Sunday, 13 September 2015

Blogging Tips | 6 Important Things to Include on Your Blog

Blogging Tips | 6 Important Things to Include on Your Blog
After a bloggers' Facebook group discussion last week highlighted an important piece of information missing from someone's blog, I got thinking about all the other important things that should be included. A lot of blogging has very grey areas where legal requirements are concerned (especially as different countries have different laws), but certain regulations should be adhered to no matter where you're based to protect yourself, your blog and your rights.

Here's a quick guide to the things that all bloggers should check they are including on their blogs: The first three have some legal requirements attributed to them, the last three are basics that you may have missed out - but I highly recommend you check that you're doing them all.

Let me know if you've found this post useful in the comments below!

1. A disclaimer/disclosure

If you've ever received anything from a company in terms of payment, a freebie, or affiliate commission, you should have a clear disclaimer somewhere on your blog explaining all of those things. Even if you've just started blogging I still recommend it: You may well be sent freebies in the future so if you have the disclaimer written up now, you won't forget to do it later.

You must clearly label freebies as items that were gifted to you. The most common way to do this is to either mention what was gifted in the post itself, or (this is common with fashion/beauty bloggers) to label them c/o or with an asterisk*.

A short summary explaining what the abbreviations mean should then be added to your PR page, sidebar or somewhere equally visible. I've added mine to the footer of my blog as well as my PR page so that it's visible no matter what page the reader is on (and saves me adding it to every post or forgetting).

If you've signed up to an affiliate programme like rewardStyle or Shopstyle mention that you may earn commission if the reader clicks through and buys.

Whenever you have been paid to publish pre-written content, or write a blog post with links, or work on any type of blog post, Facebook post, Instagram post, etc. you must disclose it to the reader. I know the US laws are very strict on this, but in the UK they are a lot more fuzzy and non-reputable brands often try and get bloggers to withhold disclosure of a sponsored post (if this happens to you do not work with them).

Some brands refuse to have the word "sponsored" mentioned; I have to admit although it's to the point I think it sounds a bit clinical. I add a message to my posts (where I have received payment to write them) to say that I have "written this post in collaboration with XXX brand" and then again, in my footer, my disclaimer explains exactly what "in collaboration" means (that I have accepted payment for it).

If you're not sure what to write, look at the disclaimer of some of the bigger bloggers and see how they've worded theirs: You'll soon work out the best way to word yours.

As laws vary from country to country I'd advise that you find out exactly what the regulations are for where you live and follow them to the letter. It's better to disclose too much than too little.

2. Your image copyright policy

Claiming right to your images is incredibly important. It may not stop anyone actually stealing your images - even with a watermark there's no easy way to completely stop your images being used - but making your copyright clear gives you some back up should the worst happen (and may make someone think twice about stealing them).

A common misconception is that publishing your photos on the internet gives anyone the right to use your images however they wish - this is NOT true. You automatically own the copyright to all your images. Some bloggers watermark their images as a deterrent, but with a little cropping or Photoshop skills watermarks can be made to disappear easily so don't think you have to do this.

You still own the copyright of your images even if they are not watermarked.

A short message (preferably in your sidebar or footer so that it appears on every page of your blog) stating that you own the copyright of all your images unless otherwise stated, etc. and that they cannot be used without permission is what you need. Make sure, however, that you are not doing exactly that yourself with others' images; for example, using images and linking them to Pinterest as the source is a breach of copyright (Pinterest is not an original source)!

Most bloggers are happy for you to use their images in a blog post as long as you give them a linked credit (I know I am). However, I think it's always polite to let them know you are going to do this in advance (i.e. ask them) to give them the chance to say no. It's always good exposure, after all, and they're very likely to say yes.

[This is slightly off topic, but if you post pictures of your family on your personal Facebook account, be extra careful. If you don't want pictures of your children used anywhere ensure you set your privacy settings so that your photos can only be seen by your Facebook friends (not publicly). Last week a blogging mum, along with about seven or eight other parents, discovered that an image of her child had been used in a meme without her permission - and it went viral. Her desperate attempts to have them all removed were futile due to the thousands of times it had been shared. So choose carefully what you want to put out there and protect yourself as much as you can.]

3. No-follow links (where relevant)

Something that many bloggers are unaware of is the use of no-follow links. This can be a huge bone of contention between brands/PRs and bloggers, and if you are offered payment for a do-follow link then my advice is simple: Do not work with them.

What are no-follow and do-follow links?

It's a bit complicated and confuses many bloggers, but I'll try and explain this in layman's terms...!

A do-follow link will boost the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of the site it points to [by Google]. The bigger and more reputable the site that featured the link, the more the SEO of the site it points to will be boosted. Generally, all links you create are do-follow by default unless you purposely make them no-follow. Make sense so far?

Changing a link to no-follow means that the SEO won't be boosted. In other words, even if that link gets clicked on thousands and thousands of times, the site won't see any boost to their SEO whatsoever. However, they still count as valuable click-throughs in terms of traffic (page views).

So why should some links be no-follow?

In bloggers' cases, no-follow links should be used when you have received some sort of payment, either in cash or product/services, in relation to that link. Google don't like payment being used as a "bribe" to influence SEO - they're much more keen to see SEO being grown organically - and payment for do-follow links is seen as artificially boosting SEO.

Say you have received a range of hair products to try and you feature them on your blog. It makes sense that you'd link to the brand's site so that your readers can also buy them. Changing the link(s) to no-follow will ensure that Google won't take any notice of it, basically, so you're safe to accept payment or product in exchange for that link without violating Google's guidelines on link schemes.

When to use no-follow links:
  • When you have received payment to write a post/publish pre-written content
  • When you have received gifted items or accepted services (e.g. a free hotel stay) to review or feature on your blog
  • For any affiliate links where you may receive commission, e.g. rewardStyle links
  • Anything that you consider to be untrusted content

Don't use no-follow links for:
  • Links to other blogs you're referencing (you want to boost their SEO - blogger love RULES!)
  • Products or services that you bought yourself and are writing about with no direct influence from the brand/company itself
  • Links to other posts on your own blog (this is a great way to boost your own SEO)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this point, do not work with brands that offer you payment for do-follow links. They know perfectly well that Google do not take kindly to artificially boosted SEO, but you don't know the extent to which their campaign is running and they will most likely try and tell you that "they're only guidelines" (or some other nonsense) that makes out you don't know what you're talking about. Believe me, I've had some pretty condescending replies sent to me in my time by brands and PRs. You're being asked to take a risk, and it's a risk not worth taking because both your blog and the brand's site may be penalised.

(As a blogger I'm represented by an agency and they won't take on any collaborations for me unless the brand/PR agrees to no-follow links in any blog posts I write.)

If you want solid proof of a time that Google took action against a company that worked with bloggers in the wrong way, read how Interflora were wiped off the face of the internet for quite a while in 2013. Food for thought.

How do I make my links no-follow?

Blogger: All links are do-follow by default. To make a link no-follow, highlight the text you want to hyperlink and click on the "Link" button as normal. In the window where you add your link, check the box in the bottom-left corner that says "Add 'rel=nofollow' attribute". Ticking this box will make it a no-follow link.

Wordpress: I'd recommend following Wordpress's own instructions What is Nofollow? as it doesn't seem as straightforward to me as Blogger.

4. Social media icons

So a new reader discovers your blog - great news! You've captured their interest enough to make them want to come back another time and read more. They want to keep up with your blog and follow you on Instagram, or Facebook, or Bloglovin... but they cannot immediately see any links to your social media or ways to follow you. If they're pretty determined they will do some clicking around different pages to try and find those follow links (About page? Contact page? A Follow page? The footer?), but 9 times out of 10 they'll give up and forget to come back.

Give your readers your follow/social media icons on a plate - do not make them hard to find. The top of your sidebar or the top of your blog is the best place to put them, not hidden within another page or at the bottom.

5. Your email address

Some bloggers only include a contact form, but if you really want interaction and/or brands to contact you an email address is essential. Like your social media icons, do not make it hard to find. If you put it on your Contact page, ensure there is a clear "Contact me" somewhere at the top of your blog. Putting it in the sidebar is another alternative.

Some brands won't bother contacting you via a Contact form, so if working with brands is important to you include an email address.

Word of warning: I'd strongly advise against making the email address linked ("mail to") otherwise it's likely to be found by spam crawlers. Make sure there's no hyperlink, or go one better by creating your email address as an image, or replacing the "@" and "." symbols with something like [at] or [dot].

6. An About page (including name and location)

Hopefully you already have an About page (if not, do it now!), but have you included two of the most things that help your readers get to know you: Your name and your location? I'm not talking about your full name with middle names and your street address and postal code - just a first name or pen-name (minimum) and the area you reside (at least the country).

Unless your blog is specifically about a brand, blogging is very much about getting to know people as individuals. The number of times I've found a great new blog, gone straight to their About page to get to know them a little more - and drawn a blank when it comes to their name. Or what country they live in. Sometimes I've resorted to spelling [A-ha - they've written color (not colour), mom (not mum) - they're probably American] or seen that they've written prices in Sterling £, not dollars [that means they're British].

It shouldn't be that hard...!

On occasion I've gone to a blogger's Twitter account to see if their name or location is written there if I've needed to get in touch with them to ask permission to feature them in a Bloggers You Should Know post. There's something about having no clue about what a person's name is and where they come from that makes them very hard to get to know, no matter how much they write about themselves.

Imagine being at a social gathering where you've had a long conversation with someone and you realise you haven't been properly introduced and you now don't know their name. Pretty awkward, huh...?

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I hope this makes some things clear for you - let me know how (and if you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll see if I can help)!
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P.S. Like this post? You might enjoy checking out more of my Blogging Tips!

Linking up to: Let It Shine, Brilliant Blog PostsFriday's Fab Favourites


  1. Thanks, your post reminded me to add Instagram to the way people can stay in contact. For the rest I am doing fine. Purring like a pussycat here.

    1. A lot of the time I know it is things that we've overlooked, Greetje... I'm the first to admit there's so much to remember!! Keep purring, kitty cat ;)))


  2. Great tips!

    I hadn't done any product reviews in quite some time but am about to do some, so the no follow reminder was timely! :-)

    1. Thanks Andrea, and I'm glad you found it useful! C x

  3. Great post, Catherine!
    So informative for a complete novice like me.
    I have a question about the Email: I am confused as to what you mean about no hyperlink? Or the making of an image to link to email (so as not to be visible to spam crawlers) I like the sound of that but don't quite "get it".

    1. Glad you found it helpful Samantha!

      A hyperlinked email address means one that has been created as a (hyper)link, meaning if you hover over it, it will show there's a link there and you can click through (as with any linked text). It will open up a window in your default email browser-thingy - usually Outlook - and put the email address in the "To" box.

      (To be honest I don't see the point of making email addresses hyperlinked because I'm sure most people use Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc., not a default browser, and I don't think they will open up that way. Last time I tried it it didn't, anyway.)

      And creating an image - sorry I wasn't clearer about that! If you imagine an image - ANY image - it's merely made up of thousands and thousands of different coloured pixels when you zoom right in. And only when you pull out can you see it's the picture of a face or person (or whatever it is). You can therefore create an image with text only; imagine the lead image I've used in this post with no image, just text. I can make that image text only, like an "image" of an email address.

      So it's still an image made up of lots of pixels, but you just happen to see words, not a "picture". If you look at my sidebar, the grey bars saying "CATEGORIES", "SPONSORS", "FOLLOW ME", etc., are exactly that - images that have text in them. So spam crawlers don't recognise it as an email address made of text at all, it's just an image to them.

      I hope that makes sense...? Let me know if not! C x

      (I make mine in Photoshop, but a free site like Picmonkey or Canva also allow you to create text-only images :)

    2. (To be honest I don't see the point of making email addresses hyperlinked because I'm sure most people use Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc., not a default browser, and I don't think they will open up that way. Last time I tried it it didn't, anyway.)

      You can set this in your browser preferences, so clicking a mailto link will open up your selected email program (even Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail), but not a lot of people know about that or actually set it. But the default is whatever your computer's default email program, so likely Outlook (Windows) or Mail (Mac). So they are helpful if your audience is slightly web savvy, but for the most part, kind of annoying if they're not.

    3. Thank you Catherine, and Laurie.
      Very helpful!

  4. This is the clearest explanation of "do follow / no follow" I've found anywhere. Thank you for this!!!

  5. Another set of great tips Mrs! I really need to learn some code to other design my blog
    livinginaboxx | bloglovin

    1. Oh gosh learning code... I know some basics but generally it strikes fear into my heart!!!! Thanks Lauren, glad you liked them x

  6. A sneaky way to hide your email address but still show it as an email address on the page is to use something called HTML entities in place of the symbols. It's actually the @ symbol that attracts the spammers, not the mailto link, so this way you avoid the spammers from finding it in the code.

    So, for example, would be in the code (you'll probably need to switch to the Text View if you're using WordPress)


    1. Oh my gosh! This is so helpful Laurie. I've been putting the whole annkrembs @ krembdelakremb dot com, and it has always felt so silly! Changing this today! Thank you.


    2. Op Laurie! I meant actually "at" not @. Still feels silly! Thanks again.

  7. Catherine, I'm going to have read and re-read the whole no-follow link thingy. I had no idea! So confused!! But, definitely need to add the footer disclaimer--especially with Pinterest right? There's whole 'nother topic. Ahhhh!

    So, quick question regarding all my affiliate links already come as no-follows OR do I need to be changing them? Eee gats!!

    Great post Catherine. Thank you!!

    Ann from Kremb de la Kremb

    1. Thank you Ann!! re. the rS links: The URLs you get from them are only links when you *make* them a link yourself, if you see what I mean. So rS just give you the URL, you add them to your blog post and make them hyperlinked (so people can click on them to go to the site). So when you create the link, THAT'S when you make it no-follow - rS have no influence on that for you.

      Hope that makes sense (and thank you)...! xx

    2. Hi Catherine! I just received my first enquiry to work with an advertising company! Wish me luck!! We'll see. Anyway, one of their queries was whether I use Do Follow or No Follow links. I was like, Ugh.....So, I came here straight away to understand it better. My reply was I use both as I try to abide by Google's guidelines regarding link schemes. I think you would be proud! Now let's just hope they like my answers, price, and style and will want to work with me. Fingers crossed! :S

      Thank you for your blogging tips series--I revert to it OFTEN!

      Love, Annie

      PS I better start fixing my rS links. :S

    3. I just realized something Catherine....when we use an rS widget like the Look Book or Shop the Post, there's no way of changing those links. What should we do about those? Thanks. A x

  8. Hi Catherine. I loved reading this. I was always a bit confused about the follow / unfollow links so it was useful to read your definitions. I get annoyed when I see bloggers using images from pinterest, but so many seem to do it. Do you mind me asking which facebook group you belong to? I belong to a few, some more effective than others. thanks again.

    1. Hi Lorna, the Facebook group is - it's a closed group but I assume they accept all bloggers.

      And thank you for the kind comment, glad you liked the post! x

  9. Thanks for sharing this! Very useful!
    Mademoiselle Coconath

  10. These tips are so helpful, especially the "no follow" explanation!

    Doused In Pink

    1. Seems to be the most confusing one for a lot of bloggers, Jill - glad to be of help! Thank you x

  11. Wow, you're dedicated! This is very well written! x

  12. Oh I've never thought the email link would be seen as spam :-O thanks for that!

    1. I think it's spam with or without the link, hun - as someone else has mentioned it's the "@" symbol that they look for. (I wasn't 100% sure myself!) x

  13. Love these posts Catherine, I learn something every time. The follow/no follow! As soon as I have finshed this comment, I'm heading over to my blog for adjustment!
    Laurie x

  14. Very helpful tips! I really need to deal with point number two :-P


  15. Great advice! I'm just doing my disclaimer currently. The info about have an email address on is really interesting - will consider that. #brilliantblogposts

    1. The disclaimer's so important, but I think it's something so many bloggers forget to add! Thanks hun, glad it helped :)

  16. Some good points and some things I've been forgetting. Off to add my location and a few other bits and pieces now. Thank you!


  17. Some brilliant points. I haven't done anything about my images yet *gulps*. Thank you for reminding me. x #brilliantblogposts

  18. Great piece of advice!! It is all very clear and easy to understand!! Thanks you so much for sharing this! :-) x

    1. I'm really pleased you found it easy to follow, Franca - thank you x

  19. Great advice for people who're just starting out, or are confused about the disclosure/no follow parts of blogging. #brilliantblogposts

  20. Great tip about adding a disclaimer into the footer I'm off to do that now

    1. Brilliant, Megan - glad it's helped you with something! x

  21. Catherine, you're a god send. Your advice is invaluable.

  22. Thank you! I'm new to blogging and need all the help I can get. Love your site!

  23. Fabulous tips as usual Catherine
    Referring to the pieces where we have been gifted them. If they are relatively old in the wardrobe but reworked quite a lot. So we have to mention they are gifted or c/o each time?


  24. Thank you for your tips Catherine. I have a personal blog and was shocked to find that someone I was contracting for took my content and posted as if I had written specifically for them. I appreciate your post, and will definitely be more cautious.

  25. Great post Catherine, thanks for sharing these tips. xo

  26. Ugh that nofollow dofollow skip to my loo follow really did my head in for the longest time. Thank you for simplifying it for me Catherine, I must confess, an earlier post you wrote on the subject. Although it's always a good idea to re-visit these points just to tick them off the list 😉
    You're so brilliant at explaining this stuff xxx


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