When it comes to blog design, most put the lion’s share of their effort on the area that “above the fold” or what appears on the screen before the user has done any scrolling.
This makes a lot of sense because this is the first thing that visitors see and, as we have discussed before, you can’t ignore blog design as these first impressions can literally make or break your blog.
But what about the content at the other end of your blog? While it might not be the first thing that people read or even something your casual visitor will observe at all, it still has a series of critical functions for your site and ignoring it outright simply is not an option.
Most importantly though, it is the first place at least some of your visitors will look for key information and, if they do, you need to make sure you have what they’re looking for there. Otherwise, there could be legal or other related issues to not having your information available.
In short, you can’t afford to ignore your site’s footer. It’s an important part of your site and one you need to craft carefully both to maximize its usefulness and to avoid any unnecessary trouble.
As a blogger, for the vast majority of your readers, you are just a virtual presence, someone that they know solely through their words, videos and other media. It’s the nature of the Web that, unless you do a lot of touring and conferences, for most you’ll just be a name/face on the computer screen.
But while that’s just a part of being on the Web, it is something of a limitation we all face as well. People, for the most part, don’t form emotional bonds with people that they don’t talk to and don’t see in person. This is part of why many seem to care so little what happens to others they meet over the Web but, on the flip side, it means that people are very slow to trust others online.
But, as a blogger, trust is essential. If people don’t trust you, your site and your information, they aren’t going to become recurring visitors, they aren’t going to participate in your site and they won’t link to you or otherwise spread the word about what you are doing.
Without trust, your blog is almost nothing. But while earning trust online requires tons of hard work, dedication and consistency in producing high-quality content, losing it is simply a matter of making one fatal mistake.
One of the easiest ways to lose earned trust is to fail to properly disclose any freebies, gifts or relationships that may have influenced your opinion. Once people believe your views to have been tainted, it is almost impossible for you to regain that trust.
However, this is a pitfall that goes beyond the trust of your readers and, thanks to recent guidelines, also becomes a legal issue. Failing to disclose conflicts, especially repeatedly, could land you in hot water in the U.S. and do far more than ruin the hard work you’ve put into your blog.
This is a guest post by Brad Leclerc, who can be found at BradLeclerc.com
The FTC is gearing up to extend it’s regulatory powers into the blogosphere, and I, for one, think it’s excellent news…sorta.
You may have read something about it in the last couple days, but if not, here’s a snippet from an Associated Press article on the issue:
Savvy consumers often go online for independent consumer reviews of products and services, scouring through comments from everyday Joes and Janes to help them find a gem or shun a lemon.
What some fail to realize, though, is that such reviews can be tainted: Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all.
The practice has grown to the degree that the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers â€” as well as the companies that compensate them â€” for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.
On the face of it, they are essentially planning to crack down on false claims and undisclosed benefits (financial or otherwise) that a blogger might get due to their posting something about a product/service/etc, whether it’s in the form of an actual monetary payment, or some free stuff, or whatever else, as well as certain types of scam and “fake” websites that only exist to post affiliate links and other ads and pass them off as unbiased.
That is a good thing, in my opinion. Though I, like many others it seems, really don’t think the FTC will be taking the right approach. It seems sloppy and practically unenforceable to go after bloggers directly for the most part.
The reason I say it’s practically unenforceable is simply this: There is usually no way for the FTC to know if a blogger has a conflict of interest or undisclosed benefit to posting something unless that blogger has mentioned it on the blog…in which case it would have been disclosed, and so wouldn’t be an issue.
A much better way to go about fighting this problem would be to target the people and companies giving out the money and other benefits, instead of the bloggers themselves.
Arron Wall has an awesome post about just how sloppy and useless the FTC’s apparent approach to the problem is, called “FTC Going After Bloggers = Epic Fail“. He outlines a lot of examples of just how silly “bottom-up” enforcement of these problems is, and I completely agree with them. They need to “follow the money”, so to speak, and hit the problem head on at the source.
I’m sure it’ll have SOME effect (including likely harassment of a lot of perfectly innocent bloggers), but I don’t think it’s likely to actually help anything very much. It would be MUCH more helpful for these new regulations to target the sources of the services/products/etc that are instigating (or at least knowingly allowing) fraudulent and/or misleading content to be posted on their behalf, and paying for it.
This could be a really good way of fighting some of the more serious spam and deceitful content online if done right, but sadly I have serious doubts that the FTC is up to the job.