How to cite sources in a blog post

Leah ClarkeContent Marketing

So you’ve written a great article drawing inspiration and quotes from other bloggers, but have you given credit where credit is due? Have you avoided any breach of copyright and have you followed the link etiquette expected in the blogging sphere?

To help you achieve these things we’ve decided to share not only our own tips, but also those of some other key players in the content marketing space. We’ll cite their work to show you how it’s done.

But first, let’s quickly get our heads around the legal side of things. Copyright laws can differ across countries, and some countries stipulate that creative works must have a notice of copyright to be covered. However, Wikipaedia advises us that the Berne Convention provides automatic protection for all creative works, lasting for at least 50 years after the author’s death. So to walk on the safe side of the line, assume all content on the internet is automatically covered by copyright and you can’t go wrong.

If you do ever find yourself tempted to cut and paste a little content, keep in mind that if copyright law doesn’t catch you, search engines will!

According to the SEO wizards at Moz, ‘When there are multiple pieces of identical content on the Internet, it is difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query.’ Moz says that search engines don’t generally show duplicate content. They may show the original (the article that has existed the longest) or they may simply exclude both if there is some discrepancy over which to rank. So everyone stands to lose, which is a rough result for the original author!

Who picked up on the fact that I just quoted (and duplicated!) some of Moz’s content? That’s right, but as well as attributing it and linking to Moz, I kept it short! This is key. By keeping the quote short, search engines are likely to see it for what it is rather than penalize The Web Composer or Moz. As a general rule of thumb, use quotes of no more than 70 words to ensure you don’t run into duplication issues with search engines. In terms of copyright law, this quote and attribution of Moz’s content would be considered ‘fair use’ for the purpose of reporting.

Guideline 1

If you quote another blogger or an organisation’s content, you must include quotation marks and name the source. You also need to ensure the quote does not account for a substantial amount of the original work. Furthermore, it’s good blogging etiquette to include hyperlinked text to the sources’ original content. Links are a valuable commodity in SEO terms, so this shows genuine gratitude for their work. It also help’s your readers find more information.

Here’s an example of how to cite sources in your blogs:

Kerry Jones, Associate Marketing Director at Fractl and Moz Contributor, advises bloggers to ‘create something that people will find and link to when they’re in need of sources to cite. Writers constantly seek out sources that will back up their claims, strengthen an argument, or provide further context for readers’.

Guideline 2

When using externally sourced material you may not always want to include a direct quote. This may be particularly true when statistics are used to bolster key points. We can easily give credit to statistic providers by including their name in our content and linking to their findings. Here’s an example from our blog post How to Write Blog Posts Fast:

According to a 2016 survey by Orbit Media Studios the average blog post takes 3 hours and 16 minutes to write.

Pretty simple right? Just link the name of the organisation or person you have sourced information from to their original work.

Lot’s of bloggers and companies have content usage guidelines that tell you what they expect when it comes to content sharing, quoting and usage. It’s a good idea to check if your source has a content sharing policy before publishing. And if you haven’t already, it’s also a good idea to set up your own content sharing guidelines. If you’re reading this article, I anticipate you’re probably in the blog space or considering getting started, so remember, your creative genius is valuable. It should be both protected and shared! If you’re wondering what such a policy would look like, feel free to check out our Content Sharing Guidelines for some inspiration.

Citing your sources properly is easy. It also helps the original author by increasing the number of links to their site, which is an important SEO metric. As you build your blog pages, remember also what inspires you to source and link back to other bloggers. Can you make your content worthy of citation?

If you feel you need help with your blog, either writing or editing why not check out our blog post packages. Remember successful blogs need constant attention!

About the Author

Leah Clarke

Copywriter / Web Designer / Business Owner / Interior Designer. Writing and designing are passions I've honed over 15 years' of professional experience.

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