Bloggers and brands – what happens now?

Cake and tea

Sometimes (occasionally) cake and tea isn’t enough

Sorry Mum, it’s a post about blogging. It does happen on rare occasion, and this is one of those times.

Now Mum’s gone, I’d like to talk about bloggers and brands. Specifically, whether the relationship between bloggers and brands has changed after a certain major brand was wiped off the face of Google recently.

Before I begin, let me assure you I am no SEO guru. I know the difference between a follow and a no-follow post. I am au fait with the Google rules regarding paid for links. I’m aware that a PR isn’t the same as an SEO bod. These are all things that are clear to me and don’t need explaining.

What I’m also clear about, though, is the value I place on my time. And this is where this post is coming from.

Last week I was emailed by an SEO agency asking if I’d like to place a competition on my blog. I explained that I don’t do competitions at the moment, as I simply don’t have the time to run the admin side of things. The SEO rep replied, assuring me there would be no work involved, they just wanted me to write about the competition that would be hosted on their client’s site. So, that would be an advert then, yes?

When I got back in touch with my rates, the SEO went off to check the figures. It was all standard practice and the emails were very pleasant. Recently, I heard back from the agency. They were sorry but they were pulling their budget for the project, due to recent changes to Google algorithms and that infamous situation with a certain brand losing their place on the search engine. Fine, all to be expected really. SEO agencies are jumpy after Google cracked down on a company flouting the rules. I get that.

What I don’t get, though, is what was suggested next. “If you could just write the post anyway, with a link to the site where the competition is being held, that would be great.” To make it clear, the SEO agency wasn’t pushy. They recognised that they weren’t able to compensate me for my time or for a post on my site, but they wondered if I could do them a favour anyway. In return, they could offer me – wait for it – tweets. That’s it. They could offer some RT’s to their own client’s (unpaid) advert, from their own client’s Twitter account.

Now, call me picky, but my time is worth more than a few tweets. I write this blog because I love it. It gave me a place to be me again after I became a mum and it provided a platform to write from and launch a new direction in my career. I consider it part of my work, as I earn the odd bit of cash from it but – more importantly – it leads to new commissions for writing that I’m paid for. However, everything I choose to write on here is from my own head.

Also – unsurprisingly for a blogger – I’m active on my own Twitter account, as well as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and various blog networks.

I don’t need “free content”. I have plenty of my own, swimming around in my brain. I don’t need tweets promoting a commercial post from a company that has no interest in engaging with me. I work 60 odd hours a week and spend my afternoons negotiating potty training and toddler tantrums. Time is something I don’t have an abundance of.

Spare moments are rare and, on the evenings when I find half an hour to write a blog post, I don’t choose for that post to be about a competition on another company’s site that I have no interest in. Not unless I’m getting paid, or being offered an experience that makes it all worth it. Otherwise it’s not worth it. Not to me anyway.

I replied to the SEO person explaining that I wouldn’t be able to help them. They totally understood and accepted that they’d have to find new ways to work with bloggers, to entice them to write about their clients. So that’s what I’m asking here. As a blogger, what is it that makes you want to write about a company and give them a precious slice of both your time and your blog space? While lots of bloggers are refusing to do follow links, does this mean the end of SEO / blogger relations?

This is one introverted blogging debate I’m genuinely interested in. Hit me with your opinions – I’m listening.


  1. says

    I think there’ll always be new bloggers out there that are keen to work with Agencies and they’ll be taken advantage of and will write big posts for them for peanuts. This was me when I started! I had no idea and just thought “oh wow, someone likes my blog!” 🙂 now I just can’t be bothered really and love writing about our parenting journey so I just give them a flat rate and some go away and some come back. I really don’t like follow links though because I don’t want Google to penalise something I’ve worked hard to build up. I do think eventually, sometime soon, the blogger/PR agency relationship will taper off.

    • says

      Clearly the follow / no-follow debate has changed the landscape. But it’s not like it’s a new discussion – just brought back into the limelight with what happened last week. I understand that an SEO wants a follow link, as a no-follow one isn’t much value to their client. But if they now want a follow link and aren’t willing to offer any kind of compensation for that link or the time taken to write the post, how will they entice bloggers to write about (and link to) their clients?

  2. says

    What makes me want to write about a brand? Being totally honest it’s either great content relevant to my blog, or money. I will happily write about something that interests me, or is highly topical to my blog, for minimal or no compensation. Equally, I will occasionally write about something not so relevant if they pay me enough to do it. There – total transparency 🙂

  3. says

    I was just thinking today about what companies think about the fact they are risking being wiped off Google. I mean do they even know or do they just leave the SEO agencies to it? If I owned a company then I wouldn’t want an SEO agency arranging something on my behalf that could do damage to it. Who knows though, hopefully they will start asking for no-follow links instead! X

  4. says

    And don’t forget that it’s not just about the time to write the post – what about all the time you put into building up your blog in the first place? That’s the valuable part – all the time that turned it into something decent which has a good page rank and an engaged audience. This is where I think bloggers often undervalue themselves when they only think about the time it takes to write the post.

  5. says

    I do hope that brands look deeper into how SEO companies deliver what they promise from now own as the whole Interflora debacle even knocked The Independents page rank. It’s a really tricky one and I’m wandering off course now with it I know but google set their Ts and Cs so that big companies have to pay them big bucks to get ‘proper’ advertising that puts them ahead of the competition.

    Looking at it one wonders what the difference is between a company paying Google to to come up’ ahead’ of the listings in the special ads box than paying an SEO company – who pays papers, bloggers etc to come first in the search listing under the ads box? Ah yes, money in the giant Googles pocket…

    I guess it’s about making an informed choice. What is your blog worth to you? Doyou know the risks? Do you need the money? there will never be a right or wrong just a ‘right for you’. For me, I won’t do them on my Mammasaurus blog – but I do have another 6 or 7 that I will. Why? Because I have a close love and true protective maternal connection over my main blog, I don;t look at it as a brand but deep down I know it probably is. The others I can tinker on from time to time and if they allow me to keep everything ticking over nicely then so be it, most of them don’t have that much traffic or subscribers so I really don’t care about their PR for now. Maybe more folk should consider starting a second blog for such things- tiny outlay for potentially reasonable profit. Crikey I sound all cold and calculated!

  6. says

    The Interflora debacle was caused by the advertorials on various news sites, not the blogger outreach, so not really one for bloggers to worry about. Nonetheless, make no mistake that there are a lot of SEO and blogger outreach agencies who will do almost anything to secure an authoritative link, and I agree with you that you have to be getting something out of it (more than a few tweets!) for it to be worth your while.

    From a personal POV I don’t do ads or paid content, so it’s much of a muchness. I do review selected products but warn companies in advance that they could end up with a negative review if I don’t like the product. Openness and transparency are key for me.

    • says

      I think openness and transparency are actually a key pull for companies to work with bloggers. If a blogger you know and trust writes nice things about a product, you’re more inclined to believe it than if it came from a TV ad, for example. Or maybe that’s just me!

  7. says

    To answer your question: “As a blogger, what is it that makes you want to write about a company and give them a precious slice of both your time and your blog space?”…

    As the blog’s a hobby, I’ll usually write on it if I find a product or company inspiring. If something about them gives the impression that they’re (genuinely) out to make a difference, bring something new and exciting to the market, if it’s backed up by passion and soul, then they’ve got my attention.

    If I’m offered something (usually food stuff for the food blog) to review, I’ll tell the companies that I’ll only write about it on the blog if I like it, and I won’t mention it if I don’t, because we see Cinnamon and Truffle as a positive energy project.

    • says

      I totally agree – I rarely write about specific products unless I’m asked to review them, but if a product REALLY makes a difference to my life and catches my attention, then it gets exposure on my site for the simple reason that I love it.

  8. says

    If I am honest unless it was a company that was close to my heart or a charity I would be in it for the money. I started my blog for me and it takes a lot to convince me to write about things that don’t come naturally. I love sponsored posts that allow you to write about anything you like as, this way, you can write posts that you would write anyway and be paid. Hopefully these will continue but I know that it doesn’t look likely. x

  9. says

    It’s an interesting question. My haphazard approach to blogging means I’m well down in the Tots rankings, but I think my ‘edge’ as a journo is possibly attractive to some SEOs as I seem to get more approaches, and better offers, than others with similar stats to me. I’ll admit I’m fairly undiscerning; my blog costs me money, in hosting, maintenance, etc, and I don’t want that money to come from my own pocket or from my proper earnings, so if I get offered an opportunity at a decent-ish rate (given that the average post takes me about 20mins to knock out), I will take it – as long as it fits with my usual content. Would I accept an ‘opportunity’ for nowt? No. For £10? Probably not. For £30? Well, given that my day rate as a freelancer is £150 (so about £20 p/h), yes, I most likely would. I know I set my rates WELL below many bloggers, and I reserve the right to pick and choose, but I don’t command £150 p/h in my professional field (which is what a £50 blog post equates to) so I’m always a bit staggered when people value their time/space so highly. I know a lot depends on stats, though, and with a PR1 I’m happy with whatever I can get!

    • says

      I think the Google PR does make a difference to what you charge. For me, I have taken 2 years to build up a decent amount of traffic and readership to this site, much of which came with me when I moved to self-hosted. Since going self-hosted I’ve worked hard to keep putting out content I care about, love creating and am happy to share. And that’s the hard work that’s gone into building my Google PR. I think, as a blogger, you need to ask yourself not just what your time is worth, but also what your blog space is worth. Companies are potentially buying your readers’ attention for a few minutes – readers who care enough to take the time to read and comment on what you write. And once that Google PR is built up, you need to question how much you’re willing to risk it by running a follow link in a commercial post, if you accept these on your site. For me, it’s about the cost of my time, my audience and my Google PR.

  10. says

    My blog is my space to write whatever is on my mind: if I have to write something specific, it becomes too much like work, so all I do are reviews/giveaways, and then only of products that interest me. The value of the product might not relate well to how I price my time, but I don’t care if it means I get to try something entertaining, and write something that I’m pleased with!

    • says

      The value of writing something you’re pleased with is HUGELY important. Which is what I expect drives many of us bloggers on to keep writing and putting new content out there!

  11. says

    I make a great living from blogging and never realised this would be the case when I started. I understand those who don’t want their blog to be their business but as a freelancer and former mag editor along with my screenwriting work, I don’t have an issue with combining advertising with content.

    • says

      And that’s the only way to be. For me, it’s not about running commercial content, it’s about deciding what I’m happy with in return for running it. i.e. I’m not going to invest my time and energy writing what is basically an advert for a company if they’re not willing to offer some kind of compensation. If I love the product and have a burning desire to write about it, that’s different. Any other situation, though, and it won’t make the blog.

  12. Lucy says

    Seen a lot made of InterFlora, and was probably right that they get punished but what i didnt agree with is that they disappeared for there own name… thats wrong!

  13. Savannah says

    Time is valuable! And it’s great that you take the time and effort to produce some quality articles. In many cases working with an agency and a brand can be a very positive and fulfilling experience. For many bloggers they produce articles to share their content and get exposure (if you write an article and no one reads the post then what’s the point). I think you need to take a different approach and see the overall value of working with an agency. If the agency offered you tweets, did you take a look at the overall following? If the tweets provide you with a good source of quality referral traffic then you benefit by increasing your overall expose (which helps to generate ad revenue for your site). Remember, if the audience is your target (which I’m assuming it is) then tweets get re-tweeted, and re-tweeted (driving more traffic to your site which gives you Google juice). I’m not sure if you spend any money on driving users to your blog but creating a network of followers on Twitter and getting referral traffic is very beneficial. I believe the agency didn’t have their own interest at heart but simply trying to work with you to give you a little boost.

    • Mrs C says

      “I believe the agency didn’t have their own interest at heart but simply trying to work with you to give you a little boost”

      That’s absolutely hilarious! What a load of complete tosh. The SEO agency doesn’t give two hoots about Molly’s blog at all. They just care about their clients who are PAYING them. Why, once again, do people think that bloggers should do things for free when others in the chain are being paid to do WORK?

      And the comment about how people should build a following on twitter is just insulting to someone like Molly and just shows you know nothing about this blog at all.

    • says

      If as bloggers we wanted to create a Twitter following, we would do it off the back of our own content and subject matter. Doing it off the back of a brand or company, using their content, just means we might as well be writing full time for them and their website creating THEIR brand awareness not our own, and doing it for free! Each of our blogs are our own brand, we sell our own product, that product being OURSELVES and so we are happy to do that for free and work hard on it, even when just a hobby… Any BUSINESS or COMPANY expecting bloggers to do that for free are, to put it kindly, having a fricking laugh. I’m not advertising YOUR brand for you to rake in the £

    • says

      The SEO Agency approached Molly because they want links from her blog to their client’s site. Simple. This is something that is worth something to the brand – hence why they’re paying an SEO Agency to arrange links on blogs. So why would a blogger give them those links for free?

      Also, Savannah, you think bloggers blog to get exposure? Some do, but many do it for other reasons – Molly is a radio breakfast show presenter, so chances are, she gets enough exposure already. A clever seo bod will recognise that and realise they have to offer more than exposure.

    • says

      Hi Savannah, thanks for taking the time to comment on this post. I must make it clear though (as I did in my post) that the agency wasn’t offering the opportunity for me to HOST a competition (which would, I agree, bring traffic to my site). Instead, they wanted me to write a post on my own site, linking to a competition on their client’s site.

      Like many bloggers, I am already active on various social media platforms, so to offer a tweet in return for the space on my site, the traffic it brings, plus the “Google juice” of a link does not seem balanced. I think all too often the blogger’s supposed need for exposure and hits is taken for granted by agencies, who think we will be willing to offer our site space, time and influence in return for some spikes in traffic, which many of us have already.

      In this situation, as far as I’m concerned, the agency wins because they get paid for placing the links with their client, the brand wins because they gain more customers and exposure – but the blogger? They may get a few extra hits on their site, but so what? Unless we’re talking thousands here (which is doubtful for a post like that) which could bump up affiliate ad income, then it seems to me the blogger is very much the loser in this situation.

      Another point I think SEO’s should note if taking this tactic is looking at the TYPE of traffic they can offer the blogger. If you read my blog, you would know I tend to write about what it’s like to be a mum, relationships, family life, lifestyle themes and parenting dilemmas. My readers come here to read about my take on those things. I’m not known for running incredible competitions. Occasionally I write about a brand I love or write an advertorial post about a relatable situation etc, but these posts don’t bring me huge spikes in traffic compared to my regular hits.

      To offer a post linking to a comp on another site may get me a few extra hits from a tweet from the company – but would it be the “right” kind of traffic? Would they be potential readers who are likely to stick around and read / subscribe / come back for more?

      These are all things a blogger will ask themselves before accepting to host commercial content for no payment or no product in return. It’s worth keeping in mind when extolling the “little boost” an SEO agency could provide.

      Thanks for your comment though, it’s really good to see the perspective from the other side of the fence.

  14. says

    As you know I won’t work with brands for many different reasons but your post and the comment above has more or less highlighted the main reason I won’t work with them. They couldn’t care less about your blog, you mean nothing to them. They expect free advertising when they would otherwise be paying thousands of pounds to a large organisation. Why not just ‘use’ a blogger who is desperate for a few page views and a run up the ranks? Much easier – then the blogger can do all the work. I know not all are like this but I’ve had some crackers of emails when it states very clearly on my blog’s front page that I don’t work with brands/outside companies in whatever format. Yet they still think they can bribe me or get round me with their patronising banter. It doesn’t work anymore. Bloggers work hard on their blogs and deserve to be recognised as well as PAID for their hard work. Once this obstacle has been tackled, then the blogger/SEO relationship will be much improved. Until SEO’s learn that bloggers are not to be taken advantage of, they will get nowhere.

  15. says

    In a roundabout way I do, if I go out for lunch I may make a photo of my lunch my 365 pic of the day and say where I ate and how much I enjoyed it. If I have used a product I am impressed with I may well write about it, all for free and all my choice, but then that may help somebody else buy a good product they need. Dont get paid for these do it as a service to my readers.
    I work with Allergy UK for free as it fits in nicely with my blog theme and it may help my allergy readers find a product/piece of info that is useful to them.
    I also take paid posts because the product interests me and I can use it, and will carry on to do so as long as free products that appeal are offered.
    I have made up a recipe using say a carton of non dairy milk and blog the recipe along with a link back to both the site that offered me it and the brand supplying it, I realise this is very very cheap advertising for the brand but it fits in with my blog I use non dairy milk and make smoothies anyway so why not?
    But I will turn down any offer that does not suit me, my blog brand, or my readers, as my blog for me is a release from every day reality that is great for stress relief and doing something I am not comfortable with would contradict that.
    If I never got another offer again ( and blog/brand relationships will change to something different in the foreseeable future) I would carry on blogging as my blog was started as a keepsake reminder for my children and grandchildren when I am a mere pile of cremated ashes.

  16. says

    I am sick to death of these agencies thinking bloggers are stupid.

    I am in dispute with one who asked me to write an article and we agreed a price. That was it.

    I upheld my side of the bargain, duly labelled it as sponsored and sent them the link.

    “oh could you remove the word sponsored, we absolutely cannot have that on there”.

    Er no. You cannot.

    They think we will fall for their blatant lies and that we don’t know what the rules that WE NEED to adhere to state. Not just what Google state (there are some that don’t care what Google say, Google is not law after all). However the ASA is law and I will not damage my reputation for some SEO who is trying to bully bloggers for their client.

    Sorry, that got a bit ranty (not like me ).

    Great post, Molly

  17. says

    I’m really fussy about what I will put on my blog – and I made a decision some time back to really limit the paid for content to things I would actually be interested in reading or services I’d actually use – and instead I tend to do reviews where I get to keep something nice – it’s not an income as such but it saves my outgoings if that makes sense.

    I would love, of course, to be paid for content a lot more – but I know that as a reader of blogs I very quickly get turned off by most sponsored posts.

    I think that a lot of companies are still playing catch up with what our TIME is worth – not just what they get in return for their item/cash but the time we invest in doing it – they need to consider compensating for THAT too. They wouldn’t get an advert in a national paper for a freebie in a lot of cases – and the paper certainly wouldn’t give them that space for a tweet!

    I don’t really know where I’m going now – I think this whole relationship is still in flux and will be for some time – we have to encourage the newer/smaller bloggers to place value on their commodity too in order to get the same for ours.

  18. says

    I’ll say it again – too many PRs assume that us bloggers are stupid and that us who can be classed as ‘mummy bloggers’ are the dumbest of the dumb. As I will prove in an upcoming, follow-up blog post, this is far from the case. It’s time PRs and SEOs started to recognise this. I don’t have time for lazy approaches which are of nil benefit to me. I know that ‘exposure’ through a third-party’s twitter account is next to useless anyway. Very little of any extra traffic you might get is sticky. I have found my audience through writing quality, relevant content, not through exposure guest-posting or whatever for commercial companies. And no, my brain did not fall out of my foof when I had my babies, or when I started a blog.

    • says

      That’s the question! I expect there are lots of avenues still to be explored, it’s just a case of both brands and bloggers having a realistic expectation of any kind of working relationship.

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