Practices to avoid
Have you ever filled out a web form, thinking it would grant you access to something such as a free trial, only to find another web form after it? Typically the first web form collects your name and email address. Once you give that up, then the unpleasant news comes: the credit card requirements, or other piece of information that had you known initially would have kept you from giving your name and email in the first place. This is a form of "bait and switch", and it's not cool.
Repeating bogus statistics
Alarming, and bogus, statistics spread with much rapidity in our age of fast and easy information. Why? Two reasons.
- A shocking statistic is much more likely to be shared than one that is hum-drum. It is worth noting that shocking statistics are also much more likely to be false.
- Convenience. Statistics can be found to support almost any imaginable argument. If a writer wants to seem more credible, citing a statistic that supports their position is an easy way to do so. While a conscientious writer will seek to discover whether such statistics are well founded, by, for example, finding the source of the statistic and citing it correctly, the lazy, unscrupulous, or hurried writer will simply quote what is most convenient. Well known and well-regarded professional researchers sometimes succomb to this tendency. "An unthinking person believes everything, but the prudent one thinks before acting."
Spying on people
Tracking individual activity that reasonable people expect to be private. This includes using tracking images or links in email. Note that this kind of information trail is different from tracking "en-masse" in a way that does not reveal the identity of the individual. I.e., web server logs that indicate how many times a public web page has been viewed is fine. Knowing how many times firstname.lastname@example.org did or did not view a marketing email is not.
Every email marketing platform I know of supports this feature.
Affiliate marketing corrupts.
While it is obvious how affiliate marketing can be financially beneficial to both the sponsoring company and the affiliate referrer, the thoughtful person may recognize that such benefits are the very reason affiliate marketing as a system is problematic. From an incentives standpoint, it is even worse than the advertising system. Essentially, the incentives (meaning, the money) encourages affiliates to lie: to recommend products or services not because they genuinely believe in them, but because they get a kick back if somebody listens to them and buys the product or service. If you think this temptation is easy for a moral person to resist, you must are a better person than I am. I could not maintain a list of recommended products, some of which I received a financial reward for recommending, some of which I did not, and continue to be completely unbiased as to which product readers chose. I think no matter how hard i tried, I would quickly become biased, hoping that readers would purchase the products that gave me a reward when the readers bought them. I would spend more time on those that rewarded me. Which order should I display the products in? I think I'd put the one that gives me kick backs in the best spot. Suddenly, I'm a mouthpiece for somebody who gives me money to recommend them. Gross. That is why I believe affiliate marketing is a bad practice. It turns everybody into a salesman, while not always informing the "customer" (er, blog reader) that the person, or blog post, or Christian ministry they are interacting with is a salesman with a vested interest.
Using shocking photos or titles "for good"
Using shocking or alluring titles to attract readers is another practice to avoid. Ever see a Christian site or book "use" porn to attract attention? I have. :-(
Notice a pattern?
Most of the above practices involves deception in some form.
If you notice us using a technology that does one of these things, please point it out! It's hard to see our own flaws!