Have you ever offered to pay freelance bloggers to include your link in their guest posts?
It seems like a logical trade. They have a relationship with a reputable site. Adding a bit of money to their next paycheck couldn’t hurt. All they have to do is include your link naturally in the post.
No harm was done, right?
Wrong. If you’ve been doing this, it’s something you should probably stop doing right now.
Why You Shouldn’t Pay Bloggers for Links
The thing about paying bloggers to include your link is that it goes directly against most sites’ contributor guidelines. That means that if the site finds out you’re paying for a link, which is essentially bribery, they could easily remove it. In some circumstances, it will damage the writer’s reputation with the site, and he or she could be banned from working with the site again.
So where would that leave you? It leaves both you and the writer worse off than when you started. You could end up paying for that link only to have it removed without any chance of a refund. And the writer loses some credibility, too.
What You Should Do Instead
So if you can’t buy links and have writers post them on reputable sites they’ve written for before, what can you do? Glad you asked. There are actually several things you can do to ensure this doesn’t backfire.
A lot of people have come to me asking if I can include their link in my content on Problogger or Lifehack. The thing is that neither of these sites allow that, even if I did manage to get another guest post accepted and published.
Other sites don’t mind so much as long as the link is relevant. Decide first which sites you want to have your link on, determine if they allow client links like yours, and then seek out a writer who you know can write for that site. (This can be someone who is on their editorial team or who has guest blogged for them in the past.)
2. Contact the site before finding a writer.
One completely ethical strategy is that you create a relationship with the blog you want your link to go on. The good news here is that most blogs will allow you to include a link or two to your own content. Sometimes this is only in the bio section; other times you can add this in the content itself. The idea is that you contact the blog and offer an article idea to them. If they show interest, then you can find a writer to create the content for you. Then you would handle the submission process and everything.
Here, you’re paying the writer for their content, which can be ghostwritten if you’d like. The site already knows that you’ll be including your own link, so you have the green light there. But instead of paying for the link itself, you’re paying for the content, which is a lot more ethical in the eyes of most bloggers and writers.
3. Ensure writers give full disclosure.
It’s often seen as an unethical practice when businesses pay to have their link included in content — whether you’re contacting the editorial staff directly or if you’re getting a freelancer to do it all — and then not telling readers that the link is paid. It’s lying by omission, and frankly, readers don’t like to be lied to.
So to make this practice more ethical, always be sure that any blogger you’re hiring is including a disclosure statement. If you’re working directly with the editorial staff, their site likely already has a disclosure policy somewhere on it.
4. Hire a content manager.
You’re short on time, and that’s why you need a freelancer to help with your marketing strategy. The problem is, however, that most people won’t see freelancers as a proper representative for your business. And why would they? The freelancer runs a separate business on his or her own.
Instead, a content manager (or whatever title you choose to use) who works for you in-house would be a better representative for your business. He or she could be the one building relationships between bloggers and your business, and since your content manager is part of your business, it makes sense to include links or other material alongside that content.
Here’s What You Shouldn’t Do
It is a completely unethical practice — and can get a lot of people in a lot of trouble — if you ask writers to include a do-follow link in their content but “be sure they don’t tell the site owner that you paid them.” Obviously, it can be beneficial to look like an unbiased third-party, but it’s still dishonest.
Want to know the truth? If you’re based in the U.S. (or the site you’re submitting your link to is), this practice can go against FTC guidelines. They have actually recently sent warnings to advertisers who have mislead customers and not included full disclosures in their ads. And yes, if you are paying for the ad and not telling readers, it is misleading customers to think that you’re an unbiased third-party, which clearly you’re not.
Paying for links isn’t always a bad or unethical thing. But if you’re going to do it, always make sure the site owner knows the link is yours, is paid, and is being included; there is full disclosure about the link in the post, and links are no-follow (depending on the site’s guidelines on the issue).