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Bloggers, Are You So Focused On “What Works” That You Forget “What’s Right”?

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Like all bloggers, I can sometimes get a little wrapped up in stats. I love looking at my traffic, doing split testing, and trying out new techniques. One of the reasons I enjoy attending NMX (previously BlogWorld) is learning new ways to get traffic, how to create content that engages readers, and build a brand online. I’m always interested in hearing about others’ experiences with what works and what doesn’t work.

But sometimes, I worry that we get so focused on what works that we forget what’s right.

NMX has been part of the “are Internet marketers scammers” debate for quite some time, and I feel like this is the core of the issue: Almost any tool or technique used to make money online can be manipulated by scammers.

Let’s use SEO (search engine optimization) and guest posting as an example. You can boost your SEO through writing high-quality guest posts on others’ blogs and linking back to your own blog within the post or at the end of the post in a bio line.

Someone using this technique the right way will link to high-quality, relevant posts that give the reader more information. They’ll be upfront about where the link leads and seek to guest post on blogs that have a connection to their own niche.

Someone trying to game the system will write low-quality articles stuffed with keyword links. They don’t care about the topic. They don’t care about whether or not the links are beneficial for readers. They only care about their precious links. Often, they don’t even write these posts themselves, but instead hire freelancers. Now, as a freelance writer myself, I can say that there’s nothing wrong with hiring a freelancer to write guest posts for you, but not if you pay them $3 per post to basically “spin” or even blatantly plagiarize stuff already online.

Luckily, Google is increasingly improving their search engine algorithm to prevent any kind of manipulation like this, but it still happens. I see it all the time.

It’s tempting to do whatever works. You have to keep up with the Joneses, and if all the other bloggers in your niche are doing it to gain advantage, it’s hard to say no. If crappy guest posts on unrelated blogs give you a huge boost in search engine traffic why wouldn’t you do it?

Because despite it being what works, it’s not what’s right.

What is right for your readers? What is right for the Internet? Are you making the world better in some way or are you contributing to the problem?

I haven’t always made the best decisions with my own blogs. I’ve tried techniques and tools that resulting in huge ROI, but just didn’t sit right with me from an ethical standpoint. I think it’s okay to make these mistakes as long as you’re constantly monitoring yourself.

When’s the last time you held yourself accountable?

The reason people who make money online (especially those teaching others how to make money online too) get labeled as scammers is because there’s a lack of this self-regulation. We need to be better than that. Before calling out others we feel are scamming people or only contributing trash to the Internet, it’s important to look internally. Ask yourself, what can I be doing better?

And definitely speak up. It can be intimidating to say that a popular blogger is doing something you don’t agree with, but the only way this world of online content will get better is if we’re all honest about our own activities and willing to vet our role models. When you go against the crowd with legitimate concerns, you might be surprised at how many people agree with you.

Lastly, if you’re heading to NMX this January, please take the time to fill out the surveys about individual speakers after attending sessions or even just shoot us an email with any concerns. We don’t just want to know who is a good public speaker. We also want to know who is teaching valuable information, not contributing to the problem by promoting techniques you consider to be scams. There is definitely some grey area here, but your opinion matters to us.

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


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