Credibility is a bit of a buzzword, but how many of us know anything about the characteristics of credible content?
At its most basic, credibility refers to how believable your message is and how believable you are. If you don’t have much credibility, then people aren’t likely to believe what you have to say and this directly affects audience interest and sales.
Developing credibility is really something you have to focus on over time.
It’s also something that is much easier to lose than it is to gain.
This means that you have to make sure you consider your credibility in everything you post and in your overall approach.
Credibility in Content
Facts and Numbers
In any content, being precise is always better than being vague.
This means that you should say you have ‘lots’ of followers on Facebook, instead you should give the exact number. If possible, you might even want to prove it.
The more accurate you are in your numbers the better. For example, you would choose to say 52.1% growth from one month to the next rather than 50%. Both numbers effectively mean the same thing, but the first one sounds real while the second one sounds made up.
Any time you give information or a fact, you want to consider how you can back it up.
So, if you are talking about how keyword research increases traffic, you could consider using an example from your own site or even just from an anecdote.
Depending on your niche, you might also choose to reference out to specific sources. This is a particularly powerful approach in niches where there is scientific research surrounding the topic area.
An example of this would be talking about how a specific diet can help you lose weight, and then talking about specific scientific studies have shown this to be the case. Linking to these types of studies can be a fantastic way to gain credibility as long as it suits your niche.
Linking to these types of studies can be a fantastic way to gain credibility as long as it suits your niche.
There are a lot of different ways to back up what you say, but the most important thing is to do this whenever you can. The more you back yourself up, the more credible you will appear.
Another way to do this is to get quotes (or even guest pieces) for people who are experts in the field you are talking about.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds because most experts love to share their opinions and even a single quote will dramatically build your credibility.
If you are talking about a product, a big source of credibility comes from being honest.
There are so many product reviews out there where the authors do nothing but tell you how wonderful the product is. In fact, most people intentionally hide the flaws when they are talking about a product.
Do you believe reviews like that when you read them?
Every product has flaws and products are suitable for different people.
If you talk about these issues in your review, then you come across as more credible. Honesty is one of the key characteristics of credible content, even when that honesty seems counterproductive.
So yes, if you tell some of your readers that the product isn’t right for them, you probably won’t get a sale from them – at least not for that product. However, you make yourself seem more reliable overall.
This can increase the sales you get from people who the product is suitable for.
If you are promoting multiple things on your site, then you may well find that the person who the product was unsuitable for ends up buying something else instead.
At the end of the day, it is better to have a satisfied visitor than a dissatisfied customer. You can always turn a visitor into a customer, but once you have a dissatisfied customer, getting them to ever purchase again is extremely difficult.
Every piece of content has to pass the “so what?” test. There has to be an overall point to your content, and this point has to be relevant to your audience. For example, a 500-word article that just points out extremely obvious things probably isn’t going to do well.
Consistently providing value to your audience acts as one of the important characteristics of credible content and it is what keeps people going back to your site.
In a similar manner, being unique adds to your credibility, because it shows that you aren’t simply repeating the common information that is already out there.
Finally, value and credibility also comes from diversity. If you cover a range of different topics within your niche, you can increase your credibility. The sheer amount of content you have also contributes to this impact.
Credibility as a Writer
Credibility isn’t something people can accurately measure. So they use indicators to work out how credible a person or a site is. If you can tap into some of this, you can increase credibility for your site relatively easily.
One part of this is to design your site in a similar way to trusted sites.
This doesn’t mean mimicking their design exactly, but it does involve looking at what elements inspire trust. Compare high profile websites to low profile ones and work out what the differences are.
For example, low-quality sites are often confusing to navigate or are designed in a way that makes them hard to read.
Another part of this is to be consistent.
If your content all uses different formatting, has different fonts or random sizes, it is going to look unprofessional. It’s also going to look like you can’t make up your mind.
The best way to do this is to take the time to plan what you are doing before you get started. If you do this, it is much harder to be inconsistent.
The internet lets you be anonymous – but you shouldn’t be.
Who you are is a very powerful tool and it goes a long way towards establishing credibility. This means you need an author image and you need to use your full name. If you don’t, you look like you are hiding and that is never a good thing.
Now, if there is a reason you don’t want to do this, an alternative approach is to develop an online identity and use this instead. This might mean using a false name or even using a false image – but this is riskier and you should only do it if you need to.
In the same way, you want to take the time to develop a comprehensive ‘about me’ or ‘about us’ section. Again, being specific is great here and it will help you build credibility.
Impacts of Credibility
How credible your content is has a number of impacts that aren’t even obvious at first.
One aspect of this is sharing.
How likely are people to share your content?
Research suggests that content that produces stronger emotions is more likely to be shared. You see this all the time on Facebook, where people will share things that make them laugh, cry or even think.
One study found that high-arousal emotions have more impact than low-arousal ones. So, anger or awe will make people share content more than something that makes someone sad (1).
Right now, credibility doesn’t play much of a role in ranking a website, but there is a decent chance that this will change in the future.
Google has already been focusing on quality content with its algorithms. I wouldn’t be surprised if they add in something for credibility in the future.
If you want to learn more about content creation in general as well as many other elements of internet marketing, I recommend checking out a site called Wealthy Affiliate. This is a training site that is kept up-to-date through the efforts of its owners and its members.
The site is a great place to get information about internet marketing and to find out about any changes to Google and to SEO in general as they occur, rather than months down the line.