Citing Sources in Your Articles: Why is it Important?

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

One of the best ways to engage an audience and demonstrate authority is by citing sources when you make a claim. Not only does it make you look better in the eyes of readers, but Google loves authoritative linking. Today, I’ll go into citing sources and how it helps your website.

And I’ll go a bit deeper than just providing backlinks to support your topics. In reality, there are several ways you can properly cite someone’s work in an article.

Why Should You Cite Sources When Writing?

When you cite sources, you’re telling the audience that you are using ideas, words, imagery, or other data from another source of content. Usually, this is to provide “evidence” for your claims based on the work of others.

For example, if I said that WordPress runs roughly one-third of the entire Internet, I would link to a reputable source that has that information.

Citing sources today is one way of separating your content from the growing ranks of “fake news.” It helps build your reputation as an author and gives the reader relevant materials, which expands on the topic.

Not only that, but I’ve found articles that link to quality sources as citations tend to perform better in Google search results.

Can You Cite Yourself?

You want to be careful when it comes to citing your own work as a viable source. If you’re linking to articles within your own blog, all you really need to watch for is making sure the articles are relevant to the point you’re trying to make.

But if you’re linking out to a separate website you own, you’ll need to take extra care. This is because Google cracks down hard on trying to inflate backlinks to your own materials.

Essentially, make sure that you’re linking to factual information whether it’s from yourself or another party.

How Do You Properly Cite Sources?

The way you cite a source really depends on the medium.

There are a few different ways you can go about citations online. But when it comes to physical articles, such as newspaper or magazine entries, you can’t add the URL for people to click.

Use Reputable and Authoritative Creators

First, and foremost, you want to cite sources that are reputable and authoritative in their fields. For instance, if you are writing an article about space, linking to something from Neil DeGrasse Tyson is ideal, given he is very reputable in astrophysics.

Of course, you want to make sure you’re linking to something that supports your own article.

You wouldn’t want to cite a lesser-known creator unless he or she has viable information to share or cites reputable sources themselves. This helps reduce the spread of false information.

And it simply looks far more professional.

One thing I would like to mention, though, is it always pays to try and corroborate information from more than one reliable source. Sometimes, people get things wrong, and you wouldn’t want to be accused of spreading inaccurate data.

Citing Sources as a Backlink

If you’re a blogger or write articles for online mediums, it’s very easy to cite a source using a backlink. This is when you’d use proper anchor text and add a link to where you’re pulling your information.

Example of Citing a Source in a Link
Out of all known content management systems, <a href=”https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress” target=”_blank”>WordPress commands nearly a 64% marketshare</a> as of November 2020.

As you can see, all it takes is a link to the source and the online article is usually good to go. The link is citing where I got the information and visitors can click to see it for themselves.

Citing Sources as a Footnote

Another popular method, especially among Wikis and WordPress users, is that of offering footnotes. This is when you’ll see a number following a sentence signifying a source for the content is at the bottom of the article.

Sometimes these are used in conjunction with website links. Sometimes, they’re just standalone numbers with a link to the source at the bottom of the page.

In any case, they can offer a more professional appearance depending on the article and creator.

Think of it as personal preference and what kinds of citations work best for your target audience.

Citing Books

What if you’re citing information that comes from a book? In this case, you would include the title of the book, the author, the publishing house (if any), and the year the book was published.

If the book is available for purchase online, you could also provide a link so the reader can verify the information.

Adding a link could open the door for affiliate sales if the title is available on something like Amazon. But, that is a topic of its own.

Because titles, authors, and publishing houses can all be similar, you want to make sure you offer the correct volume. This is why you include as much information about the source as possible.

Case in point, my sister was confused with another author of the same name. It really messed up her profile in Amazon as the author. Make sure you get the right book when citing it as a source.

Citing Articles Other than Linking

If you’re citing an article that doesn’t have an online presence, you want to make sure you’re as descriptive with the publication as you would with a book.

For example, citing non-Internet articles can include: title of the article, author, name of the publication (such as a journal or magazine), volume number, publishing date, and page number if possible.

When it comes to citing books and hard-copy articles, it’s probably best to use a footnote due to the amount of information. This way, you’re not cluttering the piece you’re writing with a massive string of citing texts.

What About Adding Quotes from Sources?

Quotes are effective in an article, especially if you’re the one doing the interview. However, there’s no harm in using quotes from other sources as part of fair use copyright protection.

See what I did there with that last link?

I am pointing to the Copyright.gov website to support my claim about fair use. That is a citation in a blog post. And since Copyright.gov is a strong reputable source for the information, it’s now an authoritative backlink.

If I add a quote from another website, I’ll include the link where I pulled the quote in the first place.

If it’s a profound quote to support your article, and you use WordPress, it’s easy to add it into a more bold layout to get the attention of the reader.

You can’t please 100% of the people, 100% of the time.
– Michael Brockbank

How your quote looks in WordPress will depend on your theme and if you have any stylish plugins installed. At any rate, quotes are useful when citing sources for information you’re using.

Citing Sources is Greatly Beneficial

When it comes to boosting your reputation as an author, or getting the attention of the Google search algorithm, citing sources is a key element.

You’re letting the reader know you know what you’re talking about and where he or she can verify the information. And if you’re making profound claims, you want to make sure you’re delivering the best information possible.

Otherwise, the trust level just isn’t where it should be for your audience.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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