Sponsored articles are becoming increasingly popular, but many advertisers still hesitate to utilize them to their full potential. In this article, we will explore what makes a sponsored article “useful” for your web marketing strategy, the main interests of sponsored articles, best practices to follow, different types of sponsored posts useful in inbound marketing, and how to set up an effective and ROI-driven sponsored articles strategy.
We will also discuss the right price for quality sponsored articles. Whether you’re looking to jump to a specific section or explore the complete article, we’ve provided a “Summary” button for easy navigation.
What is a “useful” sponsored article in web marketing?
A sponsored article, as the name suggests, is an article written by a blogger or an influential site in exchange for compensation from an advertiser. It involves the creation, publication, and media coverage of the article on the site, often accompanied by social media promotion and inclusion in the publisher’s newsletter for an additional fee.
It’s important to distinguish sponsored articles from advertorials, which are articles written by brands themselves to promote their products or services on the websites where they are published.
While not all sponsored posts are created equal, the ones that are most effective in the long run are those that are written honestly and transparently, without a promotional tone that may deceive the reader.
Five prerequisites for maximizing the ROI of sponsored articles
A useful sponsored post in a comprehensive web marketing and inbound marketing strategy often meets the following criteria:
- Written honestly by the editor in a non-promotional tone.
- Addresses a specific identified need or question from the target audience. For example, a tutorial that showcases a tool through a practical use case, based on keyword analysis using tools like Google Keyword Planner.
- Targets keywords that are searched by the intended audience, based on their stage in the buying journey.
- Published on an influential site with verified traffic and a theme related to the company, product, or service.
- Distributed and promoted to the website’s audience through social media channels and newsletters.
Different types of sponsored articles
The types of sponsored articles vary depending on your goals and the stage of the prospect’s buying journey. Here is a non-exhaustive selection of sponsored article types that can help companies reach and convert internet users into customers:
- Simple presentation article of the service
- Article sharing an infographic produced by the company
- Tutorial associated with the company’s presented service
- Complete illustrated test of the company’s solution
- Comparison of the company’s solution with a known competitor’s
- Integration of the company’s solution into a list of the best solutions for a specific need
- Article presenting a video demonstration of a service or product
- Sharing a white paper or webinar to collect qualified leads
- Sharing a promo code to offer a free trial of the company’s solution
Analyzing needs, objectives, and targets before using sponsored articles
The primary appeal of sponsored articles lies in their usefulness at different stages of the prospect’s buying cycle: awareness of a need, consideration of solutions, and the decision-making phase. Therefore, an effective sponsored articles strategy should involve more than just purchasing a single sponsored article.
The type of sponsored article chosen depends on factors such as the target audience, type of products or services being sold, targeted objectives (notoriety, leads, conversions), and the progress of prospects/customers in the purchasing process.
In summary, the different types of sponsored articles we’ve presented are complementary and cater to specific phases of the B2B customer’s buying cycle, including the awareness of a need, needs assessment, validation of the need, consideration, reflection, comparison of service providers, validation of the chosen provider, and decision making.
6 Concrete Benefits of Sponsored Articles for Inbound and Web Marketing Strategies
If you are still wondering at this stage whether sponsored articles are relevant as part of a B2C or B2B web communication strategy, here are 6 reasons why you should adopt them and dedicate a real marketing budget to them in 2020.
1 – Communicate with a targeted audience while improving awareness of your brand (and products/services).
Depending on the blog or site targeted for the publication of the sponsored article, and the larger and more targeted the audience of the site in question, using a sponsored article will allow both:
- Exposing your products/services to a new targeted audience.
- Naturally improving your notoriety and brand image.
2 – Improve and better manage your e-reputation.
“Your brand is not what you say it is, but what Google says it is.” – Chris Anderson
The more you maximize “controlled” speech about your brand and your products and services, the more effectively you can control and manage your e-reputation on Google and other search engines.
Creating sponsored articles targeting “test (my product)” type requests will, for example, allow you to manage your e-reputation on “review (my product)” type requests since Google generally associates the term “test” with a sharing of opinions.
Moreover, having many generally positive articles that talk about your brand is a tremendous e-reputation asset, especially when you experience a bad buzz or an influx of many negative opinions temporarily (which is not uncommon in the life of a company).
This is only one example of what is possible to do in e-reputation via sponsored articles, but this theme alone deserves a dedicated and detailed article.
3 – Obtain expert opinions and feedback from prospects on your products and services.
Using sponsored articles also allows you, when you decide to present your tool, product, or service, to obtain expert opinions and comments from prospects who are more or less advanced in the purchasing cycle.
Thus, sponsored articles of the “test” type will allow you to concretely present the benefits of your products and/or services to your target audience in a more natural and detailed way than via traditional advertising (display, Facebook Ads, Google ads…).
In addition, articles from influential media and blogs being consulted by hundreds (even thousands) of Internet users, you can also often take the opportunity to collect valuable comments from your prospects via social networks and article comments if you follow all this closely.
4 – Acquire quality targeted traffic that can then be retargeted by retargeting.
If you decide to publish a sponsored article on a site with enough traffic, as long as the article is liked and positioned in SEO on keywords related to your activity, it can bring you qualified traffic in the long term that you can then retarget via email retargeting campaigns, Facebook, Criteo, or even Google (subject to having configured the scripts and the Facebook pixel first).
5 – Optimize your SEO.
Although this is less and less true since Google’s warnings in 2016 and Google’s more recent announcement encouraging webmasters to use rel=sponsored for sponsored links, using sponsored articles directly and indirectly allows you to boost your SEO.
Don’t believe it?
Here are, apart from the interest in e-reputation, the 3 main reasons in our opinion:
- Google loves all links.
Whether nofollow or dofollow links, Google loves links and crawls them. The recent announcement on rel=sponsored, nofollow, and ugc proves once again that Google is forced to consider nofollow links to rank the sites that show up in its search results. Thus, the more a site has quality inbound links, whatever their type, and as long as they are as natural as possible (avoid rel=sponsored at all costs), the more Google will prioritize the site and the pages linked in its natural search results. Of course, dofollow links will remain the links that have the most impact, but nofollow links have the advantage of allowing you to diversify your backlink profile to avoid having 100% dofollow, which would be anything but natural.
- A sponsored article can be well positioned in SEO.
If you are unable to target certain queries with your own site, certain influential sites that talk about you and promote you may find it much easier because of the authority of their domain name. Thus, sponsored articles can serve you in a “serp domination” strategy, especially since the Google update limiting the number of results per domain and per SERP. Finally, a quality article positioned in SEO will have more chances of obtaining natural backlinks, which will boost the authority of the links redirecting to your website.
- The Virtuous Effects of Influence.
Sponsored articles published on very to moderately influential sites allow products and services to be known to a large, diverse audience, sometimes consisting of other site managers who may decide to share the site or service discovered on forums and blogs without necessarily requesting a financial contribution from the company. This virtuous effect can thus generate natural links and recommendations whose origin will have been one or more sponsored articles that achieved their original objective.
6 – Multiply your reach with a tone specific to each site/influencer/blogger.
The impact is never the same if you say the same thing 10 times yourself to a person or if 10 different people say the same thing 10 times to that person. Do you follow me?
One of the major advantages of sponsored articles lies in their ability to promote a product or service in a personalized way, with an angle and tone specific to each writer.
Thus, the same service or product will never be presented in the same way from one site to another.
While some sites focus on specific features, others will, for example, emphasize the user experience or the significant time it can save.
This is why we recommend that you not restrict the editors with whom you will work too much in the context of your sponsored articles, apart from the generic guidelines and essential SEO optimizations.
Best Practices for Sponsored Articles
Today, we will explore the best practices for creating effective sponsored articles, delving into their importance for your brand’s notoriety, how they transform prospects into leads, and eventually, customers.
Understanding the Power of Repetition
The founder of Publicis, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, once said, “Repetition makes reputation.” That’s precisely why investing in a long-lasting series of sponsored articles maximizes their impact. The probability of converting a prospect into a lead through a single sponsored article is slim. However, the more exposure your sponsored content gets, the higher the conversion rate.
A 2017 study by Nielsen found that the optimal frequency of repetition for sponsored content was between five to nine exposures, which can enhance the brand image and increase consumer resonance by 51% on average. The same study found that ad frequency directly correlates to improved click-through rates (CTR) and reduced cost-per-action (CPA).
Building an Effective Sponsored Articles Strategy
Before implementing a sponsored articles strategy, it’s crucial to have a precise idea of your target customers (your personas) and your objectives.
Once these prerequisites have been validated, and the budget is set, there are two ways to proceed:
- Do everything yourself: This approach, while time-consuming, retains full control over partnerships and is generally less expensive.
- Outsource to dedicated platforms or agencies: Many platforms, like GetFluence, SEMjuice, Coobis, Develink, and more, reference influential sites and blogs, categorize them, and handle negotiations.
For site selection, tools like SEMrush or its alternative, SERPstat, can estimate the average monthly traffic of the blog or site you plan to partner with. These tools also reveal the SEO-positioned keywords, enabling you to decide if the themes are close to your products/services.
Maximizing the Impact of Sponsored Articles
A one-time sponsored article on a site has a minimal chance of being ROI positive. Remember, sponsored articles are not primarily intended to bring customers directly from the first post. They must be a part of a global content and inbound marketing strategy.
Repetition, planning, and targeting are the keys to a successful sponsored articles strategy. It’s advisable to publish at least three sponsored articles over a spread period on the same medium for long-term performance.
Multiple articles allow for different angles, improved SEO positioning through internal linking, and coverage of different semantic universes and keywords. It’s all about what’s called SERP domination – controlling all organic search results on a specific query indirectly.
The True Cost of Sponsored Posts
Quality sponsored articles don’t come cheap. The price can vary based on:
- The site’s audience and popularity
- The site’s theme
- The volume of words written
- The writer’s influence
- The media coverage system included (social sharing, newsletter relay, etc.)
Here’s an estimated cost breakdown based on monthly website traffic:
- Less than 5,000 visits: $50 – $90 (excluding tax) per article (300/400 words)
- Between 5,000 and 30,000 visits: $90 – $150 (excluding tax) per article (300/400 words)
- Between 30,000 and 100,000 visits: $150 – $300 (excluding tax)
- Between 100,000 and 500,000 visits: $300 – $900 (excluding tax)
- More than 500,000 visits: $900 – $3000 (excluding tax)
Sponsored articles, originally used primarily for acquiring nofollow links, have transformed into a robust acquisition, communication, and conversion channel, thanks to developments led by Google. By adopting the best practices outlined above, you can maximize the potential of sponsored articles and achieve significant return on your investment.