When it seems like everyone from your boss to your grandmother has published and is maintaining a blog, the pressure to build your own can be overwhelming. Blogs are great marketing tools for your business or professional image, can help you to keep far-flung family members updated on new developments in your family unit and are effective platforms for the sharing and discussion of political and spiritual beliefs. What they’re not, however, is completely anonymous or free of risk if you decide to include sensitive information.
These are 20 of the things you will want to carefully consider before adding them to your blog, in the interest of safety, improving readability, your professional reputation and anonymity.
•Embedded Music – If you want to expose the world to your new favorite song, post a link to it so that your readers can choose to listen to it or skip it at their leisure. Few things are as off-putting to readers as being accosted with loud music the moment your landing page loads.
•Your Address – It should go without saying, but even blogs that are password protected can be hacked. Never post your home or work address on your blog, unless the blog exists solely for professional reasons and is a promotional tool to drive traffic to your business. Even then, make sure that you only post your office address or, if you work from home, a secure post office box address.
•Identifying Photographs – In the same respect, you shouldn’t post pictures of your neighborhood, house or place of work. What may seem like an innocent picture of your front yard can actually be an identifying photograph tipping off your location for criminals and others with less than noble intentions.
•Animated, Busy Backgrounds – The cute fireflies or flashing fireworks that look so cool to you can be incredibly distracting to people trying to read your content.
•The Name of Your Small Town – If you live in a major metropolitan area, vague references to living in New York City or Los Angeles shouldn’t be too much of a personal-information giveaway. If you’re living in a small town and operating a personal blog with no function as a professional marketing tool, however, you don’t want to share the name of your community online.
•Help for Identity Thieves – Posting a photo of your driver’s license or other information that could potentially be stolen is a no-brainer, but it’s not unheard of for less tech-savvy bloggers to post things on their blogs that lead to identity theft.
•Details About Your Upcoming Vacation – No matter how excited you are about your upcoming vacation, it’s best to save the gloating until you return home. Posting that you’re about to be away from home for an extended period of time, especially if you’ve been less than cautious about sharing clues that could lead nefarious readers to your home address, is just inviting someone to rob you while you’re away.
•Your Professional Grievances – Blowing off some steam by sharing exactly what you think about your boss or a particularly problematic client might make you feel better in the long run, but it can quickly come back to haunt you if your blog is discovered by a colleague or competitor.
•Furious Rants – Everyone gets angry from time to time, and few things relieve the pressure as well as a long-winded, expletive-filled rant. The problem with posting those rants on your blog is that not only does no one else want to read them, but they also make you seem like a dangerously angry person.
•Obnoxious Self-Promotion – If your blog is a professional marketing tool, you’ll want to make sure that it functions as such. Including blatant, over-the-top self-praise can actually have the opposite effect, though. Make sure that your self promotion is subtle, honest and to the point.
•Pictures of Your Children – Running a parenting blog is a popular and often lucrative enterprise for moms and dads, but sharing pictures of your kids to the entire world may expose them to people that you’d rather not be seeing them.
•Kids’ Names and Ages – It’s not difficult for a truly determined person to piece together enough information to pose a threat if you’re overly open when it comes to what you share online. Many parent bloggers use code names for their kids, and are vague about little ones’ exact ages.
•Real Names of Unwitting “Stars” – When you want to discuss something that’s upset you or paints another in a negative light, the last thing you want to do is include their real name. In an age where everyone is encouraged to run their names through search engines to keep tabs on their virtual reputations, such candor can easily lead to trouble in real life.
•The Name of Kids’ Schools – Events at your kids’ schools or issues regarding the school system can be great blog fodder, but you never want to share the names of kids’ schools. Paired with other information you may have let slip, those names can make it easier for determined readers to track you down.
•Plagiarized Content – If you didn’t write it or don’t have permission to share it, don’t repost it; especially if you’re doing so in a manner that makes it seem like your own work.
•Copyrighted Materials – There’s a very real war going on regarding intellectual property in the new frontier that is the Internet. Unless you’d like to become a figure in these battles, it’s best not to share download links or host material if you don’t own its copyright.
•Links to Personal Social Networking Pages – Professional bloggers may want to link to their social networking pages set up specifically for that purpose, but you should never link to your personal pages. Adding just one of your readers can lead to major leaks of personal information, as people tend to be less cautious about what they share on Social Media when they have privacy settings in place.
•Sensitive Professional Information – If you know a trade secret of the company that employs you, or even if you just want to talk about the working environment, be sure that you’re cautious about what you share. Most employers today have social networking and Internet policies in place governing what can and cannot be shared without reprisal, and you don’t want to find yourself unemployed in real life because you blabbed too eagerly on your blog.
•Password Hints – Your mother’s maiden name, the mascot of your high school, the name of your pet or the year your father was born can seem like fairly innocuous information to share in the course of a personal narrative, but those facts are often the password-reset links for financial and email sites. Don’t share anything that could potentially be a hint that would help someone either guess or reset your password.
•False or Questionably True Statements About Other People – The court system doesn’t care if you were angry when you posted a blog entry or how well you thought it was hidden. If you print or share damaging information about someone that later proves to be false, you could face libel charges.
Written by Hannah Howard