You don’t know the answer to every question and it’s no shame to admit that. In fact, it’s no shame to admit that you hardly know any answers to any questions in a particular field—even if that’s the field you blog about.
People constantly doubt experts, but they intuitively trust those who confess their own ignorance. If you tell someone you don’t know the answer but that you’ll research it for them, you’ll gain their trust and respect much faster than if you just told them the answer immediately.
Trust Is The Basis Of All Sales
People buy things because they want them… but they have to trust that you’ll deliver what they want before they’ll pay. The more your audience trusts you, the easier it will be for you to sell, so building trust is essential to building your online business.
You can—and should—build trust in many different ways, such as offering and honoring guarantees. But this type of trust building is only evidenced in the negative: your customers will only hear about your guarantee-honoring ability if you don’t do it and people complain.
Admitting your ignorance of certain facts is a positive expression. You can do it in front of everyone any time you want. That makes it extremely valuable.
What You Shouldn’t Say
Of course, you don’t want to lie; nor do you want to confess ignorance about things nobody could know. Saying, “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” isn’t a compelling confession of ignorance—it’s a simple statement about how time works.
Also avoid claiming massive ignorance of your blog’s main subject unless the goal of your website is to showcase your journey from ignorance to mastery. A little ignorance builds confidence; a lot can destroy your credibility. Aim for an honest “I don’t know” from time to time.
How To Build Confidence Without Destroying Credibility
Say something such as, “I don’t know why headlines starting with ‘How To’ work so well, but they always increase traffic to my blog.” With this statement, you’ve demonstrated that you know how to attract traffic but that you’re still learning why it works.
When possible, show the basis of what you know—such as implying in the quote above that you track your website statistics—while also providing a good reason for your ignorance—such as not having studied human psychology. This helps readers learn to trust your knowledge in the areas of your expertise at the same time they learn to trust your humbleness.
Turn Your Ignorance Into An Advantage
When you don’t know something, don’t just confess your ignorance, but also ask for help learning. Following the example from above, ask for readers to speculate why how-to articles get so much attention. Nobody may know the answer for sure, but you’ll get a chance to build a valuable relationship with people while speculating on the possibilities.
Remember that people who find your site through a Google search probably aren’t experts themselves. Instead, they’re searching for the answer to a question. It doesn’t matter whether they find that answer in your main blog post or in the comments. So use your audience to get answers for you, saving you possibly hours of research time.
Another way to gain an advantage from your ignorance is to state that you have an uninformed or partially-informed opinion about something in a link-bait article. Challenge readers to change your mind. Debates on the Internet long predate the Web, and they are one of the best ways to increase traffic to your site temporarily.
You can lock in those gains by turning some of the debaters into regular visitors, either by converting them to your point of view (a difficult proposition) or by letting them change your point of view (much easier, if you’re willing).
Find Examples And Emulate Them
A good blogger reads other bloggers on a regular basis. Look at the bloggers you trust and make a note every time they acknowledge their own ignorance of something. See how they do it and what response they get. In particular, pay attention to the following:
1. Do they lead with a confession of their ignorance, or do they bury it in the middle sentence of a paragraph in the middle of the article where it doesn’t draw any attention?
2. Do they apologize for their ignorance, or do they just state it plainly and move on to what they do know?
3. How often do they state ignorance of a fact? (Every post, once a week, rarely, or never.)
4. When they confess ignorance about a particular subject, how often do they get comments providing information about that subject?
5. When they express an opinion, how often do people debate them and how many of the debaters do you think they turn into regular visitors?
Testing The Theory
There are lots of different ways to test whether confessing ignorance will increase the degree of trust your readers place in you—but I prefer quick and definitive tests. Entrepreneur wisdom says that the faster you fail, the sooner you find success.
So for a quick test, write a blog post that sells something or which at least asks for an email sign up. In that same post, confess your ignorance about every aspect of the product or sign-up of which you’re legitimately ignorant.
Then put that blog post up on your site and see how many sales or sign-ups you get. If you want to be really fancy, write a similar blog post with the same product or sign-up that doesn’t confess any ignorance, and then put both posts in a split-test system like Google’s Content Experiments.
After just a few days on a medium-traffic or high-traffic blog, you should see results at least comparable to your split test or the last time you sold something similar—but if the technique of confessing your ignorance works, you should see even better results.
I don’t know how effective stating your ignorance is, but I do know that a lot of bloggers get good results doing it. I also don’t know whether it’s right for you, but I do think that it’s worth a try.