Content creation, especially when done well, is a significant time investment. You spend hours researching topics, and days writing and editing your content. Finally, you’re almost done, your formatting is perfect and you’ve got great images too! It sounds like your posts will go off without a hitch, right? And they will, as long as you used verified and up to date sources for your information.

If not, you might find yourself with a comment section full of corrections, visitors clicking away and a big red X against your credibility. Don’t waste valuable time and effort using sources that aren’t reputable for your content creation.

1o Ways to Ensure Credible Content Creation

Getting a statistic or fact wrong when you’re working on content creation can happen to anybody, but we have a list of the 10 best ways to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

  1. Check the date

Checking the date an article was posted seems like common sense. But it’s easy to forget when you’re on your third blog post of the night and trying to hit your deadline. Typically, websites will list the date an article was posted next the author’s name. Both of these pieces of information will usually be found near the top of the article or in the sidebar.

However, sometimes the date will be missing. If that happens, your next step is to check the URL and, following that, check the bottom of the web page for a copyright date. The copyright date isn’t going to tell you when an article was published exactly, but it can tell you whether the site has been updated recently. If the copyright date is older than a year, it’s best to assume it won’t be a credible source of information for your content creation.

Other ways to get a general idea of when an article was published include checking for timestamps on comments and checking for a date when the article appears in search engine results.

2. Ask yourself if the website looks credible

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but the first impression you get from a website can be helpful in determining its credibility as a source of information. Are there sketchy pop-up ads? Does the formatting look professional? Does the website function correctly? These are all questions you can ask yourself when viewing a website as you go about content creation.

At a glace, some huge red flags when viewing a website are formatting errors, typos in headlines and stock images that are watermarked.

As stated by ThoughtCo., “If a site looks poorly designed and amateurish, chances are it was created by amateurs. Steer clear.”

3. Check what type of site it is

The letters at the end of a URL can tell you a lot about the type of website you’re viewing. Those letters are called top-level domains, or TLDs for short. The vast majority of websites will use a generic top-level domain (gTLD) such as:

Tablet with fake news.

Websites that are posing as an educational or governmental organization will have the incorrect TLD.

  • .com, used for commercial purposes
  • .net, originally intended for internet-referential purposes though currently without restrictions
  • .org, originally intended for use by non-profit entities but the restriction was not enforced and has since been removed
  • .info, an unrestricted gTLD used globally

Another type of TLD are two letter country code top-level domains (ccTLD) such as .us for the United States or .jp for Japan. ccTLDs are specifically designated for a particular country, sovereign state or autonomous territory for use to service their community. However, some ccTLDs are also used openly by commercial or private entities.

Of the gTLDs, websites that end in .edu can typically be considered to be credible. This is because to register a site with an .edu TLD, a website must be affiliated with a post-secondary education institution in the U.S. However, the information provided may still be out of date or obsolete. Another TLD that is reserved for use within the U.S. is .gov, which is only used by federal, state and local governments.

Overall, the type of TLD a website uses does not guarantee its credibility, but paying attention to the type of site you are viewing and the restrictions placed on its TLD can help you avoid websites posing as credible sources or fake sites designed to trick users that won’t be appropriate for content creation.

4. Check for citations

Unless the website you are using for content creation is the primary source of the information it’s discussing, there should be citations to the original source.

Young woman gazing at laptop and holding pen.

A reputable website will source the information it uses.

These citations can be beneficial because not only do they offer an additional resource for you, they let you know that the information in the article or webpage you are viewing didn’t appear out of thin air. Depending on the type of content you are reading it may be cited in a number of different ways, but a credible website will have the source listed somewhere.

5. Use more than one website or article for your content creation

If you’re making a purchase, you check which brands offer the product you need, what the prices are and what kind of reviews it has. You should do the same comparisons when researching online.

Just because the first website you found happens to have the exact piece of information you need or the perfect quote to add to your content, it does not mean you should stop there. Independently verifying data against multiple different sources can keep you from accidently using old, obsolete or just plain wrong information in your content creation.

It can also save you from accidently using a biased source. Bias can come in all shapes and sizes and isn’t always obvious. If you suspect that the information you viewed may have come from a biased source, try finding a source that has the opposite bias and see if they use the same data and statistics.

6. Consider what the purpose of the content is

Similar to content from a biased source, an article or webpage that is produced by a source with an agenda to change your mind is going to be less credible than a source that exists solely to inform.

Some examples of content that is meant to persuade readers are:

  • Sponsored content
  • Persuasive essays or articles
  • Advertising
  • Editorial or opinion articles
  • Copy on a company’s website

Information from sources that are intended to be persuasive in nature can still be useful when you’re working on content creation, but needs to be properly cited to avoid the appearance that you promote the same opinion or agenda.

7. Determine whether the source is an authority on the topic

Another good measurement of credibility is whether the source of the information is an authority on the subject. Authorities are often regular contributors or have made significant advancements within their field.

Woman reading news article

Using data from an authoritative source within your field can add credibility to your content.

Determining who or what would be considered an authority for your content creation can be a bit tricky if you’re new to the field or just getting your feet wet, but a simple Google search can be a good first step.

8. Determine what sort of reputation the source has

A website with a reputation for over dramatization, bias or general bad practices is not a site you want to be linking to. Not all websites will be well known enough to have a reputation, but a Google search can be useful here as well.

Misinformation online in not a new problem and has been a hot topic over the last few years. As a result, a plethora of independent websites have sprouted up to offer bias checks and other services that can be incredibly useful when using news articles as a source for content creation.

9. Use an online tool to check domain authority

Another option is to check a website’s domain authority (DA). The term was coined by Moz, a company founded in 2004. As described on its website, “[Domain authority] … predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages. A domain authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.”

Media on laptop, tablet and smartphone

Domain authority is not a foolproof method to determine credibility, but can still an additional tool for finding reputable sources online.

Moz has several options to discover the DA of a website, however both require registering a profile on the Moz website:

  • The Link Explorer tool on their website which will give you a website’s DA when its URL is entered
  • A free Chrome extension called MozBar which gives you metrics when viewing results on a search engine result page (SERP).

Overall, DA may not be a traditional way of determining credibility, and is by no means foolproof, but it can help you make an informed decision about a website when researching online.

10. Look for sites with published contact information

Published contact information offers credibility to a website for a few different reasons:

  • An email or phone number will allow users to directly contact the administrator of the website
  • A mailing or billing address verifies the organization’s existence in the real world
  • It removes anonymity

You probably won’t be calling or emailing the websites you cite, but having the option lets you know the administrator takes responsibility for the content they publish. It also allows you to follow up if you have questions or would like to request additional.