If you must be selfish, then be wise and not narrow-minded in your selfishness. The key point lies in the sense of universal responsibility. That is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. – the Dalai Lama.
There are a lot of shady internet marketers out there. A lot of people willing to do anything for a buck. But what I have found is that running an ethical business is a lot better for your wallet than cheating. So, like the Dalai Lama says above, if you are going to be selfish then why not be smart about it?
In this post I am going to talk about why ethics and honesty are super important for growing an online business and making a sustainable, healthy income.
Why I’m passionate about this
Let me just start this post by saying that I have never done anything that would be considered illegal or cheating when it comes to business. I always try to conduct myself in an honorable way. So, in some sense I can’t really say that honesty is better than cheating because I have never tried cheating.
But I can say that honesty works. That much I do know.
If you have been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you will know that one of the main reasons I wanted to run my own businesses was so that I could make money in order to help people. This site was born with the idea that I might be able to help you do the same. Yes there is some selfishness there because I know that by keeping your best interests at heart I too will grow. But I really do think that this is a better attitude than just running your business for the sake of profit, no matter the cost.
Why an ethical entrepreneur beats a cheater
Now I’d like to talk about a few reasons why I think ethics beats cheating in every sphere of business. It doesn’t matter whether you are a blogger or a banker on Wall Street.
1. It helps you build loyalty
I recently sent out a survey to my email list asking for some feedback about why they liked Blog Tyrant. Instead of setting up a multiple choice response I just left the field blank so people would write out their own reasons. The overwhelming response was trust and quality. Around 80% of people said something like:
“I like the fact that you take the time to develop a relationship with your readers. I feel like I know you.” – Anonymous survey
Please don’t think that I am telling you this to make myself look good. The whole point is that your blog or online business will grow if you develop trust with your readers and customers. All that quality information you write, the comments and emails you reply to, the tutorials and help you give… all of that is serving to build trust. And while it is far from a get-rich-quick model it does trickle down in to something big.
Marketing is now making a switch from the traditional model of just looking for new customers to one where existing customers are encouraged to become more loyal. Why? Because it is cheaper and easier. Finding brand new readers is hard after a certain point, but treating an existing reader well and making them a returning reader is much more achievable.
When you cheat you totally give up on all of this. You have a lot of one-time sales but no sustainability. People aren’t dumb.
2. It is systematic and predictable
For the most part you will find that honest and ethical online businesses are predictable and systematic in both their workload and their earnings. This is a sharp contrast to the more questionable and black hat techniques where your results vary a lot.
Let’s take a look at white hat versus black hat SEO practices as an example of this situation. Doing white hat search engine optimization work would include things like writing quality articles on a regular basis, using clean code, guest posting on authoritative blogs, using social media, etc.
Black hat SEO on the other hand is things like buying links, link farming and keyword stuffing. Now, black hat SEO can work extremely well but you can never predict how long it will last until you get banned. On the other hand, building a blog like this one where all the Google juice is natural and you can be certain of a long future.
Running and ethical business is harder in the beginning because you don’t see as many instant successes. After a while, however, it becomes the easier of the two because your results and workload are very predictable. You no longer have to guess about what will work.
3. Altruism kills stress and regrets
The last thing I wanted to talk about is the fact that when you spend your life running a business that helps people you get less stressed and you have less regrets.
Imagine working your whole life exploiting people and using them for their money only to get to the end and realize you had contributed nothing. It would be one of the hardest things to face, especially if you didn’t even have financial success. An altruistic business, on the other hand, allows you to look back and have no regrets about how you lived. Even if you don’t make much money you can think about all the people that are better off for having known you.
The interesting thing about all of this is that altruism also kill stress. I know people who work in borderline unethical jobs and they are constantly worried about the impact they are having, how long the money will last or whether they will get caught. Its a terrible way to live.
Some lessons I’ve learned
Here are some tips I have learned over the years in this area that I think are extremely worthwhile things to remember as your online businesses and blogs grow. Remember, I truly believe that these things will not just help you feel good about yourself, they will also help your business grow.
- Don’t talk about people behind their back, ever
- Don’t associate with businesses or people that try to tempt you in to doing unethical things
- Don’t try and cheat the tax department, just make more money
- Try and put your readers’ (customers’) needs before your own
- Don’t do/sell/push/promote something unless it adds value
I would really like to know whether you guys have any advice or opinions on this stuff. Have you ever tried anything that didn’t feel quite right and ended up being a bad idea? Do you have any other items that we could add to that final list? Please leave me a comment.
59 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
you hit a sore spot with this post right here.
There are indeed so many scammy IM marketers who make bold claims to get you to pull your wallet and once you pay you get very little in return.
I’ve bought a couple of books and courses that weren’t even worth the time it took me to buy and read them.
There’s even more of a downside to these scammers, they give all internet marketers a bad name by association with the industry.
Even I receive hate mail saying I’m chasing money while I do nothing but create value and try to help people.
Let the haters hate of course, but indeed, keep it ethical, even if it’s just for your own conscience so you can sleep at night.
Peace out buddy
Yeah, I think all marketers have a bad name actually.
I recommend: All Marketers All Liars (by Seth Godin) book… you might like to know there’s a solution to that… 🙂
Every ethical blogger wants to earn a buck. It’s the way of the world. As a budding blogger, I am going with the motto of: slow and steady wins the race. I’m going to write my passion and find affiliates that can be of benifit to my readers.
If my readers decide to click on on ad, I may make a buck. And as bloggers, we deserve to. It comes down to content, readership and understanding the needs of your audience–at least in theory. It’s something I’m exploring.
There are no get rich schemes in this world–they all lead to ruin. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember the Tortuous and the Hair, the Grashopper and the Ant? Same rules apply. Thanks for the post.
Nice work Phil. It’ll pay off soon.
Couldn’t agree with you more, I think we can all soon see through the people who aren’t genuine. If we are unlucky, or careless enough to be taken advantage of by someone who is perhaps, less than honest we always remember it.
Not only that, we tell everyone else about it so in the long term the only loser should be the one who is trying to get one over on us.
As for myself I can’t think of anything to do with the blog I have been uncomfortable about but in some previous jobs that I have had I can think of some instances when I have been asked to do something unethical. I soon walked away from them!
So the only thing I would add to your list is don’t ignore that little voice in your head that is saying ‘this isn’t right’, follow your instincts, they are usually right.
Thanks for another thoughtful post BT.
Great addition Tony. That voice is valuable.
Love you BT.
For me it’s always about how I live my passion & purpose with an honest view of the world.
Marc and I have 3 words that drive everything we’re creating on Life Dreaming – Beautiful + Practical + Affordable.
They keep us focussed and really alert and are our value lodestones.
I believe that if you have enough personal power to build an audience then you are obliged to provide quality stuff … information that people can really use in their lives … not regurgitated pap or dumbed down crap.
SEO gives me brain fever anyway and I didn’t even know what any of the Black Hat stuff was … I’d make a really crappy master criminal.
Honesty really is the best policy … and my memory just isn’t good enough to keep track of lies.
Call me Pollyanna or seriously deluded … but I really believe that most of us want to act generously to our readers/potential customers and other bloggers. And the effort will gain some reward … sometime.
It just makes for an easier and happier life.
What is Pollyanna?
a reference beyond your youth BT. It’s a film called Pollyanna where a little girl changes a town through her hopeful, kind, generous and positive approach to life.
some people use Pollyanna as a derisory term at someone when they think they aren’t being ‘realistic’ and ‘too’ ethical, kind, positive, hopeful.
that’s why I say ‘call me Pollyanna’ … and I’ll be ‘too’ ethical etc.
pity there weren’t more Pollyanna’s in our Irish banks, property developers and government … ethics certainly weren’t anywhere near their vocabulary or actions.
enough from me … thanks again for a fab post and great comments from the community.
The Internet Marketing/make money online niche is now
“Interscam Central”. These is so much garbage being promoted by so-called Gurus( I despise the very Word “Guru”)is not funny. But yet, they all “claim” to be “Ethical”
They can’t even spell the word E T H I C A L, let alone know the meaning!
To sum up your list, one can apply the Golden Rule.
“One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”
Ah the golden rule. Well said.
In Sanskrit the word Guru means heavy, as in heavy with qualities. It’s not a word that should be applied to marketers IMHO.
Hi Ty, How’d you get so wise so quick?
As usual, I loved what you had to say here. Black hat has repulsed me from the start, so I can’t say it works for me. On the other hand, white hat–giving away my knowledge–seems easy to do, though in my niche it doesn’t seem to be the best way to earn readers and money. So, even if I find another niche, the honest way will continue to be the only way I’ll go.
Yes, I too, think of you as a friend because of how you’ve presented yourself on your blog, answered everyone’s comments and even slipped in an unasked for comment to me about changing my typeface. I loved you for that and I’ll bet many of your readers have similar experiences with you. Recently, when I had to make a big decision about blogging, my first thought was to “ask Ty what he thinks,” but I resisted because of course you have scads of readers. I knew you couldn’t possibly have one on one relationships with all if them.
I believe you’re right to follow your dream of helping people. You’ll become rich, but not only in money.
PS. Are you aware you sound exactly like another blogger? Hmm, I wonder….?
Which blogger is that Dorothy?
Gideon Shalwick. Of course I know you’re not him. He’s married and you have a girlfriend. Plus, listening to your podcast just now, I decided you didn’t sound exactly like him, just a lot like him.
Honesty rocks! At the start it might seem slow but the results are steady and long lasting.
If you live off ripping people, you might have your way initially, but someone else would eventually take you out.
Very true. Thanks Manual.
Authenticity. That’s the name of the game and we can’t be authentic if we are being unethical. Your post on this topic is fantastic; great nuts and bolts stuff throughout, and the quite-memorable list of “lessons learned” at the end is a good, common sense illustrator of the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would wish to be treated.
My business is one of building websites and business blogs. Overwhelmingly, the positive feedback has been based on my personable relationships with people and the trust I am able to quickly establish; once people know and believe (and I have demonstrated) that I am not here to rip them off, things tend to go swimmingly after that!
Blog Tyrant continues to be a top source of information and inspiration.
Thanks Scott. Appreciate that comment.
Keep your promises, or do not make them at all
In the long run, honesty is definitely the best policy. Kindness pays big dividends
Great post. I enjoy your writing.
Very true. Sort of like underpromise over deliver.
Hello there Tyrant,
Referring to you as a tyrant is kinda’ funny. You’re like a benevolent dictator…except you’re just a really cool, helpful blogger.
Predictably, I agree with you and the other folks here about integrity. Slimy is always going be slimy. Dishonesty feels awful. It’s a great motivator to learn how to maintain total honesty in all aspects of life.
You come across as a straight up guy. I like that. You give solid advice directly geared towards helping other people attain financial independence. Very cool. Gratitude.
At a certain point in the future, integrity is going to be the only way to be successful. Communication is getting easier and faster. Eventually, dis-integrous business will be identified and called out for what it is within a short enough time that it won’t be worth it anymore.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom, thanks to everybody else for sharing their thoughts. Dream well, everybody.
Thanks Pat. Great comment.
I have been reflecting on a similar issue lately. The only way to build credibility and trust is by being honest and ethical in anything you do. The outcome will last longer than any shortcut technique you could try. You also have to patient because it takes time to build.
Well said Frank.
You really have your finger on the puls here !
I do enjoy reading your emails/blogs and they always make me think about my practice. There are so many snake oil sellers out there…. My artist friends in particular also have to guard against copyrighted material disappearing into black hats. x
I can’t tell you how timely this post is for me. I’ve been doing some research into one of my passive income “idols” recently and I found out he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. Most of his “businesses” are just dummy websites set up to drive traffic to click ads. Cookie cutter crap content essentially. Maybe there’s strength in numbers, but I’d like to build a legitimate empire if that’s the case… is that so wrong these days?
What about that model didn’t you like?
The problem is it wasn’t genuine. I don’t know how much traffic these sites actually got, but he used the same or similar content for 7 different sites, all basically copies of one another, clearly built only to hold adsense ads. No value is provided to the reader, it’s just an ad holder.
This is one of these blog posts where you expect to receive a 1,000 or more comments… It’s That Good!
As for trying something that “didn’t feel quite right” — I made this mistake earlier in my online career, thinking somehow that others knew more than I did about ‘what worked’ and what did not. As is usual, I was wrong for thinking outside my self.
Living with ones self, your conscious, or guilt associated with inappropriate actions, seems to be a forgotten art these days; especially in the world of online marketing.
As I’ve grown older, and with it, wiser, I am grateful for the foundational beliefs instilled in me from my youth by my Grandmother; a woman who was firmly rooted in the past, a past that, contrary to popular belief nowadays, was much wiser and intellectually astute then those of today. Not to mention in areas such as ethics, morals and chivalry.
What’s more important than “doing things right” is to always do the right thing. As for how to know whether or not your doing the right things in your life, simple. What is happening IN your life?
“Whatever you’re feeling is what you’re resonating, and whatever you’re resonating is what you’re attracting.”
~ Michael Oliver
If you do not like what is happening in your life, and in your business life, then it could be the result of thinking that is contrary to universal truths, principles.
These are not some philosophical, “new age”, attraction factor, ideologues. In fact, they come from a man that lived over 2,000 years ago…
“As a man thinks in his heart (soul) so shall he become.” ~ Jesus
Our lives, and therefore our businesses, are a reflection of ourselves. We are intrinsically tied to every thing that we do, simply because we are a part of “it” and it of us. Therefore, my advice to anyone, would be to stay centered with your soul, and your soul centered with your creator. Then, and only then, could one expect to live a life centered on what is right, and what is good and that which is beneficial for all parties involved.
Thank your for the opportunity to comment on a really enjoyable article.
Thanks for the great compliments and quotes James. Really appreciate the time.
Couldn’t agree more! Surprisingly, our most popular blog posts are uncovering people who are operating unethically! One post is on Magniwork (plans for a free energy generator – which is obviously a scam):
and another was on Green Millionaire (not quite a scam, but unethical in my opinion):
Turns out you can make much more money scamming people online than putting out good, honest content, you just have to be able to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, realize you’re looking at a bad person and be o.k. with that…
I don’t know if I agree with the last part. There are extremely ethical guys out there making a lot of money with content. Darren Rowse is an example.
You are absolutely right. An ethical life is its own reward
I would add daily reflection or meditation practice to the list of lessons at the end of your article.
A recent article explains the crucial importance of daily reflection to help us realize the benefits of a principle-based life:
Thanks for writing this. Could not agree more. It’s comforting to know that there are people out there who truly believe in honesty.
This is a biggie for me. To my knowledge, I’ve never done anything while blogging that would be construed as black hat or unethical. (Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever been presented with the opportunity to do so either.)
Now in my financial services job…I was encouraged to be unethical as long as it benefited the bank, not the customer. I could never bring myself to totally screw over the people I was supposed to be helping, but the pressure to do so was always there. I have no idea how I didn’t get fired during my 8 years there because I wasn’t “aggressive” enough in my sales tactics. Left such a bad taste in my mouth by the time I finally quit that I haven’t even been able to blog about personal finance since then.
Yeah I have friends in that industry and the pressure they are put under is quite intense. Don’t know how they do it.
It’s not easy, but the fact that the bonus/commission structures are attractive definitely makes it difficult to leave without taking a pay cut. When it finally came down to the stress of the job damaging my health, the decision to get out was easy – pay cut or not.
All I can say is that I agree whole heartedly. Its a topic of great interest for me and I think about this all the time. In fact, Im kinda proud of myself of being able to build altruism into the latest business venture.
I preach altruism all the time but all my biz efforts so far added altruism as a nice-to-do afterthought. With the latest project, its part of the fabris of the business model. Im very proud of that fact.
So..thnx for talking about this topic.
Good work Dino. Hope it works out well for you.
“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your own path”. I truly believe that.
Good article here, BT.
Thank You, Christina – short and to the point ! x
Well written article, ethics are necessary becuase of this no business can be done. Ethics help you to make a brand name and a good image in people eyes which will be fruitful in long-term basis
This is why the Mr. Rodgers post is the biggest draw on my blog – everyone is looking for that good neighbor – that expression of care while learning new things.
I had a situation a while back… a few members of this forum I go to were talking about this great book they read. The author was a participant in the Real Estate Carnival so I asked him for a copy.
He sent me a copy and I really wanted to like it… but it was horrible. Plus I don’t believe that “rent to own” investing is ethical. IMHO it’s predatory lending. So in my first attempt at selling an Amazon affiliate product I was honest and I razzed it.
Honestly if someone buys a book I get to buy a pack of bubblegum…I’m not lily white but I’m not about to lie for $5 either.
This lesson taught me a lot, if I bought the book instead of getting it for free, I would have felt better about my review of it sucking.
For small blogger then if you’re ethical it means that you have to try a product before endorsing it. This book was $40 and I didn’t like it. How many books do I have to buy before I find one I think is good? Well in my industry probably 20 or so. 20×40=$800. Will I sell enough books to warrant spending $800 on books? Not even close at this point.
It’s the same with Commission Junction and Clickbank and so on. But for smaller bloggers just getting established it doesn’t make financial sense to be ethical. I’m certainly not the first person to notice that where money is involved ethics tend to get a little foggy especially when the electric bill isn’t paid.
So if I use something and like it, then I’ll recommend it but I’m not going out and buying stuff for people to find good items to recommend.
You make an interesting point. When it all comes down to it, a successful blogger needs to treat his or her blog like a business. From what I understand, building up traffic takes months and years of constant posting to gain a solid readership.
Everyone of us who has responded to this post has very different niches. Like you, some focus on a specific industry, while others, like myself, is trying to focus on something that is intangible (something that has no real product base).
Your particular blog is so specific to the rental industry. The advice you give in your posts can land you a new client, and I hope your posts have landed you several.
I’m in no ways and expert, but in essence, a blog is a business. You need to invest in it (in the correct arenas–filtering your content to the right readers) and work hard before you see any real results. It looks like you’ve been at your blog for quite a while, so I’m not trying to teach you anything.
This is where I’m at right now. I have no intention on reading $800.00 worth of books to write a good review. I would rather take that $800 and invest it in advertising to reach my target audience. My blog’s content will need to speak for itself. And quite frankly, if my content isn’t good, I won’t have any readership.
Quitting your day job to build a blogging empire overnight is not going to happen–that’s like moving to New York, expecting to be a hit on some Broadway production. It’s not going to happen without working hard.
At least that’s how I see it.
I have found that the best route is to expect people to be people. People lie cheat and steal. They also eat other people when they need to.
There have been numerous documented episodes of people being stranded, in the ocean on a life raft, in crashed airplanes and so on. When push comes to shove at first the dead become food then the weaker members of the group. Of course, sitting in the luxury of our nice comfortable homes(with a full belly), we look upon them and wonder how could these people be so devoid of ethics. Prior to the incident that led to other people being steak these people were no different than you or I.
It’s easy to claim to be ethical, I would rather ask myself how ethical am I and how can I improve? I’m also a pragmatist, if the choice is between eating or being food, I’ll eat. You’d be very surprised to find the mechanisms your own mind has in place to protect you from the horrors of such choices.
When I’m deal with other people I carefully look at how they treat others around them, that tells me more about how they will treat me than any drivel that comes out of their mouths. If there’s one phrase that gives me the urge to run out of the room screaming it’s “You can trust me”
I can trust you? Hmmph
Can I trust you not to drink my iced coffee if it’s the last one one in the fridge?
Can I trust you tell me the truth even when it will dreadfully hurt my feelings?
Can I trust you to become food instead of eating me or shall we team up and eat others?
How do you treat those most vulnerable? How do you treat your children? How do you treat your partner? What about when you’re tired or cranky?
What if a stupid person wanted to hire you and pay you more than market rates? Would you tell them any different?
What if someone asked you about a person who had stolen from you? Would you talk behind their back then?
We’re all pretty much doing the best we can with what we have.
I’m disturbed by how fixated you seem to be on eating other people. 😉
I probably can’t be trusted with a bag of chips either 🙂
Since you have shared ” the Dalai Lama ” quote this has became very interesting post according to me. I would like to also share on more Spiritual Leader profile for you to read. Most extra-ordinary person in ordinary form. H.D.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj http://www.dipeshpatel.com/2011/01/famous-person/
He is truly a man that inspires thousands around the world since past 4 decades. You would want to know more about the Organization more because its almost like a mini empire.
Lastly his best creation and International Dignitaries
can be found on http://www.akshardham.com/opinions/international.htm
Thanks for the wonderful post on ethics.
Here’s an ethics test…if you are honestly interested in building community here on BT, don’t link your comments to your web site.
Eh, maybe I just need some fresh air.
What do you mean Chris?
There are a lot of potentially shady deals that people within my niche link to. I always try to take myself all the way through a deal before I link to it. It might mean I don’t post as many deals as other bloggers, but it’s worth it to me to only send quality deals my readers way.
I even go so far as to suggest that my readers only sign up for freebies with an alternate email address, because lets face it…nothing is really for free.
I try to stay, to the extent of my knowledge, on the straight and narrow. I guarantee if there is anything black hat going on on my site right now it’s due to me being naive, not knowingly cheating the system.
I am incredibly proud of what I have built thus far. Because I’ve done it the good old fashioned way. Learned as I’ve gone and my site has totally supported itself. I’m sure I’ve made some blunders along the way, but I do think when you build something from the ground up, the pride and sense of accomplishment is worth the time it takes to do things the right way.
Great article BT. I agree with everything you say.
While black hat stuff gets you quick results, they don’t last. A long running business is much more satisfying. And the slow and steady always wins the race.
Thanks for encouraging this positive energy.
Great post BT – it’s far too easy to take a short term view, whether you are building a blog or any other type of business
Loyal customers aren’t just good because they are cheaper than getting new ones, they also tend to be worth more money to you and become advocates of your work
I’ve been tempted to join the unethical online entrepreneurs in the past but my conscience made it impossible.
Ripping someone off all cause he/she ain’t knowledgeable about a particular subject just doesn’t cut it for me.
I might not be religious but I have a great deal of respect for Karma