plus, I lost some clients because most of them just want do follow and the truth is the companies had products I honestly liked and where relevant to my site….
Anyway, I see Google’s point regarding messing up with rankings.
But then why do they get payed to have someone first in search results?
This is an obvious double standard from Google. But the good part is that Google does NOT know when you have received money for a certain link because you naturally link to other websites in your articles anyhow. It’s impossible to tell which links are paid for and which are not.
However, if you want to be on the safe side, when an agency approaches you next time, tell them that you can accept do-follow links as long as they allow you to post several other related links in the article…this way your story is much more natural from Google’s point of view and basically impossible to track down (unless you state it clear in the article that it’s part of a promotion)
Catherine is right on the money. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with RapGenius, but they were asking for links in exchange for a tweet from their well-followed account. A reciprocal tweet was the only thing they offered, and for that they were manually penalized for 3 weeks, and their traffic went down to less than half of what it normally was.
Google doesn’t always pick up on links that are placed as a result of a barter, trade or payment, but if they do, you could lose a significant amount of search traffic.
If you rely on Google for a significant amount (30% or more) of your site’s traffic, NEVER place a followed link in exchange for payment or trade, no matter what an agency tells you. If 80% or more of your traffic comes from places like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, then losing search traffic may not be a big deal, and in that case you can probably afford to take the risk.
Unlike RapGenius, who have millions of dollars, and investors who can get in touch with people at Google, smaller sites that are identified as being paid link networks can see penalties lasting for several months to several years, and a time consuming and expensive process to get back in Google’s good graces.
Thank you so much for the reply! I am making all my links no follow just in case…
Too risky to take chances…
By the way do you know if Google has a problem with affiliate links? As far as I know they are no follow…
It’s sad that that’s what it’s come to, but nofollowing external links seems to be the only guaranteed way to stay on the safe side.
Affiliate links are a gray area. Google is actually invested in VigLink, which is a company that turns regular links into affiliate links. If you’re being super cautious, I’d say nofollow your affiliate links, but there are a few reasons you’d probably be okay if you left them followed.
1. They are editorial in the sense that you’re not being paid by the companies for the link itself. You choose the products, and the link isn’t designed to help the end company’s search rankings. That’s the biggest thing that Google has against paid links and link trades – their algorithm relies heavily on links, and they don’t like the idea of people influencing that through deals that they can’t fully see. A lot of people don’t think that’s a great position, but their search engine, their rules.
2. Most affiliate links go through a number of redirects and shorteners, so it becomes a bit more clear that you’re placing the link to track a certain action, rather than to help someone’s search ranking for money.
Even though it doesn’t always work out that way, Google is trying to punish the intent when they punish sites that they think are selling or trading links. Basically, don’t try to fool us with links that you got in an underhanded way, and don’t try to build a business on selling links to people to help them with their search traffic.
So how does Google determine if a link on a post is “paid for” or not? As in, what if you had purchased something yourself, reviewed and posted the link for people to go buy it?
This is a great topic of discussion. What I do is active SEO on the bulk of my posts by adjusting my permalink to match the content, using keywords in my content and addicting a meta title, description and keywords to the back end if the page. The clickable links must be thought of like a Wikipedia page. Since the panda update in 2012, Google ranks your pages according to number of visits to the page. length of time on the page and web site and engagement ( if they follow your clickable links to pages that are related to your page). Although I keyword, Google has become very smart via the penguin update and is able draw keywords from the content of your page rather than listening to your stated keywords in the meta data but those tags can be helpful to your visitors on the site searches. This all helps to get your page under a 55% bounce rate (see google analytical) which should be your target. If I’m paid to work on a collaboration or I’m using affiliate links, it’s all good. That page will still do pretty well because the subscribers support it, are engaged and that’s what it’s doing there to begin with. It’s for the enjoyment of the subscribers and benefits the brands that I personally like. As for google. When I do a post like this, yes I do talk about it on the page but it’s paid for so that page isn’t done to gain in the usual ways with the typical guidelines for SEO ranking. The priority of that page is to the subscribers and the client paying for the collaboration so make it clickable. As a rule, only do business with brands you like and produce enough solid content to make those paid campaigns less than 20% of your content this way your site won’t be penalized and your readers won’t be scared off from appearing unauthentic. Hope that helps. I post tips from my research all the time on www.AvALiveRadio.com if you want to read more.
This was so helpful, thank you! x
This post seems very useful, I also receive press releases which usually use the days I do not have time to post something personal, or if the news spread is of interest to my readers, even so you have revealed me mysteries about of that time bloggers are not paid and when yes, thank you!
This was a very useful post that I’m sure I’ll reference time and time again. Thanks for the great info!
Thank you so much for this post! I recently just received an email from a PR about a press release and honestly had no clue how to go about it. This really helped a lot. X
This is so perfect! Thank you for this. I’ve been receiving a lot of emails about product seeding and press releases recently and didn’t exactly know how to differentiate them and how to handle it. A very well known company just contacted me for press release and this post is so great for that! <3
Fantastic points in this post. Bloggers, it’s always a good idea to know your rights and when to push back on the brand who is asking for too much!
Thank you for sharing this! Gosh, I wish I knew about the press release thing when I received my first random press release via email. The silliest thing I did was asked them if they sent it to the wrong person and if not what am I suppose to do with it. LOL.
Thanks, now I know how it calls when you receive a product gift by the brand – product seeding))))
I’m loving the articles I’m seeing lately that give advice on helping bloggers take themselves to the next level, but at the same time, the advice you’re offering is realistic and that’s so important.
This article has been insanely helpful as I’m currently in the area of wondering when it’s acceptable to ask for compensation and how much, etc. Superb insight.
Great post Jen, I think there is a lot of confusion.
About the links selling part, as bloggers I think we need also to be more aware of SEO, etc.
Thank you for sharing and it’s really helpful! Now I get to know more about the blogging world 🙂
I really appreciate all of this info. great article, really interesting. thanks
Really helpful article, from my experience most of the new bloggers have no idea about PR, so yes, that’s really good info.
This was a really great post! Helped me to understand the business side of blogging better 🙂
Love this article it’s an eye opener to me!
Great Post, I’ve printed it out for future reference 🙂 I’m just getting started with my blog and I can see you’ve just saved me quite a bit of confusion. I’ll have a look into the no follow link thing as this is the first I’ve heard, Thanks 🙂
This article is really great! I’ve been blogging for 3 years now and have been really active with my blog in 2013 and I am based in New York. I am lucky to have the opportunity to attend events where I can network with PR people and brands. I also think attending fashion, or beauty events can be helpful.
I’ve been receiving products and press releases and choose carefully what I want to share on my blog. I find it authentic in a email when a brand or PR company says your name, blog and shares a post or says something about your style, since I know they really check out my blog and have seen my work. Then I know I feel “special” to be able to get the email from them. I’ve had many PR brands email me without being authentic and that’s a real turn off since I take my blog seriously and would hope they would do the same.
My next step is being able to be a part of a blogger campaign and this article is really helpful to know how to go about it. I am still learning so much and from personal experiences so far feel like I am on the right path. Thanks for this!!
This is a very great article. I know in my past experience where i’ve worked with brands and we weren’t on the same page so working out the terms and knowing the different types of collaborations is good.
Straight and nice campaign. Eliza 🙂
love this post!
I appreciate this information on the different stages of branding and blogging. I think you’ve put it in a helpful context that makes the whole process easier to understand. Excellent post!
Thank you for this information. Wonderful piece.
Well, sometimes, we are paid. Sometimes, we are given goods.
Thanks for the post! I want to move more in this direction, so this was EXTREMELY helpful!
It was a really great article and really helpful, but from the title I would never imagine what’s hidden inside. I knew about press releases and that’s why I haven’t opened this one never before, even if it was on the home page for a long time now, but the whole article is a diamond. Every blogger should know about those things.
Jennine! Thank you!! I just learned so much!!
Now, the magic comes from getting it all to happen!!
In the meantime, chug along, chug along, chug along. And take stock of little accomplishments along the way. Like, I just had my first editorial with Cross the Line–a new e-ecommerce site for Hong Kong. It was so awesome!! They loaned me the clothes and I styled the shoot. Also, this week I posted a review where I got my hair styled for free in collaboration for my article plus a discount for my readers if they mention my name at the styling bar.
While I want to get bigger and better, I have to remind myself of the little things along the way that are helping me to succeed as a Hong Kong fashion blogger. Bit by bit. Oh, and I must be enjoying myself along the way!!
Thank you so much for this insightful article.
Ann of Kremb de la Kremb
Very informative article. Thank you for sharing information and ideas.
Great Article, you made me laugh about the freebie portion, there’s always a delightful marketing term for such goodies 🙂
I use several marketing platforms to write for such products as what you mentioned and believe that this is perhaps the most consistent form of a revenue stream
Such an excellent article! as someone who is only really now (after two years – for shame) working out how all this works and gathering a better following it so good to understand what I should accept – I get a lot of invitations to write an article on a topic they are discussing on their own site? It always appears to be a freebie, but what kind of collab is that? Or is that just them taking advantage of a beginner bee like myself? haha – complete novice over here!
How does one get started in receiving press releases? Do we have to contact the company first, or is there links on their website that you can sign up for?
Thanks for the post! Now I know more about blogging world!
Guys, I know you had talked about nofollow and do follow links so much here…
But, I still can’s get it..
Could anybody give me more info?…
I found this article very interesting. Thanks for sharing all this information with us.
I actually worked for a social media company that linked brands and bloggers together so this makes sense to me! If anyone wants tips on how to make it with brands, check out my blog! I will do editorial posts dedicated to topics that you would like me to reveal! 🙂
Thank you for this write up and it does shed some light on what to expect or not, especially for a blurry newbie like me… Thanks
This is a good article. A company just contacted me for press release and this post is so great for that
Thank you for sharing this! Gosh, I wish I knew about the press release thing when I received my first random press release via email. The silliest thing I did was asked them if they sent it to the wrong person and if not what am I suppose to do with it. LOL.
thanks for useful info and tips!
As the article says, press releases are important for coverage. When new products are released there will likely be a following behind that, and they tend to share information. So if you drop a press release and people start sharing it because its news they like, then you’ll get a lot of coverage for your blog.
Also – just want to point out that the first part of the article is my favorite. ALWAYS make sure you are genuine about your blog and posts.
I had and still have not much knowledge or idea about this. Thank you so much. I just started my blog, so it will take looooong way to go, but really useful information. Thank you!
This is really fantastic article and very useful tips and information. Thanks for sharing this kind article.
There are certain press releases I will turn down because they honestly do not benefit my readers, and that’s what matters most to me, not someone’s product. If the announcement helps or offers a solution for my readers, then yes, I will gladly spread the word. But often I like to spin the announcement into something I could actually use. And by “spin” I mean take someone’s latest book announcement and ask the PR rep if the author would like to offer tips to my readers (moms-to-be or new moms) on the topic of their book. Rather than spreading the word about a book my readers may or may not be interested in, I use this method to add value to the content I publish and have the author’s book as a nice-to-know item, rather than the main focus.
very informative 🙂 thank you for the post!
Very detailed, honest writeup. Thanks a ton for enhancing knowledge of newbie blogger like me 🙂