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Trust – Principles of Successful Blogging #2

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of October 2009 Other Income Streams 0 Comments

trust.pngToday I want to continue our series of posts looking at principles of building a successful blog by looking at the topic of Trust.

A Quick Definition of The Type Of ‘Successful’ Blog I’m Writing About

It might be worth stating that the type of blog that I’m talking about in this series is a blog that isn’t purely about profit or traffic – but a blog that has influence in its niche.

It is certainly possible to build a profitable and/or well trafficked blog without Trust – in fact I know a few bloggers who blog purely for Search Engine Traffic who don’t really care about influence, brand or loyal readers but who just want traffic that they can convert to cash.

These bloggers are certainly ‘successful’ on some levels (I guess ‘success’ really comes down to your goals) – but that’s not the style of blogging that I do and is not what this series is on about.

What I’m on about is helping bloggers to not only be profitable and have traffic but to build blogs that have profile, influence, authority, credibility, respect and a brand that opens up opportunities beyond quick profit.

By no means is my approach the only way to make money blogging – but it’s where I’m at and as a result is what I write about.

Why Building Trust is Important

OK – so now we’re on the same page lets talk about Trust.

I’m not sure we need to spend too much time talking about ‘why’ building trust is important as it’s pretty much common sense – but in short – if you’re looking to build influence, to build a brand that is respected and you want a site that is authoritative – you’re going to have a lot better chance if people actually trust you.

Yes with some clever copywriting and good positioning in search engines you can probably convince people to buy certain products – but in order to build lasting influence – trust is going to need to play a part.

On the flip side – many businesses today have seen the way that a lack of trust or even worse, broken trust can hurt a business, destroy reputations and ruin years of hard work.

So building and maintaining trust is paramount for bloggers wanting to build influence – so how does one do it?

One of the best resources on the topic of building influence through trust online is Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. However as it’ll take a day or two for Amazon to ship you a copy (and I recommend you get one) I thought I’d jot down a few principles of building trust online that I’ve gathered over the years both from my own experience of trusting others and building trust with others.

A Quick Exercise Before You Read Any More

Before you read my thoughts on how to build trust – here’s a very quick exercise to do.

On a piece of paper or in a text document – jot down a blogger or blog that you trust. Under the name – list 2-3 reasons why you trust them.

OK – read on.

4 Principles of Building Trust Online

1. It usually takes time to build

I’m a pretty sceptical guy – I don’t really want to be but after years of being bombarded with marketing messages and experiencing disappointment at expectations not being met by people making big promises my guard is up. I suspect I’m not alone.
While I’m sure there are people who are more trusting than others – I’m pretty certain that most people in my generation (and the generations that come before and after mine) are a fairly suspicious lot. We are capable of trust – but it usually takes time to get there.

2. It is Earned

I do have the capability to trust you – but more often than not it’ll only come once I see that you’re worthy of that trust. An example of this principle hit my inbox this morning – it was from a reader who had just bought my 31 days to build a better blog workbook.

Her email included this:

“I’ve never bought an ebook before, partly because I don’t trust people with my credit card information and partly because I’ve always suspected most ebooks are just fluff…. But after reading your blog for 12 months and being on the receiving end of useful information every day over that time I decided you were probably a credible source of information”.

The sense that I got from her email was that she only made the purchase based upon her previous experience of what I do – something that was earned by providing her with help day by day over a year.

The take home lesson for bloggers is to give value, be useful and prove that you have something worthwhile and authoritative to say on your topic.

Look for ways to genuinely and generously improve the lives of your readers – do this over the long haul and your deposit in the trust bank with readers grows over time.

3. The recommendations of others are important

I still remember (but can’t find a link to) a post by Seth Godin a year or so back where he talks about how he sells a lot more books through a blog post when he’s talking about someone else’s book than his own.

It was the perfect illustration of how the words and recommendations of other people promotion you carry a lot more weight than you promoting yourself.

We’re social beings – we make decisions together – we buy things that others recommend – we trust those that others trust….

This means you have a couple of tasks to do:

  1. Build relationships with others. Some bloggers take the attitude that other bloggers are potential competition and as a result they stay clear of them. However a recommendation from someone else in your industry could be gold – build relationships.
  2. Find Ways to use this social proof. If someone does recommend you it doesn’t hurt to highlight it to others. You don’t need to do it in an ego driven or big headed way – but do find subtle and relevant ways to share it with those in your network.

4. Be Yourself

One of the fastest ways to destroy trust is to be caught trying to be something that you’re not.

  • Make a promise that you can’t fulfil
  • Present yourself as someone that you’re unable to be
  • Make a claim that’s not true

All of these things set up expectations in the eyes of others that can’t be met which will lead to disappointment, anger, disillusionment and as a result – broken trust.

Not only that – I find that people are pretty good these days at picking people who are presenting themselves as something that they’re not. You might not even have to get caught out to have people suspicious (and untrusting) of you.

  • As a result it’s best to be yourself.
  • Let people know what you do and don’t know.
  • Be transparent about your motives.
  • Share your stories of failure as well as your successes.
  • Admit your mistakes.

All of these things make you more human, relatable and help to build trust.

What Would You Add?

I’ve only scratched the surface on Trust with this post – there’s so much more to say and I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say on the topic.

  • What bloggers do you trust (who did you write down in the exercise above)? Why do you trust them?
  • How do you build trust with your readers?
  • What stories and experiences do you have to help illustrate these principles of building trust?
About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Darren,

    It takes a pretty great blog/blogger to make my rss feed subscriptions. I have about a dozen or so that I read regularly (including yours!). That’s my initial trust filter. I look for bloggers who try to expand my horizons a bit (not just talk about the same old subjects) and those that really defend their positions well. I also look for folks who step out of their own shoes and try to view issues in a fair and balanced way. I try to emulate them in my own blogs.

  2. I hear about the trust thing. It takes time to build it up. One of the largest frustrations I’m experiencing with my blog is reading the Google Reader Trends where it says EpicDoo is the most obscure blog I am subscribed to. (out of 55!) – So I take a deep breath and just watch my subscriptions go up everyday and keep writing quality posts. I know what my vision for the world is so I just focus on that, and the abudnance will follow.

  3. Also i think so… Trust is very importent to keep reader and sell something…

  4. I trust quite a few bloggers. Anyone that has been pumping out quality content for a long period of time, earns my trust.

    On more then one occasion I have gone out of my way to click over on an affiliate feed from a blogger I trust.

  5. Hey that’s solid thinking about the downfalls of not being yourself Darren.

    It makes me think about how it is not sustainable to act in a way that doesn’t work with your own thoughts. We have certain ways our minds work, and certain habits we have built, so presenting something outside of our normal routine creates this big false presentation we have to try to keep up, which breaks down terribly.

    Making a promise that can’t be fulfilled is also on the same level, because then even if you do the action you said, you don’t enjoy the process at all because it doesn’t fit you.

    I would say trust is nearly impossible to build using a fake persona.

  6. I would add Consistency.

    By all means, evolve, but evolve incrementally. Your new readers won’t know the difference, but you won’t risk alarming your existing readers.

    Once you have a converting look and feel, big changes should not be necessary anyway. Slashdot hasn’t changed it’s interface in what, 10 years, and they’re doing fine.

  7. Trust is not only the principle of successful blogging but I think this one is for every relation and for every success.

    Successful maried life need trust … good government need trust of citizen. A player need trust of their fans to get success.

    So TRUST is the base of every success.

  8. Trust surely is the key for long term earn in making money blogging. You may make a good earn for short term without trust, but your reputation will loss in long term and so your earn. And thanks for tips how can build the trust.

  9. Trust is definitely essential in being successful today with blogging. Trust from your readership is invaluable and fortunately cannot usually be achieved by sleight of hand techniques but by the open honest, and consistent publication of valuable content.

  10. Thought-provoking post Darren. The more I speak from the heart, the more I’m trusted. When I say ‘the more’, I don’t mean being more honest, I mean relaying a genuine message over, and over, and over. Trust is telling the truth about yourself, your message, and your service over the course of time. It takes persistence to do this but that’s the price which must be paid if you are to be successful – wealthy and happy.

    I am part of an admitted fringe activity which I realize many are skeptical of. I had my reservations too for a while. It’s taken some time to attract like-minded people but I always had the big picture in mind. I wasn’t in a rush to blind with hype for a quick buck. Which inevitably travels out of your pockets as soon as it enters.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.

  11. Thank you for this post. I am so glad to see so much being written about trust and authenticity. I only follow a select number of blogs (yours included) that I feel I can learn from and trust. Your words make me think, and that has an impact on what I post in my own blog.

  12. I agree with you completely. Trust is the earned by product of transparency. It is like air, without it, we cannot survive (let alone thrive).

  13. Hi pro blogger! keep posting useful tips on effective blogging. its useful for me since i am just a beginner in the blogging industry. Thanks again!

  14. I must say that Darren, trust is earned and not something that is given freely and easily.

    For me, I give good content and recommend some very good product that will help my readers.

    This way you will earn even more trust.

  15. Wow, thank you for sharing this! You know I never really thought about it that way. I guess I supposed that readers might consider it false advertisement, a bit underhanded, but — a flat out liar! You are right.

    I think that it is our responsibility as bloggers to do all of the things you’ve mentioned above. Not just to protect our reputations but also because we OWE IT to our readers! They come to our blogs because they like what we write, the trust us. It’s our duty to give them everything that they need before we go ahead and promote products – or even ideas!

    Thank you for the reminder.


  16. Penelope Trunk at Brazen Careerist. Hopsy at Monograms and Manicures. Meg at A Practical Wedding. Yeah. Motley crew. Trust is not always the same as like. This was a very useful exercise. Thanks.

  17. Great stuff as always!

    I would add to the trust factors …

    1. Be consistent with your purpose. When people come to your blog or subscribe to it they expect to get what they signed up for! Diversion on occassion can be fun but do it too much and you will lose them. If your blog is about sales and you want to comment on politics … start a blog about politics, don’t dump on me your subscriber!

    2. Do your homework! Write down something inaccurate or state something as fact when it is really just your opinion and you can quickly lose your credibility.

    3. You said be who you are … I agree! I add the words authentic and real and let the natural laws of attraction take over. It is a whole lot easier to repeat if it comes from who you are!

    As I said … great stuff! Keep up the awesome work!

  18. Great post on this topic, I think about it a lot – my 2 cents:

    Blogs to me, by default, are not trust worthy media/platform. Why?

    As a web designer and developer, I know how easy it is to setup a blog (or a website for that matter) if you don’t want something custom. Also, it’s virtually free these days. And we all have experience with many blogs with no value.

    So to build trust with me is tougher than a general reader. The first things I look for is the design of the blog, the topic and how does the ‘About’ page relates credentials to that topic. Then I read couple of posts and just by ‘feel’ really I either starting to trust or no. The honesty in language makes the difference. Then I read comments below the posts. Essentially, I am working my way from the big things to small details. And if each one of them is ‘trustworthy’ then I am sold.

    My trust towards Darren’s blog was build on the same process, so now he has to consistently deliver good stuff on all levels if he wants to keep me :) and I we all got to do that as well with our readers :)

  19. yeh – trust is always about relationship building and being authentic … trusting the power of your own voice.

    Tell stories … share other people’s insights … respond to people that leave comments.

    For me … it’s about collaboration not competition… having the attitude that power is infinite not finite.

    And just enjoying the writing and sharing and getting to know other bloggers.

    Over the last 3 years of blogging I have made some good blogger friends and we support each others endevours.

    If we model our real life values online then we can’t go wrong.

  20. ” The speed of Trust ” Is one book I would recommned to read on the subject of trust … please do it …
    Good article any way ..Dareen .

  21. I think trust comes out of consistency. When I blog with a consistent voice and basic message over an extended period of time, my readers get the sense that I am who I say I am. At this moment, it is almost like they can “see” you, that a picture of what you look like forms in their minds and they now feel the have become known to you, you to them.

    It unfolds slowly as Ryan noted.

  22. I’d agree with all your points Darren, and I’d add one. There’s also the old favourite “Gut feeling:” It’s almost as hard to con someone in writing as it is face to face, and if your BS detector is working well, you’ll quickly find out when someone is being less than honest on their blog.

  23. I agree with your views. A blog that is trustworthy and helpful to me is always a must read and vice versa.

  24. Yes trust is so important! We are in that proccess since it has only been 4 months..We will be come authoritys in our niche in time..I KNOW IT lol

  25. Great post here. Trust is not only a vital part of a blogger’s duty, but also essential for corporations and brands in order to grow. In fact, Edelman quoted that “trust” is the most important decision making factor for decisions makers.

    I think the cornerstone of building trust is FIRST creating a good product. A product that will actually help people, not just make you money. Once you have that, the steps you have outlined above do a great job of building on top of that.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

  26. Trust is it and it takes time…

  27. I agree,it really takes time to build TRUST but well worth it

  28. Trust for Amazon.com is gained via customer obsession.
    Trust for Zappos is gained by making people happy.

    So the bottom line is kind of you disappearing witht he customer at the forefront.

  29. One of the biggest things I take to heart every day as a blogger is to acknowledge my readers/community. Paying attention to them, listening, and bringing them to the forefront of the community & showing them that I see/hear them.

    Acknowledge them through posts, personal email replies to comments, Twitter mentions of a great comment by a reader. Numerous and simple ways in building trust and a rapport with your community without sounding like a canned response.

  30. Trust is one of those funny things that can only be recieved if your intention is not it’s receipt. I think trust really is a function of integrity rather than authority. With time one can gain knowledge and even authority based on technical proficiency but over the long haul a lack of integrity and sincerity will always be found out.

  31. trust is motivated element,we also need target to achieve as the principle

  32. Fabulous post, Darren! Thank you!
    Very inspiring… as some already mentioned, I’d add consistency as well. :-)

    Also, I think it’s important to value your contribution as well as that of your readers… something you seem to do really well!! I like it a lot… how you ask for feedback, for opinions, etc. and value them. This I believe also helps build trust.

    My 2 cents! Thanks again.
    Saludos from Argentina,

  33. This is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. Fostering trust has never been more important in persuading your customers to take action. The public is a skeptical bunch because they’ve heard it all before, and they aren’t buying the hype any longer.

    It’s also critical that what you are saying is aligned with who you are being. So many business owners make this mistake.

  34. I think the trust issue becomes even more important now with the FTC announcement. For those that were doing the three things that you listed in section four may now become exposed because they weren’t initially upfront with their users. There can never be enough posts, books, articles written about trust until everybody gets it.

  35. Trust is hard to gain but easily broken. I agree it’s essential for your readers to have trust in you.

  36. Hey great post Darren! Its really a very nice & good infomercial post, i really like this because i am doing blogs & it really helps me so much. Thanks for sharing this nice information over here..

  37. i agree about being yourself and networking with other bloggers.

    1. when you are yourself you come across genuine and it attracts other to trust you.

    2. people will see it that it’s not all about the money but you truly believe in your product or what you write about and they tune in more then tune out.

    3. networking and encouraging one another is such a great part of doing business because both parties gain allot of knowledge in the end and can really make you a better ethical business owner.

    4. and it’s such a turn off when others say negative comments about you because they are threatened by competition..it’s like the sore loser mentality..there’s enough room in the world for many people to set up shop..you want to see small companies / individual people to succeed..that’s what brings solid companies, contributions and / or money in the world!

    love your insight!

  38. I think the being personal point is revelant. If the readers can “connect” with the author and thus with the company itself, they are much more likely to become clients.

  39. I trust bloggers I know personally(from church or something) and those that are consistent, accurate, that sort of thing. I also trust more that embrace, like you were saying, other bloggers rather than see them as competition. Michael Hyatt is one of my fave’s.

  40. Great post.

    Blog design and blog comments are also very important. One should focus on these two points. A good blog design template must include some audio links, RSS feeds option, and customize blog header related to business.

    The blog owner should encourage readers to participate in discussions to increase readers’ involvement.

  41. Hi Darren,

    You are good in what you say and make it so true in what you do and say. I have really enjoyed reading this article and waiting for your future posts that you are going to cover about Trust.

    I totally do agreed with you about “Having to build a relationship” and it’s so true that strong relationship comes only with TRUST. All these branding, marketing, promotions, list building and so forth in this internet marketing the key to success is building a TRUST factor with your readers, like the example of your reader who bought your ebook after building a trust in you.

    Good work and keep coming.


  42. Good point. I also had an info product last May up to mid August. I was really flabbergasted with the amount of sales that I’ve got from the single blog post I made on my blog.. Surprising considering I did spend some advertising costs on other methods..

  43. Nice article. I also totally do agreed with you about “Having to build a relationship” and it’s so true that strong relationship comes only with TRUST. All these branding, marketing, promotions, list building and so forth in this internet marketing the key to success is building a TRUST factor with your readers, like the example of your reader who bought your ebook after building a trust in you.

  44. Darren:

    I only recently commenced to blog; and credibility and trust are the only coins of the realm that can possibly generate readership in my area: financial literacy and, more specifically, investing.

    I’ve authored a book and have traveled the country, teaching people to invest successfully on their own, without the help of professionals…or even my help, for that matter.

    You are the most credible and trustworthy blog maven in my world of learning because you consistently produce value, of course. But more than that, you are not using your skills to blatantly market something.

    Those gurus that constantly brag about their six and seven-figure incomes are not the people I turn to for advice. Not that their counsel might not produce results; but because they violate all of the commonsense reasons you give (and they give lip service to) for being real and genuine.

    I used to be in sales. And I know that the ability to make a pitch and close a deal can be taught. They are taught on a daily basis—all-too-often to people who don’t recognize that, with every privilege comes a responsibility. The privilege of persuasion carries with it a responsibility not to use that skill to persuade people to do or buy things they shouldn’t have or don’t need. I built my customer base on being willing to candidly tell people they didn’t need what I was selling, when that was the case. And the word-of-mouth benefits I received from that candor built up my client list without all that much effort on my part.

    You can effectively feign sincerity; and, as you point out, that will produce a result…but only once, if you don’t do what you say you will.

    I’m on a crusade to change the public’s perception about investing—a perception that has been molded by an industry that has thrown fortunes into persuading people that “investing” means betting on the stock market.

    Because that industry is compensated largely through commissions paid by both buyer and seller in every transaction, it benefits that industry to encourage the “churning” of accounts—trading as often as possible, with no regard to whether such trades benefit the investor. This situation always produces both a winner and a loser.

    I am intent on showing potential investors that there is no risk—there are no losers—regardless of the short-term machinations of the stock market—when you buy the shares of a small number of good quality companies, with the intent of enjoying the benefits of ownership, earning from the profits those successful companies over the long term.

    There’s nothing in this at all for me, save the satisfaction of helping someone become successful without having to go through the pain and suffering I went through to discover the truth. I’m not in the securities business. I’m a retired guy who’s done just fine and wants to help others avoid the pain I went through to get there.

    Your post resonated with me and I just wanted you to know it.

    Keep up the great work! I’m delighted to be a subscriber.

  45. Great points. I think one of the biggest issues I have, is I feel like I’m trying to do it the right way and provide value to the readers while taking nothing for myself, but it really takes time. It’s almost discouraging sometimes. I’ve been doing it for a year now, and I feel like I’ve provided a lot of value to my readers – just not much benefit for me yet other than repuation. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day so I’ll keep pushing the ball forward.

  46. Trust is essential! Effective online marketing starts with building authority, building authority is to build more web credibilty.
    Thanks for the post

  47. Be yourself and keep communication open. Nice topic Darren and thanks for the tips.

  48. Sheila Holifield says: 10/09/2009 at 1:15 am

    Take it from someone who will be submitting a blog for the first time, this topic could not have posted at a more perfect time. Because of Bloggers such as yourself, who presents honest, thought-provoking, and REAL content I finally stepped outside of my comfort zone to give blogging a try. For me, trust is very important and not just from a business standpoint but also in my personal life, particularly when I decide to do business with someone. Thanks so much Darren for the insight for it will help me to keep it “real” when sharing by Blog.

  49. Hey, Darren:

    Trust takes time, consistency and sincerity to build. You can’t buy it — you have to earn it.

    Like others have stated it can be frustrating when you know you can be trusted and some site visitors don’t come to that conclusion. But if they don’t want to take the time to compare their sources to see who is established, consistent, and reputable, there isn’t much any of us can do but continue to do what we know is right with ethics and integrity.

    I’ve found you can’t be everything to everyone — so don’t try. Be true to yourself and what you enjoy doing and hold yourself to the highest bar and one can become a trust authority. Just as you have!

    At your service,

  50. I write in the area of entertaining, and I have noted trust is the most key factor to developing authority, which you have noted previously, is key to the genre of blogging from a professional perspective.

    To that end, although reticent to do so, I had to let people into my home and life, so they might be certain I am an authority and someon they can trust.

    My competitor hides her identity and never uses a photo she has taken nor makes any mention of her home or her own entertaining experience. She has half as many followers as I.

    I watch her followers to see if it matters to them that she is not legit, only today for the first time in her 3 months knocking me off have I noticed people beginning to cancel her… which causes me to feel I have selected the correct path.

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