Beyond Google: A Guide to Authoritative Sourcing
The goal of website content might be to educate, inform, or present an argument. It only makes sense to back up the main ideas of articles, blog posts, and white papers with strong evidence. Increasingly, high-level clients demand authoritative links to support the main ideas behind the content that they order. Authority links to credible sources should help build a website’s reputation with both human visitors and visiting search bots.
Research on Google or Wikipedia
Most professionals won’t consider Wikipedia an authority source. However, one good use of this giant, online encyclopedia is to track down good sources by using the citations at the bottom of an entry. It’s just important to make certain that those resources are actually authority sources. Webmasters have been known to slip their own self-interested links in when they can get away with it.
Google has become so popular with Internet searchers that the brand has become a word. Instead of saying they are going to search online, many searchers simply say that they will Google. The big search engines are great for finding basic information rapidly. Still, their value for research writers has limits:
- It can be tough to find authority sources with simple searches because commercial sites often have better SEO and tend to rank well. Also, there are lots and lots of commercial websites to sort through in some industries. This isn’t meant to imply that commercial sites never have any value as authoritative sources. For example, Bankrate.com is a commercial site that has a good reputation with researchers. However, it’s fair to say that the majority of business sites won’t work, partly because they may be the client’s competitors. Still, even a site that isn’t an acceptable source may have its own sourcing citations that can help lead a researcher to the source he or she needs.
- Sometimes, it might be impossible to find journal articles and statistics with a regular search engine because hidden informational gems are stashed in databases that Google, Yahoo!, and Bing bots can’t reach. The Open Education Database says that Google has an impressive 50 billion pages indexed, but the so-called Invisible Internet is believed to contain 500 times that number of pages. Researchers need different tools to mine the deep web.
Quick Tips to Find Authority Sources Online Fast
Research writers need to write and can’t afford to spend hours tracking down a supportive statistic or expert opinion. Luckily, pros soon learn when it’s time to bypass the big search engines and use more specialized tools. The right choice of search and directory portals depends upon the topic, but these are some general suggestions:
- Government searches: Website owners and researcher writers usually accept government websites as authority websites. For access to all federal and state sites in the US, it’s often helpful to just start with the search box on USA.gov. Other commonly useful government searches are found at The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.gov, Census.gov, and Science.gov.
- Quality resource directories: The WWW Virtual Library has been online since the early 1990s and is still considered one of the best directory collections and search engines to find quality resources. True experts in each topic curate the various directories found at this portal. This is certainly not the biggest index of websites on the Internet, but it’s considered among the best.
- Academic searches: Google does maintain Google Scholar at Scholar.Google.com. Unlike the main search engine, this one filters results down to academic articles. In many cases, searchers can access resources directly online. If not, the search engine can also help locate resources at local libraries.
The Importance of Access to Authoritative Online Sources
Certainly, discerning readers mostly favor government statistics, expert opinions, or academic research over an opinion or fuzzy fact from Joe’s or Jane’s blog. Search engine professionals believe that major search engines are also likely to favor web pages with outgoing, authority links over those with links to questionable sites and possibly, those with no links at all.
Not only do good links help support the idea behind the content, they actually provide visitors with more content in the form of helpful resources that enhance the article. Of course, when research writers have easy access to the type of authoritative resources that high-level clients demand these days, they can spend their time crafting the message.
Marilyn K loves to take a break to watch NetFlix movies, read novels, watch the History Channel, and experiment with healthy and sustainable cooking and gardening. She is the very proud parent of three college-age kids and a fluffy dog.