I’ve been working on a lot of content for my article writing clients.  There is a lot of information “out there” on the Internet that writers like me use for their research.  Some topics have more information available than others, and we all have a short list of Web sites – or classes of Web sites – that can be considered trusted sources.

Like most Internet Marketers can attest, the .gov pages are pure gold – although marketers value link juice from these sites more than the informational resources they provide. Information on most government sites can be considered trustworthy, so writers often use these sites in their research when applicable.

Major news sites are generally pretty accurate, although writers need to be wary of the use of statistics and editorial bias.  Breaking news is less accurate than in-depth pieces, but reporters have a vested interest in the accuracy of their words.

Then there are a handful of professional or expert sites – Web sites run by doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, architects, and other professionals. We trust what these professionals say because they are the experts in their fields. The information contained on their Web sites is assumed to be an extension of each professional’s personal knowledge base, and many writers use the sites in the research without verifying the accuracy of the information. After all, these are licensed  professionals, and they wouldn’t want to risk their reputations by providing false information.

The problem is that many of these professionals do not possess professional writing skills – or if they do, they don’t have the time to write their own Web site content because they are busy doing the work they are paid to do.  Web site content is either outsourced or completed by another member of the office staff.  Because the quality of the research depends largely on the quality of the writer, this is a very risky proposition.

I’ve been using some of these professional Web sites as research resources for my client work.  I like to make sure my content is more comprehensive than other content out there, so I use multiple sources.  I encountered my first instance of false information last week.  Three more articles uncovered even more instances of blatantly inaccurate information this morning.  Because many of these professional resources cannibalize each other, they tend to parrot the false information found on their competitors’ Web sites.  Who is writing this stuff?

Sadly, the writers who were charged with creating the content for these professionals were not very diligent. To be honest, a quick glance at Wikipedia would have told the writers that the information was wrong.  There is something  wrong when Wikipedia is more reliable than an article published on your accountant’s Web site. How do I know that Wikipedia was right?  I Googled a few related search terms to determine which  information was correct. Wikipedia won every time.

If you are a writer, you need to check your sources. You need to use a variety of different types of sources. Using four doctors’ Web sites in your research is not the same as using a doctor’s Web site, the FDA site, an article from a medical journal, and an article from the New York Times. You can’t take shortcuts if you want to protect your own reputation and the reputation of your writing clients.

If you are in the market for buying content, make sure you trust the writers you end up hiring. You know you’re not going to get anything resembling proper English if you hire $1.00/article writers from India, and you’re not going to get diligent research from a writer who is trying to crank out enough $10 articles as quickly as possible to pay the bills. You’re going to have to do your own research to make sure your writer is going to do theirs.

Because honestly, you don’t want to find out that the information on your Web site is less valuable than the information on Wikipedia.

5 thoughts on “Check Your Sources – The Prevalence of False Information Online”
  1. Having been the IT guy for a PR firm many years ago I saw first hand how much misinformation is out there. We had teams of people working just to correct the misinformation for clients everyday. When the web got huge misinformation got too big to even manage. Check your work, and also check to make sure someone isn’t stealing your work and changing stuff and causing it to be wrong at the other sites.

  2. I have a client who learned about the quality articles that $1/article writers from overseas provide. They were burned pretty badly and learned the hard way that you have to pay for quality, well-researched content.

  3. Kimberly, I don’t even know what people think they will get for $1 an article. It may have worked in the “old days” when search engine algorithms only looked for the presence and frequency of keyword phrases, so content didn’t HAVE to be good. But nowadays? I just don’t get it.

  4. Hi, Christina,
    How right you are! I have been commenting lately about the same issue. Though I understand the need for some folks to crank out a lot of $10 articles, it starts to become part of the “dumbing down of America”. It may take me longer to write content, but you can be sure the information comes from good, sound sources.

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