Exploring Wild was born from my desire to inform and inspire readers as they navigate their own adventurous dreams. Though the site has grown a lot since then, the core mission has not changed.
Unfortunately, the more I learn about online publishing the more I see how much “information” out there is paid for. It’s advertising, dressed up to look like a blog post. I regularly get emails offering money in exchange for publishing an article, promoting a product, or adding a link to one of my posts. For some bloggers this becomes a primary business model. I get it, it’s tempting, but I decided early on that I could not enjoy running this site if I went in that direction.
It’s deeply important to me that you, my readers, can trust what you find here on Exploring Wild. So I’ve developed this “Trust and Transparency Policy” to let you know exactly how I run this site.
Sponsored Posts: Nope!
I do not publish anything in exchange for money. My words are my own, and I want them to be authentic and trustworthy. Once money changes hands, conflict of interest between the advertiser and the reader is inevitable. If you read something on Exploring Wild you can be sure no one paid for it to be there.
Paid Links: Nope!
I do not add links in exchange for money. Paying for links is common practice because more links leads to higher ranking in search engines. I decline 100% of these requests. If I link to another site from Exploring Wild, it’s because I believe it’s a useful and relevant resource.
I do very occasionally link to sites that are brought to my attention as truly excellent resources. Sometimes I link to content from other bloggers who I have met online or in person and come to respect. In all cases I make sure the page I’m linking to is trustworthy and valuable.
Gifted Gear: Sometimes
I do sometimes accept “gifted” items from companies looking to increase their exposure. I do this very carefully because there is potential for conflict of interest, and I have turned down quite a few offers that didn’t meet my criteria.
I only accept items if they meet these requirements:
- I might have bought it for myself if I’d known about it and/or had the budget for it.
- I’ll be able to use it often in my current activities, so I can offer a compelling review.
- It’s unique and useful and I believe readers will benefit from knowing about it.
- The company agrees to a “no strings attached” exchange in which they freely offer the product and I write whatever I want about it, or don’t write about it at all.
When done thoughtfully, this helps me experience a wider range of gear than my personal budget would allow. I also enjoy helping small businesses gain a foothold for their legitimately awesome products in a crowded market. And yes, since this is a transparency policy, let me be transparent: I like free stuff. Who doesn’t?
When I review gifted gear I do my best to review it as if I had paid for it. I always disclose that it was gifted, because there is still a chance that my views are subconsciously influenced.
Affiliate Links: Sometimes
I do sometimes use affiliate links, which means if you click a link to a product and then buy something from that site, I get a small commission in exchange for sending them a customer. The price you pay as a buyer is exactly the same; my cut comes out of the seller’s revenue.
This is one of the ways I’m able to make a bit of money with this website, which is the only way I can justify the countless hours of time I pour into it when I could be doing something that pays far better.
When used properly, affiliate links aren’t a conflict of interest. I ask myself first, is this a product I want to link to? And then, secondarily, can I do it via affiliate link? If a product is great but doesn’t have an affiliate program, I link to it anyway.
I never use affiliate links to promote products I don’t personally recommend based on experience or research. Companies regularly offer affiliate commissions for linking to their hot new thing (another water bottle, cooler, nutrition product, etc.) and I always ignore these, as they are just another form of paid advertising.
Guest Posts: Sometimes
I do sometimes publish guest content in the form of standalone posts, interviews, or reviews from people I actually know, either online or in person. As the site grows I feel it’s important to include more perspectives, so I actively seek out these guest contributions from experienced and knowledgeable bikers, hikers, and travelers.
I do not publish “guest posts” that are offered for the purpose of building links (see Paid Links above), which happens almost daily. If someone emails me to propose a guest post, the answer is basically always no.
Banner Ads: Yes
I do run banner ads on Exploring Wild. I’m sorry! I hate them too.
Income from ads, along with careful use of affiliate links, is what allows me to justify working on this site instead of the more traditional career I stepped away from. We all need to pay our bills somehow.
The ads on Exploring Wild are served through Mediavine, a respected ad management company focused on bloggers and content creators. They offer fine-grained controls that I’ve used to block ad topics I find ethically questionable, and they comply with the ever-changing world of consumer privacy regulations and best practices. I use their settings to adjust the ad density to lower than the recommended amount, and I don’t run annoying popup or video ads that I find too intrusive, even though they would make more money.
I do always try to be honest about the amount of experience and expertise I bring to my writing. I acknowledge that I am not the best, fastest, most hardcore, or most experienced among hikers, bikers, travelers, or anyone else. I am just another person out there doing my thing, and I happen to also love writing and website building more than most. Hence you are reading what I have to say instead of others with equal or greater experience.
Fortunately I know enough to know what I don’t know. I supplement my personal experience with knowledge from online research and picking the brains of other adventurers, both online and in person. Meeting other experienced folks is one of the many advantages of spending time on long-distance trails and routes.
I never write about unfamiliar subjects just because they will bring traffic to the site. I’m happiest when creating unique niche content that meets a real need and doesn’t already exist.
Hopefully this policy has given you a better sense of what you can expect on Exploring Wild. Maybe it’s also opened your eyes to the complications of online information, so you’ll be better equipped to know what you can and can’t trust as you explore the wild world of… online content.