Money for nothing and your links for free

A blogging acquaintance said in a forum the other day ‘Why can’t we just roll back the clocks back before Google+ and SEO optimisation, and the whole nofollow/dofollow debate.’

blogging gold

Money for nothing and your links for free?

Here, here. How to blog, honestly, effectively and still earn a little, in this brave new world?

Why can’t we go back to the days when the hardest thing about blogging was getting people to comment?

Instead, these days we can spend hours reading through offers of free content or crap ‘advertising offers’, or worse negotiating with advertisers whose main objective is to get their advertisers money for nothing and your links for free!

Why did blogging become so cynical?

As I said to the fifth offer of free content that flicked into my inbox the other day:

Dear content writer of London,

If I wanted someone else to write my blog’s content, why the hell would I be writing a blog?

Love and kisses

Vegemitevix x

The thing is, it wasn’t an innocuous offer at all, of course. What they wanted was to write a nice little article about bog roll or insecticide (Imagine suggesting our pets have fleas!) so that they could add in three or so little backlinks to their advertiser, which would a) publicise their advertiser, but more importantly b) boost their advertiser’s profile in Google search and Page Rank).

You see my little blog was only one of hundreds of blogs they profess to love, whilst callously screwing it over and artificially inseminating it with their spawn.

It used to be that advertising, PR and marketing communications was about raising the profile of the product or service. Advertising works overtly by placing attractive images and encouraging readers to phone that number, or go to that web page and ultimately, of course, purchase that product. PR works slightly more subtly. I say slightly, because after 20 years or so working in PR, I am not unaware that sometimes subtle is as inconspicuous as marching an elephant through a china store! In PR the idea is to frame a story around the product and service and create a strong series of good news stories within the media.

Sometimes convincing journalists to print your carefully written story is as easy as getting that rich man into heaven, or a City banker through an eye of a needle. And sometimes, it works like a charm. When it does work, it’s simply because it’s a good fit between client story and media outlet, and readers are ultimately engaged. Importantly they don’t feel duped.

Product, service or message – No one buys anything they feel they’ve been conned into buying.

I see numerous similarities between good PR and good online marketing using blogs. Both are about building a positive emotional connection with a readership, and both take time and careful planning. Neither offer immediate astronomic success, but both offer a sustainable and measurable growth in influence. So when companies implement link building campaigns that link large amounts of webpages to a dispirate website, it may work for a time, on the surface, but in the end it won’t reap the same kind of rewards that can be won from legitimately linking to sites that share subjects in common.

What’s more, Google’s gonna get you if you try to game their search engines!

Recently my little patch of bloggers has been afflicted with great consternation because of changes Google announced in their algorithym that determines a website’s influence in search listings and Page Rank. In March, Google promised to crack down on illegitimate link building operations, and squash the rise of advertisers buying links. Of course this struck fear into our little bloggy hearts as many of us have advertisements on our websites (which are linked back to their client’s web page) and pay us (pittance truth be told!) for the privilege.

Was Google saying that blogs – even small blogs like ours – are no longer allowed to carry advertising?

Since Google’s announcement, bloggers have raced to change all the links on their websites to nofollow – a simple code change which flags to Google’s search engine crawlers that this link is not to be followed and the page does not want to share its Google influence (Page Rank) with the link. This may sound easy enough, but for a website like this one that means manually going through over 600 webpages and changing every single link. I could be pushing menopause by the time I finish it. (Or does it? Actually it is only the advertising/paid links that must be nofollow, linking to other interesting websites is encouraged by Google)

In return, advertisers have started pulling advertising from smaller blogs, taking away this modest income from bloggers who are not content farmers, or link building magnates. Where once advertisers signed up for three months, now they can only drip-feed advertising support, month by month. Where once bloggers were courted to attend events for the illustrious review and backlink, now those opportunities are drying up.

Is this all a little over the top? Isn’t it time we all – just calmed down dear?

Have the fundamentals of good online marketing really changed at all?

In the old days when a reader clicked on a link on a website that took them to a page selling Viagra do you think they stayed and purchased, or did they bounce off? Is anyone duped when an odd blog post turns up, or do they all see it as weird and artificially inseminated?  And in the long run, is the blog’s reputation or the advertiser’s reputation enhanced?

Nup. Not in the slightest.

And more importantly, is that paramount emotional connection between reader and advertiser created?

I don’t think so.

Like many bloggers, I do carry advertising on this blog, but when I accept an offer I carefully weigh up whether my readers would be interested in it or not. I sometimes agonise over whether there is relevance. Why? Because good online marketing (whether PR or Advertising)  is still about creating connections between readers and the companies (via blogs) trying to reach them. That hasn’t changed. Sometimes those links will be paid for, but they must (in accordance with Google’s rules and regs) be marked nofollow. Their link influence cannot be bought, but their actual influence can. And that’s how it should be. Instead of trying to game Google, advertisers and marketers worth their salt should seek out blogs that relate to their targeted market, and work with them.

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey!

It still works. Readers still see the ad and click through to read it. And when blogs are updated daily, that’s a huge amount of exposure, even on a relatively small blog. Exposure that doesn’t decay in a litter bin, it keeps on giving long past the publication date.

But what I think is more important, is that it is the right kind of exposure to the right people who are already predisposed to buying into the advertiser’s message. The right kind of exposure that disseminates good quality information, and forges that all important emotional connection between brand and customer. And importantly, the right kind of information for my readers – information I would wholeheartedly, honestly endorse.

With that in mind, I don’t think bloggers should be penalised by online marketers and advertisers, for not passing on link juice.

In fact, shouldn’t  bloggers be paid more for providing their websites as platforms and for providing exposure to their much loved, carefully tended readership?


Image: Flickr CC




'Money for nothing and your links for free' has 13 comments

  1. April 25, 2012 @ 12:17 pm Martin Koss

    Vicki, I don’t think you should “just calm down dear” because you are absolutely right in so much of what you have said.


  2. April 25, 2012 @ 12:26 pm vegemitevix

    Thanks Martin. What do you think, should bloggers perhaps be paid more for their reviews, and advertisements? 


    • April 25, 2012 @ 3:07 pm Martin Koss

      That’s a difficult one for me to answer Vicki because I do not blog for money and I don’t have advertising on my blog so it’s not something I even consider. I do wish, though, that a blog written to promote a product should be disclosed as such (same for paid reviews) and not a bunch of affiliate links wrapped up in a fake story. But, as you no doubt know, my pet peeves include lack of transparency and honesty.


  3. April 25, 2012 @ 1:02 pm Mrs TeePot

    Really useful post, thanks Vicki. I’ve been panicking over the whole situation and trying to decide what to do. I think you’re absolutely right in what you’ve said and that advertisers and PR folks need to see the true value in blogging rather than only see them as a way to boost their Google love.


    • April 25, 2012 @ 2:21 pm vegemitevix

      Thanks Livi, that’s the whole point of the blog post in a nutshell. Glad it helped clarify stuff. x


  4. April 25, 2012 @ 1:06 pm Steve

    To be honest, my main concern with my blog is still getting people to comment. Rankings, stats are only of interest if something unusual happens to them which I cam blog about!


    • April 25, 2012 @ 2:20 pm vegemitevix

      Well actually Steve, my main concern is also trying to inspire people to comment! And I should have mentioned in the post that I don’t think a blog should be overrun with ads or commercial material, there does need to be a balance.


  5. April 25, 2012 @ 4:58 pm ChaoticallyMe

    Oh dear, I guess there are definitely advantages to being a relatively unknown blog as I had no idea of the dramas other bloggers had to go through with advertising etc.  Eek, sounds awfully stressful!


    • April 26, 2012 @ 10:42 am vegemitevix

       But there are so many people blogging of course this will only affect those who want to earn an income from it. It’s only a matter of time CM before your blog is no longer ‘relatively unknown’. Vix x


  6. April 25, 2012 @ 5:18 pm Muddling Along

    Well said – I think there is likely to be a period of turmoil and then things will straighten out and hopefully come back to if you are a blog with great content and a lloyal following then people will want to associate with you in terms of brand awareness and association but if you are one of those blogs that just do reviews and seem to just be in it for the stuff then perhaps their days are numbered?


  7. April 27, 2012 @ 9:18 am Claudia McFie

    So does that mean I should take google ads off my blog too?


    • April 27, 2012 @ 1:18 pm vegemitevix

      No you should be ok with your Google links as I’m sure they’re nofollow already. You can still review and carry advertising, just play by the rules and make any material you’ve been remunerated for nofollow and add an NB/disclaimer.


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