Marketing agencies hire article writers presumably because they want a reasonably priced expert writer to create content as part of a larger marketing campaign. It’s typical for agencies to give some guidelines on what type of content they’re looking for, and more and more, these general stipulations also include the seemingly straightforward claim to include “authoritative sources.” As a content writer by day and graduate student by night, my response to this advice is a resounding, “Say what now?”
Defining what makes an authoritative source might seem like a cut and dry task, but it’s actually deeply informed by what your purpose is for the piece of writing, as well as the industry for which you write. When you give instructions about finding authoritative sources, be clear about what you’re actually looking for in order to get content that totally suits your needs.
“Neutral” Is Not the Same as “Authoritative”
When agencies say they want an authoritative source, they sometimes clarify and state that they want the article to link to or be informed by sites with .gov, .edu, or .org domains. In many cases, sites with these domains will provide expert, valuable information, but what you’re really telling an author is that you want to avoid linking to or quoting .com sites because of a potential conflict with your own clients. Sites run by government agencies or educational institutions are often “neutral” sources, meaning that they provide information without attempting to persuade or otherwise sell to the reader. If your goal is to produce a piece of content that does not link to competing clients or even other marketing agencies, then state that plainly so they author can seek out sources that are not only authoritative, but won’t undermine your overall marketing plan.
The Influence of Academic Authority
Those of us with an academic background were mentally nodding our heads when the web started to buzz with talk of “co-citation” as the next big SEO target; this is the practice that’s been used for decades in academia to establish credibility. It’s a complicated idea, but it essentially boils down to the notion that readers will trust content from Party A more if Party B and Party C both quote Party A in their own unique content. This relates to the idea of “authority” because it means that sometimes your writers might cite a source that doesn’t look “authoritative,” namely a blog, but because of the connections between the source and other related sources within the industry, then the end goal will be a better showing in search rankings.
The Power of True Authorship
Finally, Google is making abundantly clear its prioritizing of authored content in search rankings and this is beginning to affect content marketing in a major way. There are more authored articles available online than ever before, so one easy, clear guideline to give your writers is to only source articles with clearly defined authors.
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.