Bloggers are always happy to link to a resource we think is good, or a product or service with which we’re affiliated.
But there are other kinds of external links that too few bloggers use:
- links to sources of information we’ve found
- links to creators of content we’re citing
- links to more detailed information on a topic we’re mentioning, but not covering in depth in a post.
Citing sources is a basic element of professional writing. As well as reflecting your professionalism, it:
- helps build your authority on a topic
- helps you to gain profile and respect by association with quality sources
- actively helps readers to benefit from your content.
Above all, citing external sources of information boosts your credibility. By linking to a quality, reliable external source, you show that you proudly stand behind the information you give your readers. And what blogger doesn’t want to do that?
When should a blogger include a link as a sort of citation? Whenever you’re relating information that you’ve learned elsewhere. Let’s look at the most common types of statements that require external links to their original sources.
If you quote someone else, you should link to the place where they said the words you’ve included in your quote.
After the legal implications of quoting someone without citing the source of that quote, the main reason for referencing quotes is really a logical one.
If you’re quoting a person, it’s logical that your readers may be inspired or intrigued by that quote, so you’ll want to help them out by providing them with easy access to the complete story. Right? Right!
Referencing ideas or concepts
If you make mention of an idea or a concept that someone else has come up with, include a link to the relevant person’s material on that topic.
So, for example, if you wrote a post that mentions Darren’s approach to social media, which includes “home bases” and “outposts,” you’d want to include a link to the article in which he explains those concepts.
Links like this:
- show readers that you care about providing them with all the information they need to get informed on the topics you write about
- have the potential to send traffic to the authors you’ve learned from—and love
- show readers that you’re fair and honest, and that you’re not trying to pass off others’ ideas as your own.
This is the most common issue I see with external links: many bloggers present opinion as fact, often without even realizing it. On the FeelGooder website that Darren runs, we get plenty of submissions that contain prefectly reasonable-sounding claims that, when the authors are asked to provide references to the research or studies they’ve mentioned, turn out to be false.
Many’s the time entire articles have fallen through because the central claim the author was making has turned out to be mere Internet confection. Recently, we removed a section from an article claiming that smiling releases endorphins in the brain because, try as we might, we couldn’t find any substantiation—research reports and so on—for this claim. Sure, it’s written on web pages from one end of the Internet to the other, but that’s not a reference: not one of them pointed to any research (or even mention any researchers) who have ever proven this link.
Don’t believe what you’ve heard as fact. If you’re including information in a post, make sure you cite its original sources.
What makes a good reference?
A good candidate for an external link for the information you’ve included in your post is:
- original, where possible (so if you find an article that links to the original source, link to the original source first and foremost, and the referencing article if you need to as well)
- reliable and well-regarded
- independent (not backed by a business pushing a certain agenda)
- high quality—a source that’s complete, comprehensive, and links to other sources if required
- specialized (not a content aggregator or generalist “answers” web portal).
Of course, some sources of information are (gasp!) not online. It happens! What do you do in those cases? Add a footnote. A perfect footnote was given by author Angela Irvin in her FeelGooder post, Developing a Mindset for Social Good. And her readers appreciated it, too.
Angela wanted to cite an article from a print journal. No problem: she gave a standard academic reference so that if her readers were keen to see the research themselves, they could go to their library and check it out. Pretty handy!
How are your last few posts looking? Have you cited references and pointed your readers to more information wherever that’s sensible, logical, or required? I’d love to know your approach to external informational links and citations in the comments.