Honesty in Blog Advertising

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As I continue my own blogging journey I find myself learning more and more. Combine that with all of my website marketing experience and I guess I have a lot of info to pass on.

So what started as just a short term series has grown into a weekly series. Like a boulder rolling down the hill, there’s no stopping it once it gets going.

I’m always open to topic suggestions if there’s anything particular you’ve been unsure about. I know lots of you e-mail me random questions that could probably turn into posts themselves. So I guess there’s always my e-mail archives to dig through for topic ideas.

If you’re new to this series, check out some of the previous blogging tips posts:

I was a little hesitant to cover this week’s topic for a couple reasons. First of all, a certain search engine isn’t too fond of the type of advertising that this post will cover. Secondly I don’t really want to offend the bloggers that I know use these tactics. So if you do use these tactics, no offense meant. I just want to open up discussion about some of these things.

Being Honest with Blog Advertising

As with my post last week about cooperation and competition in blog marketing, it’s becoming evident that I don’t see blogging the same way as most other finance bloggers. Recently my work experience really opened up my eyes to a major issue with how other bloggers handle advertising on their blogs.

It all started when I was looking for some advertising for one of my SEO clients. I got into discussions with a well known ad broker within the financial blogging niche. It seemed like we worked out a favorable deal, but little did I know that it was all smoke and mirrors. It turned out that this ad broker was telling all of the bloggers to backdate the posts with the ads. Worse yet she tried blaming the individual bloggers for that issue.

I’m sure some of you don’t see why there would be anything wrong with this, but as a SEO professional I was quite disappointed about the situation. I just really expected those bloggers to be more honest, although I’m sure didn’t realize it was an issue at all. Let’s get into some of the ways bloggers are being dishonest with advertisers and why it’s a problem…

Backdating Ad Posts

This is when a blogger publishes a new post but sets the date to be sometime in the past. Some bloggers just backdate a few days while others push the post months into the past. Essentially they are trying to hide the post from their regular readers. That way readers aren’t put off by ads and they are at less risk with a certain search engine.

The bloggers I talked to just assumed that the advertisers only wanted a link. Does that justify taking away other benefits though? Those backdated posts obviously get way less traffic and less people seeing those ads. Plus those pages become weaker since when nobody sees it, nobody is going to be linking to it or sharing it on social media. Also a link is stronger when it is less clicks from your homepage. Those backdated posts were either remaining on the homepage for a shorter amount of time or not appearing there at all.

The only time I think this is a legit tactic is when an advertiser explicitly agrees to it. I have heard of advertisers that wanted their ad to go under the radar. In any other situation though, you are shortchanging the advertiser. An advertiser is assuming their ad will be included in a blog’s regular posting schedule.

Hiding Ad Posts From Your Homepage

This is similar to the previous tactic, but it takes away much more from the ad. From what I know, it’s just a matter of using some plugin to exclude the post from their main blog stream. That way you can only find the post by going to the exact post url or using the blog’s search function. So not only is this post not going to be found, but it’s even tough for search engines to notice. Since those hidden posts have so few links pointing to them, those pages become extremely weak.

The bloggers who use this tactic simply report the exact post url to the advertiser. The majority of the time the advertiser just glances at the post url to make sure the links are ok. Little do they suspect that they’ve just received a post that gets none of the benefits of advertising on a well ranked blog. They get the short end of the stick by trusting those bloggers and being too busy to thoroughly check their ad.

I can’t think of a single situation where this tactic would be acceptable. I really advise against this strategy.

Excluding Ad Posts From Your RSS Feed

When bloggers do this they are just not streaming the ad post to the RSS feed. So it’s only being blocked from their regular readers who happen to use an RSS reader to follow their blog.

Personally I don’t have a big problem with this tactic, but it does ultimately limit how many people view the post, add a comment or share it on social media. So again it’s not being completely honest with advertisers about what benefits they’re receiving. Some of those advertisers may have targeted your blog partly because of the number of RSS subscribers you have.

This tactic is one that advertisers are almost guaranteed to never notice. Most advertisers won’t take the time to subscribe to the blogs that they are probably just advertising on as a one time deal. So while I don’t recommend doing this, you would likely get away with it.

Late Night Publishing

Again, this is another marginal offense, but still worth mentioning. It is when a blogger publishes an ad post or multiple ad posts in the middle of the night and then publishes a normal post at their normal morning posting time.

It achieves some of the same effects as the other strategies mentioned as it limits how many regular readers view the ads. At least the post is on a blog’s homepage and is not completely hidden.

Unless you regularly post like that, it does go beyond what an advertiser would be expecting. I don’t think most advertisers would notice or even care much though. Most advertisers do not actually know enough about SEO to know that they are losing some benefits. I think this tactic can be somewhat acceptable, at least compared to the other tactics. Still I wouldn’t go overboard and publish several ad posts in one night. At least spread those posts out a bit.

Summary of Blog Advertising Honesty

Bloggers need to think twice about whether they are being true to themselves with how they handle the advertising on their blogs. If you do make the decision to accept advertising on your blog, you should be willing to accept the consequences. If you’re accepting ads, why not only accept quality content that is good enough that it doesn’t matter if there is any advertising? Or if you’re that worried about hiding that content from your readers, perhaps you should be pursuing a different monetization strategy. I realize you are just trying to protect your blog with these tactics, but is it fair that advertisers get screwed over as a result?

The other thing to consider is how these tactics affect this monetization strategy overall. I wouldn’t think advertisers would continue paying top dollar for these types of ads if they are not getting the benefits they are expecting. Some might start limiting their budgets. Others might completely move on to other strategies.

I really hope I didn’t offend anyone with this post. It was not meant to call out anyone, but instead it was meant to raise awareness for bloggers who don’t realize what they’re doing. Maybe by making the ads more beneficial for advertisers, we can all benefit more.

What is your take on these tactics? Do bloggers owe advertisers the courtesy of being upfront?

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