Is Trust Getting Harder To Earn?

by Robb Sutton

Having success in blogging is all about gaining the trust of your readers. That is something we all know as we move forward looking for increased subscriber numbers, comments and other metrics that are a by product of successful blogging. Without that trust, you are not converting casual lurkers into active members of your community. Therefor, gaining that trust of individuals that you want to stick around can be a difficult thing to accomplish. Without this trust that you are going to deliver the goods on a regular basis and enrich the lives of your readers, you are really just pissing in the wind as you continue to struggle with making anything out of your blog. So…as you move forward in this journey, how can you gain the trust of new readers and keep the trust of your existing?

Is Trust Getting Harder To Earn Online?

Online trust is a funny animal. With blogging gaining steam in mainstream media to the point that even my mom understands what it means to be a blogger, there are more and more individuals looking to have a side hobby or business online with a blog. What does this mean of the blogger looking to make an income online and gain the trust of thousands of readers by delivering great content? There is a lot more noise online today than there used to be.

Everyone and their mom (literally) has a blog these days. Many of these blogs are here today, gone tomorrow blogs, but they still add to the clutter that we find online. The struggle then is to gain the trust of potential subscribers when they are bombarded with more content than they can really handle on a daily basis.

How many times have you searched Google online for an answer to your question, only to jump from page to page with no real answer in sight? There is a lot of noise and it is your job to combat that.

I think trust is a harder thing to earn online these days due to the mass quantity of blog posts hitting the net on a daily basis. It is going to be harder for you to achieve that success and rise above the rest. What does this mean to you? You have to work harder to get above the noise, but benefits are even bigger. With more noise, there is a much larger audience. So when you do rise above the rest, you have a much bigger success story than if there was no noise at all. Kind of a double edge sword effect there.

A Personal Trust Story To Illustrate A Point

Hans - Male Brindle BoxerWhen I think about building trust online, I always relate it to my male Boxer Hans. It will make sense in a second so stick with me.

We rescued Hans from Atlanta Boxer Rescue so we could have another Boxer to keep our female company. She was getting a little too spoiled as the only child…so she needed a brother. When we first rescued Hans (picture of the first night to the right), he was really sweet but a little stand off’ish. This was understandable as he had been bounced around from house to house and this was after ABR got him on his “last day” at the pound. This guy had seen a lot of different homes in the last year, so his trust level was pretty low.

When we first got him in, he didn’t like it when you messed with his feet. He would almost snap at you if you played with his ears and he got pretty upset if you ever left. Basically, Hans had seen so many different things over the course of his life that his trust level was pretty low. He was happy and loved people, but on his terms and he was guarded. Luckily…he got along with Hemi (our female) beautifully right off the bat, so that was good.

Over time, we worked with Hans gradually getting him over his trust issues by providing consistency. I would move him around a little bit at first and then start to get a little bit more pushy to show that I don’t want to hurt him…I just need to be able to move him around from time to time. Jenn started working with him on his ears and…eventually…he could care less if we just pull the crap out of them.

Now…what used to be a guarded dog is a 70+ pound lap dog that can’t ever be close enough. What did we do to gain this trust? We provided consistent results over time. Through this consistency, Hans was able to let his guard down and become one of the family.

How Can You Earn This Same Trust With Your Readers?

While Hans is just a dog and your readers might be much more complicated, the actions you take to earn the trust of your readers and show them that you are not just another spec in the noise is much the same. Here are some tips to convert the Hans that is browsing your blog…

Provide Consistent Quality

Content is still king, so consistent quality in your offerings on your blog are going to still be the biggest converting factor. When you publish an article, are you publishing one to stick to a schedule or provide real value? Every time a new reader lands on your page, they are going to do one of two things. They are going to scan and leave or dig deeper into your blogs content to figure out if they want to visit your site again. What are your new readers going to find in their digging? Consistent, quality content or a mess with several nice article in between?

Quality Content Over Time

You are posting quality content, but your blog has only been live a week. You are going to have to continue to post up this quality content even when no one is reading. Try to prevent the urge to splash as much content with blog articles as you can on the screen and go for quality instead. People trust blogs that have been around a long time and have that consistency, so you are going to have to build up those same archives on your own blog to show that you are not going away any time soon.

Keep Their Trust By Providing Value

Just like with Hans, just because they are in your house…that does not mean they are going to trust you automatically. Diversify your offerings on your blog to provide valuable resources that fill the needs of your readers. Trust is largely earned by giving more than you receive, so these resources will gain more trust and provide a nice asset in your blogging. These can take the form of resource static pages, ebooks, ecourses, membership sites, etc.

Social Proof

If  you have been doing the whole blogging thing awhile, you have gained some social proof in the form of comments, subscriber counts and other metrics. Converting new readers is much easier if you can show that new potential subscriber that a large quantity of people trust you enough to interact as well. It is a follow the herd mentality, but it works.

Be Original

This is one of the most important aspects of successful blogging and gaining that crucial trust online. You have to be original. You do not want to be the next (fill in the blank here)…you want other people to want to be the next you. Forget regurgitating what someone else is saying and start being original. No one wants to trust someone that is copying another winning formula…they will just go to the originator instead of you.

Gain That Trust And Keep It

Once you gain the trust that it is so hard to gain online, protect and keep it. Just because you have converted that casual lurker, that does not mean they are going to just blindly follow. It is your job to show them that their trust has not gone misguided by continuing your promise to provide quality.

If you want success online…that is the key…

So what do you think…is trust harder to gain online these days?

Trust image by thorinside


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Elie February 9, 2010 - 8:31 am

How true – trust is earned, not given. An excellent resource on the subject is Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith (I have no connection to them, but I loved the book), which discusses at length much of what you wrote here.

As a personal example, my site/blog has been running for just over a year now. At first, I could have named every visitor to my blog. But my style and subject matter settled down to provide consistency, and while I have not seen my numbers grow by leaps and bounds, they have risen steadily each month. It’s a lot of work earning this trust, but once you have it, you can keep it (unless you really screw up, like the subject of my last article discussed).

Robb Sutton February 10, 2010 - 9:24 am

Chris Brogan is one of the kings of gaining Trust online and off.

Dj Wetzel February 9, 2010 - 10:28 am

I am beginning to learn the high value of TRUST in a blog setting as well. My blog deals with content relating to the Federal Government so I am competing with an obvious authority on my subject area (although some may beg ti differ). So it has been rough going trying to break into this niche. But I am taking the approach of being passionate and wanting to genuinely help people in hopes that my true intentions will be laid bare and trust can be earned.

Robb Sutton February 10, 2010 - 9:26 am

The more you help out people in your niche…the more trust you will earn. It is amazing what helping out one person can do for your growth over the period of a year or two. They will tell everyone they come in contact with.

Bonnie Landau February 9, 2010 - 6:49 pm

Wow, fascinating subject to consider. What truly concerns me in the realm of trust is whether people are truly being REAL online. In other words, there are so many people out there selling “the next greatest thing!” and how do you distinguish real from fake? This is particularly true in the realm of social media. How does one distinguish between the fakes and the real people?

Also, how would define being unique? Does that mean you generate ideas and content that nobody else has, or you deliver it in a different kind of a way?

Our blog was started as a way to save us time. We had many clients asking the same questions, so we started writing the answers so we didn’t have to keep repeating ourselves. But there’s nothing unique about the information we share. What makes us special is that we’ve consolidated the information into one area for our clients, and we simplify our explanations for the non-technical user. The trust we are building with our clients is that we honestly answer the questions, but I don’t feel like we’re giving answers that can’t be found elsewhere. Our clients just don’t know where else to look, so we’ve become a delivery pipeline. Our clients seem happy with what we’re doing, so maybe to them we appear unique. Just to me it doesn’t seem like our content is very unique.

Thanks for the great blog. I enjoy reading what you share!
Take care,

Robb Sutton February 10, 2010 - 9:30 am

Typically, I tell if someone is being real online within the first 5 minutes of looking at their content. There is a genuine feel to the writing and interaction with their readers…no matter how many subscribers or comments they have.

“Does that mean you generate ideas and content that nobody else has, or you deliver it in a different kind of a way?”

Both. The trick is to bring your own personal look at a given subject matter and present it in a way that speaks to who you are as a blogger.

Curtis Chappell February 9, 2010 - 7:25 pm

Hi Robb,

You make some great points with regards to the multiple ways you had to work with your new pooch Hans to get him to relax, feel ‘accepted’ and eventually ‘trust’ you.

But another dog might have required different methods of creating trust. This story is a great analogy for bloggers, as each of your readers is an individual. So each reader requires something slightly different to capture not only their attention but their ‘trust’.

If your blog is about your life as a yoga instructor, then your readers will require a certain level of ‘trust’, but this would be a much different trust level if you’re blogging about stocks.

The level of trust required will vary from blog to blog, so one of the things I’ve been doing on my blog, which focuses on personal development through increased knowledge, is to create content which reflects the experiences I’ve had in my own personal growth.

My suggestions won’t grab every reader because many of us aren’t interested in personal development, but despite a 72% bounce rate, I still maintain a 4 minute average time on the blog. So 25% of my new visitors ‘stick’, and ‘sticking’ is a great way to measure the ‘trust’ of your readers, at least in my humble opinion.

Speaking of stocks, people usually buy a stock because they either ‘trust’ their financial advisor, or they believe they can ‘trust’ the company to produce growth, profits, or whatever else the purchasing criteria might be.

One thing I do about once a month is run my Google analytics report showing daily visitors from all the way back to my first day blogging. This produces a chart similar to technical stock chart.

I then sit back and ask myself, “If my blog were a stock, would I buy it?”

If I wouldn’t buy it, then why should others?

Write On!

Robb Sutton February 10, 2010 - 9:31 am

The idea of writing what I would read is something I really take to heart. If I am not going to believe in what I write…why would others?

There are times that I write articles and provide resources due to demand, but that same theory still applies.

Brandon Cox February 10, 2010 - 7:35 am

Robb, you’re absolutely right, and I think it’s good that trust is getting harder to earn. We should look for some pretty deep values over time – integrity, honesty, etc. Your tips are all spot on!

Robb Sutton February 10, 2010 - 9:32 am

If you keep those values in everything…you can’t go wrong.

I sometimes struggle with seeing other blogs having explosive success at first by conforming to ideas that I consider less than ethical or more of the “copycat” mentality, but…normally…those blogs don’t last long after everyone figures them out.

Jason February 20, 2010 - 1:25 pm

It is essential to be honest and build the trust of your readers. It does not happen overnight as I have found out in my year of blogging. You really can’t blame people for being cautious with the way society is today. If you ever plan on making money from your site you must be trusted and not offer B.S. products for the sake of a dollar. Always remember that it takes one second to lose the trust you worked hard to earn. Look at Tiger Woods and how quickly he fell from grace! Sorry to ramble on!!


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