When you use content from outside sources on your website, you need to be sure you properly credit the author.

We've all heard the stories: A popular blogger is accused of stealing material from another source without giving credit. A reporter is fired after it is discovered some of their work was plagiarized. An Instagram influencer faces charges of copying material from other users.

The lesson to be learned from these cautionary tales is this: It's OK to use information from other sources, but you must be clear that the content, facts, and/or images are not your own. That said, there are right ways and wrong ways to cite another author's content when you use it on your website or in your blog.

Three of the most common ways to cite information are contextual links with attribution, direct quotes with links to the primary source, and footnotes.

Contextual links

You might not know them as contextual links, but you have seen this form of citation countless times. Contextual links are the clickable words you find in blog posts, like this, news stories, and other online content.

So how do you properly use a contextual link? When you are researching the topic of a blog post or article, for example, you might run across data or background information that would augment your work. Your copy should clearly credit the proper name of the website or source featuring the material you are using with a link that leads directly to where that data or information can be found. It might appear like this:

BrightEdge reports that about 57% of US online traffic comes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

In this example, BrightEdge is given credit in the copy, and the link goes directly to the webpage where the study can be found.

Direct quotes with attribution


Another way to give credit to a third-party source involves quoting another source word-for-word then linking to their site or to the page where the content appears. The words contained in quotes must be written exactly as they appear in the original source. This type of citation looks like this:

As Search Engine Journal reports, “a scannable article is a readable article, and a readable article is one that’s more likely to perform well in the search engines.”

In this example, the link leads to where the words in quotation marks appear, but the link also could direct users to Search Engine Journal's homepage.

BONUS TIP - Be careful when using quoted material. If you take too much from the original source, it can negatively affect your website's SEO as well as put you in danger of being accused of plagiarism.


If you have ever had to do a research paper, then you are familiar with the footnote-style of citing sources. This type of citation is ideal for very formal work, academic studies, business proposals, and presentations. It works best when you want to avoid interrupting the flow of your writing with a clunky attribution. Here's a footnote in action:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Fusce non velit at ipsum eleifend mollis vitae non massa.1


Then at the end of your article or blog post, the explanation of the source is included. There are various ways to arrange this text, but here are the "Chicago Manual of Style" guidelines. The first time you reference a source, it must include the author's first name, author's last name, title, place of publication, publisher name, year and referenced pages.


1. John Doe, Title goes here, (New York, Publisher, 2003), 123


Correctly citing sources in your work can help you stay out of trouble and actually improve your website's SEO, as outbound links can be beneficial. Make sure to start using these citation tips in your next blog post!

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