How to Cite a Website

Need to know how to cite a website on your own site or blog? First, check the type of content you want to borrow. It’s probably either:

  • A quote
  • A piece of data
  • A statistic
  • A photo/graphic

All of these inclusions can be great for breaking up text and adding substance to your content. Knowing how to cite a website properly will keep you out of hot water and give your own website or blog more credibility.

Sharing links, data, facts, figures, and more has become an integral part of content on the Internet. After all, content is king. So much so that 60% of marketers create new content every day.

Citing information you get from a website is a great marketing practice. But, it’s an even stronger ethical practice. No one wants to put in the hard work of developing great content only to have it stolen in a blog post, on another site, etc.

Unfortunately, the Internet has made it incredibly easy to steal content and pass it off as your own. It’s even easier to get away with it. You don’t want your name or your business associated with that kind of unethical movement.

So, let’s focus on how you can properly cite a website to give credit where credit is due.

The Benefits of Borrowing Content

Link building is dead.

Or, at least, that’s what you’ll hear from a lot of marketing naysayers who are stuck in the pre-Google Penguin algorithm era.

It’s true that link building used to be a bit simpler. It was a way of borrowing content from other websites and linking back to that content via your own site, blog, etc. This would allow your pages to rank higher in Google.

That kind of link building doesn’t work anymore. So, the naysayers are half right. Does that mean link building altogether is dead? Absolutely not.

Instead, today’s link building has to focus on well-written pieces that use specific content from high-authority websites. Borrowing content isn’t just about stuffing your own blog full of irrelevant links to gain attention with Google.

When you choose the right content to borrow and the right links to include, your own content becomes more valuable.

Not only will your content rank better when you know how to use link building properly, but you’ll be able to take advantage of other benefits beyond SEO, too. Some of the benefits of borrowing content and citing it correctly include:

Your approach to borrowing content and link building is what will determine your success when it comes to SEO and the influence of your brand. Because Google changes its algorithms frequently, it can be difficult to know what is considered “good content” at any given time.

Stay updated with how Google’s changes will impact your content, and focus on the score of your page authority and domain authority.

If you’re new to borrowing content and link building, keep in mind that your success won’t happen overnight.

Moz, the developer of the page authority tool, discovered that it takes an average of about 10 weeks to even see one jump in your ranking.

Be patient and continue your best content practices. The better you are at citing content properly and using authoritative sites to link back to, the better your results will be over time.

Ethically “Stealing” Content – Can It Be Done?

From an ethical standpoint, citing content from another website is done so readers don’t think it’s your own original work.

It’s okay to expand on another website’s topic. Create more data-driven content from headlines and topics that are already out there. Find a headline that relates to your topic and make it more eye-catching.

In my experience, data-driven content is one of the keys to taking someone else’s subject matter and making it more readable and more understandable for your audience.

For example, if someone clicks onto a page that has an article of interest, they might first scroll through the article to see how long it is or how easy it is too read.

Too long? Too difficult? They’re gone. I ran my own survey on this matter to determine how likely readers are to click away if a website article is too long.

Your “ethically stolen” post needs to take your readers into account. Develop goals that are relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach, and create content that will connect with that audience so they keep coming back for more.

How to Cite a Website On Your Own Site/Blog

How you cite a website depends on the type of content you’re including.

Typically, when you’re including a link or citing another piece of work in your own blog, it will either be:

  • A quote from another person/business/page
  • A piece of data or a statistic

Citing a Quote

Citing a piece of dialogue on your site or blog will really help to bring it to life. It can give it more of a personal feel and make your readers feel more connected to the words on the screen.

Quotes also help to add authority and are great tools for breaking up large chunks of text.

But, understanding how powerful a quote is is only half the battle if you don’t know how to insert it and cite it properly. Let’s cover some of the key steps you’ll need to include quotes in your piece of content:

  • Decide on the format. Blockquote formatting should be used for quotes with two or more sentences. Inline formatting is used for quotes that are a sentence or less
    • If you’re using HTML to put a blockquote on your website, you can easily find formatting help using sites like CCS-Tricks. Here’s an example of what modern block quoting looks like:
  • Sites like WordPress make formatting easier. If you want to use a blockquote in WordPress, simply highlight your quote and press the blockquote button (quotation mark).
  • When using inline formatting, you make the quote itself a part of your paragraph. Here’s an example of inline formatting from a recent NPR story:
  • If a quote doesn’t quite fit in the context, it’s okay to alter it slightly, but you have to show where you’ve made changes. Use […] to indicate areas where you’ve cut out sections of content.

It’s important to cite original quotations and stories. Many bloggers will practice newsjacking, which is great for getting your content noticed.

But, the original content often gets overlooked in the process. Find the original source if you want to properly cite it.

Want to make sure the quote you’re using is legitimate? Check out sources like Quote Investigator – they’ll tell you who actually first said the quote you’re using, so you can cite it the right way.

Citing a Piece of Data/Statistic

The more facts and figures you can include in your content, the better. Readers are often less interested in your opinion and more interested in proven research.

Thankfully, citing data in a blog post or somewhere on your site is easy. Check out how I cited a few statistics in one of my recent blog posts here:

That’s three facts and figures linked back to their original sources within just two paragraphs. Data citing can be just that simple when you’re linking back to authoritative websites.

Citing Content on Social Media

If you’re sharing content on different social media platforms, knowing how to give credit where it’s due is important. You can link back to the longer article on your own website or blog for a more in-depth citation.

How you give credit on social media depends on the platform you’re using.

Want to cite someone else’s content on Twitter? It’s often as simple as including “via @username” behind the quote or piece of information you’re tweeting.

You can also retweet someone’s content so your followers will know exactly where it came from. If you retweet a piece of content by someone else and make any changes, change your “RT” label to “MT” (modified tweet).

One-third of all users on Facebook engage actively with brands they follow. If you’re sharing content people can interact with, you’re more likely to showcase your brand’s personality and start a conversation with potential customers or clients.

Thankfully, Facebook has taken the confusion out of sharing content both on their site and off.

Facebook has a built-in feature that makes sharing content and giving proper credit easy. You can share content from another Facebook page, or from a website.

Many websites have a “Share” button that allows readers to easily share their content to their personal Facebook pages or business pages.

Facebook developers have made this button easy to install. It’s worth having on your own website or blog so people can share your content quickly while giving you credit for creating it.

If you’re sharing content on Facebook from a source that doesn’t have their own Facebook page, including a link to their original piece in your own post will work.

Other social media sites, like Pinterest, make it easy to share content and give credit all at once. Pinterest has a built-in “repin” button that allows you to share other people’s images or pages on your own boards.

When you go to repin something, you’ll notice that the creator likely included a URL or at least an author name. Keep that in place before you share – deleting it is just like deleting an author’s name from a book title and publishing it as your own.

Citing Pictures and Other Visuals

Using visuals and pictures in your blog post or website is a great way to break up text and keep your reader interested. Images can also be used as explainers to back up your written content.

By following the best practices for including visuals into your text, you can even boost your SEO ranking for that particular piece.

Written pieces that include images get 94% more views than those without. Some of the highest ranking blogs on the Internet include an image for every 350 words of written content. It’s safe to say including pictures, infographics and other visual content is important to the success of your writing.

So, how do you cite images and other types of visuals legally?

If you’re looking for the perfect picture to add to a blog post, your initial thought might be to search Google Images.

While you might be able to find the type of picture you’re looking for, there’s no guarantee that you can freely use it for the purpose of your post.

Different images have different permission levels. Take a look at this screenshot of a Google Image search for “flower.”

There are plenty of beautiful options to choose from, but what’s important is that you pay attention to where the images are coming from.

Each image has the website listed underneath it that shows where it came from. So, when you see a flower picture with HGTV, Home Depot, or The Atlantic underneath it, it’s not fair game for you to use.

Either those companies took the pictures themselves, or they (more likely) purchased the rights to the photos.

That makes those pictures their property, and taking them without citing where the picture came from is stealing.

Being aware of the source of the photo you want to use makes a big difference. Thankfully, Google does have a feature that makes knowing the source a bit easier.

The sorting tools and filters you’re able to use in an image search can be used to give you results that include only free-use images.

Filtering your search to not include licensed photos can help to ensure you’re using a photo safely on your site or blog. But, if you want to make absolutely sure the picture you’re using is fair game, you might have to purchase your own or check out a free stock photo site.

You can buy your own stock imagery from websites like Shutterstock. You’ll then own the rights to that image and can use it as you please.

But, if your goal is to include an image every 350 words, that can get expensive quickly.

As a result, many marketers and businesses choose free stock photo sources, like Unsplash or Pixabay.

If you do want to use someone else’s photo in your content, you can cite it similarly to how you would cite a form of written content. Share where the original photo came from, and link back to that site.

How to Cite a Website for an Essay

Link building and using content from other sites for your blog or your own website is easy once you know how to do it properly.

But, what if you want to cite material from a website for an academic paper or essay?

The most common citation styles for formal papers include:

  • MLA
  • APA
  • Harvard
  • Chicago
  • Turabian
  • IEEE

Let’s focus on MLA (Modern Language Association), as it’s what is regularly used for liberal arts and humanities.

To cite a website in MLA format, use the following format:

Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Website, Publisher Name, Date of Publication, URL.

If the site or article you’re citing has more than one author, keep this format the same. Include both author’s names (last and first) before moving onto the title of the piece.

EasyBib put together a great visual that makes it simple to know which pieces of a website or article need to be cited, and in what order.

What Happens if You Don’t Cite a Website Properly?

Plagiarism is defined as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” When you don’t cite content from another website or blog, you’re committing plagiarism.

Because there is so much content on the Internet and it’s so easy to access, some people feel safer “stealing” words, pictures, and ideas from other websites. But, content on the Internet is viewed the same in the eyes of the law as any other type of non-digital work.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 states that materials published on the Internet are protected by the same U.S. copyright laws of non-digital materials.

Copying material from a website and publishing it on your own site, blog, newsletter, etc., violates the copyright of the person who created the content.

If you get caught stealing content, the consequences are often up to the person you stole it from. The typical punishment for a plagiarism misdemeanor is a fine of anywhere from $100-$50,000.

If you make money from the content you stole, your consequences could be even greater, including possible jail time.

Keep in mind that there are some websites, marketers, etc., who don’t want their content shared.

Even if you do everything right, give them credit, and site things the right way, they might get upset.

If that happens, they could contact you and ask you to remove the content you shared. In some cases, they might even take legal action.

It’s much easier to remove the content than get involved in a legal battle that can cost you thousands of dollars.

Creating Original Quality Content That Gets Noticed

Link building is great. Using data-driven statistics, quotes, and information from authoritative websites is awesome.

But you have to do it the right way.

One of the biggest reasons people end up using another site’s content without citing it is because they’re scrambling for good content or they’re desperately trying to boost their SEO.

That’s why it’s so important to build a content campaign strategy to help you stay on track and get you measurable, trackable results.

If you want to stay ahead of the struggle to produce original content, use others as inspiration, but form your own authoritative work based on real-world statistics.

When you’re able to cite another website the right way, you can take comfort in knowing you’re doing the ethical thing, and you can back up your work because of it.