How To Use References In Your Blog Posts

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You might think the most important part of a successful blog post lies in killer content, or a compelling tone, or even a click-bait-laden title. And while these tools are used by countless bloggers around the Web to draft outstanding posts, an oft-overlooked aspect that's just as essential is the quality of the resources used as references in creating these posts.

It might seem like you're simply sharing some interesting or useful information with your readers. But the truth is, you're doing much more than that; every blog post you write not only delivers content to your audience, but also shapes their perception of you, your brand, and your authority and expertise. That's why using only high-quality, primary sources for your content is critical.

Forget citing open-source, user-generated content sites like Wikipedia. These sites are a bad idea for anyone writing a blog post for the same reason they're a bad idea for anyone writing an academic paper: they are not authoritative sources, and because they can be edited by literally anyone, they are subject to revisions that can destroy the value of any citation they provide.

A better place to start is with actual news articles, which, while not always primary sources themselves, often draw on high-quality, first-hand sources for their own content. Better yet, many of them provide links or citations directly to the primary sources used, allowing you to narrow your search quickly and incorporate solid references into your own writing.

Other potential research aids include social media feeds, video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, and Internet content collectors such as StumbleUpon and Delicious (remembering always that these sites are jumping-off points, and not necessarily solid resources in themselves).

When you're drafting your next killer blog post, remember it's only as good as the quality of your sources. Thorough research, review of primary sources, and proper citation will help you create posts that establish your authority, speak to your reader's interests, and turn help turn browsers into followers and clients.

Secrets of a Killer Blog Post (Resources)

Check out the rest of this series for more killer secrets!

Secrets of a Killer Blog Post: Sources

Great content doesn't just come from words on the screen. It comes from research. Emulate the top bloggers in your niche, but do it in your own way.

Research For Content

The second type of research involves looking for information to include in your blog posts.

  • Even when you are just sharing your opinion, you can use other sources to improve your work:
    • Use an expert's statement to back up your thoughts.
    • Use statements from those with differing opinions.
  • You can use the following to enhance your blog posts and make it more enjoyable for your readers.
    • Statistics
      • Example: If you're writing about the job market in your area, use the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to find the area's unemployment rate for several months.
    • Infographics
    • Events
    • Breaking news
    • Expert opinions/quotes
  • When searching for these things, make sure you use reliable sources and information.
    • Don't always trust open-sourced sites like Wikipedia
      • Even the founder of Wikipedia discourages the use of Wikipedia as a source.
      • He said he gets about 10 emails a week from students that have received bad grades for using incorrect information from Wikipedia.
    • Dig deeper, there are reliable sources beyond page one of the search results.
    • Reference industry experts
    • Look to news sites for stories related to your topic.
      • These will give you the hard facts, not opinions.
    • Always attribute all information used. (more info below!)

Search Via Social Media

In addition to your usual research tactics, consider doing research on social media sites.

  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
    • Add statistics to your post with help from an infographic.
    • Use Delicious to search for the perfect infographic to complement your content.
    • You can embed the infographic into your post and provide a link, of course.
    • Find quotes to use in your blog posts.
    • Find posts for a post-round up.
  • Twitter
    • Use search strings to get breaking news, and other things related to your niche.
      • For example, search "football" in advanced search, and choose positive, negative, or select both, to get a selection of tweets where the word "football" is mentioned.
    • Find quotes to use in your blog posts.
  • Facebook and Plancast
    • Find upcoming events to use as the basis for your blog post.
      • Plancast helps you find local events and things to do.
    • Arrange interviews with attendees beforehand.
    • Search for the events on Facebook to find other ways to connect with attendees.
    • If you have a Facebook fan page for your blog, pay attention to what readers are saying there.
      • It can help you adjust content and plan future posts.
  • LinkedIn
    • Find industry experts and connect with them.
    • Ask questions.
      • Example: "What is the best way to go about [insert industry related task]?"
      • Example: "How long were you in the industry before you [insert task]?"
  • YouTube
    • Where appropriate, search and find something funny.
    • Use YouTube to search for videos related to your topic.
      • Include your own commentary on the video for a different type of post.

Evaluating Your Sources

If you're not sure about the credibility of a source, use these tips to see how well it stands up.

  • Type of Domain:
    • The domain type should match the content type.
      • .com = commercial
      • .edu = educational
      • .mil = military
      • .gov = government
      • .org = nonprofit
  • Who Published It?
    • Find the agency or person that published the article.
    • Reliable publisher = reliable content and authors
      • Examples of reliable publishers include:
        • Government websites
          • Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
          • BLS
        • CIA World Factbook
      • Look at the first part of the URL between http:// and the first /.
  • Who wrote it?
    • Find the author/organization responsible for the content →
    • Look for a link or About Me/About Us/Background page that will tell you more about them →
    • Look for info on their education and experience →
    • Evaluate what you know about them and decide if you believe they are qualified to write about the topic.
      • Example: If you're writing about food, look for qualified:
        • Chefs
        • Nutritionists
        • Other hospitality professionals
  • When was it written? Timeliness matters.
    • Current topics: Publishing dates are important.
      • Example: Writing about the road to the 2016 presidential campaign? Keep the information as current as possible, even though there are a lot of unknowns. Update frequently, as new information becomes available.
    • Outdated topics: Date should be near the time the content became known.
      • Example: Writing about the Y2K craze? Information dated late '90s to early 2000s is acceptable.

Cite Your Sources

An amazing asset of the Internet is that many people are willing to share their information, but at a small cost, of course. They are going to at least expect a link back or some kind of attribution. There are copyright laws, but no strict rules about how exactly you should attribute the sources.

  • Follow Copyright Laws
    • Assume that the content you are quoting or using as a source is copyrighted.
    • Exceptions to copyright infringement include using the content for criticism, review, parody, research and reporting and is referred to as 'fair use' or 'fair dealing.'
    • You can use quotes in your post, as long as they are not a substantial part of the original work.
      • Substantial in this case refers to something essential, distinctive or important.
      • In other words, don't copy and paste an entire paragraph into your post and add quotation marks.
    • Copyright only applies to the material form of an idea, fact or style (not the actual idea, fact or style), meaning that you can write about ideas and facts in your words.
  • How to Attribute Your Sources:
    • Quote the person in your post, and include a hyperlink text back to their site.
    • Create copy on your post that makes the quote or statistic standout, include a hyperlink back to the original source (not just the homepage).
    • Choose a phrase relevant to their content and link back to the original source.
    • When citing something on Twitter, include the original sharer in your tweet using their handle (@twittername).
    • If a news story, always give credit to the original source, not the one where you first found it.
  • Ego-baiting - the best [and easiest] way to get credible sources to share your post!
    • When citing an expert source, ego-baiting is a very effective tactic.
    • For example, if making a list on the Top 10 Best Blog Posts, linking back to each post within your post is sufficient for citing the source.
    • This also provides the opportunity for the experts mentioned in the post to link to your blog post and expose you to their readers.


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About WhoIsHostingThis Team

Our writing team comes from all over the world with diverse backgrounds in the arts and sciences. But what links them is their passion for the internet. All together they represent many decades of experience working in all facets of it -- from programming and hardware creation to website design and marketing.


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