When I first went live with my personal finance blog in 2008, I knew little to nothing about blogging. I hoped people would read it, but I honestly didn’t think anyone would. Regardless, whether I ended up with 1 reader or 10,000 readers, there were two rules I put in place for myself that I vowed to never compromise on:
- Always be honest
- Be real
Your readers are your number one asset, don’t ever forget that. Without them, your blog may as well not exist. The moment those readers distrust you, your blog begins to fail. Trust is critical to your growth and to your income.
As I mentioned above, if your readers trust you, they’ll not only come back to your blog but will promote your blog to others for you. Your readers themselves will become one of your strongest marketing tools.
Social media was just blooming when I started blogging, but even then having an article be successful on StumbleUpon or Twitter could cause a huge rush of traffic to your site. Today, this is even more true. Social media can drive waves of traffic to your blog and your success on social media influences your search engine rankings in Google. How do articles become successful on social media? Well the obvious reason because they’re good and provide value. The less obvious reason is because a few influential social media people promoted your article. They did that because they trusted you or because someone they followed trusted you. Once those influential people promote you, the wave of traffic begins. Just having a couple of these huge viral moments can exponentially grow your blog.
Trust also has a direct impact on your affiliate income. Affiliate income is one of the key income earners on my blogs, along with Adsense, products, and services. I include affiliate links in my articles. If someone clicks through on an affiliate link and purchases the product or service, I get paid. Even before I really understood affilate programs, I vowed to not promote or recommend any product or service that I hadn’t personally used and liked. In other words, if I didn’t personally use it, I wouldn’t recommend it. Every single affiliate link on my site is to a product that I use (or have used) and liked. As a result, my readers can trust my affiliate links and the products I promote.
Finally, building trust with my readers is important to me personally. I like to sleep well at night, and I don’t like decisions I make during the day to haunt me while I lay in bed at night. I was raised to be honest and upfront, and doing anything on the contrary, well just makes me feel bad about myself. Who likes to feel bad?
The blogging world is full of success stories and they’re easy to find. Why? Because people love to share their successes. They love to tell others about the great things they’ve done. We all do, myself included. But let me share a personal story with you where I learned and incredibly important lesson. The lesson shocked me, but drastically changed my perspective on blogging.
In 2009, I made a really stupid financial decision. As a personal finance blogger, I knew better. I didn’t write about it at first, because I was embarrassed. I thought to myself: “If I tell my readers, they’ll stop reading. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll think bad of me.” Well, you get the idea. Each and every time I wrote an article that shared financial advice and hit the publish button, I felt terrible. I felt like I wasn’t being honest and real with my readers. I felt that because I wasn’t being open, that I was deceiving them and that I was compromising on those two key tenants I mentioned at the beginning of this article. I just couldn’t do that.
After a few days, I wrote an article sharing the mistake I made and being very open and honest about it. In the last paragraph, I told them how bad I felt, and how I felt like I had let them down. I even mentioned that if they chose not to read my site anymore, that I would fully understand. I expected my blog to take a huge negative hit. After staring at the article for almost 10 minutes, I sighed and hit the publish button.
Sharing your failures is as important as sharing your successes. Click to Tweet
I logged in a few hours later to check the comments, expecting the worse. Instead, what I read literally shocked me. The comments weren’t negative at all, instead the replies they were very positive. The comments were others sharing their failures, thanking me for being honest, and thanking me for being real. One even said “So wait, you make mistakes? You’re a real human being? I didn’t think successful bloggers were real people.” Those same commenters also promoted the article, and while I’m not sure I would say it went viral, it did become very popular. Ironically the article that I thought would be the demise of my blog, was one of the highest traffic articles I’ve ever written. My blog grew significantly larger as a result.
One of the comments that stood out, and still does in my mind today said something very close to this:
“I read so many personal finance sites everyday, all filled with articles on how much money people have in their savings, how well their investments are doing and how close they are to saving up that 1 million dollars in savings they are striving for. As someone who struggles daily to pay the bills, put food on the table, and fend off the debt collectors, those success articles made me feel alone. I read your article today and was filled with hope that I was not alone. I saw the comments from others and realized that not only did I make mistakes, that others do as well. Thank you so much for sharing your story, it literally changed my life.”
Unfortunately the article is no longer up. I guess the new owners decided to remove it. As a result, I couldn’t find the original comment, but I remember it very well and this is very very close to the actual wording.