Building a successful website really requires two core things: good content and good marketing. Without good content, nobody is going to want to visit your site more than once. But without good marketing, nobody will visit your site at all.
It is for this reason that the promotion of a blog is one of the most important undertakings that needs to be done, and particularly so when beginning something new. As always, there are ways to promote your site that are unethical and you should therefore always try to steer clear of.
Marketing and promotion covers many different things, and even if we stick just to what is relevant to blogging it still covers a wide range of activity both online and off. I’m not going to try and cover all the great ways that you should be promoting your blog – there are certainly many sites out there devoted to such things. But there are a few pitfalls that you should try and avoid.
Don’t be a spammer
When we think spam, the first thing that pops in our heads are all the dodgy emails we receive day in and day out (unless, that is, you do a lot of camping). Blog promotion spam rarely takes on such an aggressive form, but there are still spam-like activities that many take part in. What this all comes down to is the placement of links to your site. In all cases, they should be in relevant contexts and come with some useful information – or at least the invitation to put down a link to your blog (introduction boards on forums for example).
Perhaps it is best to give some examples, using Future Conscience for reference. If you were to find our link on a blog about holiday destinations chances are that it really wouldn’t be useful to what you were searching for at the time. If all you see with the link was ‘come and check out this new site – it’s really great!’ then that would hardly be helpful to you or the holiday destination site you were visiting at the time (however true it may be!). Taking it one step further, if you saw ‘come and check out this new site – great deals on cheap hotels!’ then that would just be plain false advertising and undoubtedly nothing but dishonest spam.
First rule of ethical blog promotion, don’t be a spammer. There are many different ways to do this (blog comments, forums, large Facebook groups etc.), but it all comes down to two main things. Be relevant, and be useful. Spam is usually neither of these things, and is never both of them. Relevance is dependent mostly on subject matter, and usefulness essentially means to add something to the site you are on and the conversation happening there. It’s perfectly fine to leave a link to your site, but give something back in return.
Honesty is always the best policy
I touched on it in one of the examples just above, but honesty is something that can never be stressed enough. Not only is it unethical to trick people into visiting your site through various means – but it just isn’t terribly effective for long term growth and building up loyal visitors. Creating a blog that people want to read and listen to requires you to act ethically and honestly not only on your site itself, but also in how you promote it.
Another aspect of this comes from those bloggers who are quite dedicated in building up a network of blogs that are used to promote one another as if they were disparate entities. An example of this would be using one of your blogs, that has no obvious connection to another one that you own, to ‘review’ a new ebook that you have released. Heaping praise and recommendations on it – ‘you absolutely must spend your $9.95 on this ebook, it led to my success!’. I hope that I don’t have to highlight further just why such an activity should be considered as unethical.
Which leads onto a dishonest tactic that is emerging in the new, social media focused, blogosphere: the creation of many false accounts on various social media sites that seem unconnected to one another. Whether it be on Digg or Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon – by creating many accounts that all promote your site you are behaving unethically. It is one thing to have a professional presence and a personal one, this is commonly done and is completely ethical. It is another thing entirely to knowingly set up many accounts – often dozens – in order to try and trick people into thinking your site is much more popular then it really is.
Rent-a-Traffic is bad traffic
An effective way to promote your blog, and an ethical one, is to pay for advertising on various sites. Google is one of the obvious companies that provide a way to do this. But many people choose to take this idea into an unethical area. Link farms are one such area that you should avoid, no matter what they may do for your SEO (which, in fact, is usually nothing). There are other programs where you sign up to click on one ad after another, or alternatively where you pay for others to visit your site regardless of whether they are interested in its content or not.
The difference between legitimately paid for traffic and unethical traffic comes once again from relevance and interest of the visitor. If somebody visits your site because they see an ad in a web-search that fits what they were looking for, that is ethically paid for traffic. If somebody visits your site because they have been paid to – and likely are just cycling through dozens or hundreds in one sitting – without any interest in the content of your site at all, that is unethically paid for traffic.
This tactic is done to artificially inflate visitor numbers, whether for status or advertising revenue. However, the numbers are an illusion – and, most importantly, you know that – and therefore any attempt to profit from such rent-a-traffic is unethical by definition.
I hope that I’ve given you a few things to think about whilst you are promoting your website. This isn’t, of course, just a black and white issue. Sometimes there is quite a fine line between ethical and unethical behaviour when it comes to your blog – and promotion and marketing is one area where such distinctions can often be difficult. But it is important to think about these issues and try and figure out where your own line should be drawn.
The thing to always keep in mind, is that unethical behaviour very rarely leads to long-term gains. Running a successful blog depends a great deal on your reputation, and nothing destroys a reputation more quickly than an unethical marketing campaign.