So I tweeted the other day about how I am sick of seeing sponsored content spreading across my bloglovin’ feed like a rash. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, as it has certainly started happening more and more the bigger personal blogging gets.
In case you’re not familiar with ‘sponsored content’; in a nutshell, it is when a brand offers money or freebies to a blogger, who in return writes about their product or service. Most of the time this will include a link back to the company – which would usually be considered the most important and valuable part of the post for a brand. For further reading and a better explanation this article sums it up pretty nicely.
The more I think about it, the more it bemuses me how this is ‘OK’ when it’s not OK to directly accept money in return for links according to Google’s webmaster guidelines. When numerous blog posts consist of the same title, very similar written content and ad-like photographs of the product, I don’t know how this is even considered ‘original content’. Surely Google must clamp down on this blatant link building exercise at some point soon? I honestly see barely any difference between paying for links, and this type of sponsored content.
I have written and read blogs online for over 10 years (Xanga, Livejournal, Blogger etc.) and this sort of thing has become way more prevalent in the past 2 years. It’s everywhere. I guess this is what happens when an individual with a prominent voice via any sort of media has more power. Brands want a slice of the pie. It makes me sad. I do understand bloggers wanting to make some money from their blog, or to pay for costs etc. But when it’s almost every single post that’s sponsored it makes me swiftly want to unfollow. How can I (or others) take someone’s personal voice and opinion seriously anymore when they’re just constantly posting about brands who have sponsored them for a link? Personally I feel that when posts on a blog I enjoy become more and more obviously sponsored, I barely consider it a personal blog any longer: it’s basically a stream of adverts, and I don’t take much of it with a pinch of salt.
On the other side of the coin, by day I work at a UK website, and from working alongside the marketing team for the past 2 years, I do understand why we try and get coverage on blogs. It is a good brand awareness exercise and we can get some decent links to help with page authority.
However, in the company I work for, links from lifestyle blogs are not something that we often chase after, nor would a guest post or a sponsored post containing a link back be something that we spend a lot of time trying to get. The website is not e-commerce, or a product as such so it is a little different, but our market is the UK homeowner (and there is a lot of scope to reach that audience via blogs be it interiors, DIY etc.). Our aim is to have interesting original stories or facts that we can share to press or writers, but under no circumstances would we pay/send any freebies for links. We want organic, honest and informative editorial content written about us, not a blogger selling our service because we paid them to.
I do understand that with products it is a little different, but the main problem I have is that once an individual starts including sponsored content, it is attempting to influence others into buying something that the brand is pushing; something that the blogger may not necessarily feel strongly about.
People generally trust bloggers because they provide informative posts about things they genuinely like or feel strongly about. When that blogger begins promoting sponsored content, I completely lose trust; how are you to know if they genuinely think such-and-such product is actually a great product if it is being celebrated artificially? It won’t receive any fair judgement and that is really negative for the open nature of the internet!
There are also many other reasons that it is truly bad – it continues to line the pockets of large companies, there are less honest opinions out there on the bigger well-read blogs, reviews become very ‘one-sided’, Google pushes the companies higher in search because they have more ‘authority’ from their numerous links, and so on. It is just not good for the blogging community for this to continue happening.
Anyway, despite a lot of blogs/individuals constantly doing this, there are still a lot of bloody good blogs out there posting rich and interesting original content so I’d like to share some of them with you!
1. Niotillfem – I have been reading Sandra’s blog for many years and even though Google translate doesn’t do the best job of turning her Swedish into English I still love it. From her posts on working in advertising in New York, to feminism, recipes, relationships, her style and inspiration posts – I find everything about her blog spot on. I really enjoy her writing style, I think it is the right amount of personal without being too much of a real time commentary. She is the cutest and has great style, but is also clearly really smart and aware of the world. Best kind of girl!
2. Print & Pattern – Totally love this blog, it’s always been a good source for new illustrated and designed collections, be it the latest independant textile prints, or the new range of products at Habitat. My favourite posts are probably the store snaps, where she features the latest collections from the British high street. It’s great and in fact three books have come out of this blog cause it’s that awesome! A nice place for a little inspiration!
3. Love London Council Housing – I am obsessed with council estates and well, council housing in general I guess. I grew up living in one up North and have lived in three since being in London. London certainly has some of the best and most impressive estates, with lots of stories behind why they were built, ideals and ideas for the way the modern person should live inside them. A lot of the time, the reality of people living in a lot of estates didn’t turn out how the architects wished for it to, but people still live in them today and it’s interesting to see which ones age well and which ones are practically derelict. This blog covers a lot of estates in London and Andrea has even got sneaky peaks inside flats on some of the estates which is really cool.
4. Josie’s Journal – Josie’s blog is a mixture between her style, living with cystic fibrosis and a bit of lifestyle thrown into the mix. The way that Josie writes is what I find endearing about her blog, she’s honest and funny and she has awesome style. I love blogs where you feel like you get to know the person behind it quite well and they don’t mind writing life how it is, which I think she does well. This is also why I miss Livejournal at times, it really did feel like you could get to know people well on there. Maybe because you could have ‘friends only’ posts, it meant people didn’t mind writing what they really thought!
5. Audrey Jeanne - Audrey is an illustrator from France. I have followed her work for a few years, she has a very bold and minimal style which I love. Her photos and styling are always amazing too. And she has an incredible looking cat and I don’t even like cats that much!
All images courtesy of respective blogs, and top image illustrated by me.