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    27 Replies Latest reply on Jan 5, 2010 8:14 AM by wordperfect

    Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?

    Milleisen Scout
      Some of my competitors engage in the practice of paying bloggers to post positive reviews of their services. I find this practice to be unethical. The Bloggers sometimes disclose what they are doing, but it's on a separate page where many people won't be able to find it. Bloggers should state in big red letters at the the top of any blog that they are being compensated to write about a company. The worst part of it is that some of the companies that are being praised take advantage of unsuspecting clients who think that is their only alternative to getting a loan, meanwhile they charge obscene "success fees" of up to 20% of the loan amount.

      What does everyone think? Unethical or a clever marketing tactic?
        • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
          LUCKIEST Guide
          Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?? Good question


          One of the newer types of ghostwriters is the web log, or 'blog'
          ghostwriter. Blogs are websites where a person keeps a journal of
          thoughts and holds online discussions with other web users, typically
          on political, social, or cultural issues, and current events. As well,
          many blogs cater to special interests ranging from handgun collecting
          to knitting. Blogs are rated according to how many web 'hits' they get
          from users viewing the page, and this rating is used by advertisers
          considering paying for ad space on a blog website.


          New blog operators hoping to generate interest in their blog site
          sometimes hire ghostwriters to post comments to their blog, while
          posing as different people and using pseudonyms. With more posts and
          more comments, it is more likely that a blog will have more key words
          which will bring up the blog during a search engine's search. Once a
          blog gets more traffic, eventually the number of 'real' posts may
          increase, and the blog ghostwriters may no longer be needed. While
          companies providing blog ghostwriters claim that falsely attributed
          postings are a legitimate marketing tactic, the practice has been
          deemed unacceptable by a major US paper, The Los Angeles Times. The Times fired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik for fabricating postings in his blog using alternate 'identities' ("sockpuppets", in internet jargon).


          Some celebrities, CEOs,
          or public figures set up blog websites as a marketing, public
          relations, or lobbying tool. However, since these individuals are
          typically too busy to write their blog posts, they hire discreet
          ghostwriters to post to the blog under the celebrity or CEO's name. As
          with nonfiction ghostwriting, the blog ghostwriter models their writing
          style, content and tone on that of the credited author.


          Not an answer, just more info, LUCKIEST
            • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
              wordperfect Scout

              Good post Lucky, I found it interesting.


              So, ............ your opinion? :>
              • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                seoservicepro Ranger
                Luckiest, I agree with you, but the people you are talking about sell a blog commenting service, sometimes for building links, sometimes to make a blog look busy.

                Blog ghostwriting is when you hire a professiopnal blogger to post to your blog daily, not make comments. Many companies hire people to write their blogs for them. Sometimes the owner doesn't have the time or the knowhow to do it themselves. A professional blog ghostwriter or blog manager knows how to write optimized content that converts traffic to the client's website and they know how to generate traffic.

                So, your post is accurate about hiring a blog commenting service, which is different from hiring a blog ghostwriter.
              • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                Lighthouse24 Ranger

                I know it can be frustrating when your competitors "cheat" (believe me, I see plenty of it in my business). We have to remind ourselves that "unethical" is not the same as "unlawful" -- we can only act on what's "right" for OUR business . . . not for everybody else's.

                Every legitimate business owner is committed to being in business -- in one form or another -- for the rest of his or her life. The kinds of questionable business practices that you mention are short-sighted, and will eventually "catch up" with those owners. They'll have to move on to something else and start over. It's impossible to sustain a permanent place in the market without delivering genuine value to real customers over and over.

                If you continue to operate ethically, you'll look back in 20+ years and realize how many of your competitors have come and gone -- all while you were building a firm that employees are proud to work for, that customers are eager to support and happy to tell their friends about, and that your community embraces. So for a serious business owner, it's not just about how you do business -- it's about how you spend your time on this planet and what you leave behind when you're gone.

                Yes, it stings a little when an unethical competitor takes away a potential customer -- but you can look at in another way . . . only "stupid" customers fall for tactics like that. In the long run, "stupid" customers are bad for a business and eat away profits. "Smart" customers are easier to work with and make you more money. So think of unethical competitors as an in-line "strainer" that filters out the business you didn't want anyway.

                Hope that helps. Best wishes.
                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                  MotorDoc Wayfarer
                  Now that is a really interesting question. However, there is one big issue: ethics are in the eye of the beholder - unless they are breaking a law. Right now there have not been any 'truth in advertising' challenges on internet advertising that I am aware of.

                  Personally, I think it is a sleazy tactic and would be cautious about working with such a company. However, there is not defined 'code of ethics' when it comes to blogs. In fact, I remember this exact type of discussion when advertisers started using the world wide web. I suppose part of the issue would be related to which is worse - a friend or associate posting at the request of the company, a fake name used, or a purchased endorsement? Or all of the above. Truly dishonest seems to be a grey area now-a-days, but if the person states that they have used a product and are not associated with the company in any way - then I'd have a greater issue.

                  At the same time, it is common practice in the publishing industry to pay for endorsements. I don't use that method with my company, but it is not considered unethical in the business. TV advertising, radio advertising, infomercials, all have the same issue. They may state that they are a 'normal person' but you see the really, really tiny print underneath stating that they are a paid actor.

                  By and large the online community will sort it out and avoid such blogs, such things can be very obvious, just like spam. With a low hit rate, they will eventually die off. However, there will always be the suckers that go with it.

                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                      Iwrite Pioneer
                      MotorDoc and Lighthouse are right, unethical is no illegal. A lot of the major advertising agencies have been and still are working on taping into the power of blogs and social networking sites to do just this - influence potential customers. Some of my friends are getting paid to blog for companies.

                      The reception on Myspace and Facebook have been mixed - it is a matter of how it is done. But when it has gone bad, it has gone real bad. however, when it has gone well, it has gone very well. I think it is a matter of the message and the level of honesty of the blogger.

                      I think it is ethical to pay a blogger and let the public know that you are doing so. The problem comes when you try to pull a fast one on the public, online or off-line it is never ethical to attempt to do this, never. The potential for harm to your brand outweighs the potentials for increased business. You only get one reputation.
                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                          Carlitos11 Newbie
                          This question just keeps coming up. I think is currently working on a solution so that it won't help in the SEO. Instead of writing a whole article here. I agree with the statement found Another harsh view on it can be found

                          I hope they will find a compromising solution. It should probably be handled between Google and the pay-per-post advertising firms. Some rules set.
                          • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                            DomainDiva Ranger
                            I can't picture anyone fake posting about our product. Our industry is SO SMALL that something like that would be noticed immediately.

                            I was in a UTA business class and the instructor asked the same question, if it is legal but unethical does that make it right?

                            The answer is no. There are many 'legal' things that people participate in that ruin lives and businesses. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 legalized bucket shops again and set the stage for the financial mess we are in now with the credit default swaps and derivatives markets. That was legal, approved by congress and the senate. Was it ethical? Read the bill and pages 261 & 262 will show you in writing that what they were doing was not ethical. The CFMA gave get out of jail free cards for breaking state and local gambling laws.

                            I can see hiring a blogger to talk about your company, your business what you are doing, handling problems etc., but this posting for more ad clicks and to trash other businesses should be prohibited.

                            Eventually, as Lighthouse pointed out, these unscrupulous people loose, unfortunately the damage left behind is sometimes never undone. If it is un ethical it is also illegal. A business person cannot have two sides of the same issue as their moral compass.

                            For those of you who do not know what a bucket shop is/was please read: Reminiscences of a Stock Operator written in 1923, by Edwin Lefevre. Still considered THE book about trading, (OK so along with Alexander Elder who wrote about the psychology of the market).
                        • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                          amspcs Ranger
                          Very good question. Lots of good points made about ethical vs illegal. For me, that's a non-existant
                          grey area. It's all about honesty in my view. Honesty is like being either are or are not, not much middle ground. If you cheat, you are dishonest. And dishonesty is WRONG. Means do not justify ends.

                            • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                              Iwrite Pioneer
                              Months later and I still think it is all about disclosure. I don't mind a blogger being paid as long as the fact that they are being paid is out in the open.

                              What I have seen recently is companies posting videos on YouTube that appear to be unpaid but in reality are agency produced work. Is that or joining Myspace or Facebook as a person when in reality it is a company any different? I don't think so.

                              The nature of the web is such that there is not going to be anyway to police these practices. Consumers will have to have the final say as whether or not this behavior is acceptable. We can call it wrong but as long as consumers don't say anything, it will not stop.
                                • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                  Carlitos11 Newbie
                                  Ok thanks for the write back. I can see it both ways. If a blogger makes it noticeable to the viewer that it's a sponsored posting. But how is Googles bots going to know what to trust and not to trust. So in return Google might feel scared about the PageRank alg and just make everyones blog less important in the PageRank world.

                                  If a blog post nothing but Paid-Postings then they will eventually loose there popularity and eventually PageRank would fade.
                                  • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                    seoservicepro Ranger
                                    Iwrite you see it all the time. Right now there are videos being produced and loaded on youtube that tell you how bad healthcare reform will be or others that tell you how great it will be. These are put out by "nonprofits" that have names like "people for better heatlthcare" or "concerned citizens for reasonable healthcare reform", etc. These nonprofits are funded by health insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, political parties, pacs, and lobbyists, but they don't tell you that on the video.

                                    In politics they deceive everyone all the time by hiding behind nonprofits. I'd say that is worse than when a company hires a blogger.
                                • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                  Bankerboy Newbie
                                  Among other things, I own and run a niche hobbyists social/business networking/auction website. I recently told a long term member of my website to start writing articles relating to the hobby and that I will pay him. The advantage here is that the man already knows what to write about and likes writing about the hobby. Now he is getting paid for it. As long as he doent misinforms other members, I am ok with him blogging for money. So no, I dont think its unethical to pay people blog.
                                  • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                    gurubomber Newbie
                                    Definitely some good input here. Another thing to keep in mind is that while this is not an uncommon practice, it is not a long lasting solution. In other words, individuals willing to take this right are obviously looking for a quick fix solution and I consider this approach cutting corners at best. Eventually this type of activity will result in duplicate content and more importantly, worthless content. Keep in mind that search engines (Google) operate from a "purists" standpoint. Their sole purpose is to provide the most relevant, reliable and unique results for every given query. Once someone begins to provide duplicate and worthless content the search engines are pretty damn unforgiving. Believe me, I know the "dark side" very well, but I've been born again! Trust your gut, strive to be able to look yourself in the mirror after every day and keep in mind, in this these days...slow and steady really does win the race.
                                    • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                      seoservicepro Ranger
                                      Then according to your reasoning all commercials where celebrities promote a product should have big red letters across the bottom that say how much they get paid.
                                        • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                          wordperfect Scout

                                          Ha! My last post' drew the dreaded "needs to be approved" reply!


                                          How ironical!!


                                          Anyway SEOSERVICEPRO, i made mention of a film star endorsement, not realising you had already drawn and shot first.... sorry!
                                            • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                              seoservicepro Ranger
                                              Wordperfect, great minds think alike.:) Just kidding. The only point I really wanted to make was that blog ghostwriting is different from a blog commenting service. I don't think there is anything unethical about hiring someone to write your blog whether it is in-house or outsourced to a company that specializes in blog ghostwriting and managing blogs.

                                              There are a lot of services that you can hire that say they will post comments to a lot of blogs to build links to your website. I don't believe the companies that hire them are being unethical. I just think the blog commenting services convince them that it is a good way to build links and everyone tells them they need more links.

                                              The problem lies in some of those services. They use automated software or cheap labor from a third world country to post comments. Many of those comments are like; wonderful post. I will bookmark you and return often or great post! I never thought of it that way, etc.

                                              Any experienced blog manager knows those comments are simply spam and they get deleted. That means the company paying for those links to get built isn't really getting those links. The second problem is that many blogs use nofollow tags for comments. That means, even if the comment stays, you don't get a backlink from it.

                                              In the blogs we manage, we use a wordpress plugin that delays giving anyone a do follow link for seven days, giving us time to weed out the junk comments before it gives them any benefit. Users with previously approved comments get their link juice right away.

                                              If a blog commenting service does it correctly, it will cost you more money. First the service has to identify a large number of blogs that are related to your website's topic, then they have to figure out which of those blogs allows do-follow links. Then the commenters have to actually go and read a blog post at each blog and make a comment that really has something to do with that blog post.

                                              Quoting some of the blog post and commenting on that portion is a good way to show the blog owner that you actually read the post. Then the comment will stay as well as your link. Since all of that takes time to do, a normal price for that kind of service is at least $5 per comment. Anything less than that and you need to be concerned about the methods the blog commenting service might be using.

                                              I hope that helps everyone understand this type of service that some companies provide. My company doesn't do the link building through blog commenting thing. We do however manage a lot of company blogs and write their content, do their social bookmarking and social networking, etc. We find we can build links without doing the commenting and that the daily optimized content is more important than the links anyway.
                                            • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                              snvservices Wayfarer
                                              According to me, I dont think that it is unethical as, it is like if you are paying for some then you have to maintain this as, it will done accordingly and if sometimes they have to pay for it just to raise the services then it is at some part good for all of them.


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                                            • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                              wordperfect Scout

                                              Maybe part of the joy of being a small biz owner ends up making us introverted and hypersensitive and maybe tunnel visioned?


                                              There have always been practices that some of us think are "unethical" but as someone said ethics are a bit like beauty and in business we have to learn to evolve or die.


                                              It is a bit like another thread on multi lingual sites, different cultures see "ethics" slightly or vastly differently, one of the first hard lessons I learnt in setting up my company in China.


                                              Now I am not suggesting we all just go for it and lower the bar to ground level or below, but the blog is new territory to an extent and there will be those who try to push the limits, but ultimately, the consumer will be the one who decides, not us.


                                              "Dubious" methods of promotion have been with us for ages. I mean, do we really believe or care if Jane Seymour washes her face with a certain soap? And does she, and was that ethical?


                                              Maybe it was "Good advertising" then, but times change,things come and go. What we thought was not acceptable half a century ago is now par for the course. There really is no room for puritanical thinking in business, you have to look at what competitors are doing and ask yourself, is it what I want to do?


                                              Look, in the end it doesn't really matter how low your competitors want to go, as someone else said, the consumer is clever, eventually, and what you lose today you may get back tomorrow.


                                              It is really all about ones own basic corporate culture and being prepared to be open minded and assess what is actually an acceptable technique and what is not.


                                              It is, I believe a person decision and not really a matter of what is right and wrong or if it needs to be legislated against. It is irritating when someone does someone YOU think is unfair, unethical or underhand but as long as it isn't illegal then taking it to heart is really just going to screw with you and distract you from the job at hand, running your own biz.
                                              • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                                HomeBizGrowth Wayfarer

                                                Hello Milleisen,

                                                My advice to you is to focus on providing the most value you can to your prospects and clients...

                                                And in order to do so, that requires all of us to be ethical about the information that we provide.

                                                Before I create content or information products, I always think of how it will be useful for my readership.

                                                I know that if I were the prospect...

                                                I wouldn't want the company that I'm planning on doing business with to deceive me.

                                                By the way, you've probably heard about how the FTC is cracking down on individuals
                                                and companies that are making false claims.

                                                I'm currently working on making my web presences FTC Compliant.

                                                Another point is that Google is also cracking down on websites that doesn't provide value in terms of
                                                relevant content for people that uses them to perform searches.

                                                In my opinion, I believe that you should focus on providing the best content & services to your
                                                prospects and clients...

                                                And leave all the shady practices to those unethical people as they will eventually be penalized and
                                                blasted away the more the FTC and Search Engines crack down on them.

                                                Hope this helps.

                                                Rodrick Etienne
                                                The Home Business Coach

                                                P.S. Here's the official FTC website link regarding Rules for doing business on the NET:
                                                  • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                                    seoservicepro Ranger
                                                    Who defines unethical though? The law can't even define porn, except with the phrase; "I know it when I see it". Pretty much the same with ethics. It is in the eye of the beholder.

                                                    For instance; In my opinion;

                                                    1. pharmaceutical companies advertising drugs is unethical.

                                                    2. fake testimonials used on websites and infomercials is unethical.

                                                    3. networks allowing infomercials and saying they are not responsible is unethical.

                                                    4. lies by politicians are unethical

                                                    5. pretending you are a cable NEWS channel just to push an agenda even if you have to lie or mislead to do so is unethical.

                                                    6. tv commercials that start with ATTENTION IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT and who try to make it look like they are somehow connected with an official government agency like the house auction and foreclosure ads are unethical.

                                                    7. Any false or misleading claims by advertisers, such as 4 out of 5 dentists recommend are unethical.

                                                    8. Misleading clients and customers in any way is unethical.

                                                    9. tricky billing like cell phone companies giving you a bill in the first month that is low because they haven't added all the charges in, then raising it slightly the second month, again not charging you for everything, then hitting you with all of the charges the third month with a huge bill is unethical. Yes, you used the services and the time, but they know if they charge you less for a couple of months, you will think that you can afford to use it more and you will. Then they hit you with all of it at once. You're under contract, so you have no choice but to pay. Tricky billing like that happens and it is wrong.

                                                    10. doctors who order unnecessary tests and more office visits than needed and insurance companies who tell doctors not to give certain tests because they have decided not to reimburse for it.

                                                    I could make a huge list of the things I think are unethical, but on some points others may disagree. Would it be right to put me in charge of saying what is or is not ethical? No. It's my opinion.

                                                    And that is the problem in a nutshell. No individual or even a group can say what is or isn't ethical because it is subjective. We've gotten to a point where if it's legal, it's okay to do. I don't like that but laws are the only defining factor we have right now. I wish there was a bill of ethics or soemthing that we could go by.
                                                  • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                                    Paying for a blog post, endorsement, etc. is not unethical. You have presented a specific scenario which blurs the issue. The payment is for the audience and the impressions just like any form of advertising. For the blogger or other type of endorser; I think it is unethical to recommend a product you don't believe in. I don't have a problem the endorser accepting money for their endorsement but the endorsement should be genuine. Your question infers that accepting money somehow dimishes the endorsement; that doesn't compute with me. There are a lot of people that won't sell their soul; sounds like you are one of them. In any case making false claims is certainly unethical and that really seems to be your point about the competitor.

                                                    Your competitor is playing with fire and will be burned. The bloggers will get burned as well. The web is a conversation; not a commercial and its only a matter of time and the problem will fix itself. In fact the web punishes advertiser (of all channels) on a regular basis.

                                                    Have Faith!
                                                    • Re: Is Paying For Blogs Unethical?
                                                      You guys see the new FTC disclosure rulings where you have to say if you're getting compensated to blog about something? So regardless of whether it's ethical or not, the bigger concern is are you legal? And if you have a great product, then your customers should naturally talk about you anyway.