The state of blogger outreach: Have we created our own monster!
I’ve been wanting to blog about this for a while now, and while I initially thought it would end up as a structured, more comprehensive piece, I think it’ll have to be a quick one for now. Apologies if it comes off as a rant.
Around about two years ago when I was just an agency ‘pup’ working on outreach and content creation, I could tell then the bloggersphere was growing hungry – hungry and cynical. Sceptical about what we are trying to achieve and growingly suspicious of our motives – and to be fair I didn’t blame them even then, because after all, they are ones with the great blogs and we are the ones asking to use them as a platform.
However, things have definitely got more hostile. I know this sounds like a line, but generally speaking I don’t have any issues with placing content and engaging bloggers – but I have had my issues.
I have spoken with countless bloggers who have told me about conversations they have with people who have asked them to place average to poor quality articles that are riddled with exact match anchors – and they themselves admitted to testing the waters and throwing out expensive fees for article placement – fees that people have and regularly do pay them.
Once you feed the beast…
But for me, herein lies the problem – good content is starting to count for less now, and it’s beginning to become a landscape where higher fees are more likely to place content. And the more ‘some of us’ continue to pay, the more (and quite rightly) bloggers will see this as the norm. This is clearly against Google guidelines anyway, but the problem I have had is that they are often under the impression that paying is fine provided it’s made clear in the post. This isn’t the case though – if anything, that is an overt footprint if you are going to try and be sneaky with your link building (which you shouldn’t) *cough*.
But let’s be fair, why do they think this? In many cases it’ll be because an SEO has told them so. In other cases it might simply be a miscomprehension of Matt Cutt’s announcements on paid links. And, let’s be fair, the Interflora saga didn’t really help, with many people now completely confusing the types of advertorials that they were spanked for, with perfectly legitimate, high quality outreach pieces and are now assuming they are all one in the same.
These factors have all led to one thing – more and more bloggers want paying for placing content… I regularly get asked if I have a ‘budget’ – even when I’m simply sending over some stats that could be of use in a future feature. I have to politely say that while I can understand that the blog is of high quality and can understand them wanting payment (which is true, I do understand and sympathise), I simply cannot pay because it’s unnatural. This is often met with impolite responses.
I have had conversations where they have been really impressed with particular campaigns, content pieces or even survey findings and have even gone as far as to say they totally fit with their site – only to then send a media package with price listings. For me, this goes against the whole model and purpose of PR, which in fairness is what I do. I’m an SEO but I utilise PR campaigns to build my links because this is the way forward and we know it. But when I reach out to top news sites like the Mail Online and the Huff, they don’t place things only to then turn around and ask me for payment – BECAUSE THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS. It’s therefore tough to accept the way things are going.
In a way I do totally understand, as I mentioned, if outreach merchants are willing to pay for their posts (and more fool them because it’ll come back to bite them), then why should any blogger not see that as the norm. They work hard on their sites and many are now full-time, if I had a great news or discussion site I would probably want to monetise it – but not through accepting posts from any Tom Dick and Harry at a price. The part I often struggle to get my head around is that, if you are proud of your blog, why would you ruin it with substandard content for payment. And, if it isn’t the case you accept any old piece and you genuinely only take pieces you really enjoy, should you be charging? If I’m honest I don’t even have a solid answer myself because I am torn…
To reiterate, I would never pay.
What do you guys think? Honestly? Many of you will have been presented with the same issues, and although none will admit, I’m sure many have been tempted to pay for things. All comments welcome? I know what I am going to do, I’m going to continue what I am doing, building natural relationships by offering something of use and of interest and avoid any unnatural activity. I am still fascinated to know how you all see it though.