Blogging is a fun and wonderful way to express your opinions, but owning a blog can also be a great way to bring in some extra money. The most successful bloggers enjoy a steady stream of passive income, allowing them to pursue their passions, profit from the knowledge they have accumulated and share valuable information with an eager reading public.
When the time comes to monetize your own blog, you may turn to branded advertising, affiliate links and other strategies to bring in extra money and grow your business. While these branded and sponsored products can make a big difference in terms of income, this type of marketing can sometimes come with some unintended consequences.
One of those unintended consequences is the appearance of conflicts of interest. If you are receiving free products to test, making money from advertiser links and touting the products made by your affiliates, your loyal readers may start to doubt your objectivity and even your knowledge.
That means bloggers need to walk a fine line between giving their honest opinions and talking about the products they use and being open marketers for the products that bring them money and keep their blogs on the Internet. It is not always easy for those bloggers, especially the newcomers, to know where that line is and how to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
That is where blogging etiquette comes into play. Blogging is still a fairly new platform for online communication, but its history is long enough that some basic ground rules have now been established.
One of the smartest things new bloggers can do is create a policy that spells out how they will run their blog, and their business if it comes to that. There is no substitute for spelling things out in black and white, even if those black and white characters are only on the computer screen.
Remember that your blog is your personal space on the web — in fact the first blogs were little more than online diaries shared among friends. Since the blog is your personal space, you can set the rules and decide what kind of content is an is not acceptable on your page.
In addition to setting the ground rules and giving new readers a good idea of what to expect, a firm set of policies and guidelines can also protect you once you cross the line from personal blog to business site. The policies you create can also protect the audience you hope to build and foster a sense of community within your pages.
If you plan to allow comments on your blog, you will need a policy to govern those comments and ensure civility. Spelling out the policy beforehand is important, as it sets the ground rules for what is to come. If you clearly state that uncivil and mean-spirited posts will be deleted, readers may be less likely to step over the line.
Last, honesty is always the best policy when starting and growing your blog. Chances are you will accept some form of advertising at some point, even if it is a single link designed to offset the cost of hosting your blog. Being upfront and honest with your readership is the best way to keep their trust and keep them reading, and that is good news for all involved.
If one of your sponsors has sent you a product to test, that fact should be reflected in any product review you subsequently post to your blog. If you are reviewing a product made by one of your affiliates, that information should be disclosed as well. If you love the product, so much the better. Giving your honest opinion is always important, and honesty is one of the cornerstones of blogging etiquette.