How to Conduct a Policy Review For Your Blog

Today’s episode is about some policies or operating standards you might like to consider for your blog. Having policies can save you time, help you to make better decisions, and make you more transparent to your readers.

In this Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). Today we talk about:

  • Why you need blog policies and operating standards
  • 6 areas to consider having a blog policy for (plus one BONUS area)
  • How to get specific information about your legal requirements as a blogger

Further Resources on How to Conduct a Policy Review For Your Blog

Further Reading:

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to the ProBlogger Podcast episode 21, where today, we’re talking about policy, which seems a little out of place in some ways, but it’s a really important area to think about. My challenge to you today is to develop a policy or some sort of an operating procedure for a particular area of your blog, and I’m going to suggest seven different areas to ponder.

You can find today’s show notes at Let’s get into today’s episode.

Hi, this is Darren Rowse from ProBlogger. Welcome to day 21 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. We’re on that final home stretch now, just 10 days to go. Today’s challenge may sound a little odd, but I think it’s really important to do. It’s to spend some time looking at some policies, operating standards, or procedures for your blog. This sounds very corporate, but it’s actually important.

For some of you, it’s actually a legal requirement for you to put some attention into some of these things. Some of you live in jurisdictions where you are required to have a privacy policy or where you’re required to have a disclosure policy if you’re working with brands in some way. For others of you, it may not be a legal requirement, but it might just be good form to be transparent with your readers on how you operate. For others of you, it’s not so much about how you look or whether you’re complying with the law.

It’s actually about putting processes in place that help you to deal with issues that might crop up so that when you are faced with these issues, you’ve already made the decision on how you respond to them. Hopefully, it’ll become clear which of these fits in with the different policies I’m going to talk about in a moment.

I want to go through seven different areas—in fact, I want to suggest seven—that you might want to consider creating a policy in. I do touch on six of these in the workbook for 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, but I want to suggest a seventh as well. The first one is copyright. Are you willing for other people to use your content in some way? This might mean you put a Creative Commons license on your blog, and there’s a variety of different types, so you might want to do a little bit of research on that today. 

If you’re not willing for other people to use your content, that’s okay. You might want to brush up your copyright notice. You probably want to do a little bit of research on that and there are posts on ProBlogger on that topic. You want to also put into place processes if you are using guest posters on your blog to ensure that they own the copyright of the material that they submit.

For instance, we’ve at times on Digital Photography School had people submit posts that they didn’t write. You might want to put a process in place where you run a few sentences of any guest post through a tool like Copyscape to ensure it’s not being posted elsewhere. Also related to this, you might want to think ahead about what you’ll do if you find someone else using your content without your permission. What approach would you take? Would you issue them a DMCA legal notice? Would you confront them publicly?

Having a little process in places to the two or three things you do in what order might save you going on a rant on your blog when you could just simply email them and ask them to take it down and get an adequate reaction that way, thinking ahead about that situation might be a good thing.

Secondly, you might want to think about our policies in the comments section of your blog. If you’ve got comments running on your blog (and most of us do), do you have any guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in those comments? Will you ever delete a comment? Would you ever edit a comment? If so, under what circumstance? Do you allow swearing or is it more of a family-friendly policy? Do you allow linking to products or back to people’s blogs? If so, how many? Do you allow people to attack other people in your comments and how do you react if they do?

These are policies that are good for you to have in place as you moderate comments, but it’s also something that you might want to make public. There have been times where I’ve actually made comments policies public on my blog because people were commenting in ways that I wasn’t comfortable or happy to have on my blog. So, actually create a page on your blog where you explicitly state what your comments policies might be a good thing.

Another area you might want to create a policy or procedure in is in the area of content or acceptance of guest posts. If you have guest posts on your blog, you might want to set some ground rules and a submission process. How do you want people to submit posts? What topics do you want posts on? Do you have guidelines on the length of posts? Do you allow people to self-promote in their posts? Do you have a format that you want them to submit those posts in? When will you respond to submissions? How will the guest posts be credited in the blog post? These are things that you could quite easily write up in just a few paragraphs and then post on your blog somewhere.

Another area you might want to think about policy is in email management. I’m really thinking about the emails that you get as a blogger. How are you going to respond to those emails? If you’re only getting one or two a day, you probably would really be responding to any email that you get, but once your blog gets bigger and you start getting 50 or 100 emails a day, you might want to think about a policy there. Do you respond to everyone’s email? How long does it take? Put that policy on your contact page and it will help those people who do email and contact you to have more realistic expectations about how and if you’ll respond.

The fifth area you might want to think about a policy in or at least boundaries in is your own personal privacy. How much are you going to discuss your personal life? It’s good to have some boundaries in place and to discuss these with your family ahead of time. Personal safety is not something to gloss over here. Will you share photos of yourself or your family? Will you be using your real name on your blog? Will you disclose what area you live in? Will you get yourself a silent phone number or a PO Box? These are things that you may need to think through and discuss with your family and today might be a good day to do it.

The sixth area I talked about in the workbook is advertising or promotions disclosures. This is one that you legally may need to put in place depending upon where you live. If you promote other people’s products, whether you’re working with them as a sponsor or you’re promoting them as an affiliate, how are you going to disclose that? Will it be in the post that you write or do you have a site-wide disclosure?

Again, in many parts of the world, you need to disclose. You might want to do some research on your own local area. What type of products would you consider as a sponsor and what would you not? When I ran advertising on ProBlogger, I got approached regularly by scammy products and services. I didn’t want to be a part of promoting those so I put a policy in place. What type of advertising would you accept? Will you accept sponsored posts, text links, banners, competitions, other types of advertising? It’s good to have that decision made before you start getting approached by advertisers. How will you link to people? Will you give them a nofollow link or follow link?

The seventh area that I would suggest that you think about in terms of policy is a privacy policy. Here, I’m thinking about your readers’ privacy. In many jurisdictions and sometimes working with different advertisers, you are going to be required to create and publish a privacy policy. Some of the things that you probably would want to include in that privacy policy are things like what types of personal information do you collect from your readers.

For instance, if someone leaves a comment, you’re collecting their email address and you’re collecting their IP address in many instances, whether you know it or not. When you collect the information, it’s good to disclose that as well. In the comments, if you sell an ebook, there might be another place.

Another thing that you might need to disclose is whether you’re using cookies on your site. How do you manage personal information? How will that personal information be used? How can people contact you to talk about their personal information? Depending on the jurisdiction you live in, you may need to include all of these things in a published privacy policy. Today might be a good day to do some research on what you are required to publish. If in doubt, please seek legal advice.

The challenge today is to pick at least one of these areas to develop some policy or procedure in. It doesn’t mean you have to publish it. Some of these, it’s more for you to think ahead about a particular issue. Some of those issues like reader privacy policy, advertising disclosures, and comments, you may want to actually publish something on your blog as an actual page that you link to publicly and you may want to do some research today on what you are legally required to publish in those regards.

I hope you find today’s challenge useful. I look forward to talking to you tomorrow on day 22 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

I’d love you to stop by to let us know what you thought of today’s episode. You can tell us what policy you decided to develop today or update, and any other reactions that you have to today’s podcast. You can also find there any links for further reading that we’ve got for today’s episode, and you can purchase the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook there with a 50% off discount for those of you who are interested in that. Looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow on day 22 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

How did you go with today’s challenge?

Do you have policies or operating standards for your blog? What policies or standards will you develop next?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this approach to reviewing blog policy in the comments below.

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