Blogging

My 15th Blogging Anniversary: 15 Blogging Truths – Part 2

I’m continuing the 15th anniversary celebration of ‘Patrick’s Place’ with a look at 15 blogging truths I’ve learned over the past decade-and-a-half.

If you missed Part 1 of my 15 Blogging Truths, you can read it here.

When you blog long enough, you begin to understand some important facts about the medium. Let me jump in with a few more of them.

4. Good Grammar Matters.

For some bloggers, this is something they clearly don’t want to hear. They want to write the way they speak and if someone else doesn’t like it, well that’s just too bad.

I wish these people would seriously get over themselves. As I said in part one, your audience matters. That was the first one on the list.

Using good grammar — at least, making a serious effort to do the best you can — is an important part of communicating.

Yes, we all make mistakes. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone back to an old post from years ago and re-read, only to find a grammar error or spelling error that practically jumps off the screen and smacks me right in the face.

How did I let that get past me when I wrote this? How did I miss it before I hit that Publish button?

It happens to all of us.

The goal is to do your best to make sure it doesn’t.

There’s a good segment of your audience, no matter whether you wish to admit it, that will be turned off if you make a blunder. They’ll see it not so much as carelessness as they will your disrespect toward them.

The harder it is to understand what you’re trying to say, the harder your audience will struggle to get through it…if they even make the attempt.

Consider your friend the remote control. You’re home alone and you’re surfing channels. How long will you stay on a channel with something you don’t like the sound of? How long will it take you to press a button when you hear something that offends or see something whose quality seems beneath you? Probably not that long. Probably not long at all.

Yet some of the same people who feel that way take the attitude that grammar isn’t — or shouldn’t be — important.

They’re deluding themselves.

Don’t be one of those people.

5. Your Site’s Backend Matters.

From a website standpoint, the “backend” refers to the inner workings of the site that your visitors don’t see. Those inner workings can have a big impact on the “frontend,” what your site’s visitors do see.

I’m not so much talking about things like your typeface choices or font size, although they’re clearly important.

I’m talking about deeper issues like the theme and plugins that run on your site. You need to make sure they’re updated whenever an update is available. There are times when not updating a theme or a plugin could leave your site vulnerable to some security threat.

But another simple, often-overlooked problem from the backend is broken links. Think about it for a second: you’re reading a post on someone’s site and you’re really interested in the subject matter. You see a link where there’s apparently more information available. You click the link.

You get an error. The link is broken.

That’s a lousy user experience.

Yes, it happens to all sites. You’ll link to someone else’s blog or a website and some time later, without your knowing it, the post gets deleted or the site owner decides to shut down the site.

Unfortunately, the link remains until you remove it. That means everyone who visits your site could potentially find a broken link, and if it’s something they really want to read, that can be a big disappointment.

WordPress has a plugin called Broken Link Checker that scans your site and looks for any links that no longer work. What I like about this plugin is that it not only alerts you to broken links, but wherever available, it gives you the option to replace the target of the link to an archived copy of the page on the so-called “Wayback Machine.” That way, you still have the content, even if it’s only an archived version. But even if a site no longer exists, that archive may still be there and it gives your readers the chance to still be able to access the content you felt was important enough to link to.

Some of the minor details on the backend may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But remember: you want to make sure you’re doing everything behind the scenes to make sure the website your readers see is the best, easiest to read and easiest to navigate that it can be.

6. Etiquette Matters.

If you’re a blogger, you should be operating under a practice of common courtesy.

That means several different things.

One of the biggest is citing your sources. Whenever I write a blog post based on a news story or someone else’s blog post, I make sure to include a link to that web page somewhere in the post. It can be as simple as a line at the bottom of the post, such as “H/T: Link” with the word link as an actual hyperlink. (The “H/T” means for “hat tip,” which is understood to mean a “thank you” to whichever site inspired the post or provided information you used in it.)

I prefer, instead, to provide a link to the post or article somewhere in the post where I’m talking about it. For example, if I’m writing a line like this:

Joe Smith said over at his blog that the reason for the change is low revenue.

The portion that I made bold, “Joe Smith said over at his blog,” would likely be the portion of text I use to serve as the hyperlink to that actual post at Joe Smith’s blog. It draws attention to the source a little more blatantly and at the moment it’s being referenced.

I just did this the other day in a faith-related post from a Progressive pastor and on the same day, he saw that I’d cited a post of his and tweeted my post to his followers. He didn’t have to do so, but it was a nice return of a favor since I was careful to promote his blog for having inspired my post. Yes, good blogging etiquette can go both ways!

Another example of good etiquette involves getting permission to use photos and images. Sometimes you see a photo on someone else’s blog and you think, “That would be perfect for my blog.”

You’re tempted to just download the photo — or worse, hotlink it — and use it on your blog.

That’s not something you ever do without permission. The image is almost certainly copyrighted or has some degree of legal copyright protection by virtue of being posted on a site that contains a copyright notice. Using someone else’s image without their permission is illegal and could subject you to legal action. At the very least, it could subject you to a possible claim that could force your host to take down your site.

If you want to borrow more than a short excerpt of text, you should ask for permission for that, too.

Often, I’ll copy a small portion — usually no more than a single paragraph — to quote someone else’s post and then write my post in reference to the quotation. I always link back to the source material.

If you’re going to quote more than a few lines, you should reach out for permission. You might even ask a question or two and incorporate those answers into your blog post. Many website owners would be happy to provide additional quotes for someone who’s then going to promote their site.

But the point is this: if you’re going to use someone else’s content, do so in a way that makes it clear that it doesn’t belong to you.

To do otherwise could be construed as an attempt at plagiarism, and that’s not something you’d ever want to be accused of doing.

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act provides relief for anyone whose intellectual property has been misused by someone else. The property owner can file a claim with your host. I’ve had to do it once against another site which copied and pasted text from my site, retitled it and used it on their site as if it was original to them.

When that site owner didn’t respond to my email that asked that the content be removed, I filed a DMCA claim with their web host. The webhost responded by taking down the entire site, not just the posts I referenced in the complaint.

You can bet that I heard from the site owner then. And suddenly, the owner agreed to remove the content.

The website contributor never bothered to ask permission to copy my content and rebrand it as something else with her name because she knew no one in their right mind would have granted it.

But by breaking that basic rule of etiquette, she caused a great deal of headache for the owner of the site she posted to: his entire site was temporarily taken down because of her dishonesty.


This is part of an ongoing series of posts to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Patrick’s Place. Part 3 will run next week and I hope you’ll be back!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.