Would You Visit An Anonymous Blog or Website Twice?





Staci Wood, our Program Manager here, started a discussion thread over at the new Small Biz Trends Facebook group entitled “Blogging Pet Peeves.” That triggered some advice that I’d like to share with you about “anonymous” blogs and websites.

We get tips here at Small Business Trends about new blogs or new websites over a dozen times a week. More than half we pay no attention to.

Why?  Because of one simple reason: I do not know who is behind the site.

Typically in those situations, we get contacted with an email like this:

Firstname-at-gmail.com writes and says “I just started a blog (or, discovered a great site) at xyz123site.com. It’s got some wonderful resources that your readers might find interesting. Check it out (or, would welcome your feedback, or is this something your readers would find valuable).”  Signed  …  “John.”

Often there is no last name in the email. Or it’s such a generic name that it smells a little fishy (“John Smith”).  There is no signature block with contact information in the email — nothing.

OK, so the “anonymous” or “semi-anonymous” nature of the email is a bit of a red flag. But I go visit the site and have a look-see anyway.

Unfortunately, the anonymity continues. Upon arriving at the site, you find nothing to indicate who owns the site. There’s no About section to tell you more about the company or people behind the site. You find no link to any related business website or corporate parent site. If it’s a blog, the name of the person writing the articles or blog posts is missing.  Or it just shows a first name such as “John.”

There is no copyright notice with the name of an individual or business. You find no pictures of real people who work at the business or who write the blog. Most telling, you find no address, phone number or email contact information.

The problem is, even if it’s a good site with good content or an interesting resource that small businesses might find valuable, the anonymous nature of it means I won’t write about it. Today, with so many scraper sites and fake sites pushing special agendas, it’s hard to tell what the motives may be.

The site could well be legitimate. I suspect some are.  Maybe those behind the site are just shy about revealing information publicly.

But without any identifying information, first-time visitors will be far less likely to trust your site.

Plus, I don’t know about you, but I want to develop relationships with real honest-to-goodness people and real businesses.  You can’t do that with anonymous sites.

So here’s a bit of advice.  The chances of getting us to pay attention to a business website or blog skyrocket if we know who the real people are behind it.  Even if you have a really good reason for keeping the site anonymous (maybe it’s a personal blog and you don’t want your employer to know), at least introduce yourself in your email.

But maybe I’m off base.  How do you feel about anonymous websites:

  • Would you buy anything from an anonymous website?
  • Would you visit an anonymous site again?
  • Have you ever linked to or quoted an anonymous site?

Image: Shutterstock

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

37 Reactions

  1. I would not visit it again or buy from it. I am a small business owner and believe in working with the same kind of businesses but I need to know something about you to determine that factor don’t I?

  2. I completely agree with you. I’m not sure whether people are lazy or just don’t understand the connections between good manners, branding and business success. I firmly believe, and teach my clients, that people are attracted to their business not solely because of the products and services they offer, but also because of them — the face behind the brand. I posted a blog about this called, “Peek-a-boo, who the heck are you?” because like you, I get these anonymous pitches all the time. Thank you for this post. I bet it will cause scales to fall from a lot of people’s eyes. I hope so anyway.

  3. I’m probably not going to buy anything directly from someone anonymous, but a blog? I tried that for awhile, and I would never again do one with my real name on it. I ended up being contacted by some fairly scary people directed to my blog by someone with no more grudge against me than thinking my blog (non-business-related) was “boring”. I finally had to shut the whole thing down after someone tried to DoS me and someone else started sending messages about how “it’s not too hard to find where you live.” All of this, no lie, sparked by a post on money-saving tips for dates. I still have no idea why it upset those two so much.

    I don’t need last names and addresses and phone numbers to read a blog. If you’re giving advice, the quality of advice is what you need. If you’re aggregating links, I’ll read if you find interesting links. Now, if you’re purporting to be an expert in your field, I definitely want to know who you are… but if you’re writing about your experiences as an owner of a small business, I’ll honestly be more confident in the accuracy of your blog if you *aren’t* telling me exactly what business you run, because otherwise it will sound like you’re selling me your business, not your information.

    And I don’t read blogs to be advertised to. I don’t read blogs to figure out products or services to buy. I read for information. For larger blogs some credibility is lent by using real names, but a single blogger lacks some of the protections of a larger organization and I don’t fault them at all for not wanting to be too exposed. There are some really crazy people out there.

  4. Anonymity breeds contempt

  5. I get in my comments column many links like this and when I trace it, I reach to anonymous blogs. I think these anonymous blogs are automated. I delete them as spams.

  6. Anita Campbell

    Hi OldSailor, I actually don’t even mind anonymous comments here. That doesn’t bother me at all.

    Now, trackbacks from spam sites I definitely delete those.

    I just don’t like to visit anonymous sites or write about them, no matter how good they are. Anita

  7. Would I buy a product or service from an annonymous blog? No, I would not. But if it’s a blog that isn’t conducting itself as a business, just a personal blog that includes writings – then I would visit again or maybe even quote something small but it would depend on the situation.

    Funny though, I was going to mention some of the same reasons Susan above mentioned for keeping blogs annonymous at times. Especially if you are writing a blog that contains some “offbeat” topics. Skads of people will appear regularly to launch nasty verbal attacks on you. It’s crazy, but true. And in that case, I think annonymity is a safer option. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, however, there are a lot of people out there that cannot seem to accept that. And they spend the bulk of their time trying to force THEIR opinion down your throat via nastiness and smear campaigns. It’s sad.

    But when it comes to the business aspect, I’m not buying anything from anyone that doesn’t reveal some background about the business or themselves openly. I’ll read material written by annonymous writers, but won’t be conducting business with them.

  8. Hi Anita,

    I couldn’t agree more and come across the same situation with both my blog and my work with Register.com’s Learning Center (www.registerlearningcenter.com).

    I’m sure a lot of them are automated, as mentioned in the above comments.

    Joe

  9. I definitely would not purchase from a website that has no backround info. Now, I don’t expect to find their personal phone number, address, etc. I don’t provide that info on my own website. As Susan stated, I too am nervous putting my full name, address and phone number. I’m too afraid to take chances with that these days. I would only expect to learn a little something about the person behind the site. If I want to contact them, I feel an email address is sufficient.

    A blog just needs to provide interesting content to get me to keep returning. If they remain anonymous, that’s ok to me.

    I can understand, Anita, that you do not want to lead your loyal readers to sites you aren’t sure about. I feel that if they want you to review or recommend their site, they should contact you on a more personal level.

  10. Joel Libava

    Hi Anita,
    For me, if I have to spend more than about a minute trying to find the “about” link, I move on. Most of the anonymous sites are just advertising sites, anyway.

    Some folks in my industry {franchising] come up with these cool looking sites, call themselves “consultants” and say “FREE SERVICE FROM EXPERIENCED CONSULTANTS.”

    But there is no name, no one to contact at all. Just an email address. Not even a real postal address.

    Anita, sites like these only help folks that ARE legitimate.

    Joel Libava
    The Franchise King Blog

  11. Not only will I not buy from an anonymous site, but as a business writer, I find much of my content plagiarized on anonymous sites. One can generally figure out who these clowns are by conducting a WHOIS search, but there is so much plagiarism on the web that it’s really not worth the time. Joel is right about most of the anonymous sites being advertising sites. Which makes me wonder just how many advertising dollars are being horribly wasted due to strange gimmicks intended to suggest high traffic but unable to deliver qualified prospects for the advertising dollar.

    I have chosen to clearly identify both my personal and my business blogs, though Michelle and Susan are correct that there are some strange folks out there that seem to welcome any opportunity to go on a tirade. Oh well – once one has raised a house full of teenage daughters, no verbal or written outburst can tweak the feelings or ruffle the feathers. And the significantly greater upside is the incredible network of contacts I have formed as a result of being quite clear about my identity, why I write about the things I write about, and how to contact me.

    Andrea

  12. I’m not crazy about anonymous sites. I think it’s hard to have a personal connection over the Net, but you have to at least try.

    As for anonymous blogs, I do believe that there are certain situations where it could be appropriate – say you are sort of a whistle blower at a major corporation – I might like to read you honest dirt, that probably wouldn’t be as honest if you had to disclose your name. But in general, put your life out there a little bit and connect with the folks that stop by!

  13. I agree with Susan, Michelle and Amanda. I have a personal website/blog that I maintain for friends and family. I don’t put my name or the names of my children on the site and am deliberately obscure about our location as well, because I do tell relative strangers about my site, so I want to at least make it a little less simple for people to find me. Folks who know me know those details anyway…

    On the other hand, I also have a business website (not currently active) and on that I put my real name, and our mailing address. That just makes good business sense.

  14. Martin Lindeskog

    Martin Lindeskog

    I think it could be necessary to write blog posts with a nick name instead of a real name, in some cases. I know a reliable individual who has an anonymous blog. He has explained to me in a private email why he is using a nick name and I thought he gave a valid reason for it.

    I wouldn’t buy anything from a site without contact information.

    Personally, I use my real name in order to build my “EGO brand”. I want to inform my readers about the “editor” behind the blog posts. 🙂

    Best Premises,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.

  15. Anita,

    I couldn’t agree more. Like being handed a business card with only the business name on it and no human’s name (which happens far too often). A blog or a website that doesn’t allow me to know who’s behind it is surely not going to get me to feel open with them.

    Well said!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  16. I agree, I like to see the person behind the blog.

    What do you think about blogging under an alias?

  17. Anita Campbell

    Hi Kelly McCausey, I guess the maxim is “NEVER say never.” 🙂

    You see, after I wrote this post I got an email from “Ed” (short for “Editor”) at Blawg Review, who signed it “anonymously yours.”

    Now Blawg Review is a blog that I link to, and it is written anonymously or under an alias of sorts. So I guess first off, that’s one exception right there to my so-called “rule” about no anonymous blogs. Ha ha ha.

    OK, so I’ve been proven wrong already. It turns out, I do pay attention to an anonymous blog now and then, and even link to it.

    But if you look at the Blawg Review blog you’ll see that it seems to have a serious purpose and isn’t trying to sell you something. Plus it’s community oriented — it’s all about highlighting law bloggers.

    So in answer to your question, I guess I can see good reasons to blog anonymously or under an alias such as “Ed” or “Editor”.

    I look at it situation by situation. If a blog looks worthwhile then I could see it being done anonymously or under alias. But I would say it’s usually going to be the exception and not the rule.

    And I can certainly understand some of the comments here with regard to whistle blowers and offbeat topics — that people have very good reasons for blogging anonymously, just as I’m sure Ed does with Blawg Review.

    Un-anonymously yours,
    Anita

  18. This is a very thought-provoking post, especially with regard to design. I have to admit being one of the “Johns” that you mentioned, and perhaps even the inspiration for this post?

    We do in fact have pages on our left navigation that give an author picture, bio, as well as contact mailing address and email address. However, these are probably not as obvious as they should be.

    If the first thing a person thinks when they visit our site is that “This is probably some shady rip off” then evidently we have a lot more work to do. Which is a shame because we work very hard on creating original content, and have many readers around the world who love what we do.

    Over the next few weeks we’ll be working to increase the trust level of our site. Thank you very much for bringing this issue to our attention!

    Neil Simpson
    CIO/Partner – Analisa Enterprises, LLC
    http://fridayreflections.com

    http://fridayreflections.typepad.com/weblog/4_contact_us.html

  19. Anita Campbell

    Hi Neil, I like your site and the cartoons are wonderful.

    Welcome and thanks for commenting. And thanks for your detailed email — very helpful.

    And yes I agree that you will benefit by putting some identifying information on your site.

    Anita

  20. I also can see the advantages of someone remaining anonymous. I think in the case of someone being candid on a subject, it’s in their best interest to be anonymous. In some cases it can be really entertaining.

    Neil, I would have to agree with you about the identifying info not being obvious enough. I had a hard time finding the pic & author information. It definitely wasn’t where I thought it would be. Just my two cents. 🙂

  21. Dawn R. Rivers

    You know, if we’re going to discuss this subject, we probably need to make a few distinctions.

    There are all kinds of reasons to preserve your anonymity on a personal blog and there are some group blogs that create a group identity but may or may not allow readers to know much about the group’s members.

    But I think what Anita is specifically referring to are business blogs targeting small business owners and wannabes.

    Here’s my question: if you are going to write a business blog with no identifying information, what’s the point of writing the blog at all?

    You business blog is going to exist for the purpose of a combination of customer outreach, CRM and marketing, right? And you aren’t going to accomplish much in any of those areas if you don’t identify yourself and your company.

    How stupid is that?

    When you do business, especially online, the last thing you want to do is give people reasons to distrust you. When I encounter people who do just that, yes, I give them a very wide berth.

  22. Good points Dawn. If you are a business blog, I think it’s foolish not to include your info. Afterall, aren’t business blogs started to get your name out there and to establish yourself as a trusted business?

  23. I don’t care about anonymous bloggers or blogs

  24. Agree Don, Why not include your info, you defeat the whole purpose by not doing so—so “NO” to visiting anything anonymous twice.

  25. I think the value is in feeling like there is a real person behind the words. A sense of genuine needs to be felt to build the trust.

  26. I’d agree with Susan over here, if you have a personal blog and just share your thoughts and ideas, then i don’t see why there should be real names behind it, i think nickname does just fine here. On the other hand if we speak about the business blogs or blogs dedicated to market some service or product, then i’d think the real name of the person or at least company behind it is necessary. Without it, it’s hard to trust the blog, and no i would not visit such a business blog twice.

  27. I agree that anonymity isn’t a good idea for building relationships with other bloggers or publicizing your blog. I have an about page with a picture and typically end my blogs with “Cheers!” and my name, so I feel my blog is personalized enough.

    BUT I must say that I do not reject blogs just because I don’t know who’s writing them. Sometimes, I don’t care. For instance, when I was looking up WordPress tips, I didn’t even look for an About Page because all I cared about was the post with the tutorial. I of course linked to it in a post as a Thank-you but at the end of the day, what mattered was the content.

    So, I’m torn. In one way, I agree. In another way, I tend to post links to blogs that my readers might like by its content FIRST, and identification second.

    Thanks for the post!

    Tia

  28. I certainly respect your choice on what you will read, and what you won’t read. Heaven knows that there are only 24 hours in a day, and you have to draw the line somewhere. And I realize that my choice to conduct most of my public online activity since 1998 as “Ontario Emperor” has limited my ability to reach people.

    However, I’m in the same boat as Susan. No one is truly anonymous on the web, and several years ago I ran into someone who outed me, my then-employer, and several other things besides. After that, I very rarely post online under my given name of Barack McClinton.

    (OK, I lied about my real name. But can you blame me?)

    That having been said, I also agree with Susan about BUYING from anonymous sites.

    So the question arises; will the comments from OldSailor and myself be deleted? 🙂

  29. Anita Campbell

    Hi Ontario Emperor,

    I assure you that your comment will not be deleted. 🙂

    In fact, I don’t mind anonymous comments. I figure that as long as the comment is constructive, it doesn’t matter if someone comments under an assumed name.

    No one is going to buy from a commenter, so it’s a totally different thing.

    Glad you commented.

    Best,
    Anita

  30. I was wondering if I should put up a picture of myself in my blog!?

  31. I typically read blogs either (1) when i’m looking for specific advice or information, or (2) to keep up with news – the finance blogs for example have been filled with all sorts of useful information that relate to the current Wall Street crisis.

    For blogs that take an authoritative tone, like Susan, I too definitely want to know who you are. If I come across an anonymous blog through google or through a link from a trusted source, and the content is good, then, sure I have absolutely no problem visiting it again. Being directed to an anonymous blog from an unsolicited email however is another thing. To be trustworthy, the email, has to provide some contact information (be that skype, aim, gmail, linkedin, etc) or I won’t take it seriously. How else can you really differentiate it from spam?

  32. Anita Campbell

    Hi David (Marketing Deviant),

    You’ve got an intriguing website brand going already — who wouldn’t be curious about a site / business called “Marketing Deviant”?

    But I believe that you could increase your credibility by the simple move of adding your photo to the site in your “About” section in place of the mascot. Also, that would help you build your personal brand, which could lead to consulting engagements, speaking gigs, job offers, etc.

    Anita

  33. MarketingDeviant

    Thanks Anita. Guess I need a good photo to go with my about section =D.

  34. As a web designer/entrepreneur, I often face the debate concerning anonymity. It is almost a chicken and egg issue. At what point will the quality be strong enough to represent who I am and what I am about. http://www.theviewfromhome.com is almost at the point that I am willing to associate a part of the site to me. It was that way for awhile, however I felt I needed to wait until the site took more shape so that my section wasn’t the dominant feature.

    As to whether I will buy from an anonymous site. well, it is an issue of branding to me. The personal branding is strong and offers considerable credibility. For businesses, if there is something I want, I will research the company before buying.

  35. I think the best email I ever received about our blog was one letting us know about a great new blog they were writing and would bplans.com link to them. I went to see it and realized they’d scraped all our own content and were now posting it as their own.

    It gave me a great laugh.

    ‘No link for you!’

  36. I had a similar problem, there were times i were in a wifi area creating a username with C/L and flagged that a profile has already been created which sucks. the ad was for lots of free stuff and shopping coupons at http://www.friizii.com

  37. I’d agree with Susan over here, if you have a personal blog and just share your thoughts and ideas, then i don’t see why there should be real names behind it, i think nickname does just fine here. On the other hand if we speak about the business blogs or blogs dedicated to market some service or product, then i’d think the real name of the person or at least company behind it is necessary. Without it, it’s hard to trust the blog, and no i would not visit such a business blog twice.

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