Writing legal content is primarily about presenting information that people are looking for, and citing sources for legal content is crucial. It should be specific, thorough, and, above all else, accurate.
In a world where there is so much information available on every imaginable subject, providing accurate information that people learn they can rely on encourages the building of trust and a strong foundation for long-term business relationships.
If you are writing legal content as a well-known expert in legal circles your byline may be enough to give credibility to your content. But for most legal writers – who may, in fact, know their subject forward and backward – there is a more recognized authority saying the same thing which adds credibility to a writer’s content.
At Blue Seven Content we stress using only quality sources to support our legal content. Our writers stay up to date on the most current and reliable sources for the jurisdictions we write in so our content is always thoroughly researched, fresh, and accurate.
Why You Should Use Sources in Your Legal Content
Citing sources for the points made in legal content not only legitimizes the content, it also gives proper credit to the originators of the ideas being discussed. Plagiarism is something no writer wants to be accused of and making sure to give credit where it is due keeps everyone happy.
Providing convenient links for readers to get greater detail further enhances their experience and makes it more likely they will engage with the content for a longer period.
Why it’s Important to Cite Credible Sources
Citing the sources where you got your information is only part of the equation. You need to vet your sources before linking to them and make sure that people who click through are landing on a source that they will either recognize as being an authority or believe produces information that can be trusted.
Credible sources are likely to have more staying power so you can be assured that links to their websites or content will continue to be maintained and users won’t have the frustrating experience of ending up with an error message.
How to Identify and Select Credible Sources
Sources that produce information considered to be more objective and less self-serving are credible sources to cite in legal content. Generally, information found on government (.gov) or educational (.edu) domains is credible.
At one time the .org domain indicated a charitable organization and thus greater credibility but that is not necessarily the case anymore. Some credible sources may use domain names specific to their industry such as .media for news reporting.
And even though .com sites tend to be commercial, sometimes the manufacturer of a product is the best authority for information about the industry that uses it.
For any source that you find and are considering using, you want to keep these things in mind as you evaluate its credibility.
- Is the source original? Is the source you want to use the original presenter of the information or is it a document that cites the original source? Using original sources or sources closer to the original are considered more accurate and leave less additional searching for someone who clicks a link in your content.
- Is the source current? Most people are going to be more persuaded if the source you are citing is not very old. Acceptable ages for sources can depend on the subject matter. For legal content, relevance often depends on the latest news and changes in the laws, so sources that are the most recent are considered the most reliable.
- Is the source well known and generally accepted? The more widely recognized your source is the more easily it will be accepted as an authority for the point you are making.
- Is the source relevant? Does the source you are using talk specifically about the point you are making or is it more generally about the subject matter and doesn’t have the level of detail that the reader is looking for when they click the link.
- Is the source freely accessible to those who may click on its link and want to learn more? It can be frustrating to click a link and not be able to read the information without signing up or making some kind of agreement in order to view the source content. Attention spans are short. People expect fast and easy and are quick to move on.
- Is the source easy to navigate and free of grammatical errors? If a source seems unprofessional or it’s hard to find what you are looking for, look for a different option. Credible sources should be properly edited and the information should be simple to access.
How Many Sources Should You Use?
The general rule is that any time you use words, ideas, or data that are not your own you need to credit the source of your information. The exception is when the information you are using is so widely known as to be of common knowledge to the audience you are writing for. If you are not completely sure the information is common knowledge it’s best to cite your source.
With content creation, you have to think about the balance between sourcing your information when appropriate and including so much information that you have links in every sentence. Reader experience is a key aspect of having your content read. A few well-placed links throughout the content won’t tend to distract a reader the way 4 or 5 links in a single paragraph might.
The exact number of sources to use in any piece of content will depend on the subject matter and how in-depth the writing needs to be. A good rule of thumb is to cite the most credible source for each idea you are writing about.
The Best Way to Cite Your Sources
When citing sources within legal content you will select certain phrases or parts of a sentence and link those words to your source. You want to be strategic with this and not just use some random words in your link.
The words or phrases you highlight as your link are called the anchor text. Anchor text is not only a handy way for readers to link to additional information, it also has SEO implications. Search engines use anchor text to learn what content is about and to associate similar topics.
Anchor Text Best Practices
General best practices when selecting anchor text include:
- Try to include the topic of the source you are linking to in your anchor text. The more closely related search engines believe linked content to be, the higher the content can rank for search queries relating to the topic.
- Use as few words as possible. There is no right or wrong here but keeping anchor text concise while giving readers enough information to know where the link takes them is the objective.
- Make sure the anchor text chosen flows naturally within the context of the topic being discussed. Don’t include superfluous words just to establish a greater connection to the source.
- Vary the words used for anchor text throughout your content even if all sources are discussing the same topic. Detecting the same anchor text used over and over can lead search engines to conclude you are over-optimizing and result in lower rankings in search results.
When it comes to finding credible sources and citing them in a way that properly optimizes the content for search engines, it just takes practice. You get better at it the more you do it.
Would You Like Blue Seven to Handle Your Legal Content?
The legal content writers at Blue Seven Content combine legal knowledge with digital marketing skills to produce engaging legal content that is authoritative and ranks well.
Blue Seven can help with all your legal content needs including the following key types of content for law firm websites:
- landing pages
- practice area pages
- blog posts
- practice area FAQ pages
Our company founders work with all potential new clients to make sure we can provide the quality legal content our clients have come to expect and we take pride in producing. To learn how Blue Seven Content can help bring you together with the clients that need your services, call 843-580-3158 or reach out to us here for a free consultation.
Written by Mari Gaines, JD – Legal Content Writer