Beginner bloggers might wonder if there is an etiquette of blogging. While there's no official book of manners for bloggers, there are a few generally agreed upon blogging rules of acceptable behavior.
Here's how to avoid antagonizing the bloggers in your life.
As a beginner blogger, you may be worried about breaching unspoken blogging community rules and finding yourself in an awkward situation you didn't intend to cause. I'm sure that happens occasionally, but the blogger community I've always been part of is extremely welcoming to its new member.
In my own experience, and in talking with other bloggers, it's typically people representing larger, more established companies who commit the worst discourtesies to bloggers.
What kinds of transgressions against the etiquette of blogging will make a blogger's blood boil?
Most misdeeds come down to the offending party showing a complete lack of regard for the value of the blogger's work.
If you want to get a room full of bloggers riled up, ask them to tell you stories about requests they receive to work for free, particularly from companies that can clearly afford to pay. Then ask them about theft of their intellectual property.
Those two topics will get the party started.
There are probably some forms of sketchy online behavior I haven't yet encountered. I'm sure other bloggers could add to my list of bad behavior. But if you want to know how to avoid aggravating a blogger, this list of business blogging etiquette rules is a good start.
Etiquette of Blogging Rules:
You know how some people have the nerve to ask crafters and artists to work for free?
They assure you their fabulous project will give your business so much "exposure" you'll end up with a mountain of paid orders from their friends and colleagues. But the truth is, they just don't want to pay. And those orders from friends and colleagues never seem to materialize.
I've been there.
If you sell handmade items, I'm willing to bet you've been there too.
Those same lovely encounters happens all too frequently in the blogging community as well.
Bloggers already put in countless hours working for free to grow their own online businesses. They are not impressed when someone comes along and asks them to work for free to promote a company that is not their own.
When you start a blog, you work for seemingly endless days learning how the business works, creating fantastic content, and promoting your site. In the beginning, you don't get paid a cent for those hours of work, and there's no guarantee you ever will.
You slog it out on your computer running on hope and caffeine.
With good decisions, hard work, and a bit of luck, you might just grow your blog into a thriving online business and trusted resource that attracts plenty of readers. And that's when certain people start to crawl out of the woodwork wanting to capitalize on your hard work, asking you to work for free on a project that will have no real benefit to your business.
Trying to take advantage of a blogger's hard and smart work without offering them something in return to benefit their business is a huge breach of the etiquette of blogging.
Companies that can clearly afford to pay have a terrible habit of asking bloggers to market their products for free with no benefit to the bloggers' business.
I've been contacted twice by marketing people who represent multi-billion dollar companies. They wanted me to promote the company they represented for free by writing articles that endorsed the company's product and linking to their website.
Before I was contacted by one of those companies, I had actually already written an in-depth and complimentary article about their product.
I wasn't paid to write that article and promote the company. I did it purely because I believe it is a resource that is useful for my readers to know about.
When I pointed this fact out to the marketing rep, instead of saying thank you - which you would think a polite person would do - she asked me to write a second article focusing on a specific angle the company wanted to promote.
Writing a second article wouldn't help my readers in any way. All of the information they would need is in the first article. And a second article would do nothing for my business.
The only ones who would gain anything from the hours it would take me to write another article would be the multi-billion dollar company, and the marketing rep who was paid to find bloggers to work for free.
One way some bloggers make money is by writing sponsored posts. That is, a company that wants to reach a blogger's audience will pay that blogger to feature their product in a post. (Sponsored posts are supposed to be clearly marked, so readers will know the blogger was paid to feature the company's product).
If the marketing rep for a company asks a blogger to write that type of post for free, they are in clear violation of business blogging etiquette.
The moral of this story:
As a blogger, you might choose to write about a product or service without being paid because you genuinely believe that product will benefit your readers in some important way. I do it happily when I come across a great resource for creative entrepreneurs, and it's a choice plenty of other bloggers make.
But if a company contacts you and asks you to promote their product or service in a blog post, and they insist it's "not in the budget" to pay you, they are trying to take advantage of you.
They're hoping you're not business-savvy enough to know the real worth of your blog.
You worked hard to get readers to visit your blog. A company wouldn't bother to contact you if your readers weren't valuable to them. If they want you to promote their product (and you choose to work with them), they should pay for the value your blog brings to them.
Online business owners sometimes post links to their site on another blogger's popular posts in an effort to draw people from that blogger's site to their own site.
That's never cool.
This transgression in the etiquette of blogging happens frequently. In fact, I just deleted one of these posts this morning.
Usually I hit delete and forget about it, but there's one particularly flagrant occurrence that stands out in my memory.
A small business owner posted his website URL in the comments section on a page on my site along with a comment that encouraged people to check out his product. The page gets a lot of visitors, and he sells a product that's directly related to the topic of that page. I'm sure he'd love to get his product in front of all of the people who visit that page daily.
As soon as I saw his comment and link, I checked out his site out of curiosity. Then I went back to his comment and hit delete.
Why did I delete his comment? And why did I feel he committed a big transgression in the etiquette of blogging?
The comment was inappropriate and had to be deleted for two reasons.
My logical reason for deleting his link:
He was selling an expensive product targeted at craft business owners. I had no way to evaluate his product to determine if it was any good. If I had left his link on my site, I felt I would have been, to some extent, endorsing a product that I knew absolutely nothing about. The link had to go.
My emotional reason for deleting his link:
He annoyed me.
By posting that link, he demonstrated a total lack of professional respect. He should have contacted me first.
I worked hard to get a lot of visitors to come to that page, and he just decided his business ought to benefit from my hard work. He didn't give me the professional courtesy of sending an email and proposing we work together in some mutually beneficial way.
If he had contacted me and sent a free review copy of his product, and I thought his product would be genuinely helpful to my readers, I might have worked with him instead of immediately deleting his comment.
The moral of this story:
If you encounter a blogger who has blog traffic that's a perfect fit with your own target market, don't post sneaky, sketchy links on their online platforms.
Make an effort to build a relationship with them.
Then contact them.
Show them basic professional respect, and propose a joint project that is mutually beneficial to you, the blogger, and the blogger's readers.
There's no guarantee they'll work with you. But if you approach them in this manner, you'll increase the likelihood of it happening. Even if they choose not to work with you at that time, you'll preserve a professional relationship that might be mutually beneficial some time in the future.
Crafters know all too well that copying happens among handmade business owners.
You know that innovative, creative product that took you endless hours to design but turned out just perfect? The one that quickly sold out the first time you brought it to sell at a craft show? The one that suddenly, somehow turned up in other vendors' booths at the next craft show you attended.
You know that's not a coincidence. And it's infuriating.
The same thing, unfortunately happens in the blogging community.
Every blogger has a story or two or three about people who steal their work.
I'm always shocked by the people who plagiarize. The theft always seems to come from people and organizations that should know better.
Do you know who steals from me more than anyone else?
Churches and universities.
When I contact them to get the material taken down, if the offender is affiliated with a church, I like to advise them that, while I'm not a biblical scholar, I'm pretty sure "thou shalt not steal" applies to digital intellectual property. When someone affiliated with a university has stolen my content, I remind them that their university probably expels students for plagiarism, and I would expect they would hold their staff to the same standards.
That little bit of shaming usually gets the offending material removed.
The moral of this story:
Do not copy.
It's easy enough to accidentally get drawn into copying someone's work. If you go looking for inspiration and ideas about how to develop your blog, and you find a site or post you love, it's so easy to get pulled into copying by telling yourself you're just gathering inspiration, not copying.
It's easier to stay away from this pitfall if you look for inspiration in places that are completely outside of your own niche. That way, if you find an idea that speaks to you, you'll need to completely reinvent it for your own niche.
By the time you transform an idea from a completely different sphere for your own niche, it should be reshaped enough to make it your own.
What if someone has copied you?
I'm not a lawyer, so I can't provide you with advice about the legal ramifications of copyright infringement. I can give you a helpful starting place to search to plagiarism.
Checking your site for plagiarism can be a maddening task even for the most calm and centered person. Before you start this task, be prepared with whatever happens to be your favorite form of stress relief. I tend to do the job with a glass of red wine in hand.
Links from trusted, established blogs can send more visitors to your site and help your site rank better for relevant search terms in search engine results.
Links are valuable to bloggers, but good links are hard to get. And you don't want bad links because they can hurt your blog.
Because links from trusted blogs are so valuable, as soon as your blog becomes even a little bit established, your email inbox will start to fill up with requests from people who want you to link to their site.
Most often, the email will come from someone who is supposedly with a marketing company and working for their client. Strangely enough, those emails never come from real company email accounts. The link seekers always contact you using a gmail address.
In my opinion, emails containing link requests from random strangers are the same as phone calls from telemarketers. I won't be rude, but I stop wasting my time with it as fast as possible. Just as I would never return a phone call from a telemarketer, I'd also never respond to an email containing a link request.
I never, ever do business in that way, and I believe the vast majority of bloggers feel the same way. Emails with link requests will always be ignored.
The moral of this story:
Don't waste your time sending out link requests to bloggers who have no idea who you are. And don't waste your money on marketing companies that will do the task for you.
My advice would be the same as in rule #2. If you'd love to reach a particular blogger's audience, connect with the blogger in a meaningful way. Provide valuable comments on their blog or social media posts without linking to your own site.
Give them a chance to get to know you can provide something of real value to their readers before you ever propose something like guest blogging for their site.
Staying within the basic expectations around the etiquette of blogging is a matter of giving respect to others and expecting respect for yourself and your work.
If you're reaching out to connect with other bloggers, treat them the way you would want to be treated. Work to build win-win relationships, and show respect for the time, effort, and skill it took for them to build their online business.
If someone has reached out to you, expect the same respect in return. Know the worth of your blog and your work, and think long and hard before you agree to dive into projects that don't appear to have any benefit to your business.