You have a website, perhaps a blog, and you’ve already taken the essential steps to set it up right:

  • You’ve clarified your focus and who you’re writing for.
  • You’ve established a relational and brand-appropriate writing voice.
  • You’ve made your site SEO friendly so people can find you, and you’ve set up tent in places your audience hangs out.

All that work, and something’s still not right. Your blog draws plenty of new traffic, but readers just aren’t sticking around. People might read your content once, but in order to keep them coming back, it’s not enough to ask for subscriptions at the end of each post. You need to earn their trust as a credible source.

If your brand lacks authority, it’ll cost you precious reader engagement.

The good news is, we have a pretty good idea how to earn the trust of today’s reader (at least for this year, anyway). Following are some proven ways to boost your credibility and win readership, based on a report by content strategy company, Content Science.

1. Get Endorsed by Experts

According to the study, people ranked this strategy the top most indicative of trustworthy web content. An endorsement could be a short quote from a famous author or thought leader, but it also includes guest posts, interviews, and collaboration on a product or service.

Recommended readings:

Michael Hyatt (for products such as ebooks and online courses)
Copyblogger (for getting expert content onto your blog)

2. Use References

This may seem counterintuitive, but people still notice whether or not you cite credible sources. Though people report using web content more, they also report having decreasing trust in both its quality and reliability.

Perhaps too many amateurs are clogging up the cyber pipes with bad content. Perhaps, too, the sheer volume of new brands cropping up all the time is a little disorienting. If nobody recognizes your brand yet, then referencing familiar brands in your content will go a long way in building your reputation, according to Content Marketing Institute.

The internet has its own etiquette for citing other people. Hubspot breaks it down nicely, addressing various scenarios in which you should cite someone.

3. Incite Shares

People are more likely to trust you if they heard about you through a friend. And sometimes the best way to get people to share is to ask them. Starting with your own network.

Most people don’t feel comfortable outright asking for this kind of help: it feels too self-promotional. You’d think a good writer wouldn’t need to ask their friends to share their content. But this is what every successful campaign, business, or any other enterprise has done to get the word out. After all, it’s free and effective.

To combat the timidity we have around promoting our content, author Steven Pressfield (The War of Art) says we should think of ourselves not as “me,” but as the company we run, “Me Inc.” This mental game can give us some needed distance between our work and our fragile ego. Jeff Goins also offers some great advice on asking people to share.

4. Date Stamp Your Work

In this fast-paced cyber ecosystem, where new information comes at us continually by the minute, people notice dates. They need to in order to find out if your data is still relevant. Because even an article from 2007 (especially if it’s about the book publishing industry, ecommerce, or scientific research), probably contains at least some obsolete information. As this article on the Content Marketing Institute suggests, you can always add revisions: “Posted: Jan. 12, 2013 | Revised: April 12, 2013.”

5. Shun the Toxic Follower

Your readers are not only looking at your work, they also want to know whether they relate to your fans. And the easiest way for them to do that is to skim through your comments section.

Although controversy often sparks short-term attention, too much controversy will turn your space toxic and some people will think twice before offering their two cents. Don’t get me wrong, a little controversy every now and then is great. But if everything that comes out of your metaphorical mouthpiece sparks outrage, are you really that credible?

Of course, we might not want to censor every negative comment we get. I like Darren Rowse’s creative and proactive response to negative comments. As a general rule, bloggers should be reading, monitoring, and responding respectfully in their own comment sections.

Conclusion

If you’re serious about your blog, and think of it as a professional thinks of their business, then you’re already on the right track. Like any successful business, a healthy blog:

  1. Is good enough to earn the kudos of other experts
  2. Has a clear position in the “marketplace”
  3. Yes, still requires lots of time and effort to promote
  4. Takes responsibility for accurately reflecting the relevancy of the content by dating it
  5. Encourages healthy reader interaction

What do you think about these five strategies? How will they help you grow your readership? You can leave a comment below.