It all started with a little check box.
I spotted it while doing a bit of blog commenting. The first one irked me. The second one had me swearing. By the time I got to the third one, I was ready for a little blog rant.
Because it wasn’t just the box, not really. I’d noticed a few other things about the blog world recently that were really getting under my skin. Let’s all agree to stop doing these things, yeah? Together, we can make the internet a little less terrible.
1. Having the ‘Sign up for my newsletter’ field in your comments section checked by default
Don’t try to trick people into registering for your newsletter. Give them option to opt-in if they want to hear from you.
“But then I won’t get any subscribers!” you say. And yeah, you may not get as many subscribers once you untick that field, but the ones you do get will be ones who actually want you to send them stuff. One actively engaged subscriber is better than ten who go, “Wait, who the fuck is this?” when your newsletter arrives in their inbox.
Tricks that websites or apps use to get people to buy or subscribe to things that they didn’t mean to are called dark patterns. Don’t make the internet a worse place by using them. It’s not cool.
2. Acting like robots
Are you one of those people who tweets links to random old posts every 10 minutes? Or uses an auto-like app that goes around liking people’s Instagram photos from two years ago?
Stop it. Stop it now.
Social media is about…well, being social. Look, I know you need to promote yourself. We all do. It’s the worst thing about being a blogger. But it can’t be ALL about that. Chat with people. Express your opinions. Share other people’s work. Don’t just throw your shit at people all day, because you’re going to get muted, and soon enough you’ll be going “LOOK AT MY POST LOOK LOOK LOOK” at pretty much no one.
3. Publishing without editing
Everyone lets the odd typo slip in now and again. That’s forgivable. But if you can’t tell the difference between there, their and they’re, I’m going to have a hard time taking you seriously.
Read your posts before you publish them. It sounds obvious, but some posts I’ve read make me question whether everyone does this. And don’t just read them once. Read them a few times. Then cut 10%.
I learned about the 10% rule in Stephen King’s book On Writing. As soon as he finishes writing a book and starts editing, he cuts 10% straight away. I’m actually not a huge Stephen King fan, but it’s a pretty solid rule. Even in a 500 word blog post, there will be fluff. Get cutting.
4. Turning their blogs into advertorials
I know that for some of you, your blog is your job. You need to make money. I get why you occasionally need to post about how company XYZ does great double glazing or whatever. I don’t really want to read it, but I respect why you’re doing it.
That being said, I’ve seen some blogs basically become nothing but sponsored posts and reviews of random crap. We’ve all seen it happen. They build their followers. They get more offers. Eventually, their blog becomes less about them and more about the free stuff they’ve been sent.
By all means, accept paid work if you want to. But don’t lose sight of why you started your blog in the first place. Good, honest writing will keep people coming back. Boilerplate reviews won’t.
5. Calling themselves ‘influencers’
I’m not saying that bloggers can’t influence people. They can – and do. Just don’t go around calling yourself an influencer. It makes you sound like an a-hole and it devalues your work.
I don’t think the term bothers me because I’m old – I’m technically a millennial (though just barely). I think it bothers me because it reduces what bloggers do to trying to sell people stuff, whether that’s a product or a lifestyle. And that’s not what most bloggers want to do. They want to create content that people like. If it happens to influence people, great. But that’s not why they make it.
I know the term ‘blogger’ makes some people cringe too, but trust me – you can have a drink and a laugh with a blogger. An influencer will take a selfie while you’re talking to them and then try to sell you some designer trainers. No one likes that guy (or gal).