Well, yes, there certainly is, although you wouldn't always know it. A lot of it is commonsense, common courtesy and good old-fashioned politeness, so bear those in mind and you might not need any advice at all.
Where it gets compicated is that blogging is a (relatively) new concept. It's not been around as long as any of us have, and very few of us have actually grown up with it. Heck, some of us grew up before the internet was even a twinkle in cyberspace.
People also sometimes forget that behind each blog is a real, living person with feelings and problems and ... well, stuff to do besides blogging. Real life takes over sometimes for all of us and we'd all do well to remember that. None of us is perfect!
So, just for clarity, these are a few of my pointers. You may disagree (feel free to let me know in the comments!). Etiquette of any sort usually centres on politeness and consideration for others, so let this be central to what you do. Here we go then...
My Blogging Etiquette Tips
People who leave comments have taken time out of their day to communicate with you (unless they're spammers and just comment to get you clicking links to often dodgy websites - you can spot them by their generic comments: "great article, I've shown this to my friends and we all think the same..."). Thank your genuine commenters, respond to them, visit their blog and look round. Maybe even leave them a comment on their blog. You might not be able to do this all the time - especially when you're busy - but do engage with your readers as much as possible.
And spam? Most of it gets caught in your spam filter, but if any gets through, delete it as soon as possible - a blog with spam looks uncared for. Like junkmail cluttering up a letterbox.
Be a blog reader. Seriously, reading other people's blogs will help you form opinions about your own writing (as well as other topics) and hopefully help you improve your own writing skills. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your writing - but we can all improve and develop our skills (and therefore our readers' experiences) over time. Reading (and commenting on) other blogs helps you become part of a community, too.
Don't go asking for visitors in someone else's comments box. Nothing makes me cringe more than people saying: this is great, please check out my blog. It doesn't make me want to visit, it really doesn't. It's the internet equivalent of inviting strangers off the street round for dinner. Leaving a comment that's interesting or conversational will pique a blog owner's interest enough to make them want to check your blog out (and maybe interest some of their other visitors too) and maybe kick-start a blogging relationship.
In the same vein, don't go asking (begging!) on Twitter or forums or Facebook or anywhere for followers, readers or visitors. By all means, tell them you've written a new post about X, Y or Z but leave it at that. If they're interested and have a spare five minutes, they'll click your link. You get followers by writing about things that people want to read - it's as simple as that!
Contacting a Blogger
If a blog welcomes features (on here, I'm more than happy to feature small businesses in the form of an interview, with links back to shops and blogs) then contact them personally if you'd like to be featured and - please - treat them as if they're a real person (because - newsflash! - they are). I am much happier to receive an email that begins "Hi Wendy" than one which begins "to whom it may concern" (yes, I get them!). I would guess the latter has been sent to hundreds of blog owners - who knows? In any case, it's not difficult to work out who the blog writer is in almost every case, which leads me on to...
Be Open ...
Be open and honest. Intersperse your posts with a little bit of the real you. Have an "about" page to address your visitors' natural curiosity about you:
- Who are you?
- What interests you?
- Why should I read what you've written?
- Do I have anything in common with you?
... But Not Too Open
It's all well and good being open and honest, but you do need to know how far to take it. A certain amount of personal stuff in a craft or business blog is good - it can help connect you to your reader and can liven the place up a bit. But do people really want to read intimate details you really wouldn't be happy discussing on a bus with a stranger? OK, this is different for everyone - and I'm British with that famous reserve we have - but I have cringed when reading some blogs. It doesn't make me want to go back!
If you're blogging about other people, especially those you know offline, it makes sense to ask them how much they're happy to share. Not everyone will want to feature in your blog!
One of the great things about blogs is the community aspect. You see it right here every week on Handmade Monday. It's a lovely, warm, friendly feel - but there are rules that every week someone breaks. Like every community, there are people who don't seem to care, although it's more likely that they just don't realise.
If you're joining in with something on someone else's blog, then check out those rules before you take part. It means you won't annoy anyone, you'll play fair and you'll make more friends. If in doubt, ask. We all like more traffic, but we don't like people taking advantage by not playing fair.
If someone is offering you something which benefits you in some way (links, etc) then it's only fair that you should reciprocate in some way (usually a link in return).
It's Not Just a Promotion Tool
Your blog is a superb way to promote your business. But if that's all it is to you, people will soon switch off. Blogging just for keyword promotion is the online equivalent of the pushy salesperson - and we all know how wide a berth we give those!
However, it's ok to occasionally have a post which points people to your new product, your new website, your new range - because people are interested in what you do. Don't be frightened of talking about what you sell, but don't be too "in your face" either. Think about how you might talk offline - you would tell people about new things, but it wouldn't be all you talk about. Well, hopfully not!
Being nice sums up the whole etiquette thing. It goes back to the playground, doesn't it? Be nice, and people will be nice back. Be helpful, be kind, be generous, share - and you'll get it all back in bucketloads.
There's an old saying: What goes around, comes around. It's as true online as it ever was offline.
The main thing is - enjoy your blogging experience and help others to do the same, whether they're readers, followers or fellow bloggers. Your blog will be a better place for it.
Have I left anything out? Feel free to add more to this list by leaving me a comment.