Today, everyone has a blog! I started Food Allergy Buzz back in 2008, when there weren't very many food allergy bloggers. Now, there are a lot of food allergy blogs, and every major food allergy friendly food manufacturer and their PR folks know they can offer product in exchange for a review or an informational post on a multitude of food allergy blogs.
I recently received a request from a marketing firm which clearly asked me to accept payment for publishing posts linking to a company, not to disclose that the posts are sponsored, and also to use follow links, not nofollow links to web addresses they would provide. That breaks a couple of basic guidelines from the FTC and major search engines. I like to get paid as much as the next gal, but not if I have to break rules and mislead my readers! I imagine I am not the only food allergy blogger encountering these sorts of requests, so I thought I would share a few pieces of important info about digital advertising, reviews, and sponsored posts.
Disclosures in your blog
Ever been contacted about writing a post or publishing a post provided by the marketing/PR person in exchange for compensation? By compensation, I mean food, coupons, gift certificates/cards, any kind of payment in exchange for publishing the post. This would include reviews! If you accept any compensation, you need to include a "clear" and "conspicuous" disclosure, per Federal Trade Commission guidelines. The FTC has a great guide, entitled .com disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, which even includes examples of what NOT to do. I encourage you to take a look at it.
Follow versus nofollow links
How about those companies that want you to link to a specific website, to help drive business their way? Google and other search engines have very specific guidelines about linking to other sites in exchange for compensation. If you link to other sites in exchange for compensation, Google recommends you place a nofollow link. I am no expert on SEO, but I do know that using a follow link means the site you link to will benefit from your own site's PageRank. That is important because PageRank relates directly to where your site pops up in search engine results. If you have a good PageRank and you link to another site with a follow link, you actually will be boosting that other site's PageRank. If you do that in exchange for money, Google views that negatively. Not surprising, they want advertisers to use their advertising services! In its webmaster guidelines, Google refers to placing a follow link in exchange for compensation as a "link scheme". It is a no-no, and you can be penalized by Google. This is probably something you want to avoid!
What to do? If you do place a text link or hyperlink to another site for compensation, don't shoot yourself in the foot! Use a nofollow link. It's a simple solution!
I hope this info is helpful! Feel free to send along other bloggy questions, and I will try to answer them in another post.