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Blog Tips

Unethical Blogging Practices To Avoid

By Jul 16, 2015 5 Comments

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Here at SITS, we like to share blogging tips and tutorials. We talk about how to create a blog, how to blog professionally, and what best blogging practices are — but there’s also a dark side of blogging. There are too many bloggers out there who are using unethical blogging practices to create content and to promote their products or business.

Of course you know there are some things you just shouldn’t do – like flat out lying about a product or service to make a sale. We know you wouldn’t do anything like that! But there are other things that are in that “grayish” area and leave bloggers wondering if they’re actually doing anything wrong. To help set the lines straight, we’re going to go over a few unethical blogging practices to avoid.

Blogging Tips | We all want to grow our blogs, and it can be tempting to take shortcuts - but there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed. Avoid these unethical blogging practices and build your blog the right way.

Unethical Blogging Practices To Avoid

1. Giving Only Positive Reviews
This is a really tough one ethically for some bloggers, especially when you’ve received a free product from the manufacturer to review. But it’s always best practice to be completely honest in your reviews and to talk about both the good and the bad of any product or service, especially when you got it for free.

There are a few different ways to go about this. If the cons are huge, there’s a BIG problem with the product, you can always contact the manufacturer first and tell them. Let them know that your review is going to be less than positive and see if there is anything they can do to fix the problem. There are some cases where a manufacturer can totally do something to make it better, in which case that can also be a part of your review, and can actually turn a “con” into a “pro”.

On the other hand, they may tell you to go ahead and write it, that they prefer honesty; or they may tell you never mind, don’t write the review. Whatever is decided in the end, you’ve done the ethical thing by not lying to your readers, and keeping your deal with the sponsor honest and open.

Something else to remember: Very few products have absolutely no negatives to talk about, and when all your reviews are nothing but glowing praise for every product, your readers start to doubt your honesty. Reviews that share both the pros and the cons are seen as more honest and in the end are better for you.

2. Copying Content from Other Bloggers
As soon as someone writes something, it becomes their copyrighted material. They don’t have to register it, they don’t even have to publish it. It belongs to them and them alone the second it is written or typed.

There’s this misconception that because something is published to the public that it is now “public domain” — sorry, but that’s not how it works! If it’s on the internet, it belongs to someone, and unless you have permission from the copyright holder, you don’t have the right to copy.

But there’s more to it than that. Even taking something from someone else and rewriting it is a violation of copyright, and a breach of ethics. If you want to quote someone, that’s fine. But a quote should never be more than a few lines, with clear credit given to the original author.

3. Asking for Ad Clicks
This is a practice that really bothers me and I see it every single day. I may not be popular for saying so, but asking people to “click through” on your ad links is unethical. When you work with a sponsor and they require a certain number of clicks on their ad, I know that the temptation is high, but you should avoid it. If you get caught, it can damage your reputation among sponsors.

Let me be clear here — I’m not talking about tweeting out a link to your sponsor’s page and telling people “click here to see more!” That’s a call to action and it’s perfectly fine.

I’m talking about going into blog share groups, and asking people to not only share your post but to click through also. Those clicks are false – they aren’t from people naturally clicking through with interest in the product. I’ve also had messages from people saying “I went to your blog and clicked on 2 ads, would appreciate it if you’d return the favor.” This is totally unethical.

These are three of the most egregious unethical blogging practices I’ve seen around me. I hope you haven’t been guilty of any of them! I know that we all want our blogs to do well, but doing it ethically is always the best practice.

About Kelly Cannon

Kelly is a wife, mom of nearly-grown teens, and a full-time blogger. After living in Lima, Peru since 2004, she is uprooting her family to the US and looking forward to starting a whole new adventure. Kelly has been blogging since 2001, and now uses her blog The Take Action WAHM to help other stay at home moms figure out how to create successful, profitable blogs in the middle of their busy mom lives. You can always find Kelly on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

5 Comments

  • Feels good to know I don’t do any of these either… and maybe I’m just ignorant, but reading about requesting for ad clicks made me think, “is that even a thing?”. I’m glad I’ve never received a request to do this and wouldn’t.

    This also reminds me of something else – I freelance and sometimes other freelancers on sites like Fiverr try to get me to post false reviews just so they have reviews on their profile and I wouldn’t do that either. It’s just not honest =\ even if you would like to help someone out.

  • Hi Kelly,
    I like your suggestion about honest product review even if it provided free to the reviewer. A blogger should remember the fact that visitors trust him that’s why they are reading his review about the product. It is long term strategy to go with blogging.

  • Cia says:

    I have to say I happily do none of those… But I’ve been accused by another blogger in my niche of falsifying reviews especially when I get free products. Since I mostly review scented items what I always strive to do is provide a very factual review, regardless of whether or not I like a fragrance. Perhaps it smells like lemonwood, mahogany and wood musk… I don’t have to like the fragrance to tell you the citrus notes are barely detectable, or that the candle is very strong. If a candle triggers a headache I’ll mention that, as one did recently, or if it smells like a duplicate of another candle from last year. But I try to avoid saying I hate it, or it’s boring, or it doesn’t smell good. That’s too generic and I don’t want to turn away readers because they like floral or musky candles and I do not… I can be very factual with a review without compromising my integrity.

  • Phew! I am so glad to know I’m not committing any serious ethics violations!

  • Katie Sparks says:

    This is so helpful, thank you. I think sometimes we may border of unethical practices without even being aware that we are doing it. This is a great reminder for all bloggers, especially those like me that do a lot of product/service reviews!