Pay To Play: Understanding The Rise of Sponsored Content For Your Small Business


Have you ever read a news story on a site like, only to find your attention captured by the headlines in the “From Around the Web” section? Those stories are known as Sponsored Content. Content creators pay to have links to their materials appear on popular websites. It’s a tactic that’s becoming increasingly relevant to small business owners.

What Sponsored Content Is – And Isn’t

Sponsored content can take many forms. You can pay to promote your own blog posts or articles, video, slideshows, user reviews, and what is known as ‘earned media’ – unpaid editorial coverage about you or your business that appears on traditional platforms. This content needs to do two things: attract attention and add value to the reader’s day. This value can be in the form of entertainment, useful information, or enlightening insights.


It’s important to understand what sponsored content isn’t. Sponsored content isn’t advertising. While you pay for placement, the providers of sponsored content placement universally reject content that is too self-promotional. If you want to advertise, buy an ad. If you want to demonstrate your expertise and add value to your customer’s day, sponsored content is for you.

The Benefits of Sponsored Content

To understand the benefits of sponsored content, you need to first come back to the purpose of your business website. For the vast majority of business owners, the goal of a website is to make it easier for your customers to find you and do business with you.

There are two ways that sponsored content helps you accomplish this goal.

The first is by increasing the reach of your messaging. Looking at your analytics, you can get a pretty good idea of how many people visit your website on a regular basis. That’s how many people are likely to engage with any content you post solely there, without any external promotion. Sponsored content appears on heavily-visited sites, such as Slate,, and CNN. Your content – and expertise – is going to be in front of exponentially more eyeballs.

Sponsored content also has a positive impact on your SEO. Inbound links boost your search engine rankings, as does the amount of traffic your site gets. So far, we’ve seen sponsored content links being regarded as high-quality by Google’s site-ranking algorithms. This means that sponsored content has a legitimate role to play in getting your site into the most valuable online territory: on the first page of search results!

Where Does Sponsored Content Come From?

You can create the articles, blog posts, videos, or similar content in house or have a professional produce it for you: deciding which option is best requires a realistic assessment of your team’s capacities, talents and strengths as well as your budget.

There are two routes to sponsored content placement. You can work with a content broker, such as OutBrain that places content on a number of different sites, or for a more targeted approach, connect with an individual publication directly to discover what sponsored content options are available. Base your decisions upon the publication’s readership. For example, if you’re interested in connecting with sophisticated, entrepreneurial women, you could reach out to Woman Around Town.

Sponsored content streamlines the process of getting your messaging in front of interested readers. This technique is an interesting addition to the traditional tools of PR and marketing that business owners need to know about. If you’d like to learn more about how sponsored content can play a role in your marketing mix, give us a call. We’re here to help.

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