You write blogs to broadcast information your audience needs to hear that pertains to your business. You’re the ultimate authority on your business … until you’re not. Sometimes, to educate your audience on a crucial topic, you need to do some research. Like writing a school paper, you already know you need to cite your sources … but how?

You already know that you’re not trying to take content or ideas from other places and pass it off on your own – you know from grade school that that’s wrong! However, some people may inadvertently attribute stuff from sources that they should be citing.

So, to prevent missteps and boost your SEO with great content, we’re sharing our tips on how (and why) to cite your sources in your blog. It’s actually simpler than you think, and there’s no prescribed rubric to share where you got your extra information from.

Citing sources helps your SEO

You might be thinking … if I’m supposed to be the expert, shouldn’t I just share my expertise without needing to cite other people? Sure, but as all experts know, there are things you don’t know. Plus, there are other benefits to citing sources digitally.

Google loves external links, as do other search engines. By linking to credible pages, it’s easier for your blog or webpage to climb the rankings and make it to the coveted first page of the search results.

Also, some citations can be used as images; images can also bolster your SEO. If you’re citing from social media, like a tweet or an article you found on Facebook, certain web hosts will let you plug in the URL to your social media source and it will pop up on your blog as a clickable image, an SEO-boosting double-whammy.

Do you need a certain style to cite a blog?

Short answer: no. Long answer: it can depend on whether your blog has style guides or needs that require a certain citation style.

Formal style guides include MLA (Modern Language Association), or in some cases APA (American Psychological Association), Turabian, AP (Associated Press), or Chicago Tribune, are protocols that are used in certain industries to cite sources. These are guidelines that include how to cite sources, what information you need in each citation, and how to format a bibliography.

If that’s bringing back memories of school, you’re not alone. Nearly all of us cited research papers using MLA in college or high school. APA is used in published science and medical papers, Chicago Tribune’s Manual of Style in book publishing, and AP is the gold standard for periodicals and magazine articles. For digital writing, a citation can be as simple as an external link.

If you do need to cite sources in your blog more formally as an industry standard, the Chicago Manual of Style’s website has some pointers on citing digital sources. Perdue’s digital writing lab is a great resource for citing MLA, APA, and other citation styles. For AP, which is what most digital writing is done in, consider a license for the AP Stylebook if your company is doing a lot of writing.

Sticking to basics

For citing digitally, remember that hyperlinks are your best friend. Your reader can find your source and read it themselves, plus, you’ve done at least half the work of citing your source. Both and  HubSpot break down how and why it’s important to avoid plagiarism and cite your sources in more depth, but the basics are this:

Just like in a school paper, name your source. “According to Joe Schmo’s blog” or “Per Business website dot com,” will do. Your hyperlink should usually go on the source’s name and/or a relevant keyword. If you’re quoting someone, use their name, link to your source, and put what they said in quotes.

If your blog calls for cited sources or a works cited list, follow your company or industry guidelines and use the format prescribed.

What if you’re citing a competitor?

Usually, you don’t have to. In fact, some company guidelines put the kibosh on it because they don’t want to give their competition free publicity. If that’s the case for you, the good news is that you can find another source.

Here’s some food for thought though: citing competition can benefit you. On the Search Engine Journal’s website, Tom Demers goes into 5 reasons that citing your competition shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Demers also outlines benefits: mentioning your competitors and their products and services can make you seem more well-rounded and experienced, because of course, you’d toot your own horn. “When this company has something really awesome and valuable to release, why would I believe them that it’s going to help me? They’re “the company that cried awesome”.”

Plus, mentioning Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, Demers adds that citing competitors can also show how much you care about your customers. You want them to be satisfied with the service they receive more than growing your bottom line. In turn, you build trust with your customers so they turn to you more, increasing your visibility long-term.

Struggling to put these pointers into practice? Want to start a blog or writer some stellar copy, but there are so many hours in the day? Contact us and take it off your plate!