3 Reasons to Write Accountable Content On Your Blog

Academics & Grumps, by Griffin Johnston on Flickr

Academics & Grumps, by Griffin Johnston on Flickr

This article is an update of my February 2011 article, It’s Time for Accountable Content on Blogs. Since then, I have learned three solid reasons to write accountable blog content:

  1. Your readers will trust you more
  2. Your site will rank higher in search engines
  3. You will make more money

In this article I’ll cover these 3 reasons why you should write accountable, *quality* content, as well as give you some criteria for what I think *quality* content is.

1. Your readers will trust you more

Trust and communication are inextricably connected to each other. The Oxford Dictionary says:

Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information or news

Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

Communication requires trust and trust requires communication. We buy certain brands because we believe in their promise; we trust them. We read certain authors again and again because we know their story will entertain/inform/enlighten us; we trust them. If you’re in the business of blogging, whether for business or hobby, you’re in the business of building and maintaining trust. Whether you want someone to subscribe to your blog, or whether you want them to click on an ad, accountable content will improve your chances of success.

2. Your site will rank higher in search engines

If you’ve been blogging for any time, then you know there are two ways people can get to your site. One is through your network (social media, subscriptions to your site, friends and family) and the other is through search engines. Google and other search engines rank sites higher when they know that people find what they’re looking for on your site. Of course, the search engine can’t read minds, so how does it know that someone has found what they’re looking for? The answer is hyperlinks! If someone clicks a link on your post, then the search engine knows that your blog has something that people are looking for, and it ranks you higher for that search term.

Accountable, *quality* content has links to sources of information, connecting your thoughts to the larger dialogue that is happening around the topics you write about. Over the space of a year, I actually became number 1 for a specific search term because Google knew that people find what they’re looking for on my website, by clicking on links in my post.

In my research in 2011, I learned that many people avoid linking to other pages because it takes away from the time spent on their page and the possible money they will earn from their ads. This article about Black Hole SEO talks about why this might not be very effective.

In this post about Google, called How to Improve Your Website’s Google Ranking, Marziah Karch talks about how to link properly:

Link Early, Link Often

One of the biggest factors Google looks at is the hyperlink. Google looks at both links to and from your website.

Google looks at the words you use in links to help determine the content of your page. Use links within web pages as a way to emphasize keywords. Rather than saying, “click here to learn more about SEO” you should say: Read more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Learn more about why hyperlink names matter to Google.

3. You will make more money

Only 4% of bloggers say that their primary source of income is their blog and only 7% state money as their primary reason for blogging (2011 Technorati survey of bloggers). However, money and/or career appears to play a part for most bloggers in some way or another:

  • 22% blog to attract clients to their (own) business
  • 24% blog to get published in traditional media
  • 28% blog to advance their career
  • 42% blog to gain professional recognition (to advance their career)
  • 25% blog to make money or supplement their infome

Why do you blog?

Here is a summary of the survey results for the question, What is the Primary Reason Why You Blog?

Summary of survey results for question: What is the primary reason why you blog? Click on image to go to Technorati survey results.

Summary of survey results for question: What is the primary reason why you blog? Click on image to go to Technorati survey results.

I am a fairly representative example of this summary: My primary reason for blogging is to explore my interests. I also network and share my expertise, experiences and opinions. I don’t make money directly from my blog, but I do indirectly: when I send a resume or post an ad for my writing services, there is a link to my blog and I believe it improves my chances of being offered work. In my email communications, I have a link to my blog in my signature, so when I email strangers, that link lends me credibility, and builds trust, which can benefit me in all kinds of ways.

If that person clicked on that link and it landed on a website that lacked credibility, I could actually make myself look worse than with no link at all. What I’m saying is that it pays to build credibility. There are many ways to build credibility, but the one that I’m talking about in this post is through the *quality* of your content.

What is *quality* accountable content?

I put asterix around the word quality because this is subjective, of course. The following list is my own criteria for *quality* accountable content:

  • References to other people/ideas are supported by links or sources.
  • Credit is given to anyone from whom you got information.
  • The authority (or non-authority) of the author is stated clearly.
  • Statistics are sourced, if possible to the actual research they came from (Hint: if you’re having a hard time finding the source of a statistic, it’s probably because it’s a fake–don’t use it).
  • Quotes are sourced, if possible to the book or website they came from.
  • Statements of fact are supported by evidence, or by professional opinion.
  • Opinions and advice are supported by evidence, or by professional opinion.

Further Reading

  • This how to article, explains all you need to know about attributing things properly.
  • Digital Ethics, by Loyala University has a very in-depth guide for Best Practices for Bloggers.  It’s great, read it.
  • This article called 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time is not only an excellent example of *quality* accountable content, it also gives lots of tips on how to avoid errors that really have an impact on your blogging success.

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