Blog ethics is something that I have found needs to be addressed even if it won’t get a lot of search engine traffic from Google. Recently I have seen two incidents where Christian websites have done something that I would call unethical. One involved me personally and one involved a dear friend of mine. In both cases I do not believe the offense was something that was done purposefully or maliciously but instead were cases where zeal and a lack of knowledge caused the people to do something that is considered unethical. As Christian bloggers, I believe we have to walk a higher road than the world when it comes to how we run and promote our Christian blogs. I think we all realize that there will come a day where we give an account for our lives and actions and the values that we lived by. At that point it will not matter if we had page 1 rankings on Google, or that we had the biggest Christian website on the internet. What will matter is what type of character did we show and what type of person did we become. Did we allow ourselves to become conformed into the image of Jesus. Because of that I decided to do a post on blog ethics and at least share with you some of the issues I have wrestled with and worked on in trying to have my internet presence match my personal character and ethics. It is my hope that as you read about my own struggles and issues you will take a moment to consider your own ethical standards for your blog.
Blog ethics for content, link building, and social media.
Blog ethics for content.
The ethical considerations concerning content at first seem like a no brainer. However it was in this area that both my friend and myself had unethical practices happen to us. It was called plagiarism. Both of us had content taken from our blogs and placed on another website without our permission and without a link back giving credit to the original author. I have not heard how the situation has resolved with my friend but in my case when I contacted the person who used my content as his own, he quickly removed the content. I would have been satisfied with a link and credit but his choice was to remove the content. There are reasons why taking another person’s content and placing it on your blog as your own is wrong. It is called theft. Your content on your blog is your intellectual property. I was surprised to find out recently that my “intellectual property” on this blog is now worth over $10,000 dollars if I was to sell this website today. Taking a part of that property and using it as your own is wrong. However if you want to syndicate or curate part of that content and give credit back and a link to it’s original source is very ethical. It not only helps you, but it helps the person who spent the time writing the content.
The second issue that I have wrestled with concerning content is using “spun” content as a method of link building. This is where you take a article or blog post and use a program to rewrite it to make it look unique. Most programs and those that use them do not produce an article that is of very high quality grammatically. Now does it really matter if an article on blue widgets is very readable in the eternal scope of things, when you are just using it to build links? Not in my opinion. However, we as Christian bloggers are not talking about blue widgets. We are talking about things that have eternal ramifications and the quality of that presentation does matter. So for me, unless I spin the article manually and make sure that the end result is a quality article that I would be willing to put my own name to and place on my own blog, it becomes an ethical issue. I find it ethically questionable to use poorly spun content.
Blog ethics in your link building.
Every link that you build that points back to your blog or blog post is an avenue for someone to find your blog. It is also one of the ranking factors that determines how high up on the search engine results page (serps) that you climb. Google webmaster guidelines discourages any type of link building that would manipulate their serps. However it is really a do as I say and not as I do type of situation. Google uses automated tools to search the web for content. Google then tells us not to use automated tools. There is no way that you or I can compete with corporations and older well established websites when it is just ourselves that are trying to promote our blog or message to the internet. So the question of blog ethics at least for me is not about the use of automated tools but what those automated tools do.
It all comes down to the difference between promotion and spam. Nobody likes spam. Recently I got on somebody’s mailing list as a website that needed help getting rankings in Google. Me! The guy who has over 200 keywords that people are searching for that are ranking on the first page of the serps! It kind of torqued me off and I them know in no uncertain terms that they need to do a little research before they send out those types of letters. So what was the difference between those types of letters and promotion? It is whether or not the place that the link is placed is asking for links or not. Article directories, social bookmarking sites, blog networks, web 2.0 properties and many others allow you to place your links within their guidelines. That is promotion and not spam. Placing your links on facebook profiles you do not own, or within groups that you have no relationship with is spam. Placing your links in comment sections of blogs that are automated and irrelevant is spam. I switched to the disqus comment system just because of the need to eliminate spam. I got tired of people trying to place irrelevant content about Viagra, Real Estate, and other such irrelevant topics on my blog. The same goes for the comment sections on other social networking sites. If a topic is on sports and you place a link for the book of Revelations, that is spam. So ask yourself this question. Is what I am doing spamming people or promoting my blog.
Blog ethics and social networking
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and to a lesser extent Digg, Stumbleupon, and Reddit have all become one of the ranking factors that are used in determining your ranking in the serps. Not only that but they are very viable sources to gain traffic in and of themselves. Once again we have to think through the issues pertaining to blog ethics. Is it ethical to buy facebook fans? Now I am not talking about advertising on Facebook for fans. You have every right to get your message out to new people. However is it right to pay people on sites like Fiverr.com to use automated tools to make fake profiles and then have those fake profiles become fans? Is it right to use automated systems to use those fake profiles to provide likes to your blog posts? I know one Christian website that is doing this. I have watched their likes increase by 1000 at a time over a 48 hr period. It is obviously being manipulated. Is that ethical? I had to really think about this before making my own personal decision. I do not believe it is ethical. Facebook likes and fans are too close to votes. Those fake profiles and likes by those profiles are looked upon as people voting that something is good enough to share. If you use a program or system to game the system then it just smacks of voter fraud to me. Is it okay to vote for your own posts and like them? Of course! Is it okay to encourage others to do the same? You bet! Is it okay to stuff the ballot box with votes so you win? I think not.
Well I hope that what I have written has caused you to think through some of the issues. I am not telling you what your set of ethics should be. I just want all of you to think before you do something that later you might regret.