cans of Spam

Is your blog too spammy?

4 min read
Ashley Grant

Nobody likes spam. The plethora of pop-up ads. The inundation of embedded links. The banner ads scattered across the page. And my personal spammy nemesis: the 30-second commercials that play before the 15-second video clips, with no option to skip the ad after five seconds.

Don’t get me wrong -- ads and links can be sweet little traffic-driving, revenue-generating morsels of goodness for a blog. But they turn sour when your blog reader’s hands are full of flour and she has to stop reading your recipe for caramel-pecan baklava on her iPad to close the annoying pop-up for cheap car loans. (Would it surprise you to know that people are more turned off by irrelevant pop-up ads than by lottery scams and male enhancement ads?)

If you monetize your blog with any sort of sponsored posts, ads or links -- affiliate, banner, in-text, you name it -- discrimination and moderation are key. One bad spam experience can lose you a visitor for life.

From my own experience as a blogger, here are three basic tips for making money on your blog with sponsored posts, ads and links without alienating your visitors:

Don’t make every post a sponsored post.

First, good for you that you managed to get someone to pay you for your posts. That actually is pretty awesome and I’m admittedly jealous. However, if you have a blog that’s all about recipes and suddenly you’re posting a bunch of sponsored pieces about picking health insurance, the best diapers on the market, and the reasons you love your Maytag washing machine, you’re sending two messages to your readers:

  1. You’re a sellout.
  2. Even worse, you no longer care about posting the kind of content that made them fall in love with your site.

If you do start adding sponsored posts, make sure they’re in some way related to your core blog theme. You don’t want to make your readers play the blog version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to figure out why you’re hawking Pampers on your auto detailing blog. And keep the number of sponsored posts to a minimum in your weekly post lineup.

If you’re paid to post, tell the truth.

One of the challenges that comes with being paid to write about a company or product is that you might start having your opinions swayed by the risk of retribution for telling the truth -- i.e. not getting any more money or free stuff because you write your true opinion.

Case in point: I was receiving free meals to write about restaurants. Awesome, right?! One restaurant in particular comped me and my husband a very expensive meal -- but parts of it were awful. The drinks were delicious and the appetizers knocked our socks off … but the steak tasted like a TV dinner (turns out it was a result of the chef’s boil-in-bag steak experiment. No bueno!) I debated with myself a little too long about whether or not to write about the less-than-stellar portions of the meal because it was free.

Ultimately, I told the truth. My reward? The restaurant’s publicist informed me I could never have a free meal again. That hurt. But if I’d sacrificed my blogger integrity for the promise of that next free meal, I would’ve been just another sellout blogger -- and my readers would eventually see through my facade.

No trust, no traffic, no revenue. Not worth it.

Is this really necessary? If you’re writing about a product or give a specific item a mention in a post, it makes sense to link to it. But adding links to products in a post that has nothing to do with the linked product is just overkill. What kind of message are you sending to your readers if you link to a sales page for a NutriBullet Pro in a post about blended families? Really. Thanks for letting me know you care more about affiliate commissions than quality content!

Your blog readers are your bread and butter. If you alienate them with spammy content, they might skip your site the next time they need a fancy dessert. And then you’ll be left holding the baklava.