Just a quick note to let readers know that today’s a public holiday here in Australia – it’s ANZAC day (the day we remember lives given in active service). We’ll be remembering it by going to the ANZAC day Australian Rules Football match at the ‘G’.
This post is part of a series of posts on building blog credibility
Does the blogger actually know what they are talking about?
Some might argue that ‘expertise’ is a little close to ‘experience’ but I see it differently. As I wrote in the last post, I often write in the voice of a ‘fellow traveler’ sharing my experiences but another strategy for building credibility is to write in the voice of ‘the expert’.
I guess to use the analogy of traveling again the expert is the tour guide.
On my firs trip to Europe (mainly in Spain and Portugal but also through Morocco for a week) we had the most amazing guide for two weeks. The amount of knowledge that she had in her head about the countries that we were passing through was staggering. She could (and did) talk for hour after hour about some of the most interesting facts, stories, rumors and histories of places. She’d spent years studying the region and brought the trip alive in a way that fellow travelers could never have done alone.
When she spoke we listened because we knew she was about to tell us something that mattered.
A blogger who is not only experienced in their niche but who is able to speak about it with authority and expertise is another step closer to being seen as a credible blogger.
Take Home Advice – not every blogger can pull the ‘expert’ thing off and I wouldn’t recommend trying unless you do feel you have some mastery over a topic. As I wrote in the previous post, don’t try to pull the wool over your readers eyes if you don’t know something or you might just find yourself exposed as a fraud (and bloggers love to expose a fraud).
IF you have some expertise in an area to share by all means share it. Don’t be shy about it, tell your readers what you know.
Especially effective are posts that not only tell people what you know but also that tell them how to apply it. It’s all very well to be taught a theory but to be taught how to apply it to your life is something that people will value and respect you for.
Lastly – experience and expertise need not be mutually exclusive things. Our tour guide had actually lived for many years in the regions through which we travelled. She not only told us about the region’s history from what she’d studied but from time to time told us about her life there. This blend of real life experience and expertise was a wonderful thing to be exposed to.
This post is part of a series of posts on building blog credibility
Tangent Time – If you’ve ever done any traveling you’ll know that it’s often the advice of others that you bump into on the road that give you the best advice on what to see or what to do.
While tour guides know their stuff and bring expertise to your trip it’s the fellow traveler who has eaten at the restaurants, slept in the hotel beds, bargained for the souvenirs and who has seen the new culture from an outsider’s perspective (like you) – as a result of their experiences you learn where to go and what to see in a way a tour guide might never be able to share with you.
Fellow travelers who’ve experienced where you want to go make credible advisers.
Experience adds to blogger credibility
One of the factors that led to ProBlogger growing faster than some of my other blogs in the last 18 months is that I think I’ve proven to be someone who has experience in the field of blogging for money.
I am definitely not the biggest earner of an income from blogging (I’ve discovered a few other very private bloggers in the last year who leave me for dead in earnings) but the fact that I earn a full time income from blogging (and am willing to talk about how) means others are willing to listen and take on board what I have to say.
This is the case in my other more successful blogs also. For example in my digital camera blogs I have some great interactions with readers particularly as a result of my email newsletter in which I will talk about my own experiences with cameras and will give tips on how to use them. In this blog I rarely write in the voice of the ‘expert’ but rather write as a normal guy (a fellow traveler) writing on a topic that he loves – sharing what I know as I discover it. The result is a growing group of loyal readers.
Take Home Advice
The crux of the lesson here is to simply talk about your experience in your blog. It’s not rocket science but it does work. When you are willing to share what you know as a fellow traveler it’s amazing to see how others will gather around you. You don’t need to do it in a boastful or arrogant way, but you will need to talk about it to some degree.
- Referential – ‘uses the link (sometimes referred to as ‘link blogging’) as his fundamental unit of currency, building posts around ideas and experiences spawned elsewhere’
- Experiential – ‘inwardly directed, drawing entries from personal experience and opinion’
It’s a useful distinction to make – I’m sure there are other variations or ways of classifying bloggers but most blog posts fall into one of these two camps. I say ‘blog posts’ because in my experience many bloggers use a combination of these two techniques and I’d be a little hesitant to label these bloggers as one or the other.
My own blogging style covers the full spectrum.
Referential – I have some blogs which are almost completely referential, to the point that they are used by their readers as archives and hubs of information collected from around the web. These blogs are sometimes critiqued as bordering on spammish – it’s a criticism that I’ve listened to and grappled with but one that I’ve also balanced with comments from readers who say that those blogs are useful to them as they cut down the amount of time that they need to put into researching the topics.
Experiential – On the other hand I have blogs that are purely experiential. In fact I started one last week that is an experiment in how a blog will go with no referential posting at all. In fact I’ve taken it to an extreme and am breaking a lot of my own blogging rules (some would say it’s not even technically a blog because it doesn’t have comments and doesn’t have outbound links) to see what will happen. I’ll talk more about what I’m learning from it in a week or so.
Refperential (or should that be exferential) – The majority of the blogs that I run are some somewhere on the spectrum between purely referential and experiential blogs. ProBlogger is a prime example of this – my aim is to write something that is experiential every day (or every second day at the least) and at the same time I post ‘newsy’ type posts daily also which are largely referential. I’m sure that there are readers who would want more of one or the other but I find that the combination works.
This post is part of a series of posts on blog credibility
Tangent Time – I used to go out with a girl who lived in a small rural town a few hours outside of Melbourne (a long time ago). We spent a fair bit of time in this town but it soon became evident to me that I was seen by the residents of that place as an ‘outsider’. People were not rude to me but it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t considered a ‘local’ (even though I spent a lot of time there over three years).
I asked my girlfriend’s mum about this after a year or so and she told me that there was an unspoken rule in the town that you had to live there for 10 to 15 years before you’d become a ‘local’. In the mean time you had to prove yourself by living there and participating in the community.
Becoming a local (or being seen as a credible and accepted part of the town) was not something you could achieve over night.
Longevity in Blogging
While 10 to 15 years might be a little over the top there is a similar thing at play in the blogging community and longevity of blogging seems to be one factor (remember this is a series of many) that impacts the credibility a blogger can have within their niche.
Are you committed to blogging on your topic for the long haul?
Blogs get started every day (or every second according to Technorati) but a large proportion of them don’t last longer than a month or two. I suspect that this has led to blog readers becoming a little suspicious about whether bloggers are in it for the long haul.
I know that when I discover a blog that I’ve not seen before that is writing good content that I always look back into it’s archives to see how long they’ve been going. This isn’t because I believe new blogs have little to offer (they definitely do have a lot to offer), but because sustained quality blogging on a topic isn’t easy to do and to me it is one signal that the blogger is in it for the long haul and might be someone that I want to invest some time into reading.
I’m not sure that other blog readers dig into archives in this way but I do know that a lot of blog readers that I talk to get very frustrated with some bloggers who constantly chop and change from blog to blog, never sticking at a project.
Question from ProBlogger reader – Joshua:
“My question is how to make yourself a credible source. For example, when I came across your site, I got the impression that you had no experience with blogging, but found your niche in “making money from blogging.” But since you had never actually done it, I’m curious as to how you made yourself the source that you are now. You have very good tips and information, but obviously didnt have them to begin with.”
Thanks for the question Joshua – I think it gets to the heart of a really important issue for bloggers and one of the things that is often at the heart of a blog’s success or failure – the credibility of the blogger.
Let me start with your example/question about ProBlogger and then move on to outlining a number of ways that we as bloggers can build credibility.
Obviously when I started blogging three and a half years ago I had no experience in blogging and started out like a newbie like everyone else – but my first blog wasn’t actually on the topic of blogging. It was a personal (ish) blog. Then over time I added new blogs to my blogs and learned as much as I could about blogging and blogging as an income. Gradually over a number of years I built a way to make a full time living online through a variety of blogs. It was at this point that I launched ProBlogger.net (in September 2004) after I’d been blogging almost two years.
If I’d started ProBlogger as my first blog I suspect it would not have been seen as anyone as being a credible source of income – simply because I’d not proved myself as being someone who had expertise on the topic that I was writing about.
The Series Ahead
Over the next few days I’ll attempt to outline a number of things that I think can add to a blogger’s credibility. By no means will this be an exhaustive list as each circumstance is so different on a number of fronts:
- Credibility is a slippery thing – what is credible to one person can be seen as suspicious to another
- Every ‘credible’ blogger I know has gotten to that position in my mind for a slightly different reason. What helps build credibility in one blogging niche might not necessarily add to it in another.
Lastly I want to make it clear that in my experience each of the points that I make in the following posts don’t tend to lead to credibility alone but rather when they come together they add to it.
Anyway – enough disclaimers and explanations – lets dig in and explore what it means to build blogger credibility.
Here’s the Series so far:
Since writing my post on The Importance of Landing pages last week I’ve had a number of bloggers email asking for advice on how to make them – especially from bloggers not using WordPress (which has a ‘page’ function). Those bloggers using TypePad who want to work with Landing Pages should check out TypePad Hacks who has a post landing pages especially for you.
Guy Kawasaki has a useful post 10 lessons he’s learnt in How to Evangelize a Blog over his first 120 days of blogging. Here’s his list with a few of my own comments (his is the ‘bold’ (and he has more to say under each) mine is the rest):
1. Think ‘book’ not ‘diary’ – I like the analogy between book and diary. The crux of Guy’s argument is that books are meant to be read and diaries are more spontaneous, unplanned, unstructured writings. I’m a big believer in planning your blog on multiple fronts (ie not just planning your upcoming content but overall direction, marketing of it etc). While some diary style blogs can be quite successful (for what they are) most of the highly trafficked blogs have some element of focus and well defined niche. If you’re writing in a business or entrepreneurial style then you will want to think through strategy (more on this in my strategic blogging series).
2. Answer the little man - Guy’s seeing little people sitting on his shoulder critiquing what he writes (as you do) but his point is solid – be your own critic, don’t just write for the sake of it, produce content that matters. Each post you write has the potential to add or subtract value to your blog and it’s worth asking yourself which it is before hitting publish.
3. Collect email addresses – This is something I go on about from time to time and is something I’m seeing a lot of the top bloggers out there utilizing. There are many ways to do it ranging from starting an email newsletter (getting permission from readers to highlight your work) to using other email lists you might already have (be a little careful with this as it’s open to abuse).
4. Collect links for blog rolling – One of the aspects of blogging that has led to it’s viral like growth as a medium is it’s interconnectedness. Bloggers linking to other bloggers helps everyone and fast tracks you getting noticed by others. I’m not a big fan of the blogroll myself and these days my preference os to be a generous linker within individual posts. I find blogrolls can become difficult to manage, actually send limited amounts of traffic, can become somewhat political and at popularity content like. However linking within posts to other blogs seems a much more organic and natural way to link to others. I find it also has more impact in terms of the traffic you can send which has the potential to not only get attention but give your readers quality and relevant content.
5. Scoop stuff – Getting a scoop is another fast track to readership. Break a big story and have the right A-list blog link to you and you’ll find not only a lot of traffic come directly from them but indirectly from the many smaller blogs that will link up as a result. The other benefit of it beyond the initial traffic and inbound links is the respect and street credibility that can come from breaking a big story. I find that once you break one story you often get others broken directly to you by ‘sources’. Once this happen the snowball effect takes over and you can build a reputation for being someone in the know. More on Scoop Blogging.
6. Supplement other bloggers with a followup entries - Another aspect of blogging that I love is it’s conversational nature. Dialogue is at the heart of blogging on many levels including within comments on posts but also between blogs as they build upon each others ideas with posts. Take the work of another person and add your own spin on it either on their blog, via email with them or on your own blog and you enter the conversation. Once you’re a part of the conversation it’s amazing what can flow from it.
7. Acknowledge and respond to commenters – very important but a real challenge when your blog grows past a certain level. When someone goes out of their way to add something to the conversation you start by leaving an opinion, question, critique or suggestion it’s a powerful thing to acknowledge this in some way. This might mean leaving a comment in response but could also be a personal email response (I find this is incredibly effective) or even a visit to their blog with a comment on one of their posts (even more of an impact). As Guy says, this is not always easy once you’ve got a lot of traffic but is important to do at some level even after you’ve succeeded in growing an audience. If you don’t use your comments section, why would anyone else?
8. Ask for help – I discovered early in my own blogging that despite it’s reputation for snarkiness the blogging community can actually be an incredibly generous and supportive place. Ask for help and you could be amazed by what results. I find that people respond well to humility and to ask for help in some aspect of your blogging (from spreading the word, to helping with some technical problem you have, to helping you compile content etc) actually gives your readers a sense of ownership – something that has many benefits.
9. Be bold – Guy says to speak your mind as a blogger and not hold back from saying what you think. This is true and one aspect of ‘boldness’ that I’d encourage. Of course you want to consider what you say when you’re writing in what can be seen as an aggressive or attacking tone. My own approach to blogging is to attempt to find constructive things to say instead of just attacking others. Another aspect of boldness that is worth mentioning is that while humility is usually responded to well in blogging circles that there is often a need for a little self promotion. I’m not arguing that you need to aggressively sell yourself in a hype filled marketing blitz, but I’ve found that it can be occasionally beneficial to give readers a reason to read you by showing them your wares.
10. Make it easy to join up – Once again Guy’s on the money here by encouraging bloggers to use tools that help readers to stay connected. RSS feeds, email newsletters, RSS to email subscription services, encouraging readers to bookmark pages etc are all examples of this.
Found via an email from Dave