As a blogger (and many of you reading this as well) I regularly visit others’ blogs, new blogs and surf through socially connection blogs. In doing so I’ve come across a huge variety of sites. As much as I’d like to say its always about the content, we all know that while that is an important factor for the quality and impression of any blog, there is one other big component of a blog that is just as important, the overall blog etiquette at the site. By etiquette I mean how well the site and the voices on the site are behaved and what impression this leaves the visitors.
Stay on topic
Often I find that bloggers shift away from what they know about to publish popular content that is way off topic or not related to their blog in any way. Usually I see this from bloggers who are seeking growth, popularity or other “traffic” generating measures so they are willing to bring in unrelated content or popular at the expense of their existing readers and visitors who expect consistent content. I think it is much better to publish off topic items or content as guest posts on sites where that is a regular topic. This would benefit everyone more by exposing to a new audience, by helping create great content for another blogger and by sparing existing subscribers of unrelated content they may not be interested in using list brokers.
Be honest, don’t act like you know everything
Often I see bloggers responding to questions, comments or stating opinions as if it is fact and true. While there is nothing wrong with writing your thoughts (after all, that is what blogging is all about) but it is misleading and dishonest when a blogger states opinion as if it is fact, or leads readers to believe that they know a lot about a subject when in reality they do not. It is best to be honest with your readers and state how you have learned something or where you learned it and why you are sharing it, instead of making it seem like an absolute true when in fact, it may just be an opinion.
Don’t reply publicly to every single comment
Reading blogs is great for the content, but the best part of blogging is the connections, the discussions and the people you can meet through commenting. It’s because of this that I like to read through comments after a great article and you often get a lot more insight, opinions and additions to the original article. However, some bloggers feel a weird need to reply to every single comment and its incredibly distracting and simply unnecessary. Some comments are as simple as “Thanks, I liked the article” and then the blog owner goes on with some comment that adds no value and simply repeats what was already said. If you have something valuable to add, then by all means add it and welcome your visitors but to set a guideline to always reply publicly is just poor etiquette for the discussion area. There is no reason why a blogger can’t reply to many of these visitors to welcome them in a private email to keep their comments and discussion focused and on topic so they are more enjoyable to read.
Spare your visitors of all popups
I’m sure that this is a personal preference but I think it is safe to say that in general, people don’t like popups showing up. I am seeing more and more sites using newsletter subscriptions and popups to entice visitors to sign up. What I really hate is when I visit a site and it says I’ll only see the popup once, and then it keeps showing up or it shows every time I visit. Unfortunately, many bloggers see this as a necessity and use popups to grow their followers but I find it to be far too aggressive and unnecessary. Personally, I often find that these are the very sites that leave my reading lists first and since I enjoy visiting sites for the comments, they often are the first to leave my news reader as well since every visit to a page to read comments leaves me with some popup subscription. I am much less likely to share these sites in social media and I would always prefer to promote a clean article, then one with annoyances that will face those I share it with.
Never copy content
I wish everyone had the moral compass to know that copying content is wrong but sadly, it is not true. Copying other people’s text, full articles and images is wrong and you should never do it without permission. I have found my own site’s content and even my own pictures I have taken scattered onto other sites often without permission. On one hand, it is nice to know that it is valuable enough for others to want it, it is also nice to know that that value is attributed to the right person for their hard work to create it. This one is simple, good blog etiquette means that you just don’t ever copy content without permission. Period.
Always site your references
Related to other people’s content is then in how you use it. I often read people quote someone or mentioning an article they read, but they fail to include a link or proper reference where the original context could be read. If you are going to use references or external content, please always include the appropriate links and detailed reference so that the content could be found. This is especially useful from blogs as often blog articles become the search engines top pages for studies, articles or interest or other things one might be doing research on, and if the reference are their the site is still useful to such a visitor, if it mentions it without the link, it is next to useful. Do your readers a favor and always site your references.
Accept criticism and allow healthy conflict
Some bloggers hide comments that they perceive as negative even when they are respectful and simply differing in opinion. I’ve had my own comments removed from sites, seen whole discussions get removed and even seen many bloggers completely remove commenting from their site because of criticism or conflicting opinions. It’s important to have this interaction on a blog and any blogger not willing to have any, might as well not be blogging as it only shows they are close minded and one sided. If you can’t learn from your visitors who are interested in the content in the first place, then who will you learn from?
Reduce the ads for direct visitors
This tip goes far beyond etiquette but I will start there. I first learned about doing this from Steve at My Wife Quit Her Day Job which shows you how to put ads into your pages only for search engine traffic visitors and not people who type your URL directly. I’ve implemented this on my site and it works great and have seen many versions of it at other blogger’s sites as well. Basically it lets you show less ads to visitors your link or type your site in directly which is a huge benefit since those visitors are less likely to click your ads anyway, since they are usually repeat visitors and after your content, not the ads. The second advantage of this is that you will get a higher click through ratio on your ads since the ads are shown to general visitors, not the people less likely to click. This results in higher payouts by google since the click through is also higher on your site and it can make a significant increase in your ad earnings. My ad impressions went down by about 25% implementing this but my ad revenue went up by 30% immediate and has been sustained. The value of this to your visitors makes your site more attractive to regulars. I wish that bloggers would implement this for the popups and subscription notices in the section above on popups. It would provide the same benefits to the visitor and clean up a blog.
Don’t spam the network
Growing attention to your blog takes work, no doubt. It requires guest posts, back links, other site commenting and social media. Using all or any of those is easy to abuse and so you must learn to put similar effort into those areas with proper etiquette as your site itself. Don’t go on a commenting rampage unless you are adding valuable comments, as it can easily be seen as spam. The same is true of social networking and back links. Most of the social networking sites either work by computer algorithm or simply by followers, either way, they naturally detect spam and if there is not a mix of others’ content, promotion of friend’s sites and a healthy mix of content, your efforts could easily be considered spam. The more you promote other people and build your connections in pretty much any social media, the more successful you will be in that network.
Focus on giving value, not selling it
Many bloggers dive right in to focusing on making money before they really are providing strong value and usually results in a poor blog or sort lived one. Those that look to provide value first, grow the value and then look to benefit from it do much better. As for your content whether it be subscriptions, ebooks or services, if you give enough of that away for free and give away that value, the sales will come as a result of the value, instead of having to continuously sell it. Giving away a number of ebooks before you start selling them will allow visitors to know what value to expect and see examples of your work, which increases the likeliness that they will actually buy something as well. My own example of this is with my free ebooks I give away. They have created tremendous traffic, comments and feedback for my site and they are consistently downloaded more than 7000 times per month! Please if you haven’t seen those before, do take a look.
Do you have any additional blog etiquette tips?? Please add them in the comments below.