Paid Blogging Opportunities You Should Avoid

by Gigi Ross on January 24, 2012

If you read my blog regularly, you know that from time to time I do sponsored posts. This sort of blog advertising is a great way to earn a little extra income and pay for my blog expenses. But sometimes, these sorts of requests are shady.

Most PR requests are safe (although many are not lucrative to be worth your time). But others can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Friends, I don’t care what someone offers to pay you. Some things are not worth your reputation, and the level of trust that you’ve built up with your readership.

blog advertising

Here are the type of paid blogging opportunities you should consider avoiding:

They ask you to not disclose that your post is sponsored.  

Big no-no. Don’t call your own ethics into question by dealing with people who clearly have none. A blatant disregard for the FTC guidelines is truly dangerous to the blogging community, and to consumers. Disclosures help consumers make informed decisions. Disclosures help the blog community to be a standard-bearer of honesty and trust.

I received this email from a company just two days ago:

Hi, I have clients that I like to get blog posts written for and published on various blogs. The article itself doesn’t have to be too long…maybe 200-300 words. It also doesn’t have to be about my client (unless I otherwise specify)…just be able to use the anchor text of the link in the article (I only want 1 link in the post). The only other condition is that I CAN NOT have it say “sponsored post” or “paid post” anywhere. If you really want to meet the FTC guidelines then you could use an image to say it’s a paid post…just not text. I don’t want Google to be able to read that it’s paid for. Examples of an image being used can be found here or here. If you do agree with the conditions above then please email me back answering the following 2 questions:

1. How much will you charge me per post?
2. Will you be sharing these posts on your social accounts? (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

What’s wrong with this email? Everything.

This person asked me to BLATANTLY IGNORE FTC guidelines around disclosing paid relationships.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the FTC guidelines, you need to be aware of them. Read a great FAQ on them on the FTC website. They apply to you if you do any sort of work with PR: if you have a relationship with a brand or advertiser that includes payment or product, that relationship must be clearly disclosed in your post. A “blanket” disclosure covering your entire blog is not sufficient.

They ask you to skirt the FTC guidelines in any other way.

Let’s revisit the email above. Anticipating that I might be concerned with FTC guidelines, the guy provided me with a suggested back-door solution if “I really want to meet FTC guidelines” by hiding the disclosure in an image.

If you were reading a product review on this blog, would you go and click an image to determine if I had placed there a disclosure that I had been paid? No, you wouldn’t. You expect that disclosure to be at the beginning or end of a blog post. Representatives who ask you to fudge the system have no moral compass. This sort of loophole-seeking doesn’t do anybody good BUT the business for whom you’re compromising your reputation.

They require follow links.

This one can probably be the subject of debate, but I don’t work with companies who require follow links in sponsored posts. Why? Because again, the only party that benefits from these type of links are the companies that insist on them, and in fact, I can be penalized by Google for doing it.

When high-quality sites link to another site with a “follow link,” that site is given a “boost” with Google.   However, Google does not love paid posts or sponsored content because, well, it’s advertising. So paid posts that include follow links are often penalized by Google – big time. You can read all about no follow links in this About.com article on no follow tags. No reputable blog network I’ve worked with has ever required me to place a follow link.

It sounds too good to be true.

It probably is. Disreputable folks will spend email paragraphs flattering you and making it seem like it’s easy-peasy to make money. But there’s usually a catch with these people. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t even go down the path. I have a group of friends who routinely circulate PR requests among each other as a sanity check: “Does this seem weird?” “Is this something you would accept?” There’s no better place to utilize your blog buddies.

The request is clearly a mass email.

Not all mass PR or paid blogging requests are shady, but some are. Take a look at the email. Are you addressed by your real name? Does the copy reference anything specific about your blog?  Are there tons of misspellings? Professional and reputable PR people take the time to read a person’s blog and do their diligence before approaching a blogger with an opportunity.  Same goes for blog networks that offer their members opportunities – they’ve already qualified you and it’s okay if they send you an opportunity via newsletter. Unprofessional people treat you like a number because guess what? They don’t care about establishing relationships, they care about their search engine rankings – and nothing else.

It’s pretty easy to be a trustworthy and well-respected blogger. Tell the truth. Don’t be afraid to disclose. Be selective on the opportunities you take. Don’t associate yourself with companies who want to evade the system.

Most importantly, focus on the positive: there are scads of fabulous PR opportunities with plenty of reputable agencies and companies. If we all just say no to the shady ones, the cream will keep rising to the top.

 

{ 37 comments }

NYC Single Mom January 24, 2012 at 5:00 am

Thanks for the tips, you have confirmed my gut on some requests I get especially the link request and not mentioning that it is a sponsored post. There is one company requests that its not a sponsored post. I stupidly did some paid posts but now have stopped.
It made me feel less than honest not to provide a disclosure. I even disclose if I havent been paid if I love a product and no one has reached out.

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

The gut check is so important when dealing with this sort of thing.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson January 24, 2012 at 5:25 am

Gigi:

I have a bunch of friends who need to see this! And, it just so happens, I’m running a giveaway starting today. I encourage people to check it out because the product is really cute. And I’ve got my disclaimer at the end. Great post, as usual.
Renee Schuls-Jacobson´s last blog post ..Grandma’s Charms

Stacie January 24, 2012 at 5:45 am

I agree! I’ve had all happen to me and the two that get me are when they don’t want you to disclose and they want follow links. I’ve tried to explain that I follow Google quality guidelines for paid links and they tried to say it was ok and it’s for “SEO purposes” and not for “brand buzz”. These businesses are willing to risk being penalized by Google but I’m not.
Stacie´s last blog post ..Kitchen Extravaganza | Adventures with Chocolate Review & Giveaway (US)

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

A few friends have had this sort of request come to them and they’ve been so flattered that the company thinks their blog is a fit for their product. I’ve had to explain to them that these disreputable companies care nothing about whether the product is a fit. They only care about Google search rankings – and that’s such an important thing to understand the company’s motivation. I’m glad you commented because I know you do sooo much work with PR!!!

Kimberly January 24, 2012 at 5:46 am

I almost got “had” last week actually. The company wanted me to get their banner add off of their website…using a password. Yea, no. Especially when the site said that I had to change my security settings to “low”…ummmm…no thanks
Kimberly´s last blog post ..Something Saucy For The New Year

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

Glad you ran away quickly from that, Kimberly.

Barbara Davis January 24, 2012 at 5:54 am

This is great information. My rule of thumb is only working with brands and companies that I have come to know and trust (or those trusted by colleagues). Building relationships within the blogging community goes a long way.
Barbara Davis´s last blog post ..Cool Things I Discovered Last Week

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

That is an excellent rule of thumb and great suggestion for my readers. Thank you Barbara!

Mommakiss January 24, 2012 at 6:12 am

This. Is. Awesome. Really, I have learned the hard way about the dodgy requests. Thank you for this!!
Mommakiss´s last blog post ..I have a confession

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:05 am

I think we all do a little of the hard way…it’s painful but you never forget the lesson :)

Nicole @MTDLBlog January 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

Excellent post Gigi! I have started receiving those shady emails more and more. I also try to choose only sponsored posts that I can connect with my blog content in an authentic way. If it the topic of the post doesn’t fit, I won’t do it.
Nicole @MTDLBlog´s last blog post ..7 Things I’d Tell My Younger Self {Listable Life}

Shell January 24, 2012 at 6:52 am

I’ve gotten really weird requests lately- “all” I’d have to do is simply post the article that I’m sent as is and wow, they’d give me $100-150. But, it has all sorts of links in it and the content isn’t a fit on my blog. And of course, there is no disclosure. I’m sure they sucker people in- b/c it’s pretty much NO effort for $100+.
Shell´s last blog post ..Erie Drive: Unique Style

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:06 am

It’s really sad that they can wave money in front of people’s faces and folks who don’t really understand what’s going on are just trying to earn a little money and say yes.

angela January 24, 2012 at 6:58 am

Thanks so much for sharing these. I’m definitely not at the point where I get these, but knowing what to look out for is important!

Alexandra January 24, 2012 at 7:00 am

If I ever get a pitch other than 7.50 to place an automotive repair shop link up on my sidebar, permanently, I know who to call.

Great work here, and wonderful resource, Geeg.

Thank you

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:06 am

Snort. Don’t underestimate yourself, lady. :)

Poppy January 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Oh, Alexandra! $7.50?? Next time we get together, the lattes are on you!
Poppy´s last blog post ..The Mystery of the Mayo Sandwich

Dominique@Dominique's Desk January 24, 2012 at 7:25 am

I too have been receiving or seeing companies that want do-follow links in their sponsored post and I simply forget working with them..as you have mentioned it’s really not worth being penalized by google from doing so. I have also gone back and changed an do-follow links on paid post to no-follow just to play safe.
Dominique@Dominique’s Desk´s last blog post ..10 Things we did this Chinese New Year

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

I forget all the time to put my links as no-follow for sponsored content, and just did a cleanup of my own blog posts last week and took care of all that!

RoryBore January 24, 2012 at 7:41 am

I am starting to get some emails from companies that have “discovered” my blog. I guess I have some homework to do because I had not intended getting into any kind of PR/review/giveaway. Clueless about FTC Guidelines, and I am a little foggy on the whole “no follow” link thing……does it just mean if I provide a link to their site?
oh boy…. who knew it could so complicated!
RoryBore´s last blog post ..Tuesday Coffee Chat: Life’s Little Oddities

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:08 am

No follow links and do follow links are tricky. It’s how the link is tagged when you create it, so not all links are the same. I may do a post on this to explain it further, but definitely check out the link I provided to that about.com explanation. it might give you a good overview.

Mid 30s Life January 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

I’ve never heard of bloggers being told not to disclose something is sponsored!! That’s shocking! But I have agreed to some linked posts, which I did know was to increase their SEO. I did it for the easy money (which is very needed!!), but I didn’t realise I could be penalised for it? Oh dear. I’ll go and read that info you mentioned. Thanks. x

Fiona Shaw January 24, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thanks, I had no idea about these kind of emails! I’ll keep my eyes open.
Fiona Shaw´s last blog post ..TTC Video Update 1

Jessica, The Debt Princess January 24, 2012 at 9:24 am

I really need to go back and fix some links to make them No-Follow. I haven’t done that in the past. Just recently I watched a tutorial from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and he explained this perfectly. I need to take action now.

Thanks for another great post Gigi
Jessica, The Debt Princess´s last blog post ..Save My Generation

Jamie January 24, 2012 at 9:54 am

Wow! Like Angela, I am not at the point of having this problem yet. But I am so glad you posted this! I had no idea and probably would have been one of the unfortunates that fell for it. Thank you again and again for all of the fantastic information you share with us!

Carri January 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I ignore every single email I get. The only paid posts I do are through Collective Bias because it’s membership based and they are reputable and pay well. How sad that we can’t really trust anyone.
Carri´s last blog post ..Instagram is My Crack

Jamie January 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I was are of the FTC guidelines, and have been following those, but had no clue about the follow back links. Thanks for the info. Now I have to figure out how to put “no follow” in on my site ;)

Motherhood on the Rocks January 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Thanks for posting this. I worked in PR for 10 years before leaving the corporate world for mommyhood. These are the type of people that give PR a bad name. Thanks for pointing out that we’re not all bad. : )
Motherhood on the Rocks´s last blog post ..I OWE MY MOTHER AN APOLOGY

Diane - It's All Good Until You Burn Dinner January 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Thanks for some great info. There are indeed a lot of shady people out there. Kind of off topic but not really, recently I’ve found numerous people who have asked to guest blog on my site but after providing guidelines, it’s pretty clear they’re part of s scheme to post ads for companies on my blog. That may fly with some, but not me.
Diane – It’s All Good Until You Burn Dinner´s last blog post ..Everything I Learned I Learned from Fred Flintstone

Goa trip January 25, 2012 at 5:58 am

So nice of you and thanks for save my lots of time because one of strange person told me try this option and it will give you nice response to make more money in blogging world but at that time i had gone some confuse in that should i do that or shouldn’t. So now it had clarify for me i did right thing at that time i didn’t this all.

Kristin @ What She Said January 25, 2012 at 11:11 am

While I decided to go ahead and take that opportunity I circulated to you and Natalie a couple of weeks ago, this post reminded me to address one issues I hadn’t thought to mention to the PR rep: Disclosure.

So, I sent him in e-mail that basically said I would be disclosing that the post was sponsored and, assuming he didn’t have a problem with this standard and legitimate practice as per the FTC, we could proceed. His pitch didn’t mention anything about skirting disclosure, but since it clearly is an SEO-building opportunity for his client, I suppose it’s possible that he’d want to avoid it. And I’d rather know now so that I can opt out, as opposed to writing an entire post and then having him refuse payment on the grounds that I included a disclosure.

As for the follow vs. no-follow link debate, it’s not an issue for me right now. It may be going forward, but right now I’d rather have the extra cash to put toward my redesign than a higher page rank with Google.
Kristin @ What She Said´s last blog post ..Little Girl Lost

Sandra January 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Wish I had read this post a couple of weeks ago. I totally got scammed. The email appeared legit. It was professional. The email addressed contained the person’s full name. I did not know about FTC. I did write the post, added the links, then when it went live, I received an email saying all was good, and money would be deposited into Paypal. Then I received another email saying his “bosses” didn’t like that I was a dot co not a dot com, and so the deal was off. I had no idea this even went on. Live and learn, but clearly you are doing so many bloggers a service by writing this post.
Sandra´s last blog post ..Creepy stalker guy…

Carolyn January 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

As always, great advice.
Carolyn´s last blog post ..The Ticket Store

Untypically Jia May 31, 2012 at 12:43 am

Thank you for this post. I just got done dealing with a company who refused to pay for a blog post I did until I removed my disclosure statement from the post. I sent back an email letting them know the post had been removed and that I was not willing to break FTC regulations and they should strongly suggest to their bosses that they should review those regulations in the future when working with bloggers.

THANKS!
Untypically Jia´s last blog post ..Girls Night – Nail Polish Overload

kludgymom May 31, 2012 at 6:51 am

Glad the post helped. It’s amazing how many companies have no moral compass.

Chelsy June 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm

thanks for sharing , this is good information for me..

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