Trust - Your Online Reputation

Your Online Reputation Counts: Part Two -€“ Selling Your Integrity

Crossed Fingers HandshakeLast month I posted Your Online Reputation Counts: Part One – Scores And Ranking. In part two, we’ll look at our online reputation as it pertains to integrity. Wikipedia defines integrity as…

In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.

This is our second instalment of the “Your Online Reputation Counts” series (See Part 1 & Part 3).


Many blogs deal with how to increase traffic, how to promote blog posts, how to do effective SEO, and so on. But how often is the word “integrity” mentioned in blogging tips? Recently, I asked readers if it was possible for a blogger to be both an idealist and a pragmatist. The lure of easy money may tempt bloggers to suspend their ethics momentarily, but the Internet is forever. It doesn’t forget. Trust, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain. I think our personal integrity is worth more than that. I’m happy to see the conversation extended as Brian, Mitch, and Sheryl discuss the importance of safeguarding personal integrity when tempted to accept paid posts as advertising or doing product reviews.

Holly Jahangiri

A Discussion On Integrity

In one of Sunday’s hangouts, Paid Posts & Blogging Integrity, (embedded below), Mitch Mitchell of I’m Just Sharing talked about blogger integrity when it comes to things like paid posts and product reviews.

Rightfully, Mitch says that without trust, we lose that visitor’s respect, as well as any potential sales (paraphrasing). Trust is important and, on a personal level, there’€™s no one I know online with more integrity than Mitch Mitchell. So, as you can see, his firm stance on trust and reputation works! See Mitch’s post: Would You Recommend Something Unethical For Money?

Paid Blog Posts

There are a lot of bloggers that accept paid posts on their blogs, and that’s a personal choice. Personally, I think it’s risky at best. Our online reputation is our greatest asset Tweet This and, like Mitch said, paid posts put that reputation at risk.

I’m not here to criticize those that accept posts as forms of paid advertisements; I just want to caution those that may be considering them of the dangers involved.

Advertisements And Recommendations

Back to that online reputation, we MUST hold the trust of our readership and subscribers if we expect them to follow our product recommendations. Once we convince someone to spend their hard-earned money based on our review, we risk buyer resentment if we’re not completely honest. We, as bloggers and marketers, should never allow profits to buy or replace our integrity.

My Policy

I’ve been a blogger for a long time and I even had a little stretch as a successful internet marketer. From day one, I’ve lived and worked with one simple principle…

I NEVER recommend or promote a product I haven’t tried and wouldn’t personally recommend. (Click here to tweet this quote!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a saint, far from it. I just understand the importance of that fundamental trust that determines the future of our online business.

Product Reviews

Some look at product reviews as just another form of advertising but I disagree. I will review a product that I feel will benefit my subscribers as long as it’s on my terms. My terms are pretty simple… I must try the product, at their expense, and I only give an honest review. If it’s a product I like and can recommend, we’re in great shape. If I think the product sucks, I’ll send the business my written review telling them why it sucks and that review will not be posted for my readers. The only exception to that is if I believe it’s a scam; then I’ll feel obliged to warn others about it.

A Quick Personal Story

Real quick, before cell phones, MP3 players and even the personal computer, I was an over the road truck driver; yeah, I’m old :). I would travel all over the Country and I loved to drive at night and listen to a late night talk radio host. He’s since past away but this guy built an unbreakable reputation by refusing to compromise his integrity when it came to corporate sponsors. You simply could not advertise on his syndicated radio show without sending or giving him the product first. If he liked the product, he’d accept the advertiser. If he didn’t like it, he’d reject the advertiser and keep the product. lol I thought that was a pretty cool gig and I’ve been doing the same thing online myself. Talking about a win win. 🙂

How Important Is Your Reputation?

Do you protect your integrity or do you think it’s just about doing business and nothing more? Do you accept paid posts? Don’t worry; I’m not here to judge. Like I said, it’s a personal choice. Do you review products? Do you think it’s necessary to test a product out personally in order to recommend it? Your comments count here!

This is our second instalment of the “Your Online Reputation Counts” series (See Part 1 & Part 3).

Image was created with the help of the PhotoFunia Android App.
About Brian D. Hawkins

Blogging superhero by day and internet super villain by night. Blogger, future online millionaire and an all around great guy.


  1. Omotola Jalade says

    Your online reputation is a major asset that you have as a blogger. I like to think of it in this way: you don’t become a pro blogger without building your reputation and I don’t think it is what anyone would like to trade for just a few bucks.

  2. Interesting Brian, Mitch & Cheryl – I’ve been getting more offers to do reviews on products and sites but I only accept if I have used them, liked them and believe they are good for my readers. (or if a family member or someone I really trust has used the product for a while) When I first started I did one for a product I had not used and was asked about (not good!)I replied honestly I had not used it. If people don’t believe you they won’t come back to reading your blog or website.

  3. Bloggers can risk losing their online reputation quite quickly.

    If you are looking to make sales and continue to do so at a rising pace, integrity needs to be top-notch!

    Thanks Brian.

  4. Great stuff, and I’m glad I got my mention. 🙂 I truly do believe integrity is a major deal, and it’s hard to get back once you’ve broken someone’s trust.

  5. I don’t think of “online reputation” vs. “offline reputation.” I think that’s a fallacy that people have bought into for years, but reputation is reputation. People you meet online are REAL PEOPLE. If you don’t treat each other ethically, there will come a day of reckoning, I believe. It could take a decade or more, but it comes. And the Internet is forever; Google has seen to it that the stupid things we say today will always be just a simple search away. People may have short memories, but their ability to ferret out nitpicky little facts has increased exponentially over the past decade. 😉

  6. Ganesh J. Acharya says

    Paid posts are fine… as long as one is allowed to present fair and unbiased views about a product or service is in concern.

    No product in the world is 100%, and everything has their own set of drawbacks. If a paid post just cites flattery and false image of a product in concern it exhausts a researcher’s energy, time and money. Eventually, the person in concern will never return to the blog.

    On the other hand, if a blog presents a fair view of a product, its readership will improve and people will buy the product in-spite of its negative side being highlighted since someone historically citing truth is saying good about the product (Every product has its own GOOD side as well). The difference between right and wrong is always thin line.

  7. Well said Omotola, selling your reputation isn’t the path to becoming a pro blogger. 🙂

  8. Thanks Lisa, I have a Lap Desk review in draft mode and I’ll probably publish it later today or tomorrow. I used the product for over a week, checked the BBB, and did a Google search trying to find something wrong with the company before I agreed to do the review. Everything checked out and the company’s reputation looks solid so I agreed. I’m not saying everyone has to just through all those hoops but it is in our best interest to at least have first hand knowledge of the product.

    By the way, I did the same thing as you did when I first started my site promotions blog. I reviewed a plugin on my blog the same day a plugin was released. I had just installed and activated it just hours before I wrote the post. The comments were flooded with negative experiences by readers that tried it. A few people had messed up blogs from trying to install it (this was way before the click to install feature on WP)and others couldn’t get it to work at all. It was a lesson learned, for sure.

  9. Thanks Samuel, like Mitch said in the video, there’s no turning back the clock when it comes to a damaged reputation. I paraphrased big time there. 😉

  10. Thanks Mitch, I just paraphrased that statement, or the one from the video, in the previous comment. Yeah, I put words in your mouth, kind of. lol

  11. Great points Holly! I love the “what goes around, comes around” point. I’m a big believer in that. And you’re right, Google, or whatever eventually takes their place, will make a lot of people wish they had thought things through a little better.

    And I also agree that people online are real people. Although they might be a 50 year old fat man in his underwear pretending to be a teenager but that’s for another blog. {joking} Seriously though, we are dealing with real people with real lives and we have to resist the idea that we can get away with more because we’re anonymous; which is a fallacy as well. Thankfully, I think most of us aren’t tempted at all to take advantage of others.

  12. Thanks Ganesh, I agree with most of that. I do think that by accepting payment for the post, the ‘unbiased’ aspect is kind of shot; or at least that’s how it will be widely perceived. Even the review I just did, which will be the next post, will bear scrutiny from others because I accepted product, even though no money exchanged hands. I look at it as a necessary action in order to make a qualified judgement, others will see it as a form of payment. Like you said, a thin line.

  13. Hi Brian, I’m sure online reputation counts even though we stay behind the computer.

    In paid post, I’d love to accept if they have a high quality and informations that helps the community. And when you review a product that you used, you’ll definitely know a lot more about the benefit of the product and have a better chace of getting sales.

    Thanks – Ferb

  14. Exactly Ferb, I’m glad to have your input. And I guess that’s the bottom line, content that helps our community. Thanks 🙂

  15. I too have read Holly’s post at blogengage and confirm to the fact that trust is what needs to be built by only promoting those things which we believe are going to be useful. Pat flynn does exactly that.

  16. Integrity is important when it comes to almost any field. I appreciate that you are taking it seriously when it comes to reviewing products online that you have personally tested. I’ll keep my eye out for your reviews.

  17. Well, it takes years to build your online reputation and one has to be meticulous. Yes, it is important that you review only those products that you have tried. You do buy products that have been reviewed by many people. Example Amazon products. Unless you know that they have been successfully used by the ones who have already tried them, you don’t buy them. Its the same everywhere… Trust is the key to your online reputation.

  18. Well said Holly. If we bloggers understood that point then we could have made the blogosphere a much better place

  19. I don’t think that paid posts would put your integrity at risk as long as you do it properly. The wrong way to do it is to promote a product or service that you haven’t tried or don’t believe in. I’ve done a lot of paid posts and rather than promote a product I simple talk about something in general and ensure that the link placement flows with whatever the post is talking about.

  20. Hi Holly. Since the topic was blogging I only concentrated on online reputation, which makes sense. If the topic was marketing in general then I’d have gone your route; but we do call it “Hot Blog Tips” after all. lol

    And truthfully, there’s still a major separation in the two. I wrote a post lamenting the fact that almost no local people read my blogs. The fact is that for many of us who are online, we have two lives and two different audiences. Even Chris Brogan said that when he walks around where he lives, almost never does anyone even know who he is or what he does, which is a far cry from when he shows up at a convention. Overall, I think that unless you have a major online fail that garners news attention, like that moron who was outed for the site talking about teenaged girls and how they dressed, the two worlds rarely intersect.

    Some of us are way better known online, and if that’s how we’re marketing ourselves, we’ll take a much harder hit if our credibility is blown than we’ll suffer offline.

  21. Sire, I was thinking of you when I came up with the topic and how I wanted to present it. Not sure if you watched the video but I made a separation between those who’ll take the money and run by talking big about products they know nothing about, or using someone else’s script, and those who will write whatever they want, whether they get paid or not. You kind of toe the line in writing about what something is without really endorsing it or not; I’m know I could never do that.

  22. Holly Jahangiri says

    Yes, but the risk is always there – we are, in fact, ONE person. To think otherwise is to be like a businessman (or woman) who carries on a torrid affair while traveling for work. Back home, they’re the model spouse, parent, and church-goer. On business trips, they’re a party animal. One day, their two worlds collide – someone sees them, recognizes them, and doesn’t honor the pretty little “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” wall they’ve built in their minds, and says something. People have “major fails” every day.

    But the more ordinary scenario I imagined was this – say I write a product review on my blog. My family or close friends or coworkers, knowing me to be a pretty good judge of such things, decide to buy it on my recommendation. Now, if it doesn’t live up to what I’ve written – and they find out I only wrote it for the huge commission – I can just see them (rightfully) confronting me, face-to-face, saying, “Who the h*** ARE you? I don’t KNOW this person!!”

    So my point is that wherever you “take the hit” to your credibility, it can (and likely will, at some point) spill over to the other – offline, online, the LINES are blurring in ways no one imagined 20, 30 years ago. (God, I feel old writing that, but yes – I was on Compuserve over THIRTY years ago. And it is an amazingly small world. People talk. Remember that whole “six degrees of separation” thing? I’m thinking maybe it’s only four.)

  23. True, there’s always the risk, but it’s minimal if, in general, you can’t get local people to even look at your blog. My point is that the big bangs work much differently, even if at some point there’s a possibility of their connecting with each other. Unless you get hauled into court and it makes the local news, mess up offline and maybe 10, maybe 100 know about it. Mess up online, not even criminally, and it’s hundreds, if not thousands, that know about it immediately, tens of thousands if you’re a big enough name.

    Hey, didn’t we have this conversation before, or something like it? Suddenly I’m having a déjà vu moment. lol

  24. Well both the things are right. We cannot have a pole between the two. Some might like to save their integrity while others would only take up things as a business deal. Both ways, one should not deteriorate his reputation in any case. Online reputation is very much necessary for survival on the internet.

  25. Online reputation is the only aspect through which the blogger is judged by the audience. It is indeed at a constant risk of getting tainted. The bloggers should make requisite efforts to build a strong and spotless online reputation. Thanks for the share.

  26. There are still over the road truck drivers working on most every freeway. I don’t think THAT marks you as a certain age. IMHO, paid blog posts are a horrible way to sell your integrity very cheap. I would never do them and tend to avoid blogs that feature those types of posts.

  27. Visitors like bloggers with integrity and a good online reputation. That’s how I would think.

  28. I am such an advocate of Online Reputation! I think it’s important because most people you don’t meet in person and all they know is who you are or how you are perceived online. I pride myself in my customer service and get easily offended when some jump on me 5 min. after sending me a service ticket or jump to Paypal within minutes of sending me a service ticket to file a complaint. People need to realize we ARE PEOPLE TOO! We have families and lives, we don’t sit in front of the computer 24/7 (or try not to lol) I think I do pretty good getting back to them within the hour, most companies will tell you that they will get back to you in 24-48 hours or more. So YES, online reputation IS very important in any online business you have!!

  29. Great topic for the HOA!

    I haven’t done sponsored posts but I used to do sponsored tweets. It’s funny you guys bring up this topic because I keep getting question about this and I can tell that people are really confused. They want to make money from their blogs so bad but in the back of their mind something is saying “don’t go there”! lol
    My philosophy is use it first, if you like it promote it, if you don’t like it give it an honest review – or just walk away.

    Thanks for the chat. I love the way you guys are using Hangouts on Air!

  30. I completely agree with your post. It is incredibly important to gain the trust of readers. Readers are not stupid. They know when a blogger, brand, or anyone is dishonest. Dishonesty will only push readers away. No blogger should ever be dishonest. Bloggers needs to be honest if they want to cultivate a strong trusting relationship with their readers. I think bloggers and brands forget how important their readers and customers are.

  31. Although I’m not a professional blogger, but I think Integrity is must-have in any of business, especially online business where the trust is so important.

  32. Establishing our credibility and reputation online is just as critical as sharing relevant and quality content. This is a trait that most professional bloggers possess 🙂 Thanks!

  33. Being a sell-out blogger is not the path newbies should follow. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the matter. It’s greatly appreciated.

  34. Obviously, online reputation matters a lot. It is the only aspect through which the blogger is judged by the audience. Blogosphere is like a big family & relationship & repurtation matters a lot. Good post, thanks for sharing.

  35. Anonymous (Read Comment Policy) says

    as long as one is allowed to present fair and unbiased views about a product or service is in concern.

    No product in the world is 100%, and everything has their own set of drawbacks. If a paid post just cites flattery and false image of a product in concern it exhausts a researcher’s energy, time and money. Eventually, the person in concern will never return to the blog.

  36. Very well said, Brian! You totally got my assent on this blog. I love your policy as it will make those clients respect you more. Your personal philosophy and values make your integrity a million-dollar cost. Kudos!

  37. Hi Brian,

    This post is music to my ears. I’ve only been blogging for the last few months, after trying to get going in internet marketing about 18 months ago. I’ve assiduously resisted the temptation to ‘get selling’, believing it’s important to build up my expertise and reputation in the first place.

    I regard my online reputation as a priceless asset and I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise it – I only intend to promote products that I have tried and can honestly recommend from my own experience.

    I may be naive, but I think ethical marketing often pays off in the long run – people buy from companies they know they can trust won’t sell them a lemon.

    Thanks for flying the flag for honesty and integrity – I’ve only recently discovered your blog via our mutual friend Adrienne, but you’re now bookmarked and I’ll certainly be back!


  38. I believe it was Warren Buffet that said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Thank you for taking the time to write a post about the importance of reputation — online and offline!

  39. Thanks Todd, I love that quote. 🙂

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