How NOT To Sell Snake Oil When Giving Advice on Your Blog

Melissa Fach

on

June 12, 2013 (Updated: May 16, 2023)

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, when in reality, they don’t have the understanding or knowledge to make the claims they make. In other words, they’re essentially selling snake oil. But how do you make sure you don’t do the same on your blog? Here’s how NOT to sell snake oil when giving advice on your blog:

1. Don’t Just Make Claims

Some writers write about their industry, products, or services and say something like, “If you follow these steps, you will rank better in the search engines and increase revenue!” The big question is HOW do you know that? If you say something like that, it’s almost like a guarantee, “Do X and Y 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.

2. Don’t Forget To Test

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 and businesses. In fact, there’s a good possibility that if you personally attempt the same strategy again, it wouldn’t work the same way.

Bottom 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.

3. Gather 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.

When 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 you’re 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 steps five to seven, 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. Gather and include it.

4. Use a Variety of Resources

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.

5. Leverage Fact vs. Opinion

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

Writing articles and blogging can be very beneficial. But if you’re recommending information for other people or businesses to follow, using these approaches will ensure you’re following the appropriate processes when giving advice on your blog.

Author Image - Melissa Fach
Melissa Fach

Melissa Fach has been in the SEO industry since 2007. She created her own agency, was the Managing Editor at SEJ, worked as an editor for Moz with their community team, she worked at Pubcon as the Community Manager for 5 years, and is an editor for SEMrush US Blog.

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