What ARE the Ethics of Blogging? And Why Is Everyone So Combatant About It?

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Jun 25, 2008
More Articles by Janet

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk these days about the ethics of blogging, and I find it very interesting that traditional social media folks seem to have a different view of blog ethics than the view of many SEOs I know. Not only that, I’ve started to find that bloggers seem to be increasingly passionate — almost combative — about the “purity” of social media and blogging.

Receiving a Scolding from a Blogging Firm

Today I had an online conversation with a blogging firm that one of my client’s works with. As an SEO, I’m always looking for ways to create new efficiencies with inbound linking — obviously a key component to good search engine optimization. This approach is no different for blogs than it might be for press releases, white papers, articles, and other of the many digital assets we might optimize for a client, as I wrote about a little while back. We try to do two things for our clients: 1. primarily find new, effective ways to link for SEO that are white hat and legitimate content while at the same time 2) helping clients obtain greater visibility for some of these assets. If you are creating a link in a press release to your website, what is the harm in putting in the anchor text that will also help you from an SEO standpoint?

Does everyone agree that we’re acting ethically so far? I hope so.

So in my discussion with this blogging firm, I asked them if, by chance, they were submitting the blog posts to the various bookmarking sites — to gain some visibility. If so, I thought we might piggyback on that effort to possible help SEO inbound links with selected anchor text — again, trying to maximize efficiencies. I also asked if the client might be submitting his/her own blog posts to the social sites as well, and, in that case, would coordinate with the client instead. It was a simple question in an effort to try to be a more efficient team for our client.

Well, I was summarily told that for either a) the blogging company to submit the posts on behalf of the client or b) the client to submit his own posts was “highly unethical”. Really? Unethical for the client to submit his own blog post to a social bookmarking site to put it out into the social world? That’s bad?

I Think the Perspective Might Be Different in the SEO World…

I pointed out to the blog company that in the SEO world, we often have seen bloggers post their blog posts to Sphinn to just get the conversation started. No big deal — OR IS IT? I can understand if you do some sneaky things, like Li Evans mentions in this blog post, like creating many Sphinn profiles to vote for yourself over and over, that yes, that is unethical. But what is the harm in sharing your story, with one link, with others in the blogosphere? It’s simply a way to alert the blog universe that you have some interesting content to share. Period.

So let’s take that a step further… is it wrong to Twitter about your blog post? In the SEO industry, we do it all the time. And I love it! I feel like I’m up to date much faster on the latest info and blog posts. Is there anything unethical about putting your blog posts info on Twitter and into your community? Or isn’t that just (as Twitter is called), micro-blogging, which is really just unethical because you’re promoting your own blog in a social arena again?

Bloggers and Social Media Divas: Your Time Is Coming

I simply feel that bloggers and social media types seem to feel that a) they are somehow more ethical than SEO and b) they promote that ideal with pride and chastise anyone that might even consider using social media as a content promotion tool — for business or otherwise.

I think the problem here is that business blogging and social media haven’t been held accountable to ROI…. YET. Guess what, blog divas — your time is coming! While Web 2.0 brought new interaction and communication on the web, over time, just like with Web 1.0, businesses will be forced to examine the true return on investment, just as they have with other highly trackable web media, such as websites, banner ads, SEO, PPC and more. Cutting edge techniques today like Facebook advertising, mobile advertising and social media are so new and fresh that businesses are in the infancy stages of learning about these technologies. Early adopters are on the rise, but we’re not yet at the point where we see every business jumping on board — for various reasons.

But already, I hear clients saying things like “I don’t have enough resources to have a blog.” or “I don’t have time to write a blog.” Already, companies are rejecting social media because it requires time, money and effort — all of which they have deemed are better spent on other activities that are proven to produce ROI.

Bloggers and social media folks seem to talk about social media being about “community” all the time. Community doesn’t necessarily SELL product. It’s a nice, fuzzy feeling, but does it truly mean more sales? The jury is still out. And if you’re trying to build a community, how can you if you can’t promote your blog???

So bloggers and social media types, get over yourselves. If you are a blogging company helping a client, do what’s right for your client and stop being “holier than thou”. There are definitely ethics lines to draw (like no lying or faking profiles, etc.), but your client has a blog for one reason — SALES. And if community doesn’t eventually lead to sales, business blogs will likely die. It just all comes down to the ROI — you either will go after it, or you won’t.

Let me know what you think and what you consider “ethical” and “unethical” and where the line should be drawn in the social media space. Would love to find out the pulse of the “community”. :)

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