Does faking help a blog?

We have recently finished compilation of 2012-13 edition of the Directory of best Indian Blogs and Platinum Rankings. As we have shared before, we visit blogs again and again to ascertain their quality in all compartments: content, regularity and design. We also check bloggers' blogging behaviour and social engagement. 

We all know that on social media, including blogosphere, people fake their identities. Interestingly, we've found that bloggers often fake their stats of various kind, other than identity, perhaps to look more authoritative.

Fake stat counters. Many bloggers give inflated figures of visitors. In one case, the blog mentioned the total number of visitors in 5 years to be over 3,50,000. After checking the blog’s search engine popularity, Google PR and some other ranks, we knew that the number was wrong by a big margin. We put the blog through popularity check tools and found that it had only about a thousand visits a month now, and for three years, it didn’t clock even 200 visits a month.

Misleading figures. Either ignorantly or deliberately, some bloggers display ‘hits’ on the blog. ‘Hit’ is hardly a barometer of visits to a blog and this number will be many times that of visits.

Bloated social network presence. Bloggers do not do this too often, but companies, celebrities and political parties are known to indulge in it: using tools to artificially generate large number of followers / likes / friends on social network sites. [We intend to come out with a post on this sometime later.]

Wrong age. Some bloggers give wrong age of the blog in their bio / profile. Smarter among them put past dates on posts so that their archive shows that the blog is being maintained for a long time.

False claims. You might come across such banners on some sites: ‘How I made my first $10,000 by blogging’. Most such claims are outright false. Look at comments on such posts and you will know that hundreds of bloggers get influenced by such claims.

Fake expertise. Many bloggers claim to be experts in a particular area. Among Indian blogs, we found a few who claimed to be experts on yoga / astrology / gadgetry / competitive exams. When we went deeper, we found that except for some, the ‘expert’ bloggers were no more than compilers of info from various sources. In most blogs that give advice in ’10 ways to make a killer headline’ format, the points are nothing but copy-pasted matter.

Bragging. Decency stops most people from bragging too much about their achievements, and yet some people can talk about themselves shamelessly. That too is pardonable if what they say is true, but such braggarts often  build around themselves a facade of great success.

Fake certificates. It does not take much time and energy to make an attractive badge or a certificate and receive it on the main blog from a proxy blog or website. Some bloggers indulge in it thinking that they are improving their authority in the eyes of [gullible] visitors.

Mutual favours. Getting votes [on competition sites], badges and appreciative comments in return for similar favour in their blogs is quite common among bloggers. In India, we found it rampant among Hindi blogs. [We haven’t yet started checking blogs in other Indian languages.] No harm doing so if it helps in getting goodwill and keeping oneself encouraged, but when it becomes an end in itself, it hurts the quality of blog.

Paid reviews. Many bloggers write product reviews on some consideration from product companies or service providers. It becomes worse when the reviewers swear that the great things they say about the product is based on their personal experience and the company has nothing to do with it. We rejected a couple of beauty and fashion blogs on this count during compilation of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs. Yet, we are not sure if some such ‘genuine’ reviewers sneaked in.

Advertisement posing as information. Every web visitor must have had the experience of at least once clicking innocently on a link / pop-up / information widget that claimed to give further information or advice on the topic under discussion and being led to a commercial offer. If that has happened to you, haven't you felt having been fooled?

Copy-pasted matter. This was the real provocation for this post. We are working on a project to check popular news blogs for their content. We have discovered that the same content gets repeated again and again when you try to dig deep into the web. In some cases we tried to trace the content to the original posting and found that even famous web columnists had lifted paragraphs  from news-agencies, newspaper articles and foreign journals to pad up their own story, without attributing anything to the source. 

'Honesty is the best policy' for bloggers too.

Our opinion, based on logic as well as experience, is that cheap tricks to hoodwink the visitor seldom help. In some cases, the lie gets exposed fast while in other cases it takes time  – but in the long run, all lies get exposed. 

Some people, especially young ones, join the blogging stream to make a fast buck, usually influenced by tall claims by some bloggers. For them, any trick that gets them good traffic followed by money is worth it. In some cases, they succeed in fooling not only the lay people but mighty search engines and advertisers too. Doesn't that happen in any walk of life and any business? The choice is yours whether you want to blog ethically or not. From a practical stand-point too, you should stay genuine; if you cheat, the chance of your getting  exposed one day or the other is quite high. In blogging, cheating does not mean robbing someone of money but mis-representing yourself and your product.