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Mar 15, 2010

Making Money Online and Trust

Trust plays a very important role for people wanting to make money online. Simply put, readers who trust you will be more likely to purchase products you recommend, buy your eBook, take your reviews seriously, click your links or hire you for some other service.

Fortunately, there are a number of methods available to help establish yourself as trustworthy, and in doing so, increase your earnings.

Trust is particularly important on the web because there is such a lack of it. In the face-to-face world we make purchases from established brands, mediated by (hopefully) knowledgeable and competent salespeople. We can clearly and transparently observe transactions being made. We can also return or exchange products we buy that fail to meet our needs.

Most of these things are lost on the web, and as bloggers, we will rarely have the chance to even meet those we hope to buy from us, either directly or indirectly.

Here are some methods you can use to counterbalance this initial lack of trust.
Being objective

The risk when writing things like paid reviews is that readers will immediately assume your views will be biased toward the product. It seems logical that a company would only pay for a review if it could safely assume the result would create a favorable impression of their brand.

If your review sounds like an advertisement, however, you will lose the element of trust that might have encouraged readers to investigate the product. It seems counter-intuitive, but writing a glowing review may indirectly decrease sales.

This does not mean you should take the opposite tack and trash the product (unless it’s well and truly deserving). Instead, try to temper the positive points in your review by including some possible draw-backs, or by explaining why the product or service might not be suitable for certain types of people.

Not only does this make your review seem more trustworthy and objective, but it can help insure you against disgruntled buyers. Those who do read your overwhelmingly positive review and buy the product, only to find that it is not at all suited to them, will direct their anger against the person who recommended it to them in the first place: you.
Being honest about affiliates

A good rule of thumb is to let your readers know when you have the potential to profit from a link. Readers might not appreciate being profited from without their consent, particularly if their initial level of trust is low.

I have seen some bloggers insert (aff link) in brackets after the link to let readers know they’re linking to an affiliate. This is not the method I would choose. It tells readers you will make a profit from anything purchased, but it does not explain on what terms. My main criticism, however, would be that only a small percentage of web users are familiar with affiliate marketing schemes. Many readers will not understand what you mean by aff link.

Another option would be to include a disclaimer at the beginning or end of your post, linking to a page explaining how and why affiliate links are used. For example:

This post contains affiliate links for the product _____. To learn more about how and why affiliate links are used on this site, or how they help to support the blog, feel free to browse my Disclosure Policy (link).

You do have one, right?

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