Giving Advice on Your Blog? How NOT to Sell Snake Oil

Most bloggers want to provide great information for their readers. I have written about giving readers information they need and want many times. However, I see many articles where people are trying to offer valuable information, but perhaps without knowing it, are essentially selling snake oil. Below I will explain the how this happens.

They Make Claims

Some writers write about their industry/services and say something like, “If you follow these steps you will rank better in the search engines and increase revenue!”

shutterstock_86373466The big question is HOW do you know that? If you say something like the sentence above it is almost like a guarantee, “Do this and this will happen.” You can’t guarantee or claim anything in a blog post because you are not aware of all the factors each individual faces that could play a part in things like – “increasing revenue”, “increased rankings” or “obtaining more clients.”

Bottom line:

Don’t claim anything; just explain the potential benefits of a strategy and the purpose behind taking these steps.

Lack of Testing

If you have experimented with something like a form of content marketing and it worked really well for you, there is no guarantee that the same strategy will work the same way for other people/businesses.  In fact, there is a good possibility that if you personally attempt the same strategy again it would not work the same way.

shutterstock_109464332Bottom line:

Testing something once doesn’t give you enough data to conclude that a particular strategy will work for you or anyone else.

Before you recommend a particular strategy you should make sure you have tested your recommended strategy multiple times. Additionally, you should go beyond and test the influence of different factors for this “particular” strategy. Once you have tested a strategy multiple times, and with different variations, you can gather the data and determine if “X+Y” in fact influences or equals “Z”. Which brings me to my next point…

Not Enough Data to Back-up Your Findings

Writers need to back up their findings or suggestions with data if they are hoping to be considered credible by those that are intermediate- experts in that particular field, readers and even potential clients.

shutterstock_2361444When you are explaining a strategy, or recommending steps businesses should try, it would be wise to break down the data you have collected and explain the influences different factors had on whatever it is that your are recommending. Explaining issues that brought negative results is important as well.  Data is important because you can say, “In steps 1-4 this strategy worked really well, but in step 5-7 we found that A, B, and C influenced the results. So we re-vamped and found a better strategy…”

Bottom line:

Data makes things more credible. It should be included.

Lack of Resources

So let’s say that you have done everything I have suggested:

  • You made no claims.
  • You test and retested.
  • You offered data to support your findings.

You have done all of these things and they are a good start at being more credible to the reader, but I would add some resources as well. Resources can simply be links to other articles that support your strategy by experts in your particular field. Quotes are great too (with proper credit and links). Resources are basically more educational information for your readers, but if the right type of resources are provided it can give your suggestions more validity.

Bottom line:

Resources tell the reader that you do have a clue about what you are recommending.

Fact vs. Opinion

Obviously you know things that can help others, but are the things you are recommending based on facts or opinion?

shutterstock_120995830If you create an article with data on things you have tested and retested and also backed up this information with resources, your article will be more credible. However, sometimes as writers we throw our own ideas and opinions in articles, which is perfectly alright, but we don’t want to make it appear as those are opinions are “facts.”

We want to make it clear to the reader which ideas are opinions and which are factual. Example: “We found the D, E, and F resulted in H, but my opinion/I feel that “M” was a factor in the results we achieved even if the data doesn’t easily reflect that.

Bottom line:

You set yourself apart by ensuring your readers understand the difference between fact and opinion.

Conclusion

Writing articles and blogging can be very beneficial, but if you are recommending steps and strategies for other people or businesses to follow I recommend you avoid the above 5 mistakes that results in you looking like a snake oil salesman.

About the author

Melissa Fach