Wednesday, 29 July 2015

#BlogClub Disclosure and Sponsored Post Guide Lines at Bath and Unwind

Last month on the hottest day of the year (where I thought I might actually melt) I went to the gorgeous, air conditioned offices of Bath and Unwind in Clifton for Blog Club! For those of you who don't know what Blog Club is, I have written about it a few times, here, here and here, and Bonjour Blogger its parent site has written a great introductory post about it here.

So every Blog Club meet up we discuss a blogging topic, and the hosts will give us inside information or tell us about their great brand.  This time we talked about sponsored posts, the regulations (or lack of them) and disclosure.  This is a particularly hot topic at the moment as the ASA are setting guidelines for bloggers and google have moved the goalposts around and if you don't adhere to their new rules your blog and you could be penalised! 

So as a blogger, and therefore an influence whether your audience is big or small,  it was mutually agreed that it is your responsibility to not deliberately mislead your readers or viewers.  Therefore both Google and the ASA require you to disclose any sponsored posts, tweets, or paid links from brands.  

Not only is it required that you put a discloser, ideally at the top of your post, that this was sponsored by a brand, but also to add an #ad hashtag to a tweet, instagram post or youtube videos, but also specific links to products or a brand that are not organic, need to be a 'no follow link'.  This is where it does get a bit technical, what Google requires is that you put some html in the link so their algorithms can work their magic and ensure that, that specific link won't affect search engines, as it is essentially an advert. By not doing this, this is when Google can not only penalise your blog by moving you down page rankings, but they could actually financially penalise you and the brand! 

The amazing Co runner of Blog Club Sophie gave us some super useful handouts on the topic, and I have linked her post at the bottom which goes into a lot more technical detail about discloser and the regulations which I highly reccomend that you check out.  

So with all these rules and regulations, we then talked about what defines as sponsored post, or a paid link, and what is classes as just a personal endorsement of a brand or product that you blogged about on your own? When is discloser, in all its guises, required? 

So a sponsored post is officially when a brand or company pay you money, or goods, or even an experience, to write about them and that may or may not require you to include specific links to their site or their product on your post.  They may even write the entire post for you and ask you to post it on your blog.  This is when you put in your no follow links.  In all these instances you should be disclosing. A small line clearly marking that your post has been paid/sponsored by the brand, whether it is a reviewed free item, experience or financial exchange. This has to be on every post and not just in your about me or disclosure page.  I will hold my hands up that I don't put my disclosures at the top of posts, but that is what Google and the ASA want us to do, and as Sophie pointed out, Google our are internet overlords and bloggers are actually being targeted and punished now! 

However, if you just found a great mascara or pair of shoes that you went out and bought on your own and you want to rave about it to your audience, then you are not required to disclose.    I hope that I made this easy to understand, its not an easy subject to get to grips with, and there are some links at the bottom of this post from other more eloquent bloggers at blog club on the subject.

We are always very lucky in Bristol as there are so many amazing brands and companies that have opened their doors to us to hold our Blog Clubs in, and I was so grateful to visit the Bath and Unwind offices. This was not only because they were air conditioned to the hills on the hottest day, or that that they had a fully stocked bar, or that they had made us cupcakes!  Bath and Unwind are an exclusively online store, offering carefully chosen high quality and luxury products, that Bath and Unwind can get behind and believe in.  Their site is what I could consider an aspirational product site, with the kind of things I want in my grown up clinically white immaculate bathroom one day. 

Bath and Unwind very kindly gave us a goody bag in, and mine had a absolutely gorgeous Illume Milk Coconut Mango candle in, which I am told has pineapple and mango top notes, papaya and coconut milk middle notes and tahitian vanilla base notes, basically it smells like holiday and I can't get enough of it! 

BlogClub now has its very own Twitter account which you should follow, and here are some links to posts from fellow BlogClub attendees, on sponsored posts and disclosure! 

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