If you are one of many people who poured a lot of resources into link building over the last two years, you must have noticed that more and more editors charge a fee for publishing your content on their blog – which effectively turns regular guest contributions into sponsored posts.
We are going to discuss the reasons behind this practice later into the post, but for now, let’s focus on what this article is all about.
While we are not big fans of sponsored posting in general, the reality of the situation is that some blogs won’t even look at your content without a proper “incentive”. Additionally, with many of your competitors ready to buy anything in their sight, you often don’t have many other options if you want to compete.
Google is increasingly aware of this problem, and the changes to link attributes they announced last year might be a first step towards addressing this problem.
Nevertheless, we doubt that sponsored fees are going away any time soon, so we decided to look at our internal data and give you an idea of what kind of fees you should expect (depending on the niche and site authority) if you do a lot of blogger outreach.
To go straight to the cost breakdown, click here.
What are sponsored posts in the context of SEO?
The first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions sponsored posts are probably paid posts on social media.
While sponsored social media posts are a viable promotion strategy for many brands, this is not what this post is all about.
Sponsored posts in the context of SEO are something completely different and can be split into two categories:
- sponsored blog posts
- guest posts with a publishing fee (a.k.a. paid guest posts)
In essence, sponsored posts are all posts bloggers or website owners publish on their blog in exchange for a fee.
Sponsored blog posts
Sponsored blog posts have been a thing for a while now. The idea behind these articles is to publish self-promotional content on highly-reputable sites in your niche, often with two main purposes:
- raising brand awareness
- gathering leads through referral traffic
Here are a few additional things that are very important to know:
- in an ideal scenario, a sponsored post provides real value to the reader, while successfully promoting some product or service
- a sponsored blog post can be written by the blog editor or by the company buying the sponsored post (if you are providing content, you can try to negotiate a lower price)
- sponsored articles usually discuss a specific problem that is closely tied with a product/service
- they can take the form of an infographic, quiz/calculator, press release…everything one might consider as content
- sponsored blog posts often contain links to products or landing pages
- classic sponsored posts are tagged as “sponsored” and the links are usually “no follow” (at least if the site is following Google’s guidelines)
- sponsored blog posts can be published in digital magazines too, not just posted on websites
Sponsored post example #1
This post on “top ways to make money blogging” on Jeff Bullas is a great example of a classic sponsored blog post.
It is clearly stated that this is a sponsored post…
…it contains links towards one of the Infolink’s landing pages the body of the article…
…that looks like this:
Sponsored post example #2
The second example comes from Outbrain, one of the more popular native advertising platforms.
They have published a post on the Native Advertising Institute that contains a quiz…
…which leads readers to their landing page:
Sponsored posts can be very effective in gathering qualified leads if the target audience is on point and if the chosen topic resonates with that audience. That being said, high authority blogs and magazines can charge anywhere between $500 and $10k+ to give you access to their audience. This is why bigger brands are often the ones that opt-in for these offers.
Paid guest posts
Similar to sponsored blog posts – just much less self-promotional. The main difference is that many bloggers like to pretend these are not sponsored posts, just regular guest posts they publish in exchange for a “small” fee.
However, we would argue that whenever you attach a fee to any article publication, that automatically turns it into a sponsored post.
In this situation, bloggers still expect you to provide decent content and adhere to their guest posting guidelines which often limit how self-promotional you can be. What you get in return is the ability to link back to your website once or twice in your guest post. Sometimes, those links can lead to promotional pages on your website, but you have to check it on a case-to-case basis.
We can’t give you any examples here as these posts are rarely disclosed as sponsored posts, so they look like your run-of-the-mill guest posts.
Now that we got the semantics out of the way, let’s look at the research setup and price breakdowns.
How was our research done?
There’s probably no need to point up how our core business revolves around link building. From our beginnings, we were (and still are) working with clients from many different niches – from beauty & fashion brands to B2B SaaS solutions.
Because of that, we are constantly in touch with bloggers and editors from different industries. When you put all those emails on one pile, you get a bunch of interesting data one can use for good research. And that’s exactly what we did here.
What was our research sample?
To be a part of this research, a site had to meet two simple criteria:
- they ask you to write the content
- there is a fee involved (obviously)
In other words, this was not a link buying play where we paid X amount of USD to a blogger to insert a link towards our client’s page on one of the existing blog posts. We sent a guest post pitch asking if they accept content from guest contributors, and they notified us that publishing content is not free.
It’s important to mention how all the data pulled for research is fairly recent. No data is older than 2 years and most of the numbers are from 2019. Regarding the location, the sites we have been in contact with are predominantly from North America and the United Kingdom.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The research was based on 229 websites. The average DA (domain authority) of all websites used in this research was 39 and the average publishing fee ended at $177 (all the fees are expressed in USD).
The price breakdown of sponsored posting
Let’s see how much people charge depending on the site authority and niche.
Sponsored posts cost by DA
As you can see from the above photo, we’ve distributed each of the 229 contacted sites into one of five DA categories. For each category, you can see:
- minimum fee (the lowest publishing fee a site in this DA range asked for)
- maximum fee (the highest publishing fee a site in this DA range asked for)
- the average fee for a select authority range
If you, for example, look at the fourth interval (DA: 51-60) you’ll see that the minimum asked fee was $40. On the other hand, the maximum fee is at an enormous $1961 (this was a single outlier).
Min and max fees are mostly included because we had that data on hand. You should concentrate on the average fees to set realistic expectations.
- Unsurprisingly, as the DA grows, so does the average requested publishing fee.
- Sites above 50 DA seem to start charging significantly more than those below that authority range.
Gaining a high domain authority to prove to search engines that your website is a quality source of information is not a simple job. It takes years of work to build site authority and online presence. So, a stronger site → stronger leverage → higher fees.
Sponsored posts cost by niche
Let’s see what are the average fees editors seek for sponsored posts across different niches.
This time we have distributed each of the 229 sites into one of ten popular niches. For each niche you can see:
- average Domain Authority (to give you a broader context of how strong were the sites in question)
- average fee (the average amount of USD a site in each niche asked for publishing content)
To avoid diluting the research and to ensure the relevant sample size, we decided to merge some related niches. For example, the Beauty & Fashion category is made up of websites that write about beauty, fashion, and weddings.
- Blogs in the Outdoors niche had the highest average publishing fee of $243, closely followed by Beauty and fashion at $230.
- Business blogs seem to have the most cost-effective offers.
- The average sponsored fee can vary north of $100 depending on the niche.
A few insights from personal experience
Not so long ago, Ahrefs published a similar study on buying links. While their research has many great points, I would take their percentages on the number of sites that ask for a fee with a grain of salt because they actually didn’t get a clear response from over 70% of websites they reached out too.
However, comparing these percentages does give you a good comparison in relative terms.
In our personal experience, Travel blogs and Mommy bloggers (which probably aligns with Parenting from the above graph) are the two niches where you get asked to cover publishing fees the most.
We can also confirm that Marketing is the easiest niche to naturally build links for because there is an abundance of blogs in this space that are open to publishing content from guest contributors without attaching any fees. A close second would be a Business niche with one caveat – a lot of business blogs accept guest posts, but many of them will no follow or remove links towards your domain – even if they lead to strictly educational resources.
Why do people even charge a fee for publishing good content?
The short answer is – because they can.
Of course, as with everything in life, there are nuances to this question too.
The most common argument we heard as to why there is a fee involved to publish a guest post is “time needed to review, tweak, and publish the post”.
Is this a valid argument though?
We’ve looked at our own time tracking for reference, and we spend ~4 hours on guest contributions (this includes time spent on the outline and draft reviews, uploading content to WP, on-page SEO optimization, featured image design, and publishing the piece).
So if the editor spends 3 hours on a guest post on average and values their work at $50/hour, then a publishing fee of $150 seems reasonable. In theory, this makes sense.
Now, here is why that argument doesn’t hold up in practice.
First of all, many blogs with low & medium site authority will publish any post that looks decent and matches their guidelines – without investing any time in polishing the content or on-page optimization. This means they only spend 20 to 30 minutes per submission.
Blogs like ours, that do spend more time on guest content, still shouldn’t charge for it for several reasons:
- it is against Google’s guidelines
- if you choose contributors and topics carefully and do the needed work, guest content you publish should pay for itself by bringing in organic traffic, spreading awareness, being used for client education, etc.
- producing quality content takes time, and you get that content for free
Unfortunately, despite these arguments, sponsored fees aren’t going anywhere because of the simple reason we stated in the beginning – site owners charge for content because they can.
All numbers in one place
Before you go
While search engines are trying to find new ways to deal with undisclosed sponsored posts, many businesses can’t afford to sit idly while their competition is out there bending or breaking the link building rules.
If building a strong and clean backlink profile was easy, sponsored fees probably wouldn’t be a thing. And while we would never recommend any business to build its off-page SEO strategy on sponsored posts, the reality of the situation is that paying a reasonable fee to be able to post good content on a high-authority site is occasionally worth it.
It is up to you to choose which path to take and think about the risk/reward ratio if you do decide to entertain such offers.
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