The Trouble with Sponsorships.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/116011606/notebook-for-bloggers-quote-natural?utm_campaign=Share&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_source=Pinterest

I have a crafty business that I am trying to grow, and one of the things you need to do in order to get customers is promote your business.  This can be a tricky task: Where do you promote?  How much do you want to spend?  Will more money yield more views?  Do you focus locally or online?

For many Etsy shops and bloggers, they turn to other bloggers and their sponsorship programs, where an ad on a popular blog may bring views and sales you may not get otherwise.  You are hoping by advertising on a blog that people who may not already know you will get to know you, thus branching out to a new audience.  This is also a tricky task.

Sponsorships can vary from free ad swaps to ads costing hundreds of dollars depending on the blogger.  In general, the bigger and more popular the blogger, the more money you will need to spend.  But in theory those bloggers have more readers and you will be reaching more people at a time.  So does it work?

For this past Christmas advertising season I decided to seek out a few blogs that I thought would be a good host for my products, some based on recommendations, some based on my following of them, all based on how responsive their readership seemed to their posts.  Of all the bloggers I contacted, only one declined and only one deal I made fell through, leaving me with a hole too late in the season to fill.  Plans were made, questions were answered and posts were posted.  The results?

Honestly, not much happened.  On the day that things were posted, there was some decent traffic to the shop, but nothing stellar.  If there was a giveaway, then there were some new follows.  But all in all, not one coupon code was used, not one sale was netted.  And that's the risk you take.  In talking to other shop friends who pay for blog sponsorships, the results are mainly the same.  The problem is, you never know who another person's audience is going to connect with.

(Let me be clear: this is not to say that these are bad people who didn't live up to their end of the deal.  It's not that at all.  I am not slamming the bloggers I worked with- they are amazingly nice people who opened up their blog to let me in and I'm happy to have chatted with them and worked with them, and I totally appreciate all their effort.  All I'm saying is it didn't work for me, and that happens.)

Here are some things I've noticed, and others have noticed:

Blogs advertising is dependent on the blogger herself.  One friend paid for a few months' advertising, only to have the blogger tell her sponsors she was taking a blogging break.  Another friend paid for a pricey sponsorship and wasn't promoted beyond the ad.  Another sent products to be reviewed and they never were, though the products were kept.  Several noticed that in the month they paid for advertising, the blog changed tracks and started down a different path.  It happens.  We're all human and we all have things going on in our lives.  For most people, blogging isn't the #1 priority, and that's okay, but it might mess with someone's advertising plans.  (This is why I no longer take on sponsorships- I wasn't consistent enough to be effective.)

So what can you do?  Honestly, I probably won't pay for blog ads anymore because it hasn't worked for me.  So many people I know skip over the sponsorship posts on blogs.  I do it, so why am I surprised that advertising didn't work?  Why would I think it would be different just because it my product?  I actually get the best feedback from people who show off my products naturally.  For example, I got two sales from an Instagram shout-out from a popular blogging friend who took a picture of herself wearing one of my scarves.  That was an amazing result from a very organic post.  This is to say I like connecting with people, and so I'm going to continue to try and focus on that, and not go a route that can seem forced.  If people like my products, they'll share and show them off, and that's the best thing I can ask for.

Have you had a similar experience?

39 comments

  1. I haven't done a sponsorship or bought ads just for this reason. Besides, when you're crafty depending on what you're selling, a lot of things need to be seen first hand.

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  2. Agreed! There is so much truth in this post. In the past when I had advertised for my "shop" I rarely, if ever saw sales from those ads. Coupon codes weren't used, etc. Buying ads for my blog does seem to work. I've seen huge spikes in traffic, new followers and then I've even noticed that those new readers stick around. So that, I do like. I know that for me, if I see a photo of something in a blog post and I love it, I'm very likely to click over and see what the price is, etc. And, if the money is there, I'll buy it! So, seeing a product in a post is much more likely to get me to buy something, than an ad on the sidebar would be. Make sense? And, yes, instagram is fabulous for that... the more organic, the better in some cases.. when people don't feel like they're being "sold" an item. Great post!!

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  3. I have had the exact same issues! I also tried to have sponsors on my own blog, but found it hard to gain any who would pay more than $5. I have also paid to be on other blogs, but was never promoted or even mentioned in Social Media. No extra sales and maybe one or two "likes" were all that came of it, and nowadays, FB likes don't mean much since it barely shows posts to fans. :/ Feels like an uphill battle.

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  4. It's so unfortunate that blog ads have not worked out for me. I was really hoping that this was going to be an easy way to get sales but of course that didn't happen. I think I've spent a approx 200 on blog ads in total over the past 1.5yrs and I received probably 1-2 sales in total and they definitely didn't cover the ad cost. I have found that I've received more attention and care with smaller blogs than larger blogs. It's my experience that the bigger the blog (or if they think they are a popular blog) the least amount attention you receive.

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  5. I think you made an excellent point- there is totally a difference between advertising shop and advertising blogs and depending on which you advertise, you're going to see a difference in traffic.


    I love to see products, too- it's such a visual medium, it's hard to sell something without seeing it. I think a lot of times people will say, oh, that's nice, click on it, maybe store it for later, and that's about it. If you're in the market to buy, that's a whole different thing. There's just such a chance as to whether someone wants to buy or not.

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  6. Totally agree. That's why I like Instagram because that at least gives a good picture to those out there who can't see it in person. It helps a lot.

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  7. Yup, it's so hard to know where to try and advertise. If you have good friends, then that can help, but to break the barrier with a popular blogger (how do they become so popular, anyway??) is so hard, and to try and get to that point where they would organically promote you is even harder. It is definitely tough to be the little guy.

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  8. I agree- small blogs do tend to be more personal and give more personalized attention. Problem is- their following isn't as large. So it's like 6 of one, half a dozen of the other, and you're left in the same situation. It's so frustrating.

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  9. I've had a similar experience with blog ads, which is why I don't do that anymore either. And I also sent 2 products to a local blogger who was going to review & include in a Christmas gift guide, and she never did the gift guide (and now is not answering my emails). It's such a crapshoot sometimes. Right now I'm trying out Grow Etsy, and I've definitely noticed an uptick in traffic, though that hasn't translated to more sales yet.

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  10. Oh, that's such a bummer. That's one thing I always worry about- how is it going to turn out? Is it s a scam? You have to put a lot of trust in people, which I've been lucky with so far.

    What's Grow Etsy? I'm intrigued!

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  11. I've had very little luck with blog ads too, as you already know. I have paid for sponsorship for one blog this Valentine's season because I know how successful it was last year. That is the only money I intend to spend. I do wish that I had a bigger network of people that would be so willing to promote me because I find that those sorts of promotions are the most successful as well. I know that you saw my tweet the other night. I had not intended for anyone to respond, but more of a think out loud tweet. Interestingly enough, I had several people contact me that said they would promote my cards for free! One blogger posted about them yesterday and it resulted in a purchase of 6 cards. That being said, I really do think that there is something about people promoting you because they truly love what you do rather than promoting you because they made a few bucks. Excellent post!

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  12. I'm glad you had some good results from your tweet! Sometimes I think that all it takes is asking for some help like that, and there are actually plenty of people who will help you out without asking for a thing. It seems as though we're in this pay-for-play mentality with bloggers (and I know it takes a lot of time to set these things up so I'm not downplaying that) that they must be compensated highly to help you out. I think once you find a good place to advertise, then stick to it, and if it's not working, don't feel like you need to keep trying the same thing in different places.

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  13. It's a Pinterest-based promotion site specifically for Etsy shops. Marilyn from Pulp Sushi did a good write-up, which is how I found out about it. She also has a link to get 2 free credits: http://www.pulpsushi.com/2014/01/introducing-growetsy.html


    You do have to pay for promo credits after that, but it's cheaper per credit than most blog ads anyway, so worth trying out I thought.

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  14. The best results I have ever had were from advertising on huge blogs, and those ads cost a pretty penny for sure! Smaller blogs are a waste of money for me. I've tried, but it just does not work.

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  15. I have to agree with a lot of what you said here. I've tried blog ads too and not had a lot of success. I will say, I wouldn't be happy if I paid a lot for an ad and then the blogger took an unannounced break. Thankfully, that has never happened to me. If you are making substantial income off your blog, then that is your job and it should be taken seriously. Even when unexpected life stuff happens, most people don't just stop going to work. If you do have to stop blogging for an extended period of time without warning, then you really should offer a refund to your advertisers or offer them a discount in the future, make it up to them in some way. Eventually, bloggers who are flaky get a bad reputation among sellers who talk to each other, but there will always be newer shops who don't know any better.


    The most expensive blog I ever sponsored for one month got me virtually no traffic. It sort of made me question her stats actually. I want to trust people completely, but if even a tiny fraction of the unique visitors she claimed to be getting every day had clicked on my ad, then my traffic should've been way higher. I know some people say that it's perfectly acceptable to ask for a screenshot of their stats page to confirm their traffic, but I felt weird doing that so just took her at her word. Needless to say, I've never sponsored that blog again and am now a lot more choosy with who I sponsor.

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  16. Yea, I think it definitely depends on the product you offer, who's reading, AND definitely what the sponsorship offers. Some are better than others and have a good value. It's just so hard to know when to strike, and where.

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  17. Ouch. That's a painful lesson, and that would definitely ruin my trust in bloggers as a whole. I didn't realize people asked for screen shots! I guess that's why some people do better with their ad choices then me! :) And yes, if you are blogging and making good money off of it then you should be responsible to the people who are paying your salary, just as you would a regular job.

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  18. Paige @ Little NostalgiaJanuary 8, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    I've been lucky enough to find a handful of blog advertising relationships that worked for me, but I also made some very expensive mistakes. Even though I sold wedding jewelry, I learned quickly not to advertise on actual wedding blogs because they totally inflate their pricing. Like a lot of things in the wedding industry, it seemed like they were charging more because they were related to weddings and therefore SPECIAL!!!!1!!1one


    Once I had a sidebar ad on a large wedding blog at the same time I was working with a smaller non-wedding blogger from whom I got consistent sales. The wedding blog cost 3 times as much and I barely got any traffic. So when I decided not to renew for another month and they asked me why, I told them! They tried to win me back by saying that their traffic, while less, was my target market! Golly gee! I said the other girl still got me more sales. And then I stopped replying to their emails because they just couldn't take a hint.


    If/when I open up one of my shops again, I'll have to think of new strategies to promote. It's so hard to find sponsorships that are worthwhile that it's almost not worth my time.

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  19. And that seems to be part of the problem- the blogs thinks they are IT and that you need them. And when you start out, you think you do need them, and it's not until you spend some money do you realize what really works or what really doesn't, which is an expensive and maddening lesson. I've learned, though, that when someone contacts me to advertise or do a giveaway and they tell me it will drive traffic to my shop, I know it's most likely not going to and I skip it.

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  20. Wow, very interesting discussion about this topic! I haven't ever paid for a blog ad because ads for high traffic blogs are too expensive to justify and it just doesn't seem worth it to buy anything else. Based on all of the comments here, it seems like I've been better off keeping my money.

    One interesting that that I have noticed when I've clicked on the ads on high traffic blogs (I'll admit mostly out of curiosity, not because I was planning to buy anything), the shops were underwhelming. Many of them have had very few, if any, products, and none of them had regular sales. It seems like the expensive ads were some sort of last ditch effort to spur traffic.

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  21. That's a really interesting observation! I wonder how true that is...or is it someone who's just gotten started and is trying to just in too fast, maybe? Definitely something to think about. I think part of the problem, too, is you just don't know who's reading the post and how they're going to respond to your stuff. But I would hold off on spending big money and just try to cultivate natural friendships instead.

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  22. I've seen a lot of bloggers I know either cut back drastically on sponsorships or eliminate them altogether. Blog sponsorships can consume your life and consume your content - it's because of this, I haven't done them. I'm a prolific writer, but an extremely lazy blogger, and I like having the freedom to write about what I want to write, not to have to write a post promoting a product or blogger. I think more people are trying to reclaim their blogs in their own voice these days.

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  23. memoriesforlifescrapbooksJanuary 9, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    I only advertise on a few blogs and don't pay much for them. Even the free ad swaps I do I don't see many views from either. I can't bring myself to spend $50 or $100 on ads when the return is so much less.

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  24. Yes! I really hate the idea of parting with money that you don't know if you're ever going to see back. Because you don't know which blogs will be a hit and which will be a miss, it's so risky.

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  25. I really hope that's the case because the reason I start reading a blog is because I like the voice of the blogger. And I agree with wanting the freedom to write what I want when I want and not being dependent on information from others. I think that gets to be a big drag on bloggers.

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  26. For the most part, it's been older shops. However, I'm sure that you do see newer shops trying to jump start the sales with expensive ads. It can definitely be hard to gauge readership. You're also right about cultivating natural friendships. It seems much more likely that you'd get a sale from a positive Instagram or Pinterest promo than a randomly placed sidebar blog ad.

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  27. I've never blogged consistantly enough either, to make an impact, so I haven't really offered any kind of promos on my blog, but I agree with you, (add me to the list) of purchasing marketing on other blogs and having it not really pan out to anything special. I think the benefit of it is more backlinks in the long run, but they don't always lead to sales either though.

    Organic connections are best. I completely agree. :)

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  28. It seems like it should work since so many people do it! You figure, there's ads everywhere- someone must be benefiting from it. But it's just not the case! I'd much rather have an impromptu post from someone who really loves my stuff.

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  29. PamelaJBates/Mercantile MuseJanuary 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    something that i grapple with all the time. to offer advertising or not? it's not worth it to sponsors if they are not receiving views in return. are there other things we can offer that have more value to sponsors (like instagram shoutouts, pinning, facebook spotlights?). maybe for us small independent businesses we need more of a package deal. i'm not really sure what the answer is. i've advertised on one blog consistently for two years now. i get traffic but i don't think can say for sure that i've received any sales. but as a marketing business owner, i know that these things don't always correlate immediately. sometimes it's down the road and the track back is long forgotten. it's keeping yourself at the forefront of people's minds so when they're 'looking for that certain thing' they think of you. i could go on and on but my head is not function as well as possible today and i've already head a good quota of tea.

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  30. As a blogger who has been lucky to work with a steady stream of repeat advertisers, my biggest piece of advice for those looking to sponsor blogs is to seek out those that not only have good traffic, but those who also offer ways to promote their advertisers beyond just a sidebar graphic. These days, social media shout-outs are key, as are creative sponsor feature posts and giveaways. These different types of promotions all need to work together to get advertisers noticed. I know that you didn't get as much traffic as you'd hoped when you sponsored B&B, but you reached out and were candid about your goals, and help was offered. Not every business works well with my blog, but I really make the effort to go beyond just an ad graphic, as do a lot of bloggers. When I look to advertise, I look at the traffic and pricing, but even more so I see what they offer beyond just a sidebar graphic. I've sponsored blogs and gotten zero (literally) traffic, and I've sponsored blogs and gotten lots of traffic. (And traffic hasn't always meant sales or new followers, but it's name recognition, which is also incredibly valuable.) I really believe that ultimately, just like advertising in a magazine or on a non-blog website, it's a trial and error experience. And it's hard to say that blogs in general are good or bad places to advertise too. It really depends on the blog itself and how well its reader base meshes with what the sponsor has to offer.

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  31. I hope you're not under the weather today!

    I think you're right- it is important to put yourself out there in many places and you may not see the results right away, but in this particular case, with advertising in the holiday season when people are buying, you would hope to see a direct sale. I don't necessarily think that advertising is bad- we really need it!- but blogs may not be the place to do it if you don't know how it's going to pan out.

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  32. I agree- it is really important to make sure that if you are really looking to get your name out there that whatever package you are looking at has some social media included since that is such a big platform right now. But, I do think that followers can tell when those are "business" tweets and may ignore them if they know they are coming from a sponsor- I know I do. I mean, if someone pays you, you HAVE to hold up your end, and good bloggers do do that. My point was that I get better results from an organic post of someone who bought something they love, and it comes out of nowhere with no prompting. There is a "squeeeeee!" element to it that you just can't buy.



    I really don't envy the job of bloggers who take on a consistent stream of advertisers because I know it's a TON of work, and I'm sure it can be hard to promote people if they don't mesh with the blog. You can't choose who buys and ad, so you run with what you have and do the best you can and hope the end results are good.

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  33. PamelaJBates/Mercantile MuseJanuary 14, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    nah, not under the weather. just under mounds of work. lol. but you're sweet. as for the advertising, it should always be a mix for really effective marketing. you just have to figure out the right mix that works for you!

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  34. Oh, good! Busy is much better than sick. :)

    Yup- I'm working on it. I'm going to try and do some local stuff and see how that helps, and then just scope out other opportunities.

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  35. PamelaJBates/Mercantile MuseJanuary 14, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    I think that's an awesome idea. Have you don't any fairs?? I can't remember. Could you sponsor some local events by providing some of your stuff as a raffle price to get your business cards and name out there?

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  36. PamelaJBates/Mercantile MuseJanuary 14, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    ps- what about google? I still haven't looked into that for Bates Mercantile Co but would be interested in knowing how it works for others. Or perhaps advertising on larger blogs and websites that draw your market, but on a bigger scale?

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  38. I love bloggers. I have many friends who are paid bloggers and some do incredibly well with it. In fact, I love bloggers SO much I've tried advertising with at least 4 different sites. I *want* to support these wonderfully creative writers. That being said, I've not had success with paying to advertise on blogs... period. I've tracked my sales and as far as I can see, I've had maybe 3-5 directly from a blog ad. It's so sad, and it's expensive! Again... I LOVE bloggers. I'm a blogger myself, though I do not have advertising in my sidebars, nor do I think I ever will. Not sure why my products don't sell well on blog ads, but they don't. If you learn something new, let me know!

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  39. Ack! I just noticed all my good comments are missing...off to check Disqus.....

    Anyway, I totally agree. I love bloggers too and I'm more than happy to advertise with then if I see a return, but it's never happened. And it IS expensive so it's a huge bummer to not really see anything for your money, especially with a giveaway on top of that, too!

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