Blogging the White Hat Way
No, this is not an article about blogging to save 10 000 acres of Amazon rainforest. Much as I’d like my posts to have that effect, this one’s about blogging so that you don’t get penalised.
I’m assuming of course that you’re blogging for ‘white hat reasons’ and not just as a means to an end. Yes content creation is good, but GOOD content creation is better and will help you to establish a reputable business brand, in addition to getting you good leads.
Without further ado, here are my recommendations for ‘ethical blogging’.
1. Be honest
There’s not just one reason for keeping a blog. It may be that you want to establish your brand’s credibility, or keep people up-to-date about industry changes. It may even be a means to an end – content marketing to increase your brand’s exposure. Whatever it is, keep your writing and your information honest. Remember that real people are going to be reading these posts. If you’re not being honest, you’re setting yourself up to fail. No company can lie forever without being found out. Furthermore, if you’re already established, not being completely honest about who you are, what you think and how you work, could push current loyal customers away from you. Don’t just think about attracting new people. Remember that you’ve got to keep the old people interested and loyal.
2. It’s not all about SEO
A blog is a great way to increase your company’s online exposure, especially if it is optimised for search engines. And because search engines like Google put such a high premium on indexing ‘fresh content’, this is a perfect addition to anyone who wants to stay on top of the listings. It’ll keep the search spiders interested and coming back for more, which will mean that in the eyes of Google, your website is relevant and useful.
But, a word of caution – if you focus wholly on writing content to be ‘read’ by search engine crawlers, you risk losing your ‘human appeal’. I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve come across that select a single word like ‘ecommerce web design’ and use it over and over again, in the heading, in the first paragraph at least 3 times, and then sprinkled throughout. It becomes really obvious what the point of the article is.
3. Do it yourself
If you want the world to be interested in your business, show them that you genuinely want to engage with them. Do some of the dirty work yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to write every blog post, or ban guest bloggers, but it should meant that occasionally you give the blog a few moments of your time. On top of that, who better knows the opinions and goals of the company that the director or CEO. Don’t use not being able to write properly as an excuse. You can always get someone else to tidy it up for you.
4. Don’t pay for opinions
And for that matter, don’t accept payment for expressing a particular opinion that you don’t believe in, or if it gives credit to a company / business practice you don’t approve of.
Furthermore, if you’re going to pay someone to write a review on a product or service you offer, better to let them express their real opinions than to ask them to review the product in a particular light. Not only does this allow them to keep their integrity intact, but it also reflects positively on you.
Personally, I prefer to read reviews that don’t just say ‘this product is great!’ I want honesty when I’m looking to buy or try a service. Nothing’s perfect and I’m really not going to believe it is unless a million sources are saying so. Obviously the company that made it will believe it is. If I’m aware of the flaws or limitations of something, I’m more likely to give it a chance, especially if the business itself has spoken out about them, though naturally there’s got to be something good as well to make me buy.
5. Keep it professional
I don’t mean that you can’t take a playful tone or have a little bit of fun with what you’re writing. I simply mean don’t use your blog posts as a place to brag, denounce others, or showcase private information you could just as well use Facebook for. This is especially true if you are blogging for business purposes. Write to garner respect.
If other people within your company write for you blog, make sure you’ve written up a few guidelines that they can follow. This may incorporate your company’s ‘writing style’, topics that should not be discussed, things that should not be embedded (like YouTube videos), etc.
6. Be upfront
I don’t want to come off as a blogging dictator, but please be honest about the reasons behind keeping a blog. If the sole point of it is to make money from affiliate advertising or other forms of marketing, spare it. Yes, there’s a pay check involved, but what good are you doing to help others in the grand scheme of things?
I’m a big believer in doing things firstly because you enjoy them and secondly because they do something to help others. An entire side column of distracting affiliate advertisements is not going to make your readers happy, and for the more astute ones, it’s probably going to make them question your reasons for keeping the blog. Of course, if your content is useful, none of that matters as much.
If you really do need to make money from the advertising, take the time to make sure that you’re at least providing readable and helpful content.
7. Don’t plagiarise
Aaaah, I don’t think I should have to say this, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. Apart from the fact that Google’s just released a new algorithm update which is set to punish copyright violators, it’s just not good ‘internet etiquette’ to steal other people’s work.
Even if no one reports a copyright breach on your site, Google may just hit you for duplicate content. So if you want to get found online, don’t do it.
8. Give credit where it’s due
There’s nothing worse than taking someone else’s opinion, rephrasing it and pretending it’s your own. If you’ve used another website or another person’s opinion, take a couple of moments to attribute the view to them. It’s the equivalent of internet table manners. For example, when I was trying to think of useful pointers I’d missed for this article, I came across a post called ‘A blogger’s code of ethics’. If you’re interested take a look. They’ve got some good stuff.
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