Sponsored content on your blog can be an excellent read and authentic as any other post your publish. But because there was an exchange of money, as in the brand paid the publisher to write the post, Google (and users) often view this with a questionable eye. Because of course, you’re not going to pay a blogger to write bad things about your brand, even if the disclaimer says, ‘sponsored by XYZ, but all opinions are my own’. And of course, the brand likely sees and approves the post before it goes live and payment is exchanged. Google sometimes will put sponsored posts in the organic search results, but quality must be exceptional and best practices followed.
At SHE Media, we work with a large number of brands who regularly reserve a portion of their media budget for influencers. Much of their display budget can be ran on our large, owned and operated properties like SheKnows.com and StyleCaster.com, but sponsored content for influencer campaigns is another piece of the pie, a lucrative one, at that. We turn to our SHE Media partners to fulfill those influencer campaigns and then work with them to understand these guidelines established by Google.
The greatest chance of your sponsored article to perform well is by following whatever rules it takes to get the most visibility to it. Some, like content quality, crosses lines from an SEO recommendation to also Flipboard and Pinterest. That should be the standard for any content being published today. Let’s look at what Google specifically says about sponsored content on your blog.
Pulled directly from Google’s content policies: “Ads and sponsored content – Advertising and other paid promotional material on your pages should not exceed your content. We do not allow content that conceals or misrepresents sponsored content as independent, editorial content. Sponsorship, including, but not limited to, ownership or affiliate interest, payment, or material support, should be clearly disclosed to readers. The subject of sponsored content should not focus on the sponsor without clear disclosure.”.
Google webmaster guidelines also adds that you need to nofollow links on sponsored content.
Google Sponsored content best practices
1. Sponsored blog posts should not exceed the amount of non-sponsored content on your site.
2. Sponsored content (as well as affiliate content) must be clearly disclosed to readers.
3. Any outbound links on sponsored content need to include nofollow or sponsored link tags.
Adding nofollow tags on the links appearing in your sponsored content protects the health of your overall site traffic. These tags tell Google to not give any link credit for them because they were essentially paid for.
Those are from Google, but here are some of our own recommendations to help your sponsored content perform better from all traffic sources.
1. In a perfect world, you’re in the position to turn down sponsored content for products or brands that you don’t truly believe in. We get it, you gotta pay the bills, but your audience is your most valuable asset and you should think twice before recommending something to them that you wouldn’t use yourself.
2. Your sponsored post should provide the reader with useful, enjoyable and interesting information, in a thorough and well-written manner. Just like everything else you publish.
3. Make sure it’s clear who wrote the post. All your posts should have an individual author on the page, but sometimes on sponsored posts he author will be the brand itself. Use the actual author’s name and if the author is an expert on the topic, even better.
4. It may be sponsored content, but that doesn’t mean you have to mention the brand 100 times and go overboard on the amount of love and praise you have for said product. Write naturally, and in a way that’s relatable to your readers.
5. Sponsored content already has a certain speculation it must overcome in order to draw in the the reader, so it doesn’t hurt to go overboard on the content value side of things. Put your all into these pieces from a writing perspective. Don’t ramble on, but value brevity and a focus on the topic.
7. Sponsored content that makes no sense for your audience is putting them in serious risk. Stay core to your niche and your sponsored content angles should be relevant to your brand.
8. Family friendly content does better with advertisers, you’ll make more money on those units. Brands are much more willing to work with publishers who appeal to the masses.
How to mark links as sponsored or nofollow
As opposed to years prior, there are now three different link attributes you can choose from when it comes to content that isn’t your common editorial content. There is still the nofollow link, which can be used more as a catch-all, and certainly is better than nothing if you already have a process in place for them.
As of March 1, there are now attributes for links appearing in user generated content and also, a specific tag for sponsored content. You can see the exact HTML code in the chart below, but if you’re using WordPress, there are plugins that will now give you the option to add sponsored tags.
Another option, if you’re using WordPress and have a more advanced developer at your disposal, you can create a ‘sponsored content’ post type and create the backend functionality to, by default, add nofollow or sponsored tags to any outbound links appearing in that post.
All credit for this awesome infographic to Moz.