Your Checklist for Sponsored Content

Audience monetization of your trade publishing website can and should take several forms.

Don't place all your eggs in one basket: develop multiple revenue streams for best results.
Don’t place all your eggs in one basket: develop multiple revenue streams for best results.

Multiple revenue streams tend to produce the best long term results for monetized websites and may include:

  • CPM ads such as Google AdWords

  • Website Advertising You Sell Yourself

  • Custom Job Boards

  • eCommerce Sales

  • Sponsored Content

Writing sponsored content requires that you balance sponsor requirements with your site’s editorial voice. Separation of editorial and advertising content must be clear, and when you create sponsored content, you have to follow federal disclosure guidelines, particularly if specific products are mentioned. Here is a checklist for producing sponsored content that engages readers and delights sponsors without crossing ethical boundaries.

1. Follow FTC Disclosure Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws ensuring that products and services are described truthfully in all media, and that consumers know when they are reading sponsored content. You must include language at the beginning of your sponsored content identifying it as sponsored. You must ensure that the disclosure shows up on all platforms on which your content is read, including tablets and phones. Disclosure is not only the right thing to do ethically and legally, it maintains the trust of your audience. You can read or download FTC guidelines for sponsored content here.

2. Use the NoFollow HTML Tag in Your Post

With sponsored and affiliate links, you don’t want to transfer any “PageRank juice” to the destination site. If Google catches you transferring PageRank via sponsored link, they will classify it as spam, and you could end up being removed from Google’s database. You don’t want that to happen. To prevent it, use the NoFollow HTML tag. This prevents Google from following the link and keeps you on good terms with them. To make individual links “NoFollow” links, you simply add rel=”nofollow” after the link, like so:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>anchor text here.</a>

3. Use Appropriate SEO Keywords and Phrases

Your sponsor may provide you with SEO keywords and phrases to use in your sponsored content. Using your sponsors recommended SEO keywords helps your sponsor and can help you pick up more traffic when readers search on those keywords. Using your sponsor’s SEO keywords along with your sites own keywords where appropriate creates the classic win-win scenario for the sponsored content, benefiting your site and the sponsor.

4. Stay True to Your Website or Blog’s “Voice”

If your sponsored content is radically different from your normal content, you could alarm or turn off readers.
If your sponsored content is radically different from your normal content, you could alarm or turn off readers.

Usually, if a company wants to sponsor content on your site it’s because they are familiar with your site and believe it to be a good fit with their needs. Therefore, you should not change your site’s “voice” with sponsored content. When a sponsored post, article, or series stands out as noticeably different from your usual content, you’re apt to turn off readers and you may not draw the level of traffic your sponsor wants. Sponsored content has some differences with your regular content, but voice should not be one of them.

5. Over-Deliver

If you have questions about what the sponsor wants, ask and ask early. If they specify keywords to use, use them. Your goal, particularly with your first sponsored content, should be to exceed sponsor expectations. The content should have authenticity, tell a good story, be clear and grammatically correct, and basically adhere to all the requirements of all high quality content. Deliver what the sponsor asks for, and deliver it on time. Include images and/or video, and take all the normal steps you take when writing the high quality content that raises your website’s profile. Delight one sponsor and it’s easier to get repeat business from them and to attract other sponsors.

Sponsored content must be clearly labeled as such, so that your site maintains its boundary between editorial and paid content. However, that does not mean that your sponsored content will have a completely different “look and feel” from your regular content. Follow FTC disclosure guidelines, use the “NoFollow” tag, provide your highest quality writing, and you can make sponsored content a successful part of your site’s monetization strategy.

If you would like to know more about recruitment advertising for trade publishers as a revenue stream for your trade publication website, take a look at the solutions that RealMatch offers.

Photo Credits: David Castillo Dominici /, David Castillo Dominici /

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