These guidelines for ethical blogging that I'm about to share with you are based on one simple principle that I'm sure you're already familiar with. It's a well known principle that most of us use in everyday life.
This is often referred to as The Golden Rule or the “ethic of reciprocity”.
First let's talk about why it's important to rely on ethics when it comes to blogging. At the risk of boring you with another cliche, here it comes:
“If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything!”
You might be stuck in a position where it's time to pay the rent and you are desperate enough to overlook these guidelines but what I see happening online today is that people are impatient and simply want to take shortcuts in order to make a quick buck. There's also a bunch of folks who are too lazy to put forth any real effort to educate themselves in their niche.
Since this is a blog post and not a white paper, I'm not going to explore all of the areas where bloggers are crossing the line but let's take a look at a few popular topics, shall we?
My Personal Pet Peeves When it Comes to Ethical Blogging
I'm kicking off this discussion with pop-ups because I know that many of you reading this are using them to build your email list. I'll address more about the topic of emails list in my next point but let's start off with the tool most bloggers and webmasters use to get subscribers. Personally, I dislike pop-ups.
Wait – I'd better say this before you get the wrong idea.
I don't think that pop-ups are unethical – I just don't like them. I find them rude and annoying.
Whew! Got that out of the way, now let me make my point.
I decided a long time ago that I personally would not use pop-ups (remember how I started this post with “do unto others….”). I am standing my ground on this one. I don't care if some of the most well respected authorities on the internet use pop-ups, I'm not falling for it. There is one case in particular where I have lost all respect for a site that almost everyone else holds in high regard and that is the Forbes website.
That's right I said it, I don't visit the Forbes website and I don't care what kind of headline or breaking news story they have – I won't go there. If I click a link by accident that takes me to the site, I close it immediately. Of course they don't care about little old me, but my point here is this:
And you should care too. Stand for something or you will surely fall for anything. Maybe pop-ups don't bother you but I'm sure there is something else you see or hear online that turns you off. Do your own silent protest.
Do whatever it takes but by all means DON'T turn around and start using that same sneaky, annoying, obtuse tactic yourself just because all the “cool kids” are doing it.
Sidebar (an example of when it's OK to cheat):
As you may know I am a YouTuber. I urge people to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I send them to a link that looks like this:
If you are not already subscribed to my YouTube channel (what are you waiting for?) when you click that link you will see a pop-up like this:
Notice the difference?
It might be subtle to some but I think it's major. I'm not misleading you by saying – watch this video – I'm asking you to “subscribe to my YouTube Channel” and the popup just makes it easier for you to do so. Actually YouTube is responsible for this brilliant tactic but I wish I could take all the credit.
That brings me to the next pet peeve on my list.
List swaps and Solo Ads
What The efF! You mean that I trusted you with my email and the first thing you want to do is sell me off to the highest bidder. I signed up to get emails from YOU and now I'm getting messages from someone else because you allowed them to email solo ads to me. Are you kidding me?
IMHO it's tactics like solo ads and list swaps that give our niche a bad name. When I say “our” niche you might be thinking I'm not talking to you, but if you have a blog or an email list I most certainly am talking to you.
Do you value your subscribers or simply think of them as “a list”? No wonder personal development blogs are so popular. You are giving all your subscribers an insecurity complex.
Sidebar (an example of when it's OK to cheat):
Have you ever watched TV shows like Divorce Court or Judge Alex? These two shows have a commercial that plays urging people to follow these popular reality TV celebrities. During the call to action they also include the following statement:
You'll also receive some valuable offers.
For me that is the game-changer right there. This is where the person is completely above board and letting people know – you are going to receive offers!! That is what makes it OK to cheat. Don't mislead people. Be straight with them and let them know. I bet they get thousands of people signing up for those “valuable offers”.
Videos with no playback controls
Oh boy does this make my blood boil. Ok, I know it's not just me, so wherever you are right now, raise your hand if you love it when get to watch a video that you can't pause or stop when it's time to get up and go to the bathroom?
Hold it up high, so I can see you! Don't be shy.
I'm not surprised that no one has their hand raised, because if you ever sat through one of these videos you are probably too embarrassed to admit it right now anyway.
If there was such a thing as a “Court of Blogging” and I was a Judge, I would sentence everyone who makes these kinds of videos to be forced to sit in a room together and watch each other's videos play over and over again, until…
I can't even say it. The thought of it is way too cruel for me to imagine and no one deserves that type of punishment. I can't even make excuses for it. This is just WRONG.
Sidebar (I can't make this one OK but here's how to fight back)
Yes, that's what I use to record those non-stop videos while I'm at the grocery store or in other room watching TV. Then when I'm done I'm able to play back the video, watch the good part and delete the 15 minute sales pitch at the end.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't get Screencast-o-matic just for this purpose, I use it to record YouTube videos and podcasts. But it's really cool that I found an added benefit to using it.
Set Your Own Blogging “Standards”
I want you to leave this post with this thought in mind:
Set your own blogging standards. I mean after all, the true goal of this post is about helping you decide where to draw a line in the sand and it's about you making the commitment not to cross that line. These are (a few) of my personal pet peeves but they might not bother you one bit.
Make sure that you have your own set of standards that you won't compromise on and promise to uphold. I'd love to hear what they are. Please share them with us in the comments here and don't forget you can also comment in the Google+ section and be sure to @mention me so I don't miss it.
Btw – feel free to sign up for my mailing list and I promise that all the “valuable offers” will come directly from me!