With the constant need to create content and the growing trend to write review-style articles to sell affiliate or CPA offers it is easy to get detached from the reality that a thinking, breathing, often scared human is reading them.
It is so important to remember that there is a real person, with real feelings on the other side of the monitor when we sit down to write an article.
A few weeks ago my wife started feeling an intense burning sensation on her leg and the skin there looked a little blistered.
She went to see her doctor and was give a cream to apply. She was also told the latin name for the particular condition.
We thought nothing of it, but unbeknownst to me she came home and looked up the name of the condition on Google.
The result was that the five top ranked listings turned out to be articles written by affiliates of a pharmaceutical company.
My wife read the articles, and not being involved in Internet marketing, had no idea that people can write anything they like online. She took the articles as gospel.
As they talked about the condition being incurable and that it almost invariably leads to cancer she was naturally terrified. A bright, bubbly lady was reduced to a frightened, crying, depressed mess in minutes.
Of course, the articles were painting the very worst case scenario to frighten people into buying the expensive miracle product they were pimping.
A chat the next day with a specialist confirmed that yes, the condition CAN be serious, but only in rare cases if left untreated. Delia's had been picked up very early, so is very unlikely to develop. And it is already responding well to treatment.
Now, the point of me writing all this is that as an article writer myself I know how easy it is to lose sight of the fact that someone very vulnerable might read what you've written. Personally, I don't ever write on medical matters and certainly would never give medical advice, but ailments aren't the only things we can over-egg.
I hear people saying that all's fair in marketing, but I totally disagree.
A few years ago everyone was bulding AdSense sites on a particular type of lung cancer because lawyers chasing class action clients were paying massive amounts to get their AdWord ads shown. I felt very uncomfortable about that too because there was just so much garbage being written to attract the views and AdSense clicks from people who have just learned that they, or a loved one, have a terrible disease.
It's not cool. Not cool at all.
My wife is calmer now and I've found some real authority sites for her to read, which have helped a lot. And explained to her how Google works (something 'regular' people don't understand.)
But I don't think I can easily forgive those five ambulance chasers who wrote scare-mongering garbage just to make a quick buck, and, as a result, made my wife cry.
As article writers we may not be specifically regulated, but we sure as hell should adhere to a moral and ethical code of our own - and in my book that means not preying on the scared and vulnerable.