Sponsored Content – how to legally publish sponsored posts and how much to charge for them

Years ago when someone mentioned blog advertising you would immediately think of flashing banners above the header, between posts and in the sidebar.

These days advertising on blogs and websites has had to become more unique and creative, as we now subconsciously ignore the majority of banner ads on a website.

Sponsored content is sometimes referred to as a type of native advertising or content marketing. It’s become popular as it is a more engaging and effective way for brands to reach their target audience. This type of content looks more natural and typically gets more attention than regular banner ads.

What exactly is Sponsored Content? How does it work?

Sponsored Content is content the blogger/YouTuber has been paid to publish, which has been created by themselves or the brand. The content could be in blog posts, videos, articles, social media posts and so on.

Brands pay content creators to advertise their products, services or a new campaign. This could be an advertisement, product placement, review or simply informing the audience about the brand. Brands value the relationship the content creator has with their audience. They want to reach that audience and know that the content creator has a certain level of influence.

This agreement can be arranged directly with the content creator or with their management by the brand themself, a PR representative, sponsored post companies or third-party agency. It is one of the ways creators make money from their platforms and can afford to work as a blogger/YouTuber full-time.

Sponsored Content is now a huge topic within this industry but it is something that has been around for a long time. I remember reading about it way back in 2009 when I was in my first year of blogging.

How much should I charge for sponsored content?

One of the most asked questions with blogging is “how much do I charge for sponsored content?”. Unfortunately, unlike other industries, there really isn’t a standard that you can look up to help you get started. In a similar way to freelance work, you have to calculate the cost based on a number of factors.

Unique views, engagement, audience, traffic, social media followers, impressions, work involved (research, time, effort, promotion, etc.), experience, value provided, SEO and DA, word count and links, how long you’ve been in the industry, brand budget and hundreds of other factors all come into consideration. Fees can range from £20 to £20,000 and more.

My advice is to make note of the work involved, what you’ll be creating and what platforms it is for. Also think about the time it will take you to create it. From that figure out your hourly rate and make sure you’re not spending 8-10 hours creating something for less than £20. Value your time and your work.

Another question that comes up is should you accept free products/services as payment? Well, that’s up to you. You can’t pay bills with it, and may have to declare it as an asset during tax season.

How to legally create sponsored content?

The rules on how to disclose sponsored content differ slightly depending on what country you live in. If you’re in the US you’ll need to refer to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in the UK the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) or in Ireland the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

In general though, the rule is that if compensation has been or will be exchanged then legally you have to say that the content is sponsored or is an advertisement. It doesn’t matter if this content is on your blog, in an email or on social media. This is now also the case for affiliate links.

If you are given money to promote a product or service, you need to make sure that your audience know they are being advertised to. The commercial relationship has to be disclosed. This can be done by marking it as “Ad”, “Advertorial”, “Advertisement” or “Sponsored Content”. The recommendation is that this is done upfront and within the same piece of content – in the video title, before talking about the product or service in a video, at the beginning of the blog post or beginning of the social media post.

Some authorities say that there is a difference between sponsored and an advertisement. That is if a brand sends you payment or products and controls the content in some way then that is an advertisement. If the brand sends you payments or products and the content is created yourself, with you keeping editorial control and without any input from the brand then it is sponsored. Either way, you need to tell your readers.

How to Disclose

Disclosure should always be easy to understand, easy to see and shouldn’t be ambiguous or hidden within content. If you’re doing a campaign with the brand, you need to disclose each time you create that content. For example on social media using #AD should be enough (once it’s not buried in other hashtags!). However, within a blog post of 500 words #AD in a long paragraph of  text may not be enough. Instead you should be using a statement at the beginning or end of the post that states it is an advertisement or sponsored. It is not enough to say you are working with or collaborating with the brand.

Google and other search engines have rules and guidelines too. If you’re creating content with monetary gain, you should be following these. Otherwise you risk being blacklisted from the search engine results pages.

You also need to disclose any income you make through your blog or social media account to revenue so that it can be appropriately taxed.

As a blogger, social media influencer, YouTuber or content creator, you can’t claim that you didn’t know or understand. It is your job to know the rules and follow them.

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