Pay per Post: Good Idea or Risky Choice?

Are you currently marketing your business through blogs using “pay per post” (PPP)? Have you thought about it? If so, here are a few things you might want to take into consideration.

What is PPP?

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, “pay per post” is where bloggers agree, for a fee, to write blog posts about a company’s product or service. These posts are mixed in with other non-paid posts on a personal blog and basically masquerade as “normal” blog posts.

So why would advertisers buy posts on an individual’s blog to start with? There are basically two reasons:

  1. The blog has statistics to indicate it has a good number of subscribers or traffic. The advertisers believe the blog posts will drive customers to their site.
  2. The blog has a strong displayed PageRank in the Google Toolbar and a strong backlink profile. The advertisers think they’ll get a search engine ranking boost from the links the blogger puts in the post pointing to their website.

Concerns about PPP

Some people have concerns about this from an ethical standpoint. The expectation many people have is that a blog will represent the real opinions of the person writing the post. When they read a positive post about a product or service, they assume the blogger is honestly recommending it based on their own experiences or observations, not that it’s a paid advertisement.

The problem these people have is that generally the disclosure of the paid post is not very obvious. Some blogs I’ve seen simply have a single page that says, in essence, “some posts on this blog have been paid for, but I’m not going to tell you specifically which ones.”

For these folks, this equates to, say, a newspaper allowing companies to buy space on its editorial pages without disclosing which posts are actual editorial opinions and which are paid ads.

A second concern is how effective PPP is. Do the advertisers get a good return for their money? Well, there are a few potential concerns:

  • Does the blog get any real traffic? Some of the PPP blogs I’ve seen are mostly paid posts, with only a few “real” posts scattered here and there. Maybe they started out as interesting personal blogs, but they’re now more like a newspaper advertising insert. Traffic stats can be manipulated. What kind of real human visitors does a blog such as that likely attract?
  • How many of the blog visitors read these paid posts? Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how much traffic the blog gets, if everybody simply skips over the paid post, it has little potential to send traffic to the advertiser’s site.
  • Does the blog actually pass link popularity? Google and the other search engines have the ability to blog individual pages and entire domains from passing link popularity (or in Google, PageRank). They don’t publish a list of blocked pages or domains anywhere. So if you’re buying a post for supposed increased link popularity, how do you know you’re getting what you paid for?

The future of PPP?

Some people I talk with swear PPP has worked for them. And, you know, it’s quite possible it does, at least in the short term. For some businesses, at least, it might be worth a test.

But there are reasons to be cautious. Google, in particular, is on the rampage lately against paid links, and according to a recent post at TechCrunch, it seems Google now has PPP bloggers it its sights.

Nobody really knows the effect of these PageRank reductions. Could be they’re just a “cosmetic” adjustment to the displayed PageRank on the Google Toolbar — sort of a shot across the bow, putting PPP bloggers (and their advertisers) that Google ain’t happy. (And, like mama, if Google ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.)

Or they could indicate a real adjustment in these blogs’ ability to rank well and pass link popularity — in which case, as an advertiser, I’d have to be at least a little worried about the blogs’ ability to deliver value for my advertising dollars.

My opinion? Well, personally, I’m not comfortable with PPP, so I probably won’t be using it as an advertising vehicle myself, and I’m certainly not going to sign up any of my blogs as publishers.

But if you think it has potential to help your business, I can’t honestly tell you it won’t work (depending on what you mean by “work”). But if it were my business, I’d be pretty cautious, at least until we have more information about the real effects of the latest Google smack-down on PPP blogs.

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Copyright © Diane M. Aull, an online consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. For more information about her services, visit NineYards.com or BootstrapSEO. For resources and tools for home based workers, visit Torka's Home for Wayward Girls.

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