Blogging etiquette is one of the most important things to know when you’re getting started, but it’s something that is not discussed enough.
I see bloggers complain in private groups about unethical tactics employed by other sites. However, many are intimidated to call out a larger blogger or ask them to make something right. Worse, many new bloggers simply don’t know what’s acceptable practice, and what is shady behavior.
That’s why I feel it is so important to share some of the most common breeches of blogging etiquette. You’ll know what not to do so you can stay out of trouble, and also know when someone else is taking advantage or stealing your work.
#1 Rule of Blogging Etiquette: Don’t copy
This should be a no brainer. However, it happens over and over — whether it be outright intentional plagiarism, or an inexperienced blogger that thinks they are “sharing.”
I’m going to say it, just so it is crystal clear: do not copy and paste another person’s writing or photography on your site.
Even if you give credit, when you post an entire recipe, craft, etc. on your own page, it gives your readers no reason to click through to the original post. Most bloggers would not give you permission to republish their entire piece of work if asked, so this is considered stealing.
If you are trying to do a round-up (see this example of a round-up featuring Teacher Appreciation Gifts), the generally acceptable way to feature another post you admire is to create a small description, credit the author/website, and clearly link to the original post.
When using photos, I always ask permission. Many bloggers will allow one of their photos to be used in a collage (for social media sharing purposes).
Another watch-out: modifying photos without permission. When you’ve purchased a stock photo, this is usually fine and included in your commercial license. However, when you’re using another blogger’s photo (even with permission), do not modify (edit, crop, remove watermark, etc.) without getting the go-ahead for those specific modifications.
Purchase commercial licenses for fonts/photos
I love finding new fonts to play around with. However, unless a font is labeled as “freeware,” you can get in hot water for using it on your website without first securing a commercial license.
Tip: If a font is labeled “free for personal use,” that means that you still need to purchase a commercial license if you want to use it on your blog. It is only free for things that are not related to your business.
I love the font website dafont.com, as it clearly states a font’s license. That way you can tell if it’s totally free, or if you’ll need to pay. You can usually download a font to test it out. If you decide to use it on your blog, check the attached “read me” file for instructions on how to acquire the proper documentation. A commercial font license usually costs a few bucks, and it’s well worth it to avoid legal trouble.
The same goes for photos. While it’s ideal to shoot your own photos for your blog, there might be times when it is not practical. For example, when writing a post about tantrums, it is probably easiest to find a stock photo of an upset child. Who wants to make their own child cry, just to get a photo?
While there are a few sites that have quality free stock photos (Pixabay and MorgueFile are my favorites), I’ve found that they have a smaller selection and are over-used.
I love DepositPhotos.com (affiliate link) because they have a huge selection, which you can filter to show “undiscovered” photos to avoid duplication. At the risk of sounding like a weirdo, I actually love to browse through stock photos and get a little rush when I find the perfect one for my project.
Again, it’s better to be safe than sued!
Social Media Sharing NO-NOs
This is an area where I see both intentional unethical behavior (meant to boost one’s own social accounts), as well as the faux pas due to ignorance (which is still not a good excuse).
These are things you might see done by successful “big bloggers” because it can help boost their own social followings. That does not make them ok. Some of these things are true copyright violations, which are illegal and can get you in trouble if reported. Some fall into ethical “gray areas,” and while not direct infringement, are frowned upon.
Let’s put it this way: you won’t make any blogging friends by doing these things. And you need blogging friends! These are the people that share your content with their audiences, sending you traffic. These are also people you can learn from. Oh, and these are also people that will become life-long friends! Being kind and be ethical will pay off for you in the long run!
Avoid these social media NO-NOs:
- Listing an entire recipe or all the steps of a craft in a social media post. If you’ve copied and pasted, it’s obviously plagiarism. Even with credit and a link, it gives readers no reason to click through to the original blog post. The content creator can report you to the social media network for copyright infringement. Here is an example where someone did this to one of my recipes:
- Taking the exact words from a popular original meme and putting them on your own image. Even with your own photo, this is still plagiarism of the author’s words. Here is an example where the words from a very popular meme were taken and used in a new meme by another Facebook page:Original meme credit: Moms & Crafters
- Downloading a popular meme to your computer and uploading directly to your social media account, instead of sharing from the original source. This “steals social media juice” and hurts the creator, even if you link to their page. This falls into the “gray area” of blogger ethics. While it isn’t considered copyright infringement, it is essentially riding on another person’s coattails.
- Posting another person’s photo on Facebook, but linking to your own blog post. To illustrate, a Facebook page might upload a photo of an amazing kids craft done by another website. However, instead of linking to the original post with instructions, they’ll share a link to their own website and saying something like “see more crafts like this here.” Yuck. Just don’t.
If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
When in doubt about sharing an idea or a photo on your blog, ask permission first! If you would be upset if another blogger did something to you, then likely they won’t appreciate it either.
Using the copy/paste commands should be done with caution. Citing one sentence or quote with clear link and credit is usually fine. Copying entire paragraphs or more is too much without an “okay” from the author.
On social media, the safest plan of action is to use the share buttons on the original source.
If you find your own work has been copied without your permission, don’t be shy! Even if it is a bigger blogger, don’t let someone else take advantage of your hard work. Read more about PLAGIARISM and what you can do if someone steals your work.
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