5 Science-Backed Tips to Build Reader Trust

8 min read 7 Responses
Mustafa Khundmiri 4 years ago

Want to know how to gain your blog reader’s trust and build a loyal readership?

Getting your readers to trust you is crucial for your blog’s success. Because if they don’t trust you, they don’t trust your words. And if they don’t trust your words, it’ll be difficult to convert them into subscribers or customers.

Now, a lot has already been written about building a trustworthy blog. Right from being transparent with your readers to being consistent in your efforts — it’s all out there.

The question is, is it possible to instantly increase your chances of your readers trusting you?

As you’ll discover in this article, the answer is a resounding yes.

These are a few simple tips to build reader trust, backed by psychological research. They may seem unusual, but the fact that they’re proven to work gives you every reason to apply them to your blog.

1. Attract an Intelligent Audience

If you want your blog readers to trust you, create quality content that attracts an intelligent audience. Yep, I’m talking about content that interests people with a higher IQ.

A research conducted by Oxford University found that intelligent people are more likely to trust others. The researchers analyzed data from America’s GSS Survey and concluded that “intelligence is shown to be linked with trusting others, even after taking into account factors like marital status, education and income.” They say that this could be due to the fact that intelligent people are better at judging character.

Being a blogger, you communicate your ideas or experiences to your readers through your content. And whether you admit it or not, your readers judge you based on what you share with them. So every blog post you create is an opportunity to connect with them and position yourself as an expert.

When you create smart, evergreen content, you automatically build an audience made up of intelligent people. Well-written and well-researched content makes it easy for you to build trust and spread the word out about your blog through your readers.

Copywriter and content marketing consultant Georgina El Morshdy thinks smart content should “Solve problems. Entertain. Provide relevant content. Engage your target audience. Be helpful. Be useful.” And I totally agree with her.

The smartness of your content depends on its:

When you make sure your content is great on all levels, you can be sure that it grabs the attention of intelligent people in your target audience.

So the next time you feel like creating blog content for the heck of it, remember that putting in more effort has its own rewards. One of them being attracting smart readers who trust you and take your blog forward.

2. Say Sorry for Situations Out of Your Control

According to a study done by researchers at Harvard Business School, Wharton School and University of Pennsylvania, people were more comfortable lending their cell phone to a stranger when he first apologized for the rain — something that was not at all in his control. Out of all people, only 9 percent of them lent their cell phones minus the apology, but a whopping 47 percent did when the person said sorry.

The researchers concluded:

“Across our studies, we identify significant benefits to apologizing. Superfluous apologies represent a powerful and easy-to-use tool for social influence. Even in the absence of culpability, individuals can increase trust and liking by saying ‘I’m sorry’ – even if they are merely ‘sorry’ about the rain.”

This goes on to show that displaying a little empathy works great when gaining someone’s trust.

As a blogger, you may be able to gain the trust of your readers by apologizing for negative events, even if they’re not in your control. This obviously doesn’t mean you should apologize for everything. But it does come handy when you know things have gone wrong.

During your blogging career, there will be times when you make mistakes that are noticed by your readers. Instead of covering them up, say sorry and gain their empathy. Being honest and transparent with your readers in every way will give you higher trust ratings.

When a reader pointed out to Neil Patel that his guest post on Moz had too many outgoing links to his own blog, the blogger was quick to apologize in a nice way:


Even though the other readers defended Neil saying that he did nothing wrong by linking to relevant posts on his blog, he apologized anyway. That’s how top bloggers show responsibility towards their readers.

In a 2004 study on deception, University of California, Santa Barbara, psychology professor Bella DePaulo found that liars rarely admit mistakes. So, if you want to appear truthful to your readers, confess to your mistakes and don’t be afraid to apologize. It automatically makes you stand out from the fake.

And if you’re one of those bloggers who get easily embarrassed because of the blunders you make, then don’t feel bad — another research suggests that it makes you more trustworthy.

3. Not Comfortable Apologizing? Consider Changing

If saying sorry isn’t your cup of tea, then you may want to change yourself for the better. Why? Because a changed behavior can prove to be more convincing.

In order to explore the idea of trust recovery, scientists got a big group of volunteers to play an elaborate “trust game” which went like this:

You have $6, which you can either keep or give to another person. If you give it away, it triples in value to $18, which the recipient can either keep or split with you, $9 apiece. So initially giving away the $6 is obviously an act of trust. But in order to study trust recovery, the scientists put the volunteers through several rounds of the game. In the early rounds, the recipient (actually a computer) violated trust by keeping the $6 a couple of times in a row. Then the recipient apologized and promised to be more trustworthy from now on. Then there was one final opportunity to be either trusting or not.

The research goes on to prove that people are more likely to forgive and trust again when they see the possibility of change. There’s no doubt about the fact that apologizing is the first step to making things right. However, doing something more can make a stronger impact.


                Image credit

Blogging is a journey. It’s got its own ups and downs. But you’re not alone in this journey. Your readers are a part of it. They’re analyzing every move you make on your blog. By showing them that you’re a changed person (especially after making a mistake), you prove to them that you’re serious.

People want to connect to the person behind the blogger.  They want assurance that you’re a real human, with real feelings. By changing yourself positively, you give them this assurance. You make it evident to them that you care. And that’s what makes them trust you.

In addition to that, changing for your readers also shows that you’re a nice person, which adds to your credibility. As Debra Askanase said, “Everyone wants to know that the blogger they so admire IS in fact… someone they’d like to know better in person as well.”

4. Blog Under a Pen Name or a Pseudonym

Is your name too hard to say? If yes, then you may want to blog under a pen name or a pseudonym.

A University of California-Irvine led study found that people trust strangers with easier-to-pronounce names more than strangers with difficult-to-pronounce names. With an easy name you’re not only seen as trustworthy, but also accomplished.

“To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of familiarity signals something that we can trust,” said lead author Eryn Newman of the UC Irvine.

Even though there are case studies that show blogging under your real name can lead to serious consequences such as loss of employment — that’s not what we’re concerned about. Our only aim here is to use a pen name to appear more familiar to the readers and increase our chances of being trusted.

Picking a pen name and using it isn’t rocket science. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one:

Ultimately, blogging under an “easy” pen name is a good idea if your real name is hard to pronounce. The name won’t change you as a person. You will still blog the way you blog, while garnering more trust from your readers.  Besides that, if Stephen King can use a pen name like Richard Bachman, why can’t you?

5. Smile, and Grow a Beard

When I asked bloggers Mike Wallagher and Meg Cook for their insights on building trust online, this is what they replied:

Show you face – Put it everywhere. If you are scared to show it or want to stay anonymous, go to fiverr and let someone animate it (like Jeff Bullas). It’s no more than $5 – $10 a pop, but it truly madly deeply helps to build trust with your audience.

“I think if I were to offer one piece of advice about how to build trust, it would be to show your face. I cannot think of a single company or individual that I trust for which I cannot also picture the person in charge.”

Most reputed bloggers would agree on the fact that displaying your photo can make it easy for your readers to trust you. But what if you could push the trust factor a few notches up by simply smiling in your picture?

                Image credit

Smiling, according to this study, makes you trustworthy. It showed that people who smile are seen to be more generous and genuinely helpful. Another research published in ScienceDirect revealed that a smile boosted people’s “willingness to trust” by about 10%.

By having a smiling picture of you on your blog, you give your readers another reason to trust you. Even though it sounds simple, it can (and will) make a difference. Your blog will look more inviting and friendly.

Want to add even more credibility to your picture? Grow a beard, or if you’re a woman, wear some makeup!

About Mustafa Khundmiri

Mustafa Khundmiri is the co-founder of Foundora and Copymatter.com. He's also a content marketing consultant at Plugmatter. Follow him on Twitter @MKhundmiri.

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  • konradmarkham

    Interesting article Mustafa.
    Maybe I should start every new blog post now by saying I sincerely apologise what I said in my previous post…

    • http://copymatter.com/ Mustafa Khundmiri

      Thanks Konrad! Haha I’m pretty sure that would backfire 😉

  • http://learnhowtoblog.com.au/ Sean Rasmussen

    Great article, Mustafa. Can I grow a beard and wear makeup too?

    Funny, I always though beards were there to hide the face i.e. no beard is more trustworthy. However I agree that authors tend to have a beard for trust.

    • http://copymatter.com/ Mustafa Khundmiri

      Thanks Sean, I’m glad you liked the article 🙂

  • http://nowgoblog.com NowGoBlog

    I enjoyed this read. Definitely some things to consider here.

  • Pingback: Content Marketing: How to Create Content that People will Read & Share - Nativedge()

  • Pingback: 9 Blog Types for Attracting Intelligent Audiences - BuzzFarmers()

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