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The Benefits of Being a Transparent Blogger [Case Study]

This guest post is by Ashley Bennett of Ashley-Bennett.com.

One of the most successful bloggers online right now is also one of the most transparent.

You probably know him as Pat.

Pat is the owner of the successful website and podcast entitled Smart Passive Income. Smart Passive Income is all about blogging and internet marketing strategies that can help people literally earn smart, passive income on their own.

Pat’s not the only one—there are plenty of other bloggers who do the same thing.

Transparent bloggers are open about who they are, what they do, and even how much they make. There are very few successful bloggers that have managed to remain anonymous online.

If you’re in this for the long haul, then you should be transparent too.

Here’s why—and how Pat’s Smart Passive Income (SPI) blog does it.

People connect with you more easily

The object of blogging is to connect with people. Ads and affiliate links mean nothing unless you have a connection with your audience. Your connection with them is what makes them trust you, and eventually buy from you or click on your ads.

People connect with other people, not websites. They become readers of certain blogs because they like the people that write them. Showing your picture will help people connect with you better and feel like they have gotten to know you. Share not only what you look like, but who you are and what you do.

Creating connection

Pat has a photo of himself right on the header of his website, so you know exactly who he is before you have to start reading the About page. There is also a video link that introduces him, and explains who he is and what his website is about for new visitors.

After watching his video and seeing his picture, readers feel like they just met him over lunch. His picture alone improves his credibility because you know there is a real person behind the website. This will make you more likely to listen to advice, buy stuff, and most importantly, engage with him.

Pat’s About page has a picture of him with his newborn son, along with a lot of information about his background and how he got started. He admits that he came to blogging after a layoff, and created a new life and career.

They trust you more

You are more credible to audiences when you are open and transparent. For example, you disclose that you have affiliate links and sponsors and you even discuss your own personal experiences using them.

Spammy tactics and sneaky affiliate links are pretty much useless. No one wants to buy anything from people that they’ve never heard of because they will think that it could be a scam or that the products might not work.

Being honest with your readers about these links actually improves your chances of earning money through them. This is because people want to know what will happen when they buy a product.

They need to know about the price, the level of customer service, and whether or not it does what it is supposed to do. Share both the good and bad things about the product and the company in your review.

People are more inclined to trust in more balanced reviews as opposed to overwhelmingly positive ones. It seems obvious that a blogger would say something positive about a produce if they’re getting paid to promote it. A balanced review shows you put your audience before dollars.

Building trust

Pat makes a point to use all of the stuff that he promotes on his website.

He never tells you exactly what to buy, but he does give suggestions about the things that worked for him.

He has unbiased reviews and videos that show how to use the products that he promotes. None of his links are hidden anywhere to “trick” people into opening them—they are posted on his side panel, and he also embeds them into relevant posts.

He will tell you what he uses, explain why he uses it, and admit that he will receive a commission if you purchase it from his link. Furthermore, he’ll even show you how much money he earned from his affiliate links in the income reports that he publishes.

They see themselves in you

People want to hear the story, they don’t just want to see the glory. Talk about how got you started, where you came from, and what worked for you.

Having relatable content and stories is what attracts people to a blog. Telling people about your story helps them engage with you—they will feel like they can do it because they know your story.

They know that what they want is possible, because they watched you do it.

Telling the story

Pat’s About page explains the entire story about how he got into blogging. It came out of necessity because he was laid off and he had to find another way to provide for his family.

Yes, he is successful today, but he does tell the entire story about how he struggled in the beginning. His success did not come overnight, and you can watch his progression through his blog.

He actually explains how he writes blog posts, ebooks, and even how he promotes his website. All of the moving parts on his website are explained and examined for your educational benefit.

It’s better for brand building

A brand is built upon trust and value developed over time.

You are building your personal brand online every time you connect with other bloggers, tell your stories, and talk about how you made it.

You can use the platform that you’ve created to write books, promote events, and to help people.

If people know you, they’ll be more likely to reach out to you. You could create strategic partnerships and gain access to a host of opportunities that you would normally never have access to through your blog.

It is about you, not the blog.

Creating a brand

Pat’s personal brand is strong because he connects with readers as well as other bloggers through his voice. Pat Flynn is the brand, not necessarily the website. It’s his name that gives the website its value.

Imagine what his website would be like if he had stayed hidden behind the virtual curtain. There’d be no social proof, no evidence, and probably few readers.

A plan of action for shy bloggers

Shy blogging is like taking a shower with your clothes on: you’re in the right place, doing the right thing, but it just isn’t working. Blogging anonymously probably won’t help you build a brand, help people, or even earn money.

Here is a plan of action made for shy bloggers who don’t want to come out of the closet.

Obstacle #1: I’m too shy to post a photo

Solution: Get a professional photo

If you are too embarrassed to show yourself, then that is a problem because anybody can look good in a photo. A simple personal photo will due in most cases, but a professional can make you look even better.

If you feel like you do not look up to par, then have your hair and makeup done, and get a new outfit to boost your confidence for the shot. If your personal photos aren’t what you want them to be, then go ahead and have a professional photo done. They don’t cost much, but if you are really budget-conscious, you could ask a photography student, or a friend who takes great shots to do it for you.

Do whatever it takes to become presentable online and off.

Obstacle #2: I’m not good enough! I don’t know how to do it

Solution: Improve your skills until you are good enough.

Some people are reluctant to reveal who they are because they are afraid that they are not good writers, not smart enough, or not as good as the other people online. If you feel like you are not good enough, then take a class, get a writing coach, read books, listen to podcasts, and most importantly, practice every day.

Most of the popular bloggers did not start out the way that they are today. They made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. Their websites didn’t look that good. Maybe their writing wasn’t that good either.

The thing is that they kept learning and practicing until they got good at it.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, you need to put in at least 10,000 hours to be good at what you do. Start clocking those hours!

Obstacle #3: I’m waiting for the right time to get started

Solution: Do something right now!

Paralysis through analysis is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring bloggers. They are always waiting until their website is perfect, waiting until they have time, or just waiting because they are too scared to take action.

The best thing you can do is to just get started. Just writing one single article, doing a guest post, or buying a website template can help you.

Force yourself to take at least one step forward every day or spend a certain amount of time to work on your blog every day. Putting in at least one hour day will eventually take you a long way.

Obstacle #4: What if people don’t like me?

Solution: Learn from the criticism

Criticism is a fact of life. Let’s face it: haters have computers too.

There are and always will be people who disagree with you or even dislike you online for no particular reason. Although they may be hurtful, you can’t take what they say to heart.

However, if someone does have some legitimate criticism then you can accept it and learn from it.

The key is to be able to distinguish between the constructive criticism and the negative criticism without getting your feelings hurt. That takes practice, but that’s all it takes.

Obstacle #5: I’m nervous

Solution: Be honest about your feelings.

Being transparent is also about exploring your emotional journey as a blogger and as a human being.

Everyone is usually a little nervous at first, so you may as well as admit it. Your growth as a writer and blogger stems from the fact that you can tell people about your mistakes, your failures, and your fears.

As vast as the Internet is, chances are that you’re not the only one that feels like this. Your audience will probably admit that they understand and support you. They might even give you some new ideas and help you stay motivated.

The bottom line is that you have to reveal something in order to get anything back from your audience. You can share whatever you’re comfortable with sharing, but just show your face to be present.

You might be surprised.

You might like what you see.

And if you like what you see, they will too.

Ashley Bennett is a writer and marketing consultant. She has recently written a book entitled The 7 Laws of Social Media Marketing. You can read more about her blog at Ashley-Bennett.com.

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Comments

  1. Christiano says:

    This is a good case study, with worthy recommendations. I read somewhere else, and also here that a picture is a good introduction for visitors. I have it on my about page.
    Another thing worth taking for this article is to start sometime, anything as long as its in the positive direction. I used to wait for the perfect time when I would buy the perfect theme and hosting, but nothing changed until I started blogging.

  2. Justin Mazza says:

    So true Ashley. We can tell by Pat’s success that he has found a blogging formula that really works well to say the least. Definitely agree with the need to be transparent to gain a real connection with your readers. If not, they won’t really trust you and more than likely will not buy anything from you.

    • Hi Justin,

      Thanks for reading my post.

      I think a lot of people relate to Pat because he is so open and honest about his success.

      It is true that people tend to buy things only from people and places that they know.

  3. Alexis Grant says:

    Love how you included: “What if people don’t like me?” The truth is, if you put yourself out there, you will hear from people who don’t like what you’re doing or saying. But if you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. Great piece!

    • Hi Alexis,

      Thank you for reading my post. I am glad that you enjoyed reading the article.

      I agree with your statement about trying to appeal to everyone. Part of this journey is about being true to yourself above all else.

      It is best to only focus on connecting with the people in your core audience rather than trying to please everyone.

  4. Luke says:

    Thanks, very good information. I learn something from this post. Nobody like to make a business with a stranger.

  5. Hermine says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve had my blog up for about 4 months now and finally got around to posting my picture and writing my about page because I felt a lot of the insecurities that are talked about in this post.

    What got me to finally doing it was a reader who emailed me and basically told me that they wanted to know more and that it would be good if I even just put an about the author box in the sidebar.

    I really admire bloggers like Pat who are transparent about what they do, it really does help me relate to them and trust them and it’s something that I’m considering doing on my blog as well. I think it’s much easier to speak to your audience when you’re open about what you’re doing and the projects you’re working on rather than being vague or hiding behind blog posts on subjects you know little about.

  6. Anshu says:

    Even though I myself don’t feel comfortable sharing about my personal life online, I do see your point. Two of my favorite bloggers are very open about their personal life:
    http://moneysavingmom.com/
    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/
    For me its more of a security issue. I still find it difficult to write a lot about myself and my loved ones because you never know who would be reading it. It does make for very interesting read though.

    • Hi Anshu,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      You can share only the information that you feel comfortable about revealing. You can provide basic information about yourself and then use the blog to focus on more professional topics.

      There are a lot of successful bloggers out there and some are more transparent than others.

      Only write about the things that you feel comfortable writing about and use it to position yourself as an expert in your field.

  7. Kevin says:

    I’m one of the many people who enjoy reading Pat’s blog as well. The advice he gives is solid and has helped me with my business.

    I really like the idea of being transparent when I am blogging. I have been nervous about applying it to my blog. I write about using the iPad for different Internet marketing tasks. The problem is that I hadn’t made any money online until this past week. I’ve started being upfront about the fact that I haven’t had much success yet and besides the effects that you talk about in your post the best part is that I feel that I am being honest and genuine when I write. My view is if you don’t like it, someone else will.

    Thanks for confirming that what I’ve been doing is the right thing. I think I’m going to start going out of my way to be s little more transparent.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for reading my article. I’m glad you like it!

      It is good to hear that you have made a lot of progress by following his advice.

      Good luck with your blog!

  8. Samuel says:

    Pat is one of the best examples to use!

    I have talked to Pat before and he seems such a nice dude to talk to.

    He has created such an amazing blog and he knows how to build trust!

    Thanks for the article Ashley!

    Samuel Pustea

    Internet Dreams

    • Hi Samuel,

      Thank you for reading my article. I am happy to hear that you liked it.

      It is interesting to hear that you have actually met Pat.

      Good luck with your blog!

  9. How much is it going to hurt to remain anonymous? I can’t reveal my identity for fear of loosing my job, my employeer finds out and I’ll be terminated. So will remaining anonymous hinder my becoming a pro blogger?

    • Hi,

      It is not that remaining anonymous will hurt your blog, it is just that people may be reluctant to trust you in some ways because they do not know who you are.

      What you could do is start another blog that you feel comfortable about putting your name on.

      If you want to be a pro blogger then I would recommend at least revealing your identity in some way, shape, or form because that is how you gain trust.

      You choose which topics you will discuss and keep everything on a professional level.

      I hope this helps.

  10. Transparency makes it easy for people to connect with you — That’s a fact. But how transparent can we afford to be in our dealings with the entire world? Well, the more people know about us (The good, the bad and the ugly) the more they will see themselves and feel comfortable that they are dealing with a real human being.

    • Hi Chimezirim,

      Thanks for checking out my article.

      Transparency is a good thing for the most part, but there is also room for privacy. You can be transparent in your professional persona and more private about your personal life.

  11. Daniel says:

    A truly helpful and insightful post, Ashley.

    I think a lot of us tend to be quite proficient in one area, whilst letting the ball drop’ in other just as crucial ones…

    You will find many people are either “Ultra extraverts” when it comes to their blogs or websites, or often the complete opposite….

    There are also some quite popular sites that take a bit of digging, before you find out who is behind the website…

    Though, I agree that putting a face to who we are dealing with, is a better option…

    This is something I have not done as of yet(gravatar, photo on blog, etc) though, I am looking into doing so…

    One question, Ashley. ….What do you think about using your real name for your site and social interactions(website related) as apposed to a “nom de plume” for the sake of security and/ or anonymity?

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      You can use your real name for your website and social media accounts if you are comfortable sharing them with professional contacts.

      You can create two identities online if you would like to have one set of accounts for business contacts another set for personal contacts. Your professional accounts can be under your real name and your personal accounts can be under a pseudonym.

      Just make sure that the information on those accounts are appropriate for each set of contacts.

      I hope this helps.

  12. Okay, Ash (yeah, I’m calling you Ash, like I know you), I’m gonna do it. Real life name, photo (not gravatar-thing), all of that. I started to be more open in my blog about my life and my personal struggles, but I still kept that veil up there covering my identity.

    But you’re right; people don’t trust you if you’re hiding, and nobody follows a blogger they don’t trust. So, it’s time, then.

    Thanks for the nudge.

    Chris

    And good luck to you with your blogging, book, and business. I’ll come have a look after this. Bye

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      I am glad to hear that it gave you that extra push to help you move into the right direction.

      You can still maintain some privacy over some topics, but you should reveal your identity if you want to build a following online.

      You can have a blog for professional purposes and still maintain another blog under a pseudonym.

      Good luck with your blog!