Trust is easily the most valuable and most fragile of all the commodities a blogger has to have to be successful.
However, making complete strangers trust you and count on you is no simple task, especially when they will most likely never meet you. It can require years of tireless, consistent work, the ability to repeatedly prove that you are capable of delivering on what you promise and constantly striving to build a reputation for high quality work.
But for all of the work required to build trust, it can be lost in the blink of an eye. One breach of that trust, no matter how small, can set you back months, even years in terms of trust and some incidents can even overshadow your entire history, becoming damaging “buts” to an otherwise stellar reputation.
Learning how to build and keep trust is critical for every blogger. If your readers are going to let you in as part of their lives, no matter how small of a part that is, they need to know what role you’re going to fulfill and that you will do it well. Trust is often what separates the one-off or casual reader from the avid fan, trust is how you build inbound links and trust is how you grow your site.
Fortunately, building and managing trust is easier than many make it out to be, but it isn’t quite as simple as just doing quality work either. To build and keep trust, there are steps you have to take to ensure that others are receptive to your work and will notice your efforts, thus ensuring that your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
Trust is something that is gained with months of tireless posting and work, but can be lost in a matter of minutes with one poorly-handled mistake or one act of dishonesty.
In short, with blogging one misstep can, quite literally erase months, even years of high-quality work. A reputation is slow to be built, but quick to be blemished and there is no avoiding that reality.
But as fragile as trust is, it is at least equally valuable. Trust is the very foundation upon which a reader base is built upon and it is what keeps people coming back to your site, causes them to tell others about it and even link to it from their sites. A good reputation even impacts casual readers or newcomers, encouraging them to link to your content when they are interested in it and to trust your content as reliable, even if they don’t visit it regularly.
In short, the more trust you’re able to build, the more likely your readers will come back, the more they will spread the word about your site and, over time, the better it will do in the search engines for relevant terms as inbound links grow.
This makes trust absolutely essential to build and maintain, but it’s not going to be easy to do and the best time to start thinking about these issues is day one. However, if you haven’t been pondering these issues, there’s also no time like the present to get started.
How to Avoid It
There’s no simple key to building and maintaining trust. The vast majority of the process is simply a matter of doing consistent, high-quality work over a long period of time. The better the content you create and the more regularly you provide it, the more people will trust in your ability to keep providing it in the future.
Still, there are several key steps that bloggers can and should take to ensure that their hard work has the maximum possible effect and to minimize the potential damage and slip up or problem can cause.
Here are a few such things any blogger can do today:
- Use a Professional Theme: First impressions do matter. If your site has an unprofessional theme, you start out with a negative amount of trust with every visitor and have to claw your way back to zero with good content. Spend the time and/or money to create a good, professional theme and your visitors will respect you more right off the bat.
- Be Human: People don’t trust websites, they trust other people. So, try to make yourself as human as possible. Include a bio, a photo and just enough personal information to let people know that you are a real, live person and not just a faceless site.
- Learn to Say “I Don’t Know”: Admitting you don’t know something publicly can be the hardest thing a blogger has to do, especially if they are trying to position themselves as an expert. However, admitting the limits of what you do and do not know increases trust in the things you do say. We all have limitations so it is best to be honest about them.
- Interact With Your Audience: People trust others that they “know” and the best way to have people know you online is engage with them. Reply to comments, answer emails and encourage participation in your site. Once people have interacted with you, they are much more likely to invest in you emotionally and trust you moving forward.
- Make Your Case: There’s a fine line between being a braggart and explaining why people should trust you. Be sure to talk about your accomplishments, list any mentions you’ve gotten in the press and anything else that might show you to be an expert or otherwise trustworthy. Even small awards can be a big deal for newcomers looking for a reason to believe in you.
For additional tips, check out Andrew Rosen’s article last year about how to build trust on your site.
However, all these steps are, at the end of the day, are boosts to your trust and not magic tools for creating it out of thin air. In short, they are meaningless without putting in the work and effort to consistently produce high quality content and the knowledge to handle mistakes well.
In the end, it’s the day to day grind, more than anything, that builds trust and generates respect, even if it is the least sexy or interesting part of the process.
On the Web, trust is difficult to earn, critical to have and easy to lose all at the same time. If you run a blog and you want it to grow, you need to focus of building and sustaining trust.
Obviously, this isn’t going to be easy and it will require a lot of hard work, but if you take steps to nurture your site’s reputation and consistently do good work, you’ll likely find that the trust flows naturally.
After all, the best trust is the kind that’s earned organically, not the kind that’s won over with slick marketing copy or grandiose promises. Earned trust is the only kind with any staying power, that can weather small storms and even absence.
In short, people don’t forget when you earn their trust, as fragile as that trust still is, but you still have to set your site up to make your readers receptive to giving you a chance.
But if you do that, put in the time and produce the content they want, your readers will trust you and that is something no amount of advertising can buy.