You can barely open a newspaper or news website without being bombarded with warnings about the predominance of fake news and so-called ‘alternative facts’. Political factions of all sides may be using them to convince supporters to side with them, but anything less than provable truth simply will not do when it comes to using content marketing to improve SEO rankings.
It’s all about positioning your brand as trustworthy and transparent.
Look at the fun people have had with lambasting the President of the United States and his team for their liberal use of the phrase ‘alternative facts’ and how they have affected the President’s credibility. When it comes to content marketing, you definitely do not want to give the same impression to potential customers and clients!
The way to build and maintain trust in your brand is to be above reproach. And when it comes to writing content, this means being very careful to quote reliable sources and only provide links to respected websites.Writing content as though you’re writing for the BBC will ensure your brand has a good reputation. Click To Tweet
Anything that isn’t corroborated by another source is unreliable, however much you want to believe it. Fake facts are cropping up all the time at the moment, especially on social media where they go around the world like wildfire. Yet just because there’s a photo of someone famous and a great quote written next to it, it doesn’t mean to say it’s true in any way. In fact, these urban myths are so prevalent, they’ve generated fact checking websites, such as snopes.com, which only exist to show what’s true and what’s false. These websites are exceedingly busy in the current political climate.
Joke/satire news sites – the internet has bred a new genre of website that publish openly made-up joke news stories, usually as a reaction to real news. The Onion, NewsThump, The Poke and the Daily Mash are the better known ones, but more are popping up all the time and they can look very much like a ‘real’ news website. So make sure you don’t quote a story written by one by accident! A spoof story about the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in The Onion was recently retweeted by… the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer! Unfortunately, Spicer didn’t make it clear whether or not he understood the content was satirical, leaving snopes.com scratching its virtual head about his motivation for the retweet; needless to say, this ambiguity did nothing to enhance his credibility.
Clickbait – the people who write clickbait headlines are very clever. However much you try to avoid them, you can’t help but be drawn to their sensationalist temptations. But all they want you to do is click through as every click results in advertising revenues – the more clicks, the more revenue; therefore the greater the pressure on companies to churn out more and more outrageous stories. And the more popular as a revenue stream clickbait becomes, the less important it is that the stories are accurate or even true, leaving you with the question, how can you trust what you’re reading?
The short answer is, you can’t. By diluting facts with misinformation, you lose trust.
Wikipedia – Wikipedia is a wonderful website, and is a great starting point when you’re researching your content as it summarises the basics. Just don’t quote it as a source because it’s open source website that anyone can log in to and make changes – this has led to a lot of untruths becoming well known ‘fake news’ stories and ‘alternative facts’.
On his TV programme Modern Life is Goodish, the comedian Dave Gorman told a story which illustrates this point perfectly. On his Wikipedia page – presumably as a joke – someone had added a sentence to his biography about the time that Dave hitchhiked around the Pacific Rim. The problem being, it wasn’t true. What’s more, one local newspaper wrote a piece about him, quoting this ‘fact’. This example of sloppy journalism simply devalues the quality of that local newspaper. And is a prime example of why you must never quote Wikipedia without double-checking that the ‘fact’ has come from a reliable source… then quote the reliable source instead.
A reliable source of information comes from an organisation with strict editorial guidelines focusing on accuracy, impartiality, honesty and truth. For example, the first item on the list of the BBC’s editorial values is ‘Trust’, which basically encompasses all the other qualities listed such as truth, accuracy, impartiality, fairness, integrity etc. Therefore, you can guarantee that a story on the BBC news website is from a high quality, reliable source – your readers know that, and so does Google, meaning your blog is not only more believable and trustworthy, it’s also more likely to come higher on those all-important Google rankings.
The broadsheet newspapers such as The Independent, The Telegraph, The Guardian and the Financial Times are similarly committed to high quality journalism, according to their editorial guidelines, and are therefore good sources to quote and provide links to. (Interestingly enough, The Times newspaper does not publish its editorial guidelines on its website.)
Newspapers often publish stories based on new studies which are a rich seam of high-quality source materials. You can generally trust results which are first published in scientific and academic journals as they are peer-reviewed, and have usually gone through a thorough vetting procedure.
When you’re writing a blog or other content as a way of kindling trust in your brand, it’s imperative that you are fair, objective and, most importantly, truthful. BBC journalists are respected around the world as a result of strict adherence to this policy, so if you want your brand to have a good reputation, write content as though you’re writing for the BBC.