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.
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.
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