Updated: Jan 24
In my opinion, sources are like sauces; they add a zest of flavour and depth to your writing, without which could leave it dry and stale.
Reliable sources will add credibility to your writing, whether it's a blog post, a social post, or a marketing email. If you can show that you understand the topic and can back up your points with credible sources, your business reputation can benefit from it. Above all, they help you avoid dreaded plagiarism.
In this post, I've outlined seven steps to take when using sources in your writing. They are:
Keep reading to find out more!
Why Do Sources and Statistics Matter in Copywriting?
Not all of your content will require a source. Usually, you can rely on your experience to create reliable, quality content. However, statistics and sources are important to add credibility to your writing.
This is especially vital if you have just started your business or blog. The end goal of your content is to be cited as a source by others - that's when you know you have made it. But to get there, you need to lay the groundwork first. Using reputable sources will boost your credibility and show that you understand the topic at hand and you are capable of analysing it.
You can also write posts about statistics. For example, you might come across posts such as "40 Blogging Statistics You Need to Know in 2022" (Ryan Robinson), or "77 Copywriting Statistics: Data to Crush Your Competitors (2022)" (Smart Blogger).
Using statistics and credible sources support your points, especially if your post relies heavily on data or you're analyzing a difficult concept. If you write a blog post containing sources, you can also use these sources in copy such as social posts and marketing emails.
Finally, citing or linking sources will help you avoid the big no-no in writing and the creative arts: plagiarism. Directly quoting or referencing other ideas without linking back to a source is classed as plagiarism (source: Angela Tague). Unless something is general knowledge or an opinion or personal experience, it's best to reference a source.
But how do you go about using sources in your writing? Continue reading to see my seven steps to using sources and statistics in my writing.
7 Steps to Using Statistics and Facts in Copy
1. Research and find reputable sources
The first step to using statistics in your writing is to find some (obvious I know, but hear me out).
When researching for statistics, for example, it won't do to find any old figure and plonk it down on the page. You need to ensure that your statistics come from reputable sources.
The internet is full of sources of information. While most are legitimate sources, others might not be. This is why it's vital to cross-reference as many sources as you can. If you can find multiple sources showing a similar statistic, it's more than likely to be a reliable one.
Here are my three tips for finding reputable sources:
Use the first two pages of Google search - Google indexes content not only on keywords but on the way content has been written. Because they are higher ranking in Google's algorithm, sources on the first two pages (especially the first page) will be more reliable.
Use sources from reputable companies - HubSpot's blog for example is a great place to find reliable sources because they do a lot of their research.
Use sites that have a valid SSL certificate - a valid SSL certificate means the domain of the website will have HTTPS included. HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure, meaning the website is encrypted to protect the transfer of data. I don't trust websites that don't have an SSL certificate, and to me is a red flag of a suspicious website.
2. Read the source and understand the context
Once you have found a reputable source, it's time to read it. This harks back to the good old days of college or university (life was so much simpler then).
Reading a source isn't just about skimming it and taking it at face value. You need to use critical thinking to understand the source, seek out valid statistics, and come to your conclusions. The key is to understand the context behind the source and make sure you understand what the source is saying.
3. Create a source bank of facts and statistics
When researching for reputable sources, it is a good idea to create a bank of sources, statistics, and facts. You can use Excel, Word, Google Docs or Sheets, or whatever works for you.
I usually create a Word document and name it after the blog post I'm researching. Once I have done that, I put in all the website addresses of the sources I find. I then open up all the sources when it is time to write my blog post.
This works for me, but others may be more organised. For example, you could create a spreadsheet with columns for the website address, website name, key facts or statistics, and a brief outline (the next step).
4. Write outlines for the facts and statistics
Writing an outline can help you understand in greater detail what the fact or statistic pertains to. It helps to write the source in your own words, and you can use these phrases or sentences in your blog post.
You don't have to do this for every fact or statistic, but it will be beneficial for sources that are more challenging to get your head around.
It also makes it much easier when writing the blog post because it means you don't have to go back to the source and try to understand it all over again if you haven't looked at it for a while.
5. Use the source in your writing
Now you understand the source and perhaps have an outline for it, it's time to use it in your writing. My pro tip for writing about sources comes from my philosophy degree: pick one source and analyse it first. This is important for long-form content such as blog posts.
You need to make sure the sources flow in your writing. Stuffing too many sources (just like keywords) could negatively affect your SEO ranking, so be careful. They need to be placed organically, and you need to explain them to the audience. Use your outlines to make this process easier.
Once you have your sources in a blog post or long-form content, it's time to translate them into copywriting. Instead of creating new forms of copy from scratch, you can recycle your sources into short-form copywriting such as marketing emails, infographics, and social media posts.
This saves you a lot of time. These sources will also highlight key areas you want to market about your business, so use them wisely.
6. Double-check your sources
Before you publish anything, double-check your sources. Make sure they relate to what you are saying and make sure that the right websites are linked to the right source in the copy. Otherwise, people will click on the link and be taken to the wrong source!
7. Publish your copy
Finally, it's time to publish your content. Do a final proofread to make sure everything is correct, and check your sources one last time. If you are using social media, you can either link the source in the post, or you could add a comment underneath to cite the source there.
Now you should have a good idea of how to use sources appropriately in your writing. The key thing to remember is to avoid plagiarism; always link to sources if the ideas are not your own, or if you are using data that isn't yours.