How to Find Credible Sources for Your Content

From the Tinder Swindler to the misinformation spread by the COVID “Disinformation Dozen”, the Internet is full of lies. Company executives who have lied have gotten jail time. Some companies even went out of business. 

You might not lie intentionally in your content, but if you don’t fact-check, it can cause reputation damage. Google has announced that they consider Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT)  a key ranking factor. If your content can affect the reader’s finances or well-being in any way, EAT becomes even more important. 

What is a Credible Source?

A credible source provides accurate, reliable, and trustworthy information. These sources are typically authored by experts in their respective fields, backed by thorough research, and published through reputable channels.

Credible sources are transparent about their methodologies, provide citations for their claims, and are held to high editorial standards. Examples of credible sources include peer-reviewed journals, academic publications, government websites, and established news outlets.

What to Avoid When Conducting Online Research

Shoddy research isn’t helpful for content marketing. Rank Secure CEO Baruch Labunksi believes content marketing is about usefulness, and spreading bad information is the opposite of useful. Your goal is to maintain high standards by avoiding the following mishaps. 

1. Outdated statistics 

A good content writing practice is to only cite statistics that are less than three years old, depending on the subject matter. You should also attribute the stat with a link to the primary source. Sadly, not all content marketers follow this.

Content marketer Precious Oboidhe calls out the use of outdated stats in content marketing

2. Conflicts of interest and biases

Check if the company website or the expert has a bias or a competing interest. Do they stand to gain financially or personally from the data they are presenting? 

Cross-check information for accuracy. If the source has a conflict of interest, find a neutral one. Elizabeth Hanes, Registered Nurse and content marketing expert, recommends government institutions, major non-profits, and independent research institutions as the go-to source for credible, unbiased information.  

Sometimes, faulty methods can skew research results. Such statistics can be misleading. Freelance SaaS writer Rochi Zalani suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the sampling method used in the study? 
  • Are there enough data points and diversity to make a sweeping generalization about the trend/result? 
  • Is there a conflict of interest? 

You want to maintain the readers’ trust and become the go-to for reliable and authoritative sources. To do so, you must eliminate any potential conflicts of interest.

3. Misinformation, disinformation, and credibility issues 

Many people think the Great Wall of China is visible from space. Not true, according to NASA. That is an example of misinformation, false information that is spread, regardless of the intent to mislead. 

Disinformation, on the other hand, is deliberately misleading or biased information. Both disinformation and misinformation will harm content credibility. 

Any Subject Matter Expert (SME) you interview or quote should be vetted. They should have expertise, credentials, and credibility. Look for people who meet the following standards:

  • Academic credentials and/or relevant experience in the subject
  • Authority to speak on behalf of relevant organizations (spokespersons and media liaison officers)
  • Featured or published by major media and publishing houses

Be wary of self-proclaimed experts who might not have anything to back their expertise. It is also important to be careful with SMEs associated with controversies or scandals. You do not want to be tainted by association. 

5 Ways to Find Credible Sources

Time is of the essence when it comes to publishing content. Here are five tips to efficiently find credible sources and SMEs as a content marketer. 

1. Implement the CRAAP test

Developed by a team of librarians at California State University, Chico, the CRAAP Test is a simple 5-question framework to ensure the trustworthiness of the information. 

  • Currency: The timeliness of the publication and information. Is this information recent?
  • Relevance: How relevant or important is the information for my needs?
  • Authority: Source of the information. Who published it?
  • Accuracy: How truthful and correct is the information? Is it showing any bias?
  • Purpose: Why does this information or publication exist? What purpose is it serving?

Marketer Audrey Truitt explained how she uses the CRAPP Test in her work. 

“SEO metrics like a source’s backlink profile and domain authority are usually a good indicator of how credible Google considers the source. The first three criteria of the CRAAP Test can be determined whether or not the source ranks on the first page of Google. 

Another thing to do is check spelling and grammatical errors. Does it look polished or clean? If not, that implies the source is not as credible.”

2. Add PrimoStats to your toolkit

Use PrimoStats’ database of credible marketing statistics to reduce your research time. Now, you can add credibility to your content in minutes, rather than hours. All statistics in the database are sourced from reputable sources, like HubSpot, Fiverr, and LinkedIn.

You can search and filter stats by topic, source, and publication year. More importantly, you get a link to the original source.

3. Try Google search hacks

Use string searches and Google’s advanced search functions to get better search results. Google has two separate search engines for scholarly literature and books as well. Use these hacks to get better, more up-to-date information faster.

  • Get the most recent results with Tools > Past Year
  • Do a site:search + topic to search reputable sources in the niche you are researching.

4. Create a list of key resources

Bookmark key resources you regularly use to access statistics. These resources may include databases or even single web pages with stats. You could even keep separate lists for each client or campaign.

Consider creating a Google Sheet with a link to your personal collection of ungated reports. Try Source by PrimoStats; it’s a Google Chrome extension that helps you quickly source stats as you research online. With one click, you can save and organize stats in Google Sheets.

5. Connect with vetted SMEs

There are many ways to find connect with experts.  You can reach out to them directly via email/LinkedIn. Be respectful of their time, explain who you are, and tell them what they will gain (backlinks).

You also can get in touch with a PR specialist or agency who can put you in touch with an SME. Vet the SME to ensure their focus isn’t purely free publicity. 

Use platforms like Help a Reporter Out or Qwoted. Keep in mind that you may get a lot of unqualified responses.

Elise Dopson, the co-founder of Peak Freelance, shares her method of finding credible experts via recommendations. 

“My best way to find credible sources is through recommendations from other people. If you’re writing about email marketing, for example, a simple tweet that says, ‘Tag your favorite email marketers’ will get you a list of people who are experts in that topic. Anyone tagged instantly has some credibility–at least enough for someone else to vouch for them.”

Checklist for Identifying Credible Sources

To ensure the credibility of your sources, consider the following checklist:

  1. Authorship: Determine the qualifications and expertise of the author or organization behind the source. Look for credentials, affiliations, and relevant experience.
  2. Publication Date: Check the publication date to ensure the information is current and up-to-date. Depending on your topic, timeliness may be crucial.
  3. Accuracy: Assess the accuracy of the information by cross-referencing it with other credible sources. Look for factual errors, inconsistencies, or biased interpretations.
  4. Reputation of Publisher: Evaluate the reputation and credibility of the publisher or platform hosting the source. Reputable publishers adhere to strict editorial guidelines and maintain high standards of quality.
  5. Citations and References: Examine whether the source provides citations or references to support its claims. Trace these references to verify their credibility and relevance.
  6. Bias and Objectivity: Be mindful of potential biases or conflicts of interest that may influence the content of the source. Seek out balanced perspectives and consider multiple viewpoints.
  7. Peer Review: For academic or scientific sources, check if the research has undergone peer review, a process where experts in the field evaluate the validity and rigor of the study.
  8. Consistency with Established Knowledge: Assess whether the information aligns with established knowledge within the relevant field. Be skeptical of claims that contradict well-established facts or theories.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credible Sources

Q: Why is it important to use credible sources?

A: Using credible sources ensures the accuracy and reliability of the information you present or rely on. It helps you avoid misinformation, supports informed decision-making, and enhances the credibility of your own work.

Q: Can I trust information from social media or personal blogs?

A: While some social media posts and personal blogs may contain valuable insights, they should be approached with caution. Verify the credentials of the author, cross-reference information with credible sources, and consider the potential for bias or misinformation.

Q: How can I verify the credibility of a website?

A: Look for indicators of credibility such as a professional design, clear editorial policies, contact information, and domain expertise. Check if the website is associated with reputable organizations or institutions.

Q: What should I do if I can’t find credible sources on my topic?

A: If credible sources are scarce, broaden your search parameters, consider alternative keywords or topics, and consult librarians or subject matter experts for guidance. Additionally, critically evaluate the reliability of the sources you do find and acknowledge any limitations in your research.

Q: How do you recognize a credible source?

A: Recognizing a credible source involves assessing factors such as author expertise, publication reputation, accuracy of information, transparency in methodology, and alignment with established knowledge. By evaluating these criteria, you can determine the reliability of the source.

Q: What defines a credible source?

A: A credible source is characterized by its accuracy, reliability, trustworthiness, and adherence to high editorial and academic standards. It is authored by experts in the field, supported by thorough research, and published through reputable channels.

Q: What are some examples of credible sources?

A: Examples of credible sources include peer-reviewed academic journals, government websites, established news outlets, reputable research institutions, expert-authored books, and reports from recognized organizations such as the World Health Organization or the United Nations.

Q: Should I use only credible sources in my content?

A: While prioritizing credible sources is essential for maintaining the integrity and reliability of your content, there may be instances where alternative sources provide valuable insights or perspectives. However, it’s crucial to critically evaluate the reliability of any source you use and ensure transparency with your audience about your sourcing methods.

Q: What are the benefits of credible sources?

A: Using credible sources enhances the credibility and authority of your work, helps you avoid spreading misinformation or inaccuracies, supports informed decision-making, and fosters trust with your audience or readership. Additionally, citing credible sources strengthens the validity of your arguments and contributes to the advancement of knowledge within your field or topic area.

Start Searching for Credible Sources

Back up your claims with reliable sources. Improve the trustworthiness of your content and win your audience with reliable content marketing. 

About the Author

Kasun Pathirage is a freelance B2B writer helping fintech and SaaS brands with engaging content. You can find more about him and his services on his website. Check him out on Twitter @VerbaAuream.