Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Lesson in Blog Advertisements

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a local private school inquiring about my interest in a link exchange.  For those of you not in the blogging world this simply means I would list their company's link on my blog and they would list my blog's link on their website.  You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.  It's a bit of a mischievous way for companies to use bloggers for free advertising, in my opinion.

I politely told her I didn't participate in link exchanges but that if she was interested in a paid advertising spot we could negotiate rates.

I don't participate in link exchanges because I think it misleads you, the reader.  I want you to know that whenever I promote another site, product or company it is because I'm doing it for my own intentions, not because I'm getting something in return.  If I started doing link exchanges I think it could start a circle of confusion about who I really am.  Especially for new readers.

That said, I am open to paid advertising spots or product promotions and/or reviews when I am given the product for free and am allowed to voice my full opinions without pressure to give only a positive review.  However, I will always make you, the reader, aware of the times when I have been compensated in any way to write a post.  I did something similar with Sears last November.

In that giveaway post I wrote about my struggle to just be a blogger versus being a blogger who also does reviews, giveaways and has advertising spots.  I believe there's a fine line where you can really sell yourself out as a writer.  That said, I do spend A LOT of time on this here little space and when someone reaches out and wants to actually compensate me to say something good about them?  Well that makes up for the other 365 days of the year when I don't earn a single cent.  I'm not going to lie.  It feels good and makes me feel like a bona fide blogger.

So back to the story.  Representative of unnamed private school responded that she was interested in a paid text ad that would appear on my right-hand sidebar.  We agreed on a generous yearly rate and I sent her an invoice via PayPal.  In return she sent me the text and link she wanted to appear on my blog.  It should be noted that she also requested some other custom HTML code that took me longer to work in than I had originally planned.  But I went with it without hesitation because I figured once it was done it would be up there for a year and I wouldn't have to touch it again.

When the ad went live I listed it under the header title: Handpicked Paid Advertisers.  I wanted it to be known that I had personally approved and worked with this company and it wasn't some random ad generated by AdSense or similar program.

Private School Rep quickly responded with a request to tweek the header title.  Her suggestions?  Handpicked Friends or Handpicked Resources.

These titles left me uncomfortable.  But I gave myself an hour or so to think it over.  While I did respect this school, neither myself nor any one in my family had ever been enrolled there.  By listing it as a friend or resource I felt that I was promoting something to you, the reader, that I had no experience with.  It felt wrong.

So I responded back to the rep telling her that I could be flexible about the header title but that I needed to include the words "paid" or "advertiser" or "sponsor" or something to indicate that I had been compensated to list this link so that I didn't mislead my readers.

She responded back to me in less than a minute to cancel the entire deal.  I haven't heard from her since.

Sketchy, no?

I couldn't believe the amount of time I wasted going back and forth with this woman and she never once made it known to me that being listed as a paid advertiser was a deal-breaker.

As upset as I was about the amount of time I wasted, I was more upset that this lady thought she could get away with this type of advertising manipulation and how, until the very end, she thought I was an easy target.

If you're a blogger I have some advice: Don't sell yourself short.  If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't no matter how big of a paycheck they're waving at you.  You have valuable space and it's all yours to do with however you please.

What do you think?  Were my guidelines too strict?  Has anything like this ever happened to you before?

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