Done properly, sponsored posts are a great way to monetize your blog.
Done incorrectly, and they’re a sure way to irritate your readers, lose traffic, and risk disappearing from Google search results.
I’ve done a lot of sponsored posts over the years, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re ready to branch into sponsored posts for your blog, don’t take any chances! This is my best advice for writing a great sponsored post.
1. Disclose Properly
Are you being compensated for your post? Did you receive a product at a reduced price or for free? Do you make some money each time someone purchases through your link?
If you have a business relationship of any kind with the companies or products you mention, your readers need to know about it. Don’t hide it from them. Don’t shove your only disclosure way down at the bottom of the post and think that’s enough.
Follow the FTC guidelines for disclosure. Be transparent. And honest. Remember, the goal is to make it completely clear that these posts are sponsored.
Your readers deserve the truth, so make it easy for them to find.
I recommend making this easy on yourself. Use a plugin to automatically add a disclosure to the top of every post. Link in this to your full disclosure page. There you can spell out everything.
You can add other details to your individual sponsored posts, but having the plugin will ensure you never forget to include a disclosure.
2. Use Nofollow Links
Did you know you’re required to use nofollow links on sponsored posts? They keep these paid for links from getting link juice on Google.
That way companies can’t buy links to improve their search results.
So how do you make a link nofollow? It requires adding a bit of HTML code to your links. You need to make your link say:
That part in bold is what you’ll be adding. Here’s a quick video showing you how to add nofollow links in the new Gutenberg version of WordPress. It doesn’t take long to do it manually.
There are also plugins that can do this for you. However, there’s always a chance those can break or not work in the current version of WordPress. So, you should always know how to do it on your own just in case.
Oh – and those emails many bloggers get asking people to put do-follow links on their site in exchange for money? That’s illegal.
Don’t get sucked into the scheme and get your site blacklisted. The money isn’t worth it!
3. Write Balanced Pieces, Not Overflowing, Gushing Praise
A glowing review filled with gushing praise that you’ve been paid to write is a sure-fire red flag for your readers. They’ll start to wonder if you actually believe everything you wrote, or if you just are writing something good to make more money.
Whenever you work with a brand, make sure it’s one you personally can vouch for. Then, do your readers a favor and write a balanced piece.
It’s usually pretty easy to write the positive side of things. But, don’t automatically stop there. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are there certain segments of your readers who will benefit more or probably not benefit from this? Share your thoughts.
- Do you wish something was slightly different? Go ahead and mention it.
- Is this something you would pay full-price for if you had the money? (i.e. Is it worth it?)
- What are the pros and cons?
After all, no product is perfect. And no product will serve everyone equally. So, use your voice to give an honest, balanced review.
4. Make It Relevant and Valuable–for You AND Your Readers
Every post on your blog, even the sponsored ones, need to add value for your readers. Think about what they’re getting out of it and make sure it’s a good fit.
Likewise, make sure this is a good fit for YOU. Sometimes it makes sense to do a sponsored post in exchange for keeping the item, and no additional pay. But a lot of times, it doesn’t. So be sure to evaluate how much your time and your blog space are worth, and make sure that any compensation is at least equal to that.
So if something isn’t great for your readers but it pays well, pass. And if an offer is just for the product, consider whether the exchange is worth it to you.
Once you’ve decided to go for it, think about how best to present the product to your audience. Sometimes it can be tough to work out how to do this with a sponsored post, but these are my go-tos for writing value-adding sponsored posts:
- A personal, balanced review – go in depth here, and provide readers with more information than they can get from reading Amazon reviews. What sets this product out from the others? What do you love, what do you not care about, and what do you wish it had?
- Use the product in a value-adding way. Develop a new recipe. Share your best productivity tips, including the planner you’re writing about. Show several different uses.
- Giveaways. People like the chance to win! Work with the sponsor of the post for this one.
- Tutorials. Can you show people how to use this? Or how you use it?
- How-to Posts. What pain point does this problem solve? Detail it in a how-to post.
- Videos. Videos are huge right now, so consider adding video component to your sponsored post. You can briefly cover the information you share in your written post, or create something entirely different.
Remember, you don’t have to make every single thing you talk about in the sponsored post about the thing you’re reviewing. However you decide to format your post, do it in such a way that your readers find value there. Don’t make it read like an advertisement.
5. Make a Compelling Call to Action
Brands that work with bloggers via sponsored posts are after one thing: results. The more you’re able to give them results, the better off you both will be.
There are two main ways to do a great sponsored post: focus on benefits (not just features), and have a strong call to action.
First, benefits. People care about benefits, not features. So spend some time brainstorming before writing. What pain points does this product solve? Why do you love it? Then write your post in such a way that it focuses on that.
Think about it. Would you rather read a bullet point of features that you can find all over the internet, or a list sharing how it’s beneficial? Take a look at the features the manufacturer is highlighting, and think about how each of those features is useful or beneficial.
If you’re having trouble deciding the difference between the two, think about WHY something is useful. If you’re reviewing something that has three different settings, the settings are the features. The benefits are how each setting makes your life easier/better.
Then, once you’ve shown your readers the very real benefit(s) that this product or service will bring to their life, offer a strong call to action. The call to action is the part where you encourage the reader to go and get one of these products or hire this service for themselves.
Sometimes you can work out a great call to action by offering a discount (which you would work out with the company beforehand) or by offering a bonus to everyone who buys or joins.
6. Use Personal Pictures and Videos
Personal pictures show your readers that you’re actually using the product you’re writing about. They add a different level of trust and insight to your post.
And, they’re not the same pictures your readers are seeing all over the internet. They’ll stand out.
One thing you can do to set your post apart is to shoot a video offering part of your review. You might want to use the video to show the product in use, or to demonstrate what you like about it so much.
This can also help you with the story-telling aspect and make your sponsored post feel more natural. Remember, your goal is to give this post as much traction as you can, and sometimes some great pictures or a personal video can help it go far.
7. Know Your Terms and Conditions
Did you know that sponsored blog content doesn’t necessarily have to stay on your blog forever? It’s a good idea to have a written terms and conditions document that states the minimum length of time that sponsored posts will remain on your site.
You’ll also want your t&c to stipulate that all links are nofollow and disclosed, that you don’t offer refunds for sponsored content, and any other terms you want to set in advance.
You can set default terms to be added to your invoice automatically with an invoicing software like FreshBooks, too, to save yourself that extra step and take care of you in case you miss that step in the discussions.
Many times sponsors will have their own terms and conditions, and they’ll send you a contract to sign. Pay close attention to anything they put in front of you so you’re clear on the expectations and legal ramifications. Some will want permission to use your photographs anywhere, for an unlimited amount of time. Some will state that you can’t work with any of their competitors for a specific length of time, which might limit your income potential if you agreed to it.
If there are parts of the contract you don’t want to agree to, you can always go back to the sponsor and try to have those parts removed or reworked. It’s always worth a shot to negotiate and see if you can come to terms.
8. Communicate, No Matter What
When you’re working on a sponsorship post, the company that’s paying you is taking a risk. For that reason, it’s really important to communicate with any issues that come up.
If you have issues with the product or service you’ve been contracted to review, discuss it with the company first. Give them the opportunity to make it right before you go blasting them with a negative review. Mistakes do happen, and I like to make it a policy to be gracious in those circumstances.
Sometimes what goes wrong is on your end, not theirs. It’s also important to let them know as soon as possible when your schedule goes off the rails. If you’re going to be late in publishing your post, let them know as early as you can. Don’t be defensive, just be upfront about the situation and let them know your plan to get the post out as soon as possible.
It’s also helpful to let them know if you absolutely love the product! People like receiving compliments and hearing good things about what they do, so if you absolutely love it, it can’t hurt to let them know.
9. Eliminate Competitor Presence
I see it happen a lot — someone runs a sponsored post, and somewhere else on the page is an ad for the sponsor’s competitors.
Don’t be that person. Part of your job when you write a sponsored post is to drive as much traffic toward your sponsor as you can (while being honest). Having ads for competitors, linking to competitor websites or ads, or even linking to content of yours that highlights a competitor, shouldn’t happen.
So do whatever you need to do to make sure you aren’t promoting competitors in your sponsored post!
10. Share and Share Again
Once your post is live, your work isn’t done! Now it’s time to start promoting.
Promote it as much as you can, across all your social media channels and in your emails. And once you’ve finished your first round of promotion, start another round. Don’t just publish, share once, and be done. Keep promoting your sponsored post. You can schedule long-term promotion on Pinterest and Instagram with Tailwind.
This will go a long way in establishing you as a great blogger to keep working with, and once you have a good track record for your sponsored posts, you’ll start landing bigger and better opportunities. So it works in your favor to keep promoting it, as well!
You can also send the links to the sponsor, so they can promote it themselves. You might also share your post on their social platforms, to get even more traction. Give them the opportunity to promote it as well.
And, of course, keep with any contract obligations about promotion! Once you’ve published, re-read your agreement to make sure you follow through on the commitments you’ve made.