Whether you’re looking up a recipe for dinner or information on a service that you’re interested in purchasing, the Internet is your oyster. You have access to thousands upon thousands of web pages, all available within a matter of seconds as you browse in your pajamas. But though this instant access to information is valuable, it also creates an interesting dilemma:
What separates authentic content that has value and truth behind it from a no-name blog, published by a so-called “authority” on the subject?
Thanks to user-friendly web design templates and services such as WordPress or Blogger, it’s easy to make a personal site look professional for only a nominal fee. But with the low barrier to entry found on the Internet, it becomes harder to tell the true industry authorities from the “Well, I read this on Wikipedia once” kind.
This poses a frustrating problem for people who are looking for authentic content as they search, but don’t have hours to spend checking and double-checking sources. You don’t always have time to consider whether the author has a background in journalism or business, or is simply trying to promote their own product.
For those looking to locate authentic, trustworthy content in a sea of sites, consider these points:
- Know the source: If the materials you’re perusing were paid for by a brand or company, this information should be clearly noted. If the writer received a free product which they are now discussing, they should explain this. If you don’t see any indication that the article was created specifically for a paying customer, consider what you’re reading. If it sounds like an infomercial for a product or service, there may be other partnerships at stake that you’re unaware of.
- It is truthful: The best pieces of information available online provide truth, supported by personal stories or data. Opinions are valuable too, but if the work is simply discussing the experience of that one author, this should be noted.
- Biases are acknowledged: If the author interviewed their best friend’s father in the piece, this connection should be highlighted, thus helping the reader to form well-educated opinions about what they’re reading. It may also become necessary for the author to share his or her background in order to provide some context for their work. If they were abruptly fired from an organization, it may become difficult for them to write a non-biased piece about the company’s success, thus altering the tone of the article.
- Press releases contain true information: It is acceptable for a website or other source to publish press releases, provided that the details contained within the document are accurate and true. There are many press releases that offer up valid information that others would find useful. However, there are some that are thinly veiled plugs for certain brands. Be aware that anyone who wants to pay for press release distribution can send their promotion, pitch or story to the masses.
- It provides useful information that people need to know: While promoting a product is important for brands, ultimately consumers want to read information that contains useful facts that they need to know. A reader will quickly click away from a webpage if they’re reading something that was clearly written solely for the purposes of promoting an item. The best way to get plenty of eyeballs is to share important, relevant details. If you have to dig to find any semblance of useful information within the text as you read, you should consider the source carefully.
The best and most authentic content is transparent to readers. You can easily find out how to contact the writer or learn more about the organization. This transparency can help an Internet user rest assured that what they’re reading is honest and accurate. Moreover, know that Google considers the welfare of the reader when writing and updating their search engine algorithms. The Panda and Penguin updates were done with Google’s readership in mind and successfully banished a lot of spammy, unreadable, boring and non-authoritative content to the ether.
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