If Content is King, Credibility is Queen

Written by Fresh Egg - 28 Nov 2012

With literally thousands of new websites launching each day, the internet is becoming increasingly crowded. As such, each site has more competition than ever before when it comes to recognition for coverage of news stories and debate-stirring topics, as well as less formal, entertaining content. Such recognition is awarded in the form of readership loyalty, powerful backlinks, extensive social sharing, and subsequent prevalence in Google’s results for certain search queries.

In order to be in with a chance of standing out from the content crowd, brands need to ensure all information placed on their website is not only engaging, but credible. While ranking in the top spot for a related search query will likely see a site automatically assumed as trustworthy by users, should they click through to find a site lacking in credibility, then opinions regarding the associated brand could quickly drop.

The importance of citing sources

Often, the most engaging online content presents something new. Examples include interesting or shocking statistics, or news regarding a revolutionary technological development. While such content could attract much attention, should a site make any bold claims with no evidence to back it up, the credibility of the associated brand could be damaged significantly.

Providing easy access to information sources by including hyperlinks within content aids the credibility of both the content and the publisher. Not linking to sources could indicate assertions are inaccurate or over-exaggerated, and does not adhere to typical best practise for online content.

You should be careful not to make subsequent claims which might also be incorrect. For example, you might quote a source which states “63% of people in [a UK town] are increasingly fearful of home burglary.” Claiming this is due to more criminals residing in the mentioned town than anywhere else in the UK, without solid proof that this is the case, will undermine your credibility. In fact, making unfounded assertions could even land you in legal trouble.

Be careful when using stats derived from your own research

It might be the case that a brand has statistics to share, taken from a survey or other piece of research conducted in-house (these ‘facts’ may or may not be presented visually, in infographic form, for example). In this instance, you should be sure to include information regarding how many people were surveyed, and when. If this additional information is not included, the site could be accused of making hyperbolic claims.

Whether or not the stats have been sourced from a substantial number of individuals must also be considered. The total considered ‘substantial’ can vary, but as a general rule stats derived from surveys with less than 100 participants should not be used. Ideally, this figure should increase in line with the boldness of the resulting claims being made.

The more participants involved in a research project, the more solid the findings discovered will be. Follow-up content, featuring reliable statistics, is more likely to be linked to by powerful websites, such as those for educational bodies and the press. This will not only aid credibility in the eyes of web users, but likely search engines too.

Increase content credibility with quotations from external thought leaders

Imagine you work for a national newspaper and you’re reporting a story regarding the inflation of UK electricity costs. Even if you are careful to cite every source used, the story is unlikely to be unique and compelling if you simply recite the same details every other news publication has also had access to (a press release, for example).

Approaching relevant, key individuals – such as celebrities, politicians or CEOs (etc.) – for further comment increases the credibility of a site/author. In the case of the UK electricity costs example, including a unique quote from the MD of electricity giant Southern Electric would be appropriate. This effort to provide additional insight can inspire reader loyalty and trust, since this indicates the involved site makes the effort to conduct thorough research before publishing content.

Google’s algorithm may also recognise unique content comprising thought-leader opinions as worthy of ranking higher in SERPs than a similar content piece which lacks this.

High authority, relevant links and social sharing of content aids credibility

Social media signals like Facebook Likes, +1s and Twitter retweets (RTs) are becoming increasingly important factors in Google’s algorithm, which determines the relevance of web pages for individual search queries. Some try to cheat the system by paying grey-hat marketing companies a fee to acquire thousands of signals for their site (or content within), but unless the accounts awarding such are relevant (and they very likely won’t be!), not much traction will result.

For example, it would be ideal for a piece detailing Google’s latest algorithm updates to be socially shared by key names from the industry of SEO. SEO content re-shared by the likes of Rand Fishkin and Matt Cutts would likely indicate to Google that the piece is worthy of attention, due to their industry authority, and associated high Author Rank.

You would also want such accounts to promote your content, since their followers are likely to be interested in the topic of SEO. This means increased click-throughs and further likelihood of RTs.

Other things to consider regarding site and brand credibility

There are a couple of other things to consider regarding content credibility, in addition to those mentioned above.

Employing correct spelling and grammar for online content is incredibly important. If a brand is capable of making basic grammar mistakes – for example, using ‘there’ instead of ‘they’re’ – readers may doubt the credibility of content on their website. Microsoft Word’s spell check, combined with proofing processes, (which every brand should have in place), means there really is no excuse for elementary mistakes!

Although it is recommended sites do not use images belonging to others for copyright reasons, sometimes this can prove unavoidable. For example, it was recently announced Apple has a patent pending for packaging which transforms into a recharging doc, once the purchased device is removed. Describing how this works, through words alone, proved difficult for those reporting the story, and as such many used the same sketch included in the original post, accrediting the source. Citing image sources is imperative to avoid legal hot water.

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