Many tea vendors have, in addition to their online store, a company blog about tea (pssst! you’re reading one now). Often, the goal is to increase the knowledge of tea among their customers so they feel more comfortable ordering teas outside of their normal selections. Considering the price of some of the more fine teas, this knowledge is a great convincer. Being able to link to reviews on external sources lends further credibility.
Are all these blogs created alike, though? Do they give you reliable information? Or are they slanted in favor of their products? Well, no to the first question, and yes and no to the 2nd and 3rd questions.
1 Keyword Loading
Some blogs are geared more toward making sure their posts are loaded with the right keywords to trick search engines like Yahoo! and others into putting them at the top of the hits lists. One store’s blog touted as among the best at first struck me as good, too. Then, I wrote an article for the site owner and found out that this was one of those blogs more interested in loading up the keywords. He gave me instructions to include certain terms in the first 50 words, and the terms should be repeated at least once in that space. (If you ever wondered why some blog posts start out with words like “iced tea” being repeated several times in the first paragraph or two, now you know.)
2 Hidden Authors
Lack of bylines and heavy editing of anything submitted to the blog is another issue. Sure, store blogs are marketing tools. However, like any tool, they can be used for good or not. The item I wrote for that store blog was heavily edited and then posted without my name appearing. (I didn’t mind the lack of a byline since some of the blog owner’s edits actually changed meaning enough so that the article was no longer accurate.) It turned out that most of the items on that blog were written by people other than the blog owner, yet he made it appear as if he wrote them. Some blogs don’t even go that far in giving you any idea who wrote the stuff on their blog. For all you know, it could have been Cheeta. It is good to give proper credit to the writers and not to heavily edit their text. As a reader, I like knowing who is putting forth the information and if they are knowledgeable enough on the subject matter to have their content be taken seriously.
3 Unsubstantiated Health Claims
Not only do a lot of store blogs have no writer credits, they also have no medical study credits. The blog I wrote that article for was full of others making various health claims about tea, none being credited (that is, linked to actual medical studies). Even though I might not be able to fully understand the studies, I would still like to know that the claims aren’t something the writer just pulled out of the ether of his/her imagination.
4 Tunnel Vision
Contrasting viewpoints are not always presented on those store blogs, sometimes because they go against what products the blog owner is selling on the store site. And nothing negative gets presented unless it shows their own products in a good light. This blog has always followed a policy of encouraging different viewpoints from writers. For example, there were two reviews posted of the same style of steeping mug with very opposite takes. Both reviews were posted even though that product is an item offered for sale by this blog owner. Another example is that some writers promote bagged teas while I mainly promote loose teas; both viewpoints are posted. Some like milk in their tea, while others don’t. Vive la différence!
5 One-Note Tune
Most of these blogs stick to straightforward posts about tea. We go for variety. Our topics range from reviews of their products, to info on teas, to more in-depth looks at some of the companies producing the teas and treats they sell, to tea book reviews, to stories about enjoying tea as part of life, to the latest news tidbits and gadgetry, and more. Anything and everything related to tea!
While tea vendor blogs have their place in your line-up of tea info resources, their content can vary. And seeing who is writing the info you are reading can be a good thing. Thanks for reading!
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