As a blogger, you’re in a very awkward position, especially if you are a relatively new face. You are essentially asking people to trust you and take the things you say seriously even though those who visit your site know almost nothing about you.
Still, whether you’re writing a personal blog, a news site or just providing information, this trust is crucial as very few kinds of blogs can survive without it. Unless your sole goals are shock or parody, trust has to be established for your site to find an audience and survive over the long term.
So how do you go from being a random person on the Web to a trusted source of information? It isn’t easy. Trust is tough to earn but easy to lose, especially online. A lot of it simply comes down to doing good work and providing good content, which will build your reputation over time.
However, there are things you can do to help speed the process along. They are, for the most part, simple, common sense moves that you can make with your blog to encourage your readers to put down their guard.
While they won’t work overnight, most blogs are better off with them than without them.
Breaking Down Barriers
When looking for ways to improve your own trustworthiness, it helps to think about the things that encourage you to put faith in other sites that you read. Sometimes it’s a matter of a name and the reputation that comes with it (e.g. The New York Times, etc.) and some times it is a matter of branding and marketing (e.g. Google, etc.). But without millions of dollars to spend or decades to wait, you have to find ways to make your site more respectable and believable, so you can gain traction in the shorter term.
On that front, here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Be Professional: Quality writing pays dividends when it comes to trust. Write in a professional, albeit personable, style. Be sure to brush up on your basic rules of grammar and spelling. While it is important to have a unique voice, it’s also crucial to avoid mistakes that make you look stupid. Likewise, it is important to make sure your site has a professional appearance, including a good theme and a good URL.
- Admit Your Mistakes: We all make mistakes and, when you make one, it is wise to confess to it publicly and openly. Though you shouldn’t make a grand gesture out of fixing a simple typo, admitting your mistakes and acknowledging when you are wrong in a prompt fashion goes to great lengths to encouraging people to trust you. Admitting your faults is much better than trying to cover them up.
- Disclose, Disclose, Disclose: The FTC’s new guidelines on disclosure should not be the only motivation you have being open about your conflicts. As out own Kevin pointed out last month, disclosure is a good move in general. Being honest about your conflicts actually assures readers that A) You take their trust seriously and B) That you are less likely to let those conflicts interfere. When in doubt, disclose the relationship, it’s just the best thing to do.
- Have a Good Bio: Be sure to include a bio page about yourself and to always include a picture with it if possible. Let your readers get to know a little bit about you personally, beyond just the boring facts, as this makes you more human. If your readers see you as a person rather than just a name on a computer, they are more likely to trust you, especially if they connect with you or share experiences with you.
- Treat Your Readers with Respect and Intelligence: Advertising mogul David Ogilvy had a famous saying “The Consumer is not an Idiot – She’s Your Wife”. Ignoring the tinge of sexism in the quote, the point remains, your readers aren’t buffoons that need talking down to, they are just like other people you know. This should come through in the way you handle yourself in comments, via email and other interactions you have with your readers. If you want your readers to see you as a human being worthy of their trust, you have to treat them the same first.
If you do these things and routinely put out work that is worthy of people’s trust and respect, then you will most likely earn it. Though I can’t promise you fame and fortune, especially with blogging, I can promise you that those who do see your site will take it seriously.
Sadly, trust is no guarantor of success. There are many bloggers who are widely trusted but aren’t famous or wealthy from their blogging activities. It is also true that not every blog that is successful got there on the back of their earned trust. Gossip blogs and comedy sites routinely trade in trust for dirt and laughs.
But for most bloggers, it is easier to find and keep an audience if your have at least a modicum of trust from your readers. After all, when people trust you, that is when they link to you and begin to share your site with others they value. That is how a site begins to gain traction and it is also how one-time visitors become regular readers.
Trust is crucial and you should whatever you can to build it and, even though the steps above won’t offset the mistrust caused by bad information, it can help one’s good work shine through and become more easily noticed by the people who stop by.