We’re living through a disinformation age. And that goes well beyond political reporting. Credible sources are lacking in all sorts of online content, from blog posts to YouTube videos.
Your business blog should be an exception.
Let’s look at why linking to credible sources is vital in your business blogging. Then I’ll give you some tips on how to find more credible sites and resources to link to.
Why Credible Sources Matter in Your Blog Content
You want your company blog to do more than connect with customers.
In most cases, your professional blog should convey your expertise or authority in your industry or specialty. That isn’t the image of authority, but rather showcasing the real thing.
You can’t do that if your blog content cites and links out to questionable sources.
All that does is show readers you don’t know enough about your own industry to know where the most trustworthy data comes from. It reflects poorly on you.
Worse, when your readers don’t know better, they might take your link as a recommendation and come to trust unreliable sources as a direct result of your content.
Don’t make the mistake of contributing to toxic cycles like that. Once people come to realize certain sources you link to aren’t credible, it’s going to reflect negatively on your own reputation.
4 Tips for Finding Credible Sources for Your Blog Posts
Not sure if the sites you link to are credible sources? Here are four tips that can help you make better judgment calls and keep your business blog content as authoritative as possible.
1. Know the difference between popularity and authority.
These are not the same thing. Being a large site does not make something an authoritative site. Being a popular site with thousands of followers or subscribers also has nothing to do with true authority or credibility.
“But if they have a massive reader base that trusts them, they must be credible, right?”
Audience size is irrelevant to authority. It speaks nothing to anyone’s credibility. It’s easy to build popularity. People do it by gaming systems all the time, sometimes ethically and sometimes not – link schemes and other black hat tactics, buying visibility via advertising, and PR or social media stunts just as a start.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see clients make. They avoid linking to smaller, less popular, but more credible sites (think a university researcher’s blog talking about results of her research). Then they instead link to some popular blogger talking about that research instead. The first is the more credible, authoritative source.
2. Separate SEO efforts from source citations.
A big influence I’ve seen on this popularity focus is search engine optimization (SEO).
Clients will focus on linking out to large, popular websites rather than the more credible sources behind the information they cite because they see it as good for SEO.
It’s partly about linking to sources ranking higher than your own (which ultimately lends them more undeserved “authority” than you anyway). And it’s partly an ego-bait tactic: linking to popular bloggers in the hopes they’ll notice you and link back to your site.
SEO is important, but it should never come before serving your readers the best, most credible content you can. You risk further boosting people who put their own popularity before building true authority, and that risks hurting your readers in the long run.
3. Seek out primary sources of information.
I touched on this earlier, but always try to prioritize primary sources for your citations. This is when you’d cite the researcher sharing their results, not the popular blogger posting their data.
Why does this matter?
When you cite and link to secondary sources, you’re rarely just getting the data (and sometimes the original source isn’t even cited there). You’re also often getting a third party’s interpretation of that data.
If your company’s blog post is commenting on someone else’s interpretation intentionally, then linking there makes sense. But if you’re trying to share data you found via a secondary source, you can end up sharing poor interpretations that don’t actually reflect what was found.
You essentially spread misinformation or disinformation.
There are no positives in doing that. You put your company’s, and your own, reputation at risk.
Instead, if you find interesting statistics on another site or publication, find the primary source if possible. Review what the data really says. Then make your own educated interpretations and share your authoritative insight on your company blog.
4. Identify source biases.
When deciding what sources to link to from your company blog, also identify and consider source biases.
In something like political reporting, these biases can be obvious or well-documented. But your company blog probably isn’t covering much of that nature. Biases can also be business-oriented, and more subtle.
An Example of Business Bias
In an example I documented on my freelance writing blog, a popular website in the blogging and social media niches published statistics that became widely shared among other bloggers, big and small.
The problem? The interpretation of that data was inherently biased on pretty much every website I saw citing it. The company I initially found this data through made a claim about something as simple as blog post length and its impact on social media shares.
And that interpretation was woefully inadequate. For instance, while the underlying intent was to show that longer blog posts saw more social media shares, it didn’t account for something as basic as shares-per-word (in other words, maximizing your ROI).
In this case, what the data really said was a 3000-word blog post would actually earn around 30-35% fewer shares than if a blogger published three 1000-word posts instead. Huge difference when planning your content strategy and schedule.
Now why would this popular company publish these stats with that misleading claim? It wasn’t necessarily malicious. But it was heavily biased toward its own business interests.
In the case of the blogger sharing the data, it was reasonably sensational. And sensationalized claims tend to get shared. It was simple, not-quite-honest linkbait.
What about the company whose chart was being passed around? Their business model is about helping people research content popularity and social media sharing for the sake of their own content strategy. By telling bloggers they needed to do something more substantive, you drive interest in these kinds of market research services.
Bias Isn’t Always Bad, But You Should be Aware of It
Again, it’s not about data being malicious or intentionally harmful. It’s about lazy bloggers not having a grasp of the underlying biases, so they amplify bad data or misleading interpretations of it.
You can avoid being a part of this cycle, and find more credible sources to reference, by seeking out these biases up front.
When it comes to links you add to your business blog, ask if each is the most authoritative source. If it’s not a primary source, what added value does the source bring, or what about their coverage will directly impact your own content? What biases might have influenced this source? And what was your own initial reason for choosing them?
Ultimately every link on your blog should be vetted.
Not sure about your blog’s recent outgoing links? Do you want to clean up old posts, or update them, with more credible sources? Would your company blog benefit from custom style guidelines including citation rules for your bloggers to follow?
Contact me any time and let’s talk about how I can help you create a more authoritative company blog by editing old content with more credible sources or help you plan to do better with future posts.